Beauty in an Average Life
The album, Beauty in an Average Life is available from:
Edinburgh six-piece offer "rock backbeats, grumbling guitars and catchy pop melodies". Having been signed to a burgeoning U.S. label- and capturing the media's attention in the process- everyone should embrace these ambitious band of brothers.
I have been thinking a lot about bands in general; what makes them so special...
and why certain acts succeed (where others fail). In previous reviews I have featured a whole range of different bands- located in various parts of the world. Whilst the sounds and ambitions can vary, there seems to be no logical reason why success (for the very best) is fleeting. Over the course of the last year, I have been lucky enough to survey a magnitude of endeavouring talents; from Yorkshire's ISSIMO; Scotland's Universal Thee; London's Los and the Deadlines- through to Liverpool's The Castro's. And while there has been a degree of success for each of the aforementioned acts, I find that a necessary and appropriate sense of recognition has not been provided. In a lot of cases the bands are unsigned, and it seems baffling that record labels have not been knocking a path to their doors. I guess it is the nature and reality of the modern music scene in general- there are so many different acts, that it is implausible that all would receive appropriate attention. The theory can (of course) be extended to solo acts, but for my money, bands provide the most durable and marketable brand of music. Looking through my record collection (I am delightfully old-fashioned), the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, The National and Arcade Fire are recent purchases; historic bands like Blur, The Smiths and Oasis are part of my regular rotation. And whilst I have my favourite solo artists (such as Bob Dylan and Jeff Buckley), my consciousness and attentions always navigate themselves to the music that bands make. Sales figures and trends seem to support my point (to an extent), as this market is the most flourishing and promising in the music world. Huge festivals such as Reading and Leeds put our best and brightest on display to the hungry public- all across the land wannabe musicians are forming groups, keen to emulate their heroes. In relation to my own desires and music, I have always felt that it is better (and easier) to be part of a band; rather than go it alone and take on all of the musical burden. I am filled with admiration for solo acts, as they possess a lot of bravery and determination, but I have always craved the comfort of warm bodies- and additional creative minds. As I pen my lyrics; work on potential cover versions; sculpt my material, I cast my eyes around music's landscape. There is plenty of guiding light in the mainstream for sure, yet it is always more relatable and beneficial to seek out the finest that new music has to offer. To that end, I am slightly aghast at the disproportionate attention that some acts receive- whilst others have to struggle hard to grab focus. It is always great when a band manages to break through into the wider public arena; gets the just rewards that their music deserves (and obtains success and patronage)- I just feel that too many great examples are being overlooked. Whether certain regions of the U.K. (and the world) and under the media's spotlight (whilst others are not) or if something else is causing this imbalance, I am not too sure, but is a troubling aberration. A few weeks ago, I was embroiled in a somewhat stimulating discussing with a fellow reviewer, as to how to 'cure' this miasma. She prophesied that- due to the sheer number of bands out there- it would be impossible to ensure that the most ambitious and worthy are given necessary credit. I countered, that if a website were to be formulated (essentially a social media website, but for music), then a potential remedy would present itself. Essentially, an all-encompassing website would be created, whereby every band in a particular region would be listed. If you wanted to find, say, a Metal band in Carlisle or a Pop act in Gravesend, you would click on the relevant area of the map. From there, you could then see every act that played in that area- broken down by location, genre etc. For that reason, it would not only be easier for the general public to investigate the best acts out there; but it would make it easier for record labels to find potential stars-in-the-making. A lot of times I have tried to seek out great Rock acts in London, but when I Google these terms, my search is somewhat fruitless (or limited). There are plenty out there- and many I would like to review- yet it is hard to locate them. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter do not help the problem, and need to find a way to commingle with the large search engines (and music media sites), and make it easier for new bands to get the exposure they deserve. Circling back to my original thesis; I find that there are a lot of bands being touted as 'The Next Big Thing' but in reality, they are being over-hyped. In the course of my reviewing duties I have stumbled upon a great clasp of brilliant bands, and- after happening upon many of them surreptitiously- I wonder why their majesties are being neglected. I know that the likes of Universal Thee and ISSIMO have been gigging hard and wide; saving as much money as possible (to realise their ambitions)- and I am sure that this determination will be rewarded. I am annoyed that too many great acts are falling through the cracks; many more are out there waiting for wider acclaim- seemingly considered extra-terrestrial by the world's media. Music is the most beautiful, medicinal and augmentatiuve force on the planet, so it stands to (logical) reason that the most elliptical and stunning musicians should be nurtured. I have limited influence in my role (as a music reviewer), so it falls to social media; the most influential music media outlets- as well as established acts- to help buck the trend. I know this argument and issue will have to wait for another day (if we are to figure out an answer), but for now, I am just glad that I have been made aware of today's subjects. My feature-ees are a brave and hard-working group whom are fully deserving of armies of fans; wide and considered media scrutiny- as well as festival bookings a-plenty! I am sure that due diligence will occur, and justice will be done, because they are a band whom offer up something genuinely different; music that is filled with texture, escape and brilliance- I better introduce them to you, then...
