This is a striking debut from a band that bears watching.
Los Angeles-based Wait. Think. Fast (favorite new band name alert!) are a bilingual three-piece built around Jacqueline Santillan's lovely and expressive voice, with multi-instrumentalist Methew Beighley on guitars and keyboards and Thomas King providing tight percussion. Utilizing a slew of part-time help, the band plays basic, stripped-down rock'n'roll that alternates between full-steam-ahead stompers and quieter, more reflective songs. Throughout, Santillan's expressive pipes provide a warm center to Luces del Sur, the band's debut album.
Opener "Si Es Por Amor" ("If It Is for Love") sets the tone. A mid-tempo rocker with Spanish vocals, it features Santillan's gentle voice in counterpoint to an underlying bed of guitar lines and occasional stomping piano chords. Follow-up tune "Winter Lights" adds Beighley's pleasing tenor to the mix, twining fluidly with Santillan's alto. "Look Alive" opens with skittering percussion and edgy guitar, sounding almost like a lost Radiohead song, but the vocals soon put that thought to rest.
The middle part of the record contains some of the band's best songs as well as some of their flattest. "Bad Night" sounds like a lethargic Innocence Mission tune, and the lyrics aren't terribly strong either. (Is it a coincidence that the English lyrics often seem weak compared to the Spanish? I'm not a Spanish speaker, so maybe they are equally suspect, but the Spanish seems to carry more verve.) "Trouble", however, is one of the stronger songs on the record, despite its English lyrics. With its loping, cowboy-movie rhythms and quietly insistent beat, "Trouble" makes use of minimal accompaniment to push Santillan's voice to the front of the mix. Built mainly around strummed acoustic guitar, there are enough nuances -- rumbling distortion, a few keyboard tweaks, and a piano solo -- to propel the song nicely.
"Leymah Contra Los Diablos", which I believe translates as "Leymah Against the Devils", brings us back into Spanish-language territory once more, and that's a good thing. Supported by peppy guitars and tight percussion, Santillan weaves a tale of -- well, I don't know exactly. But I bet it has something to do with Leymah, and those devils, and it's a snappy tune. "Covina Park" follows, a loose rocker with a raunchy guitar foundation and thumping rhythms, and is one of the more fun songs to be had here.
Given the bilingual nature of the proceedings, it's tempting to read into the lyrics on "Covina" -- "I could finally hear the language / I could finally read the signage / I could finally make my way across the pool" -- but the words of this song are as oblique as any other track on the album. Images of travel abound, of suitcases and journeys, but nothing specific enough to hang any but the most tenuous of interpretations upon.
Accordion and flamenco-style guitar riffs shows up for "Jornaleras", the most "Latin"-sounding song on this record, providing a nice, energetic change-up from what has come before. Closing track "Hidden" takes the energy in the other direction, opting for a serene, dreamy track that closes the album as gently as a lullaby. In all, this is a striking debut from a band that bears watching.