By Taylor Fife | May 3rd, 2010
East Bay darlings (via Brooklyn) The Morning Benders have graced us with their second full-length LP, “Big Echo”, a by-the-book pop record neatly packaged for folks attempting to satiate that uncontrollable hunger for ever more indie rock. The album is certainly pleasant to listen to, with the brothers Chu and company using all the tricks the genre allows and requires to orchestrate a lilting, floating, wannabe masterpiece.
“Big Echo” shares many sonic similarities with Grizzly Bear, which shouldn’t be too surprising given that The Morning Benders recently supported that group on tour, and Chris Taylor, the bassist of Grizzly Bear, co-produced the album. But Big Echo lacks that je ne sais quoi that really made “Veckatimist” a great album. “Big Echo” doesn’t necessarily seem disingenuous or inauthentic the way or more contrived pop act like Vampire Weekend does, but there’s a certain passion and freshness lacking from the record. Perhaps it’s simply that I become slightly nauseated now after having heard so much New York-based generic indie pop rock in the wake of Animal Collective and others. Even the 60’s vibes coming from the record sound less like it was influenced by actual pop music of that era, and more like The Morning Benders were hoping to capitalize on the same sound San Francisco duo Girls rode to success.
If Chris Chu or Tim Or took many rhetoric courses during their stay at UC Berkeley, they certainly know the baggage associated with the quest for authenticity. Normally I would steer clear of using such a difficult word, but within seconds of turning on “Big Echo” I was stung with a feeling that the album was tragically inauthentic. The album opens with the familiar pop and hiss of a vinyl record beginning, but of course, I was listening to it on compact disc. Perhaps this isn’t something to get hung up on, but I couldn’t help but feel that there is something terribly wrong with artificially manufacturing an introduction to make the album seem less produced or more down to earth. This problem persists throughout the album, as a muffled, lo-fi, 60’s sound has been inadvisably spread out over the top of most of the recordings.
None of this is to say that “Big Echo” is a bad album. It’s well made, heartfelt, and at times even original or touching. And this album will be especially appealing to the hordes of folks interested in acquiring ever more of the watered down pop-rock put out by labels like XL, Rough Trade, and Dead Oceans (I’m looking at you, Indie Shuffle readers). Clocking in at just under two minutes, Cold War (Nice Clean Fight) is the highlight of the album and the short moment when that little something shines through to give me loads of hope for The Morning Benders’ next project.