|The Highs and Lows of Deas Vail | Posted October 25, 2011
Deas Vail made their mark on the indie scene over a year ago now with the release of their album Birds and Cages, the first album to be released on the revamped Mono Vs. Stereo label, a small outfit currently owned by some of the members of Relient K. Birds and Cages proved to be somewhat of an underground hit, recognized for Wesley Blaylock’s ethereal vocals and the finely crafted imagery of the lyrics.
This year, Deas Vail has returned with a self-titled effort produced by longtime Relient K guitarist Matthew Hoopes. The album delves deeper into the musical landscapes they have already explored. Much of the album deals with issues of love, both in places where it runs smooth and where it is rough.
Appropriately, the opening line of the bittersweet track “Desire” is “I don’t know what love is.” Much of the song is structured around a call and response between male and female vocals, like two heartbeats running side by side but never quite connecting.
The second track is one that was released on Deas Vail’s joint summer EP, the unashamed love song “Sixteen.” The infectiously happy song is made even more meaningful by the fact that lead singer Wesley’s wife Laura is also in the band, playing keys.
One of the things that makes this album unique is the way they flawlessly blend the acoustic/indie vibe with an unusually strong bass presence, courtesy of Justin Froning. This thread comes out in the melancholy “Quiet Like Sirens,” which is also driven by a strong electric guitar line.
The regretful “Summer Forgets Me” displays the band’s incredible ability to craft their lyrics. Lines like “I gave a lot, but never what you need--winter comes, the summer forgets me,” combines straightforward honesty with very brilliant, visual lyrics. “Towers” follows, introducing a slightly harsher note into the album with hard-edged guitars.
“Pulling Down the Sun” continues the slightly darker vein, reaching into the depths of a bass line and fragile lyrics imploring “it never ends, are you failing me again? I’m fading in the dark. How did I become the one that’s fallen?” This basic theme of searching and wandering continues on “Bad Dream,” which begins with the haunting words “I am alone in a stranger’s bad dream.”
These songs provide a good balance to some of the more lighthearted track. Wesley Blaylock has said of the album: “I try to temper my lyrics by looking at all sides of relationships.” That goal is definitely realized even more in songs like the contemplative “Common Sense,” which looks at a relationship disintegrating “all for common sense,” the slightly funky “Wake Up and Sleep,” and the laid-back “The Right Mistake.” The album does not shrink from exploring relationships in all their complexity and occasional tragedy.
The band is also very bold musically, exploring a much more drifting, synth-based sound with their mostly instrumental track “The Meaning of a Word.” The album ends on a note of moving on, exploring the nature of the transient and the permanent: “I’m tossed about, I’ll sail into the storm. If I’ve lost you now, these waves will carry me on.”
Deas Vail’s music creates a very light atmosphere, carpeted by raw bass under the limitless sky of Blaylock’s soaring vocals. The album is honest, and although not directly spiritual in the traditional sense, it addresses themes of hope and searching for something solid in a shifting world. It is an album of bold exploration, with the beautiful moments and the hurting moments tied together with incredibly strong songwriting and a refreshing simplicity in the production that makes this album one of the stronger releases of the fall.
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