Scene and Heard – CCCXXV: Little Harwood –  Echoglass (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

31564014_367203920431088_8748641652291141632_oIn the parlance of the younger and hipper than myself, “What’s not to like?” When it comes to bands as interesting, eclectic and wonderfully disarming as Echoglass the answer is, well, nothing. ‘Scuse the double negative.

Firstly when listing the great and good from their North-West homeland they casually throw in iconic artist L. S. Lowry and equally iconic, in some circles and on some terraces at least, clothes designer Gary Aspden, alongside the more expected musical name drops of The Beatles, Oasis and Ian Brown. Secondly their back catalogue already features a fascinating and mercurial blend of musical styles and lyrical subject matter. 

They have wandered between the Americana vibes of Last To Know and the subtle balladry of Drowning, the free-spirited and nostalgic indie-pop of Blackburn Boulevard and songs such as Memories which seem to bring all their influences together to walk a line just west of The Lilac Time and just East of REM…if you can imagine such a thing. I can, try it, it’s great.

This time out they continue to revel in the heritage of their own neck of the woods, celebrating a time when the North-West was the beating heart of a whole new musical movement, one that spliced rock and dance, indie and rave in a wonderful two-fingers up to the smug London music moguls. It was never about where you were from, its always been about where you are at…this was exactly where it was at!

And like the new musical gene-splicing and genre-hopping that made up that scene, Little Harwood is a wonderful blend of indie cool and rock muscle, pop structures and accessible hooks, matter of fact, kitchen sink drama vocal narratives and soul infused harmonies. As eclectic as ever but given Echoglass track record, predictability was never going to feature highly in the equation.

And the video also takes an interesting turn. Rather than just fill the screen with out of focus photographs and shots of the places and bands of the scene that the song centres on, with money an issue they instead just approached people to dance to the song in any way that they chose. To dance like there are 6403 people watching…to date. And the results are great, not because they are cool and choreographed, but exactly because they aren’t, that they are just people they know or have found, doing their own thing and having fun.

In lesser hands a song celebrating times past would have been a cheap musical pastiche of borrowed sounds and copied sonics, the video a slideshow of scrapbook rose-tinted nostalgia. In the hands of Echoglass it becomes something rather Spezial.

 

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Memories –  Echoglass  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

635731638724603404270724110_memories.jpgIf Drowning saw Echoglass playing with subtle balladry, Blackburn Boulevard took a more indie-pop route and Last To Know wandered some wonderfully Americana musical pathways, Memories seems to tie all those ends together. It has depth yet sass, it tugs at heartstrings, joins country vibes with the folk sounds which in part informed its development, pulses with pop prowess and wanders dynamic highs and lows so effortlessly that you can’t see the join. It also reminds me, in some ways, particularly the vocal structures and deliveries of REM! That’s a good thing right? Quite right!

In fact it is hard to think of a sector of the music buying public who couldn’t find something to love in this song. It crosses borders generically, geographically and chronologically and offers a song which seems totally in keeping with the cross-referencing, cross-cultural, small global village that the creative world is now based on.

Country grooves leave dusty footprints across the record and acoustic rock music brings the required swagger but there is so much more going on here as well. Bluesy bar-room piano adds some wonderfully deft touches and the emotive guitars which frame the song wander down some fantastic Southern rock pathways. It feels at once retro, contemporary and brilliantly forward thinking…how do you even do that?

Last To Know –  Echoglass  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

268x0wAnd just when you have Echoglass pegged in the broad indie-pop spectrum, when you think you have worked out their musical approach they go and throw a curve-ball. Not satisfied with just ploughing the same musical furrow, Last To Know sees them break out the Americana vibes and it is great. Musically sitting somewhere between a Nashville country ballad and the less rhinestone strewn vibes of the British-Americana scene, Last To Know is a charming blend of deft picking and sumptuous harmonies, understated deliveries but powerful lyricism.

It sits in just the sort of folk meets country territory which is going to appeal to music fans in the Old World and the New, a mid paced, lilting song built along simple lines, fine touches of piano adding delicate, underpinning detail, but retaining a wonderfully spacious feel that allows the voice to take centre stage. And what a voice it is, never showy or seeking the limelight, just impressive within the requirements of the song and that in itself, in this day and age, is a rare thing. It is that restraint, coupled with the room to breath that the songwriting affords that makes the music shine so brightly.

Yet again Echoglass music proves an example of loveliness over cool, apparent effortlessness over forced gimmickry and subtle musical textures over sonic weight. If only more people would adopt such an approach.

Eyes  – Echoglass (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

maxresdefault.jpgOne of the things I love about Echoglass is their ability to hop-across genres, mix and match styles and musical stances and still sound like themselves, a blend of sonic cohesion and musical exploration. Eyes sees them plying their trademark positivity, the ability to take the minutiae of everyday life no matter how good or bad and make it universally relatable. But there is no ambiguity here, no looking for the silver lining or learning from mistakes, this is pure celebration, a song that worships love, which revels in the joy of having found the one, of romance and the vulnerability that goes with it.

Loves songs, especially ones which fall into the pop canon often undermine themselves through the treatment of the subject matter. Too simplistic and they fall into the realm of the twee and schmaltzy, try too hard and the song seems insincere. Eyes is the fine balancing act which wanders between the two camps, sure footed, honest and wearing its heart openly on its sleeve. Just how love itself  should be.

Blackburn Boulevard  – Echoglass (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

ECHOGLASS-BLACKBURNIf my first encounter with Echoglass caught their more thoughtful and mellow side with the slow burning and highly textural music of Drowning, Blackburn Boulevard sees them in more playful mood, musically anyway. Here, the medium is a sassy, indie infused, clean limbed guitar driven vibe, there is still room for the clever piano break downs and spiralling six string crescendos, but it gets to its point in a more direct fashion.

And its point? “Living your own life your own way”, being your own person, not conforming to anyone else’s expectations but your own. And as a series of cameo characters underline the point, the happy hippy chick, the octogenarian DJ, the dad dancing suit, the music obsessed hipster girl, the mom who dances like no one is watching but who quite frankly doesn’t actually care if they are, you realise just how life-affirming the song is.

The message is simple, it is your life, do with it what you will and this is the soundtrack to that independent and free-spirited attitude.

Drowning  – Echoglass (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

maxresdefaultMusic can make big, bold statements, make obvious moves and play predictable cards but it is at its finest, in my opinion at least, when it is employing subtler and more supple techniques to engage the listener. That, is exactly what Echoglass do with Drowning. It runs between pop balladry and more muscular indie lines but its impact is rarely found in the weight of the music, instead it uses moody and haunting harmonies, evocative and unexpected shifts in the chord progressions and the slow laying on of musical texture .

By the end of the song you find yourself in a pacy piece of polished pop, but the shifting of musical gears is so smoothly done that you never noticed the acceleration, never felt the gradual application of pressure to the musical throttle.  Add to that a video which underlines the emotions, the breakdowns of relationships, the stuff of love and loss that we all encounter at times in our life and you have a brilliant indie-pop coupling of music, lyrics and visual narratives

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