Personnel: Olly Moss (vocals, guitar, violin, harmonica, Fender Rhodes piano); Dan Moss (vocals, guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes piano, synthesizer); Daniel Raphael (vocals, piano, bass guitar); Katherine Whitaker (vocals); Max Grunhardt (saxophone); Chris Vickers (trumpet); James Burkitt (drums).
Audio Mixer: Rory Attwell.
Recording information: Lightship95, London (10/2015-11/2015).
After two albums of intense, energetically noisy indie pop that showed they weren't a band to play it safe, Evans the Death take a flying leap deeper into the unknown on their third record, Vanilla. Recorded quickly using first takes, the band pummel their way through a batch of songs that are frantically angry and warped in ways that they only hinted at before. More influenced by the spiky sound and feel of the original wave of U.K. post-punk than indie pop, songs like "Suitcase Jimmy," with its honking sax and shouted vocals, "Hot Sauce," which sits atop a bassline that would have made Gang of Four envious, and the head-scratching "Welcome to Usk," which sounds like the unlikely pairing of the Birthday Party, the Cure, and Donna Summer, have zero indie or noise pop left in their DNA. Their music has become more dramatic and complicated by a long stretch, from the lyrics to the guitars it sounds like the stakes have been raised across the board. Katherine Whitaker is certainly up to the task. Her vocals have always teetered on the edge of desperation, and here she embraces it fully; when the male vocals come in to join her (as they do far more often here than ever before), it conjures up memories of X at their most raw and untethered. When the tempo comes down a little, like on the battered soul ballad "Cable St. Blues," she's able to scale back a little without losing any of the drama. The same goes for the band, as even within the confines of a ballad like that, the guitars still scrape and howl and the saxes wail. The few moments that might qualify as pop, like the very Pretty Girls Make Graves-sounding "Hey! Buddy" or the loping "Disowner," with its shoegaze guitar fuzz, threaten to fall apart in a clatter of amp feedback and shattered cymbals. Vanilla is the sound of a band discovering the burning fire within their music, stripping away all the shiny artifice and exposing the raw wires underneath. It's not pop, and you can't really sing along to most of it, but it is exciting and sometimes even thrilling music that's spilling over with ideas and real-deal emotions. ~ Tim Sendra