(Originally posted at AbsolutePunk.net)
Deas Vail was a pleasant surprise last year with their debut All the Houses Look the Same on the new Brave New World Records. The smart, piano-driven melodies, melded by Mark Lee Townsend’s production quality and topped with Wes Blaylock’s soaring vocals, have been creating remarkable impressions everywhere. They’ve wasted no time working on the next chapter in their growing history, and with White Lights they’ve given us a five-song EP to hold us over until the new full-length releases early next year.
The familiar Deas Vail elements are present here, once again treating us to the cohesion of Laura Blaylock’s flowing keys, Kelsey’s deliberate rhythms, Justin’s nimble bass, and Andy’s undulating guitar work. Their strategy of pulling things back for the choruses threatens to feel overused, but it’s not regrettable. Fans looking for progression will note the added influence of strings, which throughout the EP sounds not unlike a string quartet coming out of the background to add accentuating flavor. (I confess that the coda of “Balance” reminded me of Relient K’s “Failure to Excommunicate”.) Background vocals are also given more of a role, complementing Wes at several strong points.
For the most part, the lyrics contain the typical Deas Vail abstractness, although there may be some growth here as well. “White Lights” is simultaneously Wes’s most complete metaphor and most straightforward tale to date. “From Priests to Thieves” is a haunting admission of loss: “We’re not coming back / It’s all our fault / We loved ourselves and lost it all / What have we done / What have we become?” Wes carries it, but it’s Laura’s softly wrenching harmonies that sell it.
Deftly creating an engaging musical landscape, listeners will wade through smart rhythms and subtle time signatures in an atmosphere of flawless production that brings out the talents of each band member without ever sounding busy. The keys and vocals of the debut reminded many of Mae or Mew; the soothing guitars here are drawing more comparisons to Edison Glass. Complemented by the natural tone of a few strings, this is the perfect EP to experience over and over on a lazy swing as you watch summer turn into fall.
Soothing but not dull, active but not puppy, beautiful but not proud – Deas Vail has captured me again. There’s nothing quintessential here that will rival fan favorites such as “Shoreline” or “Rewind,” but it’s another very strong and satisfying release, and since you can order it for $5 with free shipping, you have no excuse.