It has been a busy- and eventful- week or two for David Moyes. The (former) Manchester United manager is on the market, and reeling from the (almost inevitable) downfall that he has experienced. With United being reduced to a gibbering pile of football rubble; they are a quivering shadow of their former selves. Luckily, Echo Arcadia are led by the much more assured and talented, Leigh Moyes. Here is a Scot leading a prodigious and talented band, whose future is far from bleak. I will get down to some precise investigation of our intrepid sextet anon, but for now, I shall give you some biography (from their Facebook page): Echo Arcadia make sweet music out of Edinburgh, Scotland. Their unusual mix of gritty rock backbeats, grumbling guitars and catchy pop melodies have gained them a growing fanbase. The seven members' eclectic influences marry to create a fresh alternative to the usual indie-pop/rock fare. Following the release of their inaugural 'Broken Chapter's EP in October 2010, the Arcadians have enjoyed an intensive period of gigging, also relishing opportunities to play acoustically, allowing them to hone their sound and take their music to a new audience. 6 months later, they recorded their first single, 'Joker', (made available for download in early March 2011) Edinburgh Spotlight had this to say about it: "Sparkling and freshly polished...the track uses layers of shimmering guitar and Leigh and Siobhan’s atmospheric vocal harmonies to create a multi-faceted little nugget of poppiness. All this builds up to a classic vocal refrain which we guarantee you will be singing in the shower, on the way to work, shopping at the supermarket and everywhere else until all your friends tell you to shut up (or until they get their own copy)". The group was brought to my attention by James Russell (in a roundabout way); with Moyes being familiar with my reviews, he contacted Russell- and now I bring them to you. James Russell is the frontman (alongside wife Lisa) of one of Scotland's most potent bands: Universal Thee. I am glad that Echo Arcadia have come under my radar, as they are one of the most promising (and underrated) groups on the scene at the moment- they are a perfect case study of the points I raised earlier. It seems that Edinburgh is playing host to some terrific and fervent bands; filled with range and quality. Universal Thee's Back to Earth is one of the best albums I have reviewed this year, and I was excited to get down to reviewing Echo Arcadia's latest work. Before I do, it is worth mentioning our six-piece, whom comprise:
Leigh Moyes - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Leo Burke - Lead Guitar, Vocals
Euan Mushet - Bass
Dan Ciesielski - Drums
Pete Nicholson - Keys, Vocals
Andrew Gray - Violin, Vocals
It is not surprise that Spectra Records snapped up our heroes, as their music is a rare beast: that which can seduce with its beauty and enliven with its power. When sourcing their influences, Echo Arcadia include the likes of Influences: Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Biffy Clyro, Death Cab for Cutie, David Bowie, The National, Broken Records; The Smiths, The Cure, The Killers, Echo and the Bunnymen, Vampire Weekend, Pink Floyd and Air. Elements and threads of these (disparate and wonderful) acts come through in various tracks; yet the abiding flair is of an original band whom are hell-bent on long-term regard- and festival headline spots. It is a shock to me that the Edinburgh men remained a mystery to record labels for so long; but with the backing of an important and influential label, our heroes have the options of playing far and wide- a possible future/long stay in the U.S. is a distinct possibility. With hints of The National to their aesthete, the American audiences (as well as us here) will soon be clasping Echo Arcadia to their bosoms- there is a big, wide world out there for them. The band merge darker and more introspective lyrics, with shimmering and beautiful compositions; the results have hit critics hard. In a recent blog post (on the band's official website), Moyes explained why the band tend to write about 'darker' themes: "Life always finds a way to balance out, no matter how hard you push one way, something will always find a way to create that equilibrium again. I don’t see this as dark, but more as a way of addressing that balance, we are less scared of the dark room once we know there is nothing in there to fear". Our frontman is no Nick Drake; he is offering glimpses of something frightening, to- as he explains- take the fear and stigma out of it. Too many bands are aimless cheerful or banal with their lyrics; Echo Arcadia's songbooks are filled with texture, memorable lines and deep thought. Their music is lush and effusive; seductive and impassioned, and it is this varied and multifarious canvas that has captured so many minds- and hearts as well. Mix in some grit and harder edges to the templates and you have a band whom are more varied and compelling that the majority of their contemporaries. The band's wide range of influences was showcased in their Broken Chapters E.P. Critical palpitations and waves of sighing adulation followed the release of the 2010 release, and our heroes have been performing solidly ever since- taking their music to as many people as possible. Expectations were (as you'd expect) high, when Beauty in an Average Life was unveiled. It allowed our Scottish wonders chance to fully spread their wings; expand their potential and sound across ten tracks- and build on the success and brilliance of their E.P. Take a look at the selection of reviews below, and you can tell how critics feel about the album; it is something that has not only resonated with the press, but seduced them in the process:
