“Who the heck are The Evens?” you ask. “Why are we even friends?” I reply, as I walk away. That would be one short album review and of course makes the assumption you’ve never heard of The Evens when maybe you have. If you are not currently aware of the band then allow this review to elucidate the matter. The Evens are Ian MacKaye (yes, that Ian MacKaye) and Amy Farina of The Warmers. The Evens play a sort of post-punk-minimalist-folk kind of indie music and The Odds is their third album on Dischord. Their last album, Get Evens was released in 2006 which makes it a round six year wait for this album, but then they have had a kid together in the meantime so they’ve been a bit busy. Worry ye not gentle listeners, this is definitely not mid-life-crisis soft-parent-rock. The Evens might be a bit more stripped back than some of the other bands in the vast Dischord archives, but they’ve got a bit of bite to them too.
As on previous albums, MacKaye is on baritone guitar while Farina drums, with vocal duties split between the two. The Odds is less rough around the edges than its predecessors and yet for all the musical polishing there are still hard angles, nothing glitters and very little shines. This is a down-tempo affair that serves as an inquiry into how to hold on to the ideals and ideas of the DIY-punk ethic while being responsible grown-ups. YES that sounds like mid-life-crisis parent-rock fodder, but The Evens manage to avoid this. The track I Do Myself highlights this by asking “can you leave? / get up, get moving, / do you believe, in where you’re going?” This is a direct questioning of the sense of stasis that stability can cause and it ties into a larger shift in priorities for the band. The politically charged ire found on previous albums is less general and more focussed as seen on tracks like Wanted Criminal which examines the many flaws of the US prison system. Elsewhere, tracks like Warble Factor and Broken Finger are darker and more personal affairs than found on previous albums. The introspection, counterbalanced by the strength of Farina’s vocals, acts as a powerful entity on its own as well as a match for MacKaye’s occasional bark. They’re also the strongest tracks on the album, alongside the energetic Architects Sleep, and the slow seethe of Sooner or Later especially appealed to me as an anthem to the ups and downs of the creative process. As much as I’m calling these the strongest tracks, The Odds is itself a very strong album and although it still has to pass the test of time I will go on record here and say that it’s the best album The Evens have recorded to date. The wait, it seems, has been well worth it as the band have returned older, wiser and better.
The Odds by The Evens is out on 20th November via Dischord.