Van Halen. The Beach Boys. Kings of Leon. Oasis. The greatest sibling bands of rock ‘n’ roll.
Enter Echosmith, the new all-sibling band from Southern California on the eve of their debut album, Talking Dreams. Composed of Graham, Sydney, Noah, and Jamie, the four Sierota siblings have been making music together since they were young but only formed Echosmith in 2009.
In 2012, Echosmith signed with Warner Brother Records and their first single “Tonight We’re Making History” was featured during the 2012 Summer Olympics. In the time between the band’s inception and Talking Dreams, Echosmith released a host of cover songs, including “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons and “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele. Echosmith performed in the first half of the 2013 Vans Warped Tour and opened for big-name artists like Twenty One Pilots and Neon Trees. The Sierota siblings opened for Owl City during their 2013 Midsummer Station tour and three songs off Talking Dreams were also featured during ESPN’s June broadcasting.
As one of Alternative Press’ 2013 “100 Bands to Watch,” we expect a lot from Talking Dreams. But do they deliver? Let’s start at the beginning.
The album opens with a wistful synth lick, broken by a full-band explosion, like a dive into a flat pool. Reminiscent of older M83 and newer The Wombats, the opening track “Come Together” is an apology and resolution that introduces the recurring themes of running away and of fire. “We are gonna come together now, we are gonna run together,” sings Sydney powerfully during the chorus, showing off her vocal prowess through her impressive slow vibrato and vocal harmonies. We are also introduced to the authoritative male voices of brothers Noah and Jaime throughout this track.
Next, we hear the upbeat song “Let’s Love.” This track is interesting in that it features a conversation between a male and female voice; something we have seen before from Gotye and Kimbra in the hit “Somebody That I Used to Know.” In the final chorus, Sydney and the boys sing together, “Let’s love while we’re young,” a phrase printed on Echosmith t-shirts.
This upbeat music continues in their third track, “Cool Kids,” though the lyrics are heart wrenching. Sydney paints a picture of an outsider and her attempts to fit in, “I wish that I could be like the cool kids, ‘cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in,” she sings with angst. This song showed something new about the band, drawing a connection to Passion Pit’s 2012 record Gossamer.
Although catchy and pleasant to listen to, nothing jumps out or surprises the listener during the first three songs. However, as soon as you hit the fourth track, “March Into the Sun,” one’s mind is changed instantly. Jamie’s acoustic guitar starts out the song, with Sydney’s reverberated “hey’s” and “oh’s.” “March Into the Sun” tells a story of young love with “no drinks in sight” and living with a “natural high.” The chorus features an awesome vocal melody and a cool electric guitar lead. The part that stands out the most is the bridge, where the tempo cuts in half and then enters a clap track with a low male chant in the background below Sydney’s emotional “march into the sun” line.
This song also gave me an idea of the genre of music that Echosmith is playing; a type of music that can be described as post-post-emo. When the emo movement began, it characterized itself with heavier music and confessional-type lyrics. (That’s where “emo” comes from, “emotional”). In the mid-2000’s, post-emo emerged, and was characterized with the same expressive lyrics, but with artsier and calmer music.
Post-post-emo is still being defined and characterized today as lyrically reminiscent of the original emo, but with much softer music and quieter, hushed singing, with still bursts of energy found in post-emo.. Some examples would be Taylor Swift or Bon Iver. Echosmith, falls most safely into this genre.
Echosmith defines itself as an indie pop band. The differences between post-post-emo and indie pop are thin, though. Indie pop usually includes more skilled and creative instrumentation. (The UK band “The Smiths” is the quintessential indie pop band, for reference.) Echosmith leaves the creativity and experimentation to Sydney’s vocals, taking them out of a distinct indie pop outfit.
After we are struck by the magic of “March Into the Sun,” we now listen to the uplifting “Come With Me.” This song is about contradictions, love and hate, submission and dominance, “I’ll take you away, if you let me,” “I’ll cover your soul with my body, give me your heart.” This song features different instrumentation than we have previously heard on Talking Dreams, including a cool mandolin or banjo-like instrument, and a fuzzy bass that we are used to hearing from more experimental bands like Muse.
Soon after, we are transported into the poetic mind of Sydney through “Bright.” This track has brilliant imagery about the universe and her place in it, “Did you and Jupiter conspire to get me? I think you and the moon and Neptune got it right,” The feeling of the song reminds us of a Taylor Swift or The Civil Wars song. This gentle track shows a different, calmer, more introspective Echosmith.
Next is the title track, “Talking Dreams.” Sydney carefully crafts beautiful rhymes in this song, “You’ve got green eyes, I’ve got sunrise”, and we finally hear a fun bass line from Noah, reminiscent of one out of a Kings of Leon song. The music video released for this song was the third off the record (following “Come Together” and “Cool Kids”). The video captures the excitement of the song as Echosmith leads a group of attractive young people on bikes through a valley and eventually to a Echosmith show in front of a barn. Fantastic.
After “Talking Dreams,” we reach three songs, “Tell Her You Love Her,” “Ran Off In the Night,” and “Nothing’s Wrong,” that seem to tell two sides of one story. In “Tell Her You Love Her,” Sydney gives advice to a man about how to treat a woman, “When she says she needs you, tell her you need her too” But in the chorus, Sydney arduously tells the man not to “run away before you tell her you love her.” “Ran Off In the Night,” one of the more indie songs on Talking Dreams, nostalgically tells of a story of “love at first sight.”
With the end of “Ran Off In the Night,” we musically reach the end of the second part of the album, but not the story. “Nothing’s Wrong,” one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album, tells of what happened to the woman after the man ran away. She is clearly upset, but decides that she should not sulk in her sadness, “What is she to do? Wait for the whole world to burn?” This is a proud song about a broken woman walking “like there’s nothing wrong.”
In the next track, “The Safest Place,” Echosmith keeps the energy they built in “Nothing’s Wrong.” This is satisfying to the listener because one finally hears some experimentation with instrumentation and vocal melodies and harmonies.
The energy drops in the final track, “Surround You,” but it works very well given the two previously energized songs. “Surround You” is a beautiful, structure-less acoustic song. The build-up halfway through the song is wonderful, a crescendo finally leading to a climax. The final words on will always give you chills, “All I heard, all that sound, never thought love could be found.” These lines alone give closure to all the problems Sydney has described.
Overall, Talking Dreams features good music with meaningful lyrics. However, the Sierota brothers take few risks in their chord progressions, rhythms, and melodies and Sydney does not take as many risks as one would like to hear out of such a strong female lead. Also, there are times that one could feel a little bored as songs about love, loss and triumph have been done before. Most songs do not come to big climaxes like we are used to in today’s music.
Talking Dreams is a great companion album. It is one that you could easily listen to during a walk to class, and sounds appropriate for a movie or sports trailer or montage; it even does make a pretty good sex soundtrack., but Talking Dreams tends to get slow at times, making it potentially boring to listen to without something else going on.
But, Talking Dreams is Echosmith’s debut album after all, it will be interesting to see how they progress and hopefully become more comfortable taking risks in the future.
Echosmith’s debut album Talking Dreams was released by Warner Bros. Records on Oct. 8, 2013 and the band will be touring this fall starting on Sept. 14, 2013 in San Pedro, California and ending on Nov. 2, 2013 in New York City.