Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Young Evils Go Dark Pop Perfect

When the Seattle-based alternative pop band The Young Evils self-released Enchanted Chapel in 2010, it was clear they had talent. Troy Nelson (vocals and guitar) and Mackenzie Mercer (vocals) sounded great together, even if something was missing.

With the exception of a couple standout songs like Get Over It and Crazy People, the production made their airy acoustics and arrangements flat and forgettable. Two years later, that's no longer the case. 

Foreign Spells is a thrilling 4-track EP that takes a darker turn away from pop and toward alternative rock. It was a turn for the better with noisier guitars, richer percussions, and a kick-ass bass when it's needed. The overall effect is a more dynamic and addictive band that is poised to explode this summer.

Foreign Spells by The Young Evils is the alternative EP summer needed. 

With the addition of Cody Hurd (rhythm guitar), Michael Lee (bass), and Faustine Hudson (drums on the album), the The Young Evils aren't just another cute indie band. By placing their 60s-styled do-wop melodies over noisy, lightly distorted guitars and a layer of low noted rhythm, they've made something distinctly playable and instantly memorable.

One day before the July 10 release, The Young Evils uploaded the first quirky video from Foreign Spells, featuring Dead Animals, which showcases Mercer as lead vocalist with Nelson backing. Although the band's manager is shopping for a label, the band is still very much DIY. The video was co-directed by Nelson and Hurd.

Dead Animals is a solid introduction to the band's new direction and fuller sound. Sure, it might not be the most dynamically layered of the 4-track set, but the song sticks in your head as it tells the story of a romance that would be better off dead. 

For anyone who notices, you won't see Hudson in the video. The band's new drummer, replacing the always busy and longtime Seattle band vet, is Eric Wennberg (formerly with Slender Means). After the abrupt breakup of the Slender Means two years ago, it's good to see Wennberg with a more visible and very viable gig.

The balance of the Foreign Spells is a must-have EP for heavy rotation. 

The first track, Darker Blue Bayou, starts out with a beautifully chunky beat. Nelson and Mercer sing it as more of a duet, trading out verses. The theme of the song is darkly entertaining as a pre-apocalyptic tune that imagines people making a free-spirited community without rules until the end of the world.

The Devil's Barricade is lighter fare by comparison, bringing in more of the band's original pop leanings but without losing its fuller, three-dimensional sound. That doesn't mean the song is cheery. It's a bittersweet breakup song tucked inside some surf rock elements and with a brief, nostalgic and confessional voiceover toward the end.

Touch Tone Lovers is the most straightforward of the four as a disintegrating long-distance ditty, and is most likely to be unjustly overlooked as an "also on the EP" track. It carries effortless change-ups with a 60s folk rock feel alongside an alt rock beat. There's a distant echoing guitar solo tucked inside.

While it may be difficult to pinpoint the influence producer Shane Stoneback (The Cults, Vampire Weekend) brought to the show to enhance the band's demos, it doesn't matter. It all works brilliantly while shining a brighter light on Nelson's songwriting.

Foreign Spells By The Young Evils Splits 8.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

While I tend to lean toward heavier stylings, Foreign Spells clearly marks a turning point in the band's potential. Expect them to break away from being part of the crowded Seattle favorites list and given rising star status this year, especially if they can add more songs like this to a future full-length.

You can find Foreign Spells by The Young Evils on iTunes. Foreign Spells, which could easily become the indie EP release of the year, is also on Amazon. The band is currently on a West Coast tour and you can keep up with them on Facebook.
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