Los Angeles – Evans The Death’s sound is an amalgam of influences from the past few decades, and the resulting product is a poppy, noisy set of tracks that are a logical addition to the seminal Slumberland Records’ discography. Led by the dynamic vocals of Katherine Whitaker and the songwriting of Dan Moss, Evans The Death’s sophomore effort, Expect Delays (out this week), is an above-average noise-pop record that is taken to the next level by its powerful vocals.
Whitaker, Moss and his brother Olly constitute the core membership of Evans The Death – new drummer James Burkitt joins the band after a line-up change following their debut full-length. Despite a slightly macabre band name (a reference to a character from writer Dylan Thomas’ BBC radio drama, “Under Milk Wood”) and depressed lyrical themes, at its musical heart Expect Delays is an upbeat and melodic outing for Evans the Death.
The band is most on top of its game during the fastest-paced tracks like “Enabler,” “Clean Up,” and “Bad Year.” Featuring deftly strummed guitars and a clockwork-like rhythm section, these songs are at their best once the vocal work coats the instrumentation with a thick layer of sticky-sweet pop sugar. “Sledgehammer” in particular is buoyed by its driving punk-influenced chorus and is highlighted by an especially heavy helping of Whitaker’s vocal sugar. Meanwhile, second single “Enabler” has soaring, guitar-driven verses and double tracked male-female vocals.
The album literally kicks off with a whisper, which subsequently leads into a vaguely country-tinged intro that features Whitaker belting out the chorus over a solitary acoustic guitar; after about 30 seconds, “Intrinsic Grey” reveals its true self by breaking down into a storm of distortion and feedback. This soft/loud dynamic is a key ingredient on Expect Delays, so it’s fitting to open the album with its starkest example of this contrast. Following a hail of feedback and one last reprise on the opening refrain, the opening song is over in less than three minutes.
The majority of the tracks on Expect Delays are similarly short in length; of the 13 songs, only four manage to push past the three-minute mark. While this can hurt the flow of a lesser album, it does not seem to be an issue for Evans The Death – the concise song lengths actually make for a shorter-feeling album than it is in actuality. Each song repeats a couple verses and choruses, never wearing out their welcome with over-repeating passages or indulgent musical interludes. Another advantage Evans the Death has over like-minded C86-influenced bands is diversity in their sound. While most songs are fast, jangly and bouncy, Expect Delays has several slower tracks like “Waste of Sunshine” and closer “Don’t Beat Yourself Up.”
With descriptors like “breezy” and “sticky-sweet,” the reader would probably assume this is a fairly light-hearted outing for Evans The Death. Not so – a cursory review of the song titles (“Just 60,000 Days Until I Die,” “Bad Year,” “Waste of Sunshine”) makes it quite plain that these are not particularly joyful songs. Expect Delays is the work of a band creating viciously depressing music hidden behind a veil of bubble-gum pop, venting their frustrations after living as proverbial “starving artists” for the last few years.
Occasionally the band throws some additionally instrumentation into the mix, such as on the organ-tinged songs “Terrified” and “Don’t Laugh at My Angry Face.” The former happens to serve as Expect Delays initial single, with a much slower pace and epic aspirations than most of the album’s previous 11 tracks – it is the lone album track to surpass the four-minute barrier. With an anthemic sing-along chorus that recalls classic alternative rock tunes of the 90s, this single would not be out of place on Weezer’s Pinkerton.
No tour dates in support of Expect Delays have been announced yet, but the band is in the process of booking a tour in their home country of the United Kingdom.
Check the Evans the Death Facebook page for any updates regarding future show dates.