"Overall, this is a very fascinating shapshot of a band from the UK. It was an absolute pleasure to get into the mindset of these European visionaries and listen to what they were trying to tell the world. Some pieces will hold a place in my fascinating/dark play list when I really need it. The best thing about this band is how well they bring together all the flavors of many different styles and genres, all the while making all of these songs their own. Echo Arcadia is armed with great writing, a brilliant creative mindset, and powerful messages no doubt many will fall gravitate towards... In the end Echo Arcadia is highly contagious, infectious and will no doubt evolve over time into something truly groundbreaking on the world stage. All of this makes them a welcomed and unique band in an overly cut-and-paste industry".
"Echo Arcadia’s release from Spectra Records, "Beauty In An Average Life", is an outstanding, inspired rock album with a unique sonic identity and highly literate writing. Hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, this outfit covers a wide variety of styles on this release with a fearlessness and restless creativity that impresses itself on the listener immediately".
"I really like to song line up – the way each song masterfully transitions through to the next creating much in the way of drama. So many bands and record labels get this basic skill so wrong. They fail to listen to the songs at their disposal and seemingly throw the album together without giving it any real thought. I’ve known people who work to formulas making sure that their best songs start and finish the album with the remaining tracks squeezed between in a slapdash fashion. That’s not the case with Beauty in the Average Life. in fact each track could probably survive on its own merits, but the album just flows so well. Echo Arcadia could easily heralded as classic sounding rock but there is so much more to them. I hear Tonic, Five for Fighting, The Verve Pipe, and dash of Pearl Jam. I can even hear Masters of Reality, Arctic Monkeys and The Dead Weather".
"Echo Arcadia’s latest release Beauty in the Average Life is a compelling musical journey. These 7 pretty much rock the house. Its strong suit is its amazing sonic ambience and song for song musical flow. These guys and gals gets high marks from me for their brilliant musical approach bringing in much instrumentation and musical variety. This CD will be a real joy for those listeners out there who want flowing trippy ambience to fill their sonic space peacefully and unobtrusively. This progressive somewhat trippy format makes for a great extended play experience. I recommend you just hit play, close your eyes and see where the party takes you. So if you’re looking for a psychedelic musical experience with sonic ambience, theatrical brilliance and a psychedelic rock aftertaste, then I highly recommend you take a listen to the latest CD from Echo Arcadia right away".
The Muse's Muse
"Echo Arcadia’s latest release "Beauty in the Average Life" makes a lasting impression upon the listener. Together these Scots are sure to make an impact here in the states. They sound comfortable together not holding anything back and their eccentrically good songwriting is boldly honest. This latest effort by Echo Arcadia creates an inviting musical setting that highlights all the good about eccentric trippy alt-rock and up close and personal singer/songwriter music. All songs offer a wide array of musical depth and structure – offering the best UK and US rock n’ roll has to offer - a great balance".
"If you want a pleasant mellow pop rocking staple there’s something on this record for you. Obviously many will fall head over heals with Echo Arcadia. I mean Moyes doesn’t even have to sing a single word for this to happen – really. This is one artist set up rather well for mainstream success this year and next. Some of this plays into strong marketability potential world-wide. Some pieces present more modern sounding overtones but despite all this the flavor possess traditional Progressive Pop Rock textures. This is really what makes this release from Echo Arcadia so enticing to me personally. In retrospect Echo Arcadia possesses an impressive sound that is rock-based. "Beauty in the Average Life" grants you rare access to peer into the soul of a young artist not so tormented by the world yet but rather easy-going and positive – from a fascinating Progressive Pop perspective shall we say that is, well more than average".
