If I ever get to interview them, the first thing I’ll ask the husband-and-wife team behind Wait. Think. Fast. is whether they picked their band’s name just to mess with the grammar-check function of music critics’ word processors. Probably not, I guess. More likely the moniker holds deep meaning for multi-instrumentalist Matthew Beighley and Argentine-born singer Jacqueline Santillán Beighley, who have for several years injected their passions and experiences into their art. Not for nothing does an old picture of Santillán’s father decorate the cover of “Dale Tiempo” (“Give It Time”), their sophomore studio album.
Wait. Think. Fast.’s music is at once experimental and accessible. While some of the performers’ peers are busy constructing elaborate, opaque monuments to their own obsessions, Wait. Think. Fast. is unapologetically looking for an audience.
The continuity between “Dale Tiempo” and the Beighleys’ first album, “Luces del Sur” (“Southern Lights”) is clear. Both rely on accessible melodic arrangements and simple, bordering on minimalist, lyrical compositions. Both display a variety of string and percussion accompaniments, more often than not serving as vehicles for Santillán’s powerful and versatile vocals.
But while “Luces del Sur” is improvisational and playful, “Dale Tiempo” feels more planned out, cerebral and cohesive. The contrast between “Bad Night,” from the first album, a soulful marriage of Alana Miles and Radiohead, and newer songs like “Count No Count” or “Manhattan” is evident. Beighley explains that the band’s move from California to New York prompted the changing approach from “a drum, guitar-based rock band perspective” to a more conceptual process that “started writing with strings first, with the mellotron, or building entire pieces around choral arrangements.”
Songs like “Algo Nos Sigue” (“Something Is Following Us”) and the sweet “Lucía” deftly combine North and Latin American instruments and melodies. A few, notably “Flowers in Rain,” aim for the ethereal beauty of the best works by Sol Seppy or Peter Gabriel. They fall a bit short, thought, particularly on the lyrics side. Too many times through “Dale Tiempo” do the musicians settle for derivative, unimaginative phrasing – “higher and higher,” “the sound of a thousand bells,” and “love will set us free.”
Though the new album shows that Wait. Think. Fast. is maturing and honing its sound, I must admit that I prefer the earlier music of “Luces del Sur,” which pushed Santillán to sharper corners of emotion. The new songs exhibit a slightly affectless attitude, which makes the music seem more reticent and less urgent.