beloved childhood home — abandoned since the floods of 2015 — where they found the muses were eager to resurface. The group also tapped the talents of frequent tour mate Chris Boosahda (Shakey Graves), Atlantic Records recording artist Max Frost, and Grammy-winning producer Adrian Quesada (Groupo Fantasma, Brown Sabbath, Spanish Gold).
The result is a theater of possibilities, with arrangements that reflect the range of tastes of the producers, from scruffy lo-fi tape hiss, to smoothed out precision-cut electronic pop sounds. Smartly, the album avoids defining itself and kicks off with a child’s voice telling Alexander Beggins, "Don't think that way." The track that follows (called "Alex") is a hook-spangled opener which in its three breezy minutes builds from a single ukulele to a lush and playful arrangement reminiscent of Beirut.
The record almost immediately settles in to find the band at its most expansive. Songs like "My Town" and the deep-breathing "Eggshells" stretch the spaces between beats like a Chinese finger/time trap. They stop for more than one layover in Detroit, with "Back and Forth" evoking the horn charts of Arthur Conley and Jackie Wilson (or even Jens Lekman), and "Think It Over" throws an unexpected nod to Sly and the Family Stone.
The closing track, “Goodbye, Goodnight,” is also the first the group recorded, and the one they believe best epitomizes the journey of making this album. At first, Scott McMicken’s production caught the band off-guard: He slowed the waltz down to the tempo of a dirge — or a dirge with the levity of a waltz — and built the track up at an almost excruciatingly slow pace that in the end gives you what you want from it, but only gives it to you once. “At first we were all just trying to understand where he was coming from,” Wilson says with a laugh. “And it took us a while to get there, but the arrangement works out so well — with what the song is about and how we felt when we wrote it — that it ended up being one of my favorite songs on the record.”
And the more you listen to Expectations, the more the many worlds of this project begin to cohere around you. After all, one of the great joys of traveling the world is discovering surprising connections: A skyscraper in Barcelona reminds you of a spire in the Utah desert; the Northern Lights in the Norwegian sky look like an oil slick on the Philadelphia pavement. Expectations, an album which can by turns be bitter, wistful, angry, and flirtatious, is rich with these surprising rhymes across the record. “We’re all growing and changing and learning new tricks,” Beggins says. Wilson responds, “Yeah, there’s no right or wrong way to do anything.” Her own record, though, is proof she’s wrong.