New Music Review: Evans The Death; ‘Evans The Death’ (LISTEN)
Every song on Evans The Death’s debut album on Slumberland Records (and Fortuna Pop in Europe) is a well-crafted piece of guitar-pop, without a wasted note or whiff of excess. Evans The Death prefer to speed through their hook-filled songs in just enough time to get them inextricably stuck in your head. The band excels at both the noisier, fast-paced songs that make up the bulk of the album and the occasional ballads showcasing Katherine Whitaker’s gorgeous vocals, while transitioning seamlessly from song to song.
If there is a complaint to be had with Evans The Death (and it’s a small one), it’s that two of the album’s best songs — “Telling Lies” and “Morning Voice” recently appeared on a single, with “Morning Voice” in a different (and, I think, better) version on that single. In fact, two other songs on the album — “Threads” and “I’m So Unclean” — have appeared on a single as well, making the album only about 2/3 new material. Obviously this won’t matter for those who haven’t heard the songs before, and that the songs are so well-integrated into the whole of the album renders this a very minor problem for those who have (although it might have been prudent to separate “Telling Lies” and “Morning Voice,” which appear back-to-back).
“Bo Diddley” starts the album chugging along at the brisk pace most of the rest of the album will take. Evans The Death doesn’t mess around with a long instrumental intro, or ease you into the charge of their debut. After the bass line announces the song’s intention to bowl you over, the guitars come screeching in, followed shortly by Katherine Whitaker’s melodic vocals. The mix is perfect, even the adornment of a few piano notes that crops up occasionally seems like a necessary piece of the puzzle.
“Catch Your Cold” keeps things shuffling along nicely. Not quite the corker of the opener, it’s nonetheless an upbeat pop song crammed with hooks. They just keep things a little less noisy and a little more atmospheric. Dan and Olly Moss’s melodic guitar lines really carry the song, the perfect complement to Whitaker’s vocals, while a fantastic bass part propels the song forward while adding some muscle.
“Sleeping Song” slows things down just a tad: sparse and jangly guitar, a rolling bassline and a keyboard part form the instrumental crux of the song. A dreamy, unexpected end to the song transitions perfectly into “Letter of Complaint.” It’s a good example of how economical Evans The Death are — instead of a long bridge leading to the outro, they just throw you right into it without wasting time.
“Letter of Complaint” is a slow ballad that really showcases how brilliant Katherine Whitaker’s vocals are. On many songs she’s trying to keep up with the rest of the band, belting out over the noise (and always succeeding at being noticed) but on “Letter of Complaint” her vocals are given room to breathe over just spare guitar, organ and shuffling drums — and they really shine.
“Telling Lies” picks the pace back up, and is probably the album’s highlight. It was recently released as a single — and for good reason. The song is filled to the brim with hooks in everything from the catchy melody to the guitar solo to the propulsive bass. There isn’t a wasted note and it’s pretty impossible to not get this song stuck in your head.
At 3:35 “Morning Voice” is the album’s longest song. It starts off at a slow-pace with Katherine Whitaker‘s voice floating heavenly above only a jangly rhythm guitar. A little over the minute mark the rhythm section enters and transforms the song. Although I prefer the version that appears as the B-side to “Telling Lies” I really can’t complain about the (also) great version here.
“Threads” is a fast, noisy blast of energy. It speeds along in just over two minutes, ending in a squall of feedback. It functions well as a bridge between the more subdued “Morning Voice” and “A Small Child,” benefiting from its juxtaposition with those songs.
“A Small Child” starts with just guitar and vocals, before speeding up when the rest of the band enters. It’s similar to the transformation midway through “Morning Voice” but even more pronounced. The misanthropic lyrics (“I believe the children are the scourge of the streets”) call to mind the kind of bile Morissey might dish out and make for the album’s most lyrically interesting song.
Whitaker’s impressive vocals are on full display on “I’m So Unclean,” as she sweeps her voice up to a gorgeous falsetto during the verses. The rest of the band chugs along, providing their own hooks in the form of a keyboard run, elastic bass line and occasional lead guitar accents.
“What’s In Your Pocket” is maybe Whitaker’s most swoon-worthy vocal performance. Evans The Death just packs as much as they can into this song, which clocks in at just under two minutes. It scorches by so fast it’s easy to miss all the find details, like the tasteful guitar solo, the first time around.
“Wet Blanket” opens with just Whitaker’s “oohs” and a rolling bass part before the guitars enter and the chorus begins. The sudden transfer to the speedy verse is one of the album’s great unexpected moments. Somehow they manage the time changes almost without notice: they just seem so natural. It may not be the album’s most memorable songs, but it is one of its’ most unique.
“You’re Joking” ends the album on a somber note, the only song not written by Dan Moss (instead penned by his brother Olly). It’s the kind of song that could only be an album cloer. Lyrically the album’s most affecting song, it contains verisimilitude building lines like “You can watch me drink a box of wine/I’ll make you laugh accidentally and we’ll have a good time” that help set up the surreal “Now I live under your kitchen sink.” The song evokes a kind of desperate wanting — either for an unrequited love or one that is slowly slipping away — with subtext rather than bluntness. It’s a fantastic song, easily the best ballad on the album, somehow sadder than it appears on the surface.
One of the most striking things about this album is its’ adherence to classic guitar pop, without any concession to current trends. These songs sound like they could have been recorded any time in the past two decades or so, and I think this will only serve to make Evans The Death feel timeless as the years go by.
Evans The Death is a great first album from an extremely promising band. Look out for these guys. Hopefully this is just the beginning.
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