How do you follow up what was possibly one of the most talked-about Christian indie-rock albums of 2007? Quite simply, by making it better; and that is exactly what Deas Vail has done with their latest release, Birds & Cages. Originally on Mark Lee Townsend's indie label Brave New World, the band was recently signed to Relient K-managed Mono vs Stereo, a wise move from the resurrected label.
The best way to describe Birds & Cages would be to not describe it at all and just play it. However, I will try to do it limited justice by saying that it sounds like Mae and Coldplay were combined at a molecular level, and then told to go indie. It's a sort of "piano-rock meets Death Cab For Cutie" sensibility, only with Christian morals and ideals. The album itself is an improvement over their debut LP, though rather in a more "evolutionary" rather than "revolutionary" sense. It's as if they sat down with their producer, said "OK, what can we take from our old album that was good, and make even better?" However, this is not a letdown in the slightest, given the quality of their first full-length album; therefore any improvements on it would only be for good. And in reality, it works like that. The vocals are more coordinated, the guitars punchier, and the group as a whole just sound tighter. Songs like "Excuses" and "Cages" are brilliant examples of this. I wouldn't say it's all sunshine and roses though, as a couple of the tracks (such as "The Leaper") tend to lose the listener as they ramble on as though on a musical journey without a map. Indeed, at times the entire album can feel a bit unpredictable. However, this doesn't detract overly from the album, as most listeners who put in the effort will find it easy to get over Deas Vail's eccentricities and learn to be accepting.
Deas Vail's latest masterpiece is eccentric, yet marvellous to behold. Not only that, but the songwriting continues to improve; some may note more Christian references within this time around. Although not perfect (but then, what album is?), Birds & Cages comes closer to it than its predecessor. I continue to be surprised by this under-hyped, piano-rock indie band, and eagerly await their next release.- Review date: 01/11/10, written by Adam Dawson of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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