Number One. Deas Vail - All The Houses Look The Same (March 6, 2007)
It started out just like any other band. I read the blurb about them in CCM Magazine (which I used to receive monthly). Two keyboard-playing vocalists, one a girl and the other classically trained, produced by Mark Lee Townsend (who once played bass for dc Talk) on a new Christian record label -- it sounded interesting. I looked them up online, liked the MySpace tracks and even found a place that was streaming the whole album. I decided it was worth buying, found out that Wal-Mart actually had it, and bought it.
While I liked All The Houses Look the Same from the get-go, I probably wouldn't have foreseen naming it my most important album of the decade --- I didn't even name it one of my top albums for 2007, although I did call them my favorite debut artist for the year (I think I somewhat unimpressed by the vague phrasery of much of the lyrics). But as time passed and I kept playing the album over and over without growing tired of it, I began to realize there was something special about it.
There are two reasons I love the sound of this album. First, the album has that rare character of sounding very pleasant and catchy while still showcasing talented musicians. Second, I'm just a sucker for piano rock. Each member does a wonderful job bringing their instrument to the mix without creating a sound that is too busy. And, of course, I have to mention the upper-range vocals of Wes Blaylock, who is still the only man whose voice I unashamedly call "pretty" (also known as "the voice of a thousand angels") without at all mocking his manliness (he's married to the other keyboardist, after all). Deas Vail creates a wonderfully soothing and peaceful sound that still has enough energy that it doesn't put you to sleep -- it's more like a relaxing boat ride down a slowly winding river on a beautiful sunny day.
Since when did the first release from a new band on a new record label sound so professional and just downright good? I didn't think it was fair that music this good was so unknown, and I introduced them to almost everyone I know. Almost everyone really liked it, too -- backing up my idealistic belief that the work of truly good musicians can be enjoyed by almost anyone if they are simply fortunate enough to be exposed to it. My roommates, my friends, most of my family -- I'm pretty sure I was the source point for at least a dozen people who became fans, and who knows how many people they have further spread the word to (pardon that dangling participle). This album, and the reception of it by those around me, fulfilled my hopes and dreams about the way good music can be disseminated.
My desire to increase the exposure of Deas Vail also led to a personal connection. On May 1, 2008, I saw a post on AbsolutePunk about Deas Vail tour dates, and some of the dates just said "TBA (Help Book)." They were playing Springfield, MO on May 11 and somewhere in Illinois on the 13th, and wanted to play somewhere in between on the 12th. In the span of eleven days, through some extraordinary combination of friendship, timing, and the favor of God, I contacted the band through MySpace, confirmed location availability at Sam's church, announced and promoted the show, and got fifty people to show up. Then my parents allowed them to stay at our house for the night, and my generous father took us and them all out to dinner after the show to IHOP. Months later, Justin still remembered our grandma's name ("Say hi to Louise for me"), and at their show with Mae just a few months ago, Andy came up to [u]me[/i] (not the other way around) to exchange pleasantries and talk about the new album. They've gotten a little bit bigger by now, but they're still very down-to-earth and friendly, and I hope this upcoming sold-out tour with Owl City ends up being the best thing that ever happened to them. (Two years ago the prospect of them playing at The Pageant was sheer fantasy.)
Deas Vail is made up of excellent musicians who simply created a sound that I really enjoyed. It was a sound that I was able to share with everyone around me, helping other people enjoy it too. And finally, I got to meet the musicians themselves, and they still remember me. There is no greater joy in music than finding something you like, sharing it with friends, and interacting with the ones that made it all possible. That's why All The Houses Look The Same was my most important album of the decade. Thanks, guys.