Review Summary: Given the right breaks, 2010 could belong to The Morning Benders
There comes a time in every music enthusiast's life where all new music just seems stale. Nothing does it for you any more. Nothing gets you excited, nothing moves you. The days turn into weeks, the weeks into months, ears begin to bleed as you frantically pore through every blog and 'best new music' available, until you actually begin to wonder if music is moving on without you. Visions appear of a humanized version of music; godly, blonde and reckless, flipping you the bird and laughing as he speeds off into the horizon in his Ferrari FXX, swerving violently as he's straddled by Swedish underwear models. You're left shivering in the foetal position, choking on the dust of his burnt out wheels, sucking your thumb and clutching your Godspeed You! Black Emperor vinyl to your breast. Well, that's roughly where I was at until a few days ago. Enter, The Morning Benders.
The first time I put Big Echo
through its paces, and opening track 'Excuses' swam (waded) through the long-since stagnated puddle that metaphorically connects my left ear to my right, it felt as though a huge weight had been lifted. Lifted, and then hurled triumphantly into that murky, aids-infested puddle with an oh-so satisfying, shattering splash. Oh Hosanna! Oh me, oh my! Something to get excited about, finally! Suffice to say, it got me, well, a little bit wet. As some of you may know, I am a man of little patience. I don't want to wait for two hundred listens before I really 'get' an album (only to fake really 'getting' it later on at the risk of seeming artistically inferior). I want to enjoy it from the off. And I'm sure a few of you are the same; impatient, frustrated, saliva dripping savagely from your jagged bared teeth, ready to rip off the head of any reviewer who doesn't get the point across within two swift sentences. Well, here's the meat of it, you carnivorous fu
cks. Get this album. It's pretty damn good. The rest of you: please, read on.
Given the right breaks, 2010 could belong to The Morning Benders, in the way 2009 could have belonged to Grizzly Bear if some hackneyed little indie band from Maryland didn't pop their adobe slat-loving heads up. By the right breaks, of course I mean a Best New Music tag from Pitchfork, a mention of (yet another) hottest-band-in-the-world-right-now-RIGHT-NOW from Zane Lowe, and an eleven month holiday in the Alps (creative break) for those pesky Animal Collective lot. They've already achieved some part of the former, Pitchfork slapping a hearty and well deserved 8 on the opening track 'Excuses', allowing it to sit proudly in one of three thrones of their coveted BNM kingdom. As they do well to mention, The Morning Benders' sophomore effort invites Grizzly Bear's multi-instrumentalist and co-producer Chris Taylor into the foray, and his presence does not go unnoticed. In fact, one of the first things you might think when listening for the first time is 'Gee, this sounds a mighty bit like those Grizzly Bear fellows'. What's more, 'Promises' promises (yeah, I went there) to be one of the songs of 2010; catchy-as-fu
ck melody, huge chorus with a huge lyric, plenty of depth, plenty of energy, plenty of reason to sing along. Expect to hear this blaring out of the windows of cars which have 'I listen to music you've never heard of' bumper stickers proudly tagged to them (no kidding, I actually saw one of these the other day).
While many comparisons to The Shins were made on their debut Talking Through Tin Cans, Big Echo
moves away from that more direct, twangy indie sound and into the world of woolly, expansive retro indie-pop. The production, most likely due to the presence of Chris Taylor, always feels really full
, like a big marshmallow expanding to reach all the corners of your mouth. It's airy but dense, light but satisfying, lead singer Chris Chu's sweetly nasal vocals mollifying the contradictions cutely. 'Pleasure Sighs', the mid-point track which slows the record down, exemplifies this feeling well. It begins slowly, tranquil and lazy, with sleepy drums and sleepier guitars filling out the space, before the guitars seem to multiply and create space that you didn't think was there. Then they hide themselves behind the vocalist again, only to surge out in even greater numbers towards the end. You don't even notice it happening before it has, it's bloody loud but yet still so peaceful. Then there's the outright infectious ditties like 'Cold War (Nice Clean Fight), which break away from the plethora of instrumentation on other tracks to prove that The Morning Benders are still capable of cute, coy, catchy little gems.
So yeah, Big Echo
is a big album. Unfortunately, despite all the confidence and conviction the trio clearly display on their sophomore, they've still got a way to go before they can start playing with the big boys (despite opening for nearly all of them). The second half of the album drags a touch, with little variation on the sound they've so neatly captured. Tracks like 'Mason Jar', despite beginning strongly and sweetly (bonus points for the timpani), seem to amble about with little direction. The hi-hat enters and you build yourself up for a blast of energy, but it never comes. It almost manages it, then it just sort of... floats away. It all sounds very homogeneous and even a tad draining by the time the closer 'Sleepin' In' comes around. Again, another great track, starting quietly, veiled in cotton-ball production, but, again, the cotton ball expands into the chasm around it with a flurry of noise only to be caught by the wind and drift off. It's not just the sound, but the structure of the songwriting which can lack variation. Nevertheless, Big Echo
, especially its first half, proves my initial thought when first running the record through. The Morning Benders definitely are a band worth getting excited about. You just might have to wait a while before that excitement is fully satisfied.