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CITY CALM DOWN Echoes In Blue gets 8/10

City Calm Down
Echoes In Blue
I OH YOU

8/10 

Melbourne’s City Calm Down have had a big few years since the release of their debut album In A Restless House. Three years in the making, their sophomore effort is a solid, cohesive, well thought out follow-up that plays to and develops their strengths.

The dark, brooding opener Joan, I’m Disappearing is a perfect example, taking their sound, expanding and further defining it into one of their most accomplished pieces of work. Melancholic keyboards and a stuttering beat set the tone as Jack Bourke’s unmistakable baritone comes in, slowly rising up over swirling guitar and synth, before exploding into colour and life. The influences are still clearly there – The National, Interpol, Foals – but they seem more comfortable and self-assured in their own skin. The huge amount of touring they’ve done since their debut has no doubt helped.

Produced again by Malcolm Besley (Northeast Party House, Client Liaison, The Creases), Echoes In Blue is sonically great, with a really full sound that still allows all the instruments space, and Bourke’s confident vocals – the real jewel in their crown – to soar. While it still treads similar territory, they throw more variety into the mix on this record, resulting in a more mature and accessible bunch of songs.

The themes of the album too are more universal, dealing with the struggles and demands of modern life, expectations and tribulations of an adult, a 24/7 existence of being spread to thin, trying to please everyone. The band have grown up a lot in the last few years (Bourke himself left his job and got married last year) and the evolution can be heard.

Long in production, the album’s been complete for a while, with the band waiting for the right time to release, putting out four of the songs over the last year, building the anticipation, letting the hype simmer, and the approach has seemed to pay off.

The singles are indeed some of the strongest tracks on the album – with the explosive chorus of Blood making it an obvious choice – it’s one of their most straight-up, rocking tracks yet. Bourke’s lyrics address the challenge of work/life balance (“I’m the one who wants your blood”) and features one of the album’s most passionate moments as his voice hoarsely cracks while belting out “We’re living for the company!”

Blame is lush and beautiful, slowly building over four minutes to a soaring climax of rushing noise and falsetto.

In This Modern Land has something timeless about it, with a distinctly Australian rock sound. A triumphant rousing chorus that explodes with a full brass section fanfare. One of the tracks you could see easily crossing over for them.

Whether they’ve intentionally aimed to broaden their spectrum and appeal, or whether it’s the result of endless touring and travel experiences, is hard to say, but this album will no doubt raise their profile.

They are careful not to stray too far from their signature sound and style that has won them many fans the world over, but thrown some curve balls in there to keep it interesting. I Heard Nothing From You is a laidback acoustic guitar ballad that sounds unlike almost anything they’ve done. You could almost call it their Patience moment, to make an otherwise inappropriate Guns N’ Roses analogy.

Decision Fatigue and Distraction/Losing Sleep again touch on the themes of restlessness and exhaustion due to life’s demands. The former’s shimmering synths give it a heavy post rock vibe with some killer distorted guitar work.

Kingdom is a gem and potential single in waiting that really grows with its catchy, surging chorus featuring another great vocal from Bourke. The euphoric delivery somewhat juxtaposes the lyrical content: “You said I should have opened my eyes/ I was terrified of what I might find.”

The closing, title track is a melancholic masterpiece, a sprawling six and half minute opus that grows from a spacey synth arpeggio and warm bass into more driving beats.

A great second album from one of the most exciting bands in the country, Echoes In Blue is already taking City Calm Down to the next level. They embark on a national tour in June and it will be good to see them play these songs and watch them evolve their formidable live show.

ALFRED GORMAN

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