When sitting down to listen to new music, I’ve recently taken to making the first listen of an album a passive experience. In a time poor society, using the album as the soundtrack to your daily tasks, whether they’re mundane work tasks or other articles you’re reading and creating, having those new sounds play in the background not only allows you to multi-task, but also amplifies those exact moments of the new release that make you sit back and think ‘Yeah, that track is a belter.’
Sitting down to listen to City Calm Down’s second album Echoes In Blue left me open to an holistic experience that not only entices you to listen thoroughly again and again, but also provides a unique insight into those exact moments in life that enable you to take on a bigger picture perspective.
Dissecting the album, there are definitely tracks that do immediately stand out more than others. Not only due to the tempo they’re played in, but the ability of the band to seemingly write about and create songs that mirror your exact experiences. This is something I’ve always liked about City Calm Down. Where some bands (whether they do it knowingly or not) seem to almost talk down to their audience through their lyricism and experiences, City Calm Down make music that anyone in this current age can relate to.
Prime examples of this occur on “In This Modern Land” and “Distraction Losing Sleep”. Speaking of the troubles we seem to have in creating meaningful relationships due to our increased time spent online (he types as he messages his sister in the next room), “In This Modern Land” is City Calm Down at their atmospheric, Bowie-esque best. The chorus and bridge creates this gravitational pull, and when combined with the subtleties of a horn section make the track a true stand out moment on Echoes In Blue.
Much like “In This Modern Land”, “Distraction Losing Sleep” concentrates on our uncanny ability to aimlessly and seamlessly end up caught in the rabbit hole that is the Internet and TV (a tear trickles down my cheek as I realise I have three social media tabs open in front of me, and a TV on in the background). An absolute belter of a track and the shortest of the album’s songs, “Distraction Losing Sleep” is frenetic from start to finish. I genuinely can’t wait to see this executed in a live setting.
Touching on the concept of the ‘Australian Dream’, “Kingdom” is a slightly jaded view on the Australian property market and the need to buy homes and live forever in debt. As someone from a pretty stereotypical middle class upbringing, I can definitely empathise with this viewpoint, whilst simultaneously also wanting to buy a house and spend the next thirty years living in astronomical debt. Just like “Distraction Losing Sleep”, “Kingdom” soars in its chorus, as the vocals of front man Jack Bourke come into their own.
With the already released and genuine tune in “Blood” following on from “Kingdom”, the glorious and introspective “Pride” is a great moment as the album begins drawing to a close. Speaking of the times you push loved ones away due to your own self-pride and inability to accept help when it’s offered, the saxophone hook is as juicy a moment that you’ll find on Echoes In Blue.
Despite all the quality tunes of Echoes In Blue, the true crowning moment comes from opening track “Joan, I’m Disappearing”. There’s an overwhelming sense of distress, loss and vulnerability in the opening vocals on the track, as the protagonist comes to terms with the end of a long-term relationship. The track is varied in its layers and textures; as the synths and pounding drums set the pace. A pinnacle track, the closing chorus soars before the closing moments leave you in an utter mess, as Bourke continuously chants ‘I’m Disappearing’.
Despite all my words and what I mentioned at the start of the review, listen to Echoes In Blue from front-to-back, as actively as you can. Reduce any external potential for distraction. Don’t be passive in the listening experience; you’re only doing yourself and the stories of the album an injustice.
Review Score: 8.2 out of 10.
Echoes In Blue is out April 6th via I Oh You.