The Morning Benders – Big Echo

Rating: ★★★½ ·

California’s The Morning Benders (though they claim NYC now) have been flying under the indie radar until recently.  They’ve put out multiple releases, but the hype seems to have finally brought the band to the forefront with Big Echo.  A lot of this will be due to the production credits being given to Grizzly Bear‘s Chris Taylor.  While you can definitely feel the touches of Taylor, especially in guitar and bass sounds, The Morning Benders seem to have grown into their own sound.

Remember how Phoenix opened up Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix with its two best tracks?  Well, The Morning Benders seem to be applying that strategy to this album, and these opening numbers are blissful moments you won’t soon forget.  “Excuses” begins the album with a little bit of tinkering on the piano while some beach guitar washes over the song like waves.  All this arrives prior to the sweeping vocals being introduced along with the atypical percussion (not necessarily drums, but still percussion).  Mid-song, they seem to do a bit of meandering, but once again, the band kicks in at the 3 minute mark with that percussion and creative bliss.  They’ll follow this up with “Promises,” one of the songs that definitely resembles the work of the producer.  That bass and guitar sound definitely hit at the heart of Grizzly Bear, but The Morning Benders make it their own by coating the tune in a wash of pop.  Also, the vocals are not as pristine as Droste’s, which actually make a more compelling statement of musical prowess.

If you were to find a detractor to this collection of songs, you’ll find that it hits really hard up front, offering two brilliant songs, but then it kind of takes a step back.  Instead of pushing forward with their California avant-indie pop moments, they recline.  They trade the vibrant noises they began the album with for a set of bedroom moments, such as “Bedroom Sighs.” It’s an aptly named song, as you definitely feel as if the band has relaxed, wavering just a bit.  The end of the song does have sort of climactic moment near the end, but it just sort of loses the punch of the earlier moments of brilliance.  “Mason Jar” is similar, as the music is less movement oriented, choosing to push the focus on the vocal melody.  These aren’t necessarily bad moments by any means, it just lends the record to remaining a bit unbalanced.

However, “All Day Day Light” definitely kicks the album back into gear. You’ll find it as one of the more inspired moments on the latter half of the record, and it seems like the band could have employed a little bit different track-listing to balance out the power of tunes like this with the quieter moments.  All that being said, this number really shows you that the band is able to move beyond the producer.  It’s filled with energy, not to mention a little bit of sonic noise that shows The Morning Benders have a creative talent all their own.

And so Big Echo comes to a slow end with “Sleepin In,” another bedroom listen.  Although at times the record seems a bit unbalanced, it’s clear that The Morning Benders are more than just a masterwork of Chris Taylor.  They have a different spin on their own creation of pop, leaving the listener with a lot more bright moments.  Even the slow songs start to evolve on their own after repeated listens, so stay with this album, as you might have just found yourself a new favorite band to follow, and an collection of songs that will keep you occupied for weeks to come.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/02-Promises.mp3]

Download: The Morning Benders – Promises [MP3]

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