Expect Delays: A Million Neon Lights (Independent, 2006)
Expect Delays is one of the plethora of bands that is able to take advantage of the internet and home recording technology to record, release, and distribute music that in the past would never have a chance to be heard. Sometimes, the wide availability of this technology yields low quality music by pretenders, but thankfully, sometimes this technology gives worthy an opportunity to share their music with the world. Such is the case of Expect Delays, a quartet from the Valdosta area who play a nuanced brand of dreampop-influenced rock. The band combines solid songwriting with a fine ear for employing a variety of sounds into their music, such as twinkling keyboards, a variety of percussion (whether live or electronic), and, of course, delayed guitars, among other sounds.
The quality of Expect Delays that stands out on their 5 track A Million Neon Lights EP is their earnestness. The EP starts out with the energetic “Mood Ring”, which features layers of guitars, live drums, and male vocals that are charming in their passion. The vocalist sings with a great amount of conviction, and one cannot help but get the impression that, for that moment in time, for that vocalist, nothing else in more important in the world than singing that song. And it’s easy to get swept into that emotion, as a listener, too…turn up “Mood Ring” really loud, and blaze it out of the speakers…it is the perfect song to lose oneself in. Following this great start is the title track, a mid-tempo song with female vocals that again impresses not only with its catchy melody and tasteful echoing guitar work, but also for the passion in the vocals. The vocalist sings slithers her voice around the melody, singing at times just a hint slower than the tempo of the song, giving her performance an improvisational feel that only accentuates the song while showing off her nice voice. The short instrumental “Streets Washed With Rain” follows, with keyboards taking the center stage on this slightly dreamy and dissociating song. Another longer instrumental song, “The Cold Squeal of Metal on Metal” follows. This song reminds me slightly of Ester Drang, with its cinematic feel, variety of instruments (keyboards, guitars, electronic percussion mixing later with live drums, etc), and wistful mood. The song gradually builds over its 7 and a half minutes to frantic and thickly layered arrangement with drums, hazy guitars and sparkling keyboards, only to recede to the keyboards. Finally, rounding out the EP is “Recovery and Sleep”, another instrumental track and ultimately the best one, too. Lingering guitars drape themselves over a lazy drum beat in a mood that is reminiscent of Hammock or Robin Guthrie’s recent work. After a while, a lone saxophone sneaks into the mix, playing a sweetly sullen melody over the music. The overall vibe is relaxing and reflective, and “Recovery and Sleep” closes out the EP in a classy way.
There’s no doubt that Expect Delays is a talented band, and there’s no doubt that they worked hard to create this promising debut EP. While at times the listener pines for the vocal high points of the first two tracks to reappear later on in the EP, the instrumental tracks also show a sensitivity and (here’s that word again) earnestness in the band’s approach to their music. One would expect that in later releases the band will further hone their abilities, and focus their music more sharply. But for now, we can thankfully listen to A Million Neon Lights, and enjoy the band marvelling in their grand opportunity to express themselves through their often excellent and always charming music.
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