Evans the Death: Evans the Death (Slumberland)

The debut album by Evans the Death may not be the most-innovative record released this year, but it's one of the most exciting. This is music that's kinetic and alive, a synthesis of influences rather than a series of references that just lie there on the floor.

You can't help but think of the Smiths when you listen to the arch falsettos on "Morning Voice" or "What's in Your Pocket?" Singer Katherine Whitaker gives good Morrissey, and in this era of the real Morrissey comparing the 2011 Norway attacks to KFC value buckets, she's better company. But Whitaker is not doing an impression; she's channeling an attitude. There's also a bit of Harriet Wheeler in her, but she's her own presence, and goddamn, she's a lot of fun.

Evans the Death isn't all melody, though; it's a noisy, rambunctious record. "Threads" blisters with feedback; the album's opener, "Bo Diddley," opens with a frenetic bass line straight out of Elastica. On "I'm So Unclean," one of the standout songs on the record, Whitaker's vocals have to battle their way past a barrage of guitar blasts. But then the song weirdly slows down long enough for her to confess, "When I'm making a sandwich / I will think of you." That droll edge, in which everything is deeply felt but undercut, is part of what makes this band special. There are also fantastic songs like "Telling Lies," showing small-town yearning perfectly distilled.

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