Label: Rough Trade Release date: 28/06/10 Link: Website Buy: Amazon The Morning Benders return with their sophomore effort Big Echo after touring on Rough Trade and production from Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. During those two years this band has done anything but rest – they’ve toured extensively, released numerous EPs and played with some fine names – Yo La Tengo, MGMT, Yeasayer. Oh, and Deathcab For Cutie, but don’t hold that against them. This playing certainly shows in places – there is a definite All Hour Cymbals era Yeasayer feel to opener ‘Excuses’, an open track with Beach Boys style melodies and a large, yawning beat, and the next track, ‘Promises’ posesses the aforementioned Chris Taylor’s trademark Grizzly Bear bass (circa Yellow House) with Chris Chu’s powerful vocals over the top. As the album goes on you understand more and more what they meant by saying “We've put a lot of love into it, and we'd love for you to listen to it as it was intended to be heard, as an album, from start to finish.” This album is careful and concise and exceptionally well produced – Chris Taylor’s pristine but warm finish to this is beautiful – and it works so well as an album. ‘Cold War’ runs energetically out of the slower ‘Wet Cement’ and, despite being all different songs from each other, they fit as they are – no long song is followed by one that is too long, no song tests the patience or carries itself too far into the same style as the other songs. The art of making an album, not a collection of songs, but a complete, carefully constructed record has been lost lately, and it is fantastic to see it come together here. It’s because of the completeness of this album that makes it devoid of standout tracks – tracks that will really take you and make you amazed. It fits together like a musical or an opera – each piece makes sense together. There are tracks that I’d listen to over others – I love the glistened Animal Collective meet The Dodos meet Grizzly Bear feel to their faster songs such as ‘Hand Me Downs’ or ‘Excuses’ and I’d choose to listen to those ones over the slower tracks such as ‘Wet Cement’ or ‘Pleasure Sighs’ but none of it sounds as good as the whole of it together. Each track is pitched to perfection – faultless production allowing it to be raw but shiny and new and beautiful playing and instrumentation in every track – but no tracks that I’d say it was important to listen to or any tracks that would really impress above anyone else. That being said, it doesn’t lack memorable pieces. The ability for hooking melodies, bass lines and vocals is not lost here, the bass from ‘Promises’ will stick in your head, as will the lyrics and chorus from ‘Mason Jar. The styles also vary hugely – there are tracks like ‘All Day Day Light’ that take from Britpop Supergrass sounds incorporated into ‘Mason Jar’ to the quite art pop (think Animal Collective etc.) influences in ‘Excuses’ and the like. It’s not to say that at any point The Morning Benders could be confused or accused of ripping off any of these bands, but they aren’t afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves. The best way to sum up Big Echo I think is to say that it’s organic. It’s like looking at a landscape – nothing in it is fascinating per se to just look at by itself but put it all together and it’s quite beautiful. Photobucket