Music News Nashville
With the L.P. available to the general public, the next few months will be crucial ones for the band. I mentioned the potential for multiple U.S. dates, but is would go without saying that Europe, Australia (and everywhere in-between) will want our heroes to come and play- they may have to get used to being outside of Scotland for a while! Music is a capricious and malevolent mistress; used to beckoning an act forth- before spitting their bones into the wind. Whilst a lot of artists are deserving of no more than a fleeting moment in the spotlight, Echo Arcadia will be around for a long time, as the music and importance of what they are doing means more than any facetious or corruptible distractions- fame and the puerility it brings. At the moment our six-piece have a modest (but loyal) following on their social media pages- this is sure to change very soon. I will conclude my review by looking into their future, but for now, I am very much intrigued by the present- in the form of their album, Beauty in an Average Life.
Before a single song arrives to your ears, you are (I certainly was) struck by the album cover itself. One of the things that the so-called 'digital age' will bury, is album hard- and the physical product. That is not to say that album (and E.P.) designs and covers will be gone compleltey- our heroes' album artwork is eye-catching and memorable. With its desert and lunar background; with a floating astronaut and child in the foreground; it is a strange, wonderful and curious image. Whether it is a child playing with an astronaut-shaped balloon, or else an actual astronaut, I am not sure- but is sticks in your mind and lingers too. The cover image (of the album) tells you about the music and themes (before you even hear the first song) and sets you up for what is to come. The L.P.'s lead-off track is Sparks- a track that has already gathered and garnered a large amount of attention and praise. The song was featured on Broken Chapters, and it compelled Edinburgh Spotlight to write: "If bands like The Pixies were masters of the ‘loud quiet loud’ thing, Echo Arcadia are the peanut butter equivalent: their songs are all ‘smooth crunchy smooth’ and ‘Sparks’ is a perfect example". A glowing and sparking rush begins the songs; little pattering percussion melts with throbbing electronics. With electric guitar seductively entering the fray, our hero claims "They'll be tantrums"; his voice calm and purposeful. His indecision, it is said, are "haunting every choice that I make". The sonic parable- which was levelled and smooth- steps up a gear, and an audible rush is detected. Guitar strings become more prominent; sparring with some solid percussion, the song's energy and passion makes itself know. Whilst out hero states that "This introspection/Has never been that easy for me", the electric threads become woozy and pulsing; they vibrate and sway- paired with some subtle bass and electronic undertones, it creates a hugely effective mood. Depression, repressed feelings and anxieties are under the surface for Moyes; you can feel his soul creeping towards insanity- before a vocal chorus arrives. Determined and emphasised, the coda implores our hero to "Hold on"; male and female tones mix to give the sound of a crowd (looking into his world) advising strength and resolve. The guitar work is more emphatic, backing a vocal sway which is as dream-like as it is purposeful- shades of The National come into view. I love the way that Echo Arcadia mix guitars and bass together; at the forefront is a sharper and more dominant electric guitar sparkle; with tender and supportive bass working in the background the combination is hugely evocative and emotive. There are "Broken chapters", with every lines "torn out and unread"- you can sense our hero's heart and soul ache and burn. With a further- and much-needed- choir of redemption and sage advice, the band weave their tapestry. One of the song's key facets- amongst many- is the composition which changes course, path and declination- keeping the energy high and pleasing the ear at every opportunity. Grumbling and moaning guitar mixes with staunch and stoic percussion; each member of the band adds huge energy and colour to the song- lines and notes will stick in your head for a long time. With a gorgeous and spacey outro.- that has hints of Pink Floyd, Bowie and OK Computer-era Radiohead- a dancing and funky astral projection does it's work, and ends the song- and concludes a striking and phenomenal start to the L.P. Apple Moon is the next track, and begins its life with an upbeat and punchy intro. It is one which compels you to tap your feet and nod your head; with splashes of cymbal and pattering percussion (together with some underlying bass and electronics) you allow yourself to get washed away in its majesties. Our hero approaches the mic., and with heavy-hearted words ("Steal my dreams while I'm asleep"), it seems as though he is speaking to (or about an unnamed) sweetheart. Whether looking at the quagmire and battles of romance, or life in general, words such as "Cut the ties or keep the key" get your mind thinking. The composition- in the embryonic stages- is kept subtle (yet