There's something to be said for wanting to release an album with as little polish on it as this. Antonio Ella Forte recorded his debut album in a rented room in Whitechapel, moving to London after discovering his talents in his home country of Italy. Deciding to record under the name of Echopark, he released his debut single 'Teleportation' last month. A piece of breezy psychedelic pop that immediately drew comparisons to Youth Lagoon and Animal Collective but hinted at Forte's ability to move past his influences, it set the bar for debut album Trees. Call me controversial if you wish, but I actually think it's one of the weaker songs on the album. I like it - quite a lot in fact - but I didn't expect Forte to have such great songs in him. He's said that he's "actively seeking imperfection," and he did absolutely everything himself, in his spare time: wrote, recorded and produced. From a purely logistical standpoint, that's seriously impressive. My advice is that he should devote himself to his music full-time, because a project as remarkable as this is worthy of his full attention.
Plenty of other people should be keeping an eye on him, too: Trees is shot through with an infectious energy that's most audible in songs such as current single 'Grey Clouds' (which features an absolutely wonderful hook) and opener 'Cranes', the latter driven by an awkward-sounding beat that sounds ever-so-slightly out of time, but adds to, rather than subtracts from, the overall atmosphere of the track. Forte can sure as hell write some fine choruses, too; the wholly unexpected explosion of noise that drives the wordless refrain of 'No Time to Riot' is immediately striking and quite different to the rest of the record - for now, one can only wonder what Echopark would sound like with a more maximalist approach, but for an album that is a bedroom production in the most literal sense of the word, it sounds much better than it should.
The clarity of sound on the more stripped-back songs like the exquisite 'Raindrops' and the hauntingly beautiful closer 'For Lore' is impressive, and poses questions about what future material could sound like. I can't imagine Forte's too worried about that just yet, though - he's gone from lighting up the blogosphere to releasing a debut album in little over two months, and will soon be debuting his live band. Actually, there's an interesting thought; if Echopark were to become a full-band project, what would happen? It would certainly be intriguing, as songs such as 'Mountains' and 'Youth & Fury' would certainly benefit from a more expansive sound. All the same, Forte's 'seeking of imperfection' doesn't necessarily sound imperfect; some added production value would be nice, sure, but I would imagine he's learned a lot from creating this debut. Melodic, confident and consistently engaging, Trees should be lauded for the sheer amount of effort that's gone into it - it could be about to pay off sooner than any of us thought.