There’s this band called Grizzly Bear, you may have heard of them. One of the most modern influential bands in indie rock today and have been one of a few to change the way we listen to music in recent memory and arguably the biggest breakout band of 2009. Hell, even Jay-Z said they were awesome. But what’s my point? Chris Taylor (bassist and producer for Grizzly Bear) produced the Morning Bender’s newest album, Big Echo. Producers can make or break albums sometimes, but when you find the right one, it makes all the difference. The newest record from these Berkley natives is by far their best, and by no means did they even think about a “sophomore slump”.
“Excuses” opens Echo with an extremely cheerful and melodic symphony of percussion, and definitely proves that lead singer Chris Chu has truly hit his stride as a vocalist. On their first album, Talking Through Tin Cans, we could see Chu trying to find where he worked best and testing the waters. On this newest effort, we can see his mixtures between lower tones with his soaring melodies and how these guys make it work. “Promises” follows with an equally powerful tune with a bouncing bass line that could very well be something Taylor threw into the mix, but for now we’ll give the credit to the band because it’s so damn good.
Chu and the rest of the band really took a remarkable step up in all aspects of their music and have opened up a whole new area of which to explore with a more baroque pop sound mixed with their original indie rock routines. “Cold War (Nice Clean Fight)” is classic Benders at it’s best. The short shaker of a song with a 50’s high school dance feel, and includes a Beach Boys-esque outro directly into “Pleasure Sighs”, which again shows how the most improved player on the album is clearly lead singer Chu with his somber croon.
The second half highlight has to be “Hand Me Downs”, which takes the album’s title into account with echoing guitar interludes and drums within. The calamity of the track comes to a point completely at the end with the continuation of bouncing piano keys, and “All Day Daylight” could be their most rhythmic and sing-along track to date. The band took some cards and tips from a few people and threw it into their own deck and came out with a near-unbeatable hand.
Although as a smaller band, their expectations weren’t the highest, but their signing to Rough Trade Records and their addition of Taylor for the project, there seemed to be something going right in Benders camp that we didn’t know about. As Chu shouts in “Promises”, “I can’t help thinkin’ we’ve grown up too fast/and I know this won’t last a second longer than it has to”; I think we’ll take the opposite side and hope they stick around for a little while longer.
Key Tracks: “Hand Me Downs”, “Excuses”, “Promises”
Recommended if you like: Grizzly Bear, Throw Me The Statue, and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!