emotive) to allow the words and vocal do their work. That sonic palpitation turns into a full-on coronary, as the atmosphere explodes. Breathy and elongated brass whips up a sense of lightning, hushed awe and tears- every emotion you can imagine can be heard. The drums crackle and tee-up a vocal rise; our hero proclaiming "She's like an echo in my head". Words unsaid, dancing shadows and memories arrive in mind; Moyes's voice is impassioned and strong as he concludes: "My inner voice/My apple moon". The song- likes it predessor- has a quiet-loud dynamic; the composition is variegated and diverse. Strikes of electric guitar mix with clattering drums- the song's pace and turns keep you on the edge of your seat. With our hero (imploring to his subject) imploring: "Hold me tight in love's embrace", the rampant and thundering guitar acts like a heartbeat- one which is a rictus and riot of sadness and strain. Moyes' heart is twisted and torn every time the heroine smiles; whether the romance is dead or she is with someone new (causing huge pain in our hero), you can hear the conviction in the vocal delivery. Like The National's Matt Berninger, lightness mixes with weighted burden- you can hear the sorrow but it is not overwhelming, you always emphasise and feel empathy. Whilst Ohio's Berninger has chocolate and deep tones, our Scot hero has greater power in his voice; it is less overwrought and more pleasing- displaying a unique and singular tone, which is rare in the modern scene. I can see the song becoming a fan favourite, as it has a sing along quality, yet its message can be understood and extrapolated by all- it is a relevant and universal theme, yet one with a certain catchiness. The driving and potent closing moments has hints of The Killers to its sound, and acts as the perfect conclusion to another stunning number- completing an authoritative and memorable 1-2. With a tribalistic and rumbling percussive line, Love Song gets underway. A feverish and twanging guitar coda parabonds with drums; they weave in and out of one another, and whip up a heady and exhilarating intro. Just then, a lighter and dancing element is introduced; keys and percussive timber commingle that puts a smile on your face and beautifully subvert expectation. It is the finest- to this point- introduction on the album, and sets up a huge amount of intrigue and fascination. "The time has come for dreaming" our hero starts; voice filled with purpose and passion; emphasised in words such as "We barely started breathing/Before we're thinking about leaving". It is here that our hero lets his voice power; wordless cries ring out and cut to the core. When the chorus swings in, Moyes is back down to earth (yet no less powerful), as he proclaims: "I'm on my own/'til I find my love song". Backed in vocal unison, you get the sense of a man looking for happiness and meaning; dislocated and jaded by what life has thrown at him. The chorus wins you over with its sheer conviction and prowess; the combination of multiple voices, scintillating guitar and pummeling percussion (and strong-arm bass), augment and aptly support our hero's pleas. With "carpet burns and whiskey", our frontman drifts off; misty and fatigue, he looks back on stumbling points; quiet moments allow reflection- you get the impression (at this point) of two lovers in different head spaces. Unable to find the words, our hero sleeps and lost. When the chorus comes back in, it adds extra weight and meaning to the track; it seems that Moyes is somnambulistically walking alone "Until I find my love song". Like Apple Moon it is a track whose meanings have relevance to (pretty much) anyone listening; the delightful sonic switches and range of moods add huge force to the song, as well as burrow inside your head. It is a track that shows the band place a large emphasis on projection, emotion and nuance- the song never tires and is constantly electioneering. With another memorable and evocative chorus, you cannot help but sing along- as well as hope that our hero finds satisfaction and answers. The final minute-or-so combines powerful guitar-and-percussion-duet and the reintroduction of the chorus- it glides us down to land, and you are left wondering whether our hero has managed to find resolve. Joker was- and is- the band's first single, and will be familiar to any fans of the band. Edinburgh Spotlight claimed that the track was "Sparkling and freshly polished..." and something "you will be singing in the shower, on the way to work". Released back in 2011 (when former member Siobhan was in the band) it is a song that has connected with a lot of reviewers. After listening to the Morse Code-esque piano notes blend with darker and astral guitar, you are already hooked. The intro. is both romantic, urgent and compelling- not surprising given the tracks that have come before, and what they offered. Rolling percussion adds another layer to the mood and emphasised a hugely impressive and well-considered opening salvo. When our hero steps into the spotlight; the joke is on him, as (it is said) "'cause I'm the stupid one". The combinative vocals of our hero and heroine are a warm and powerful blend; there is introspective to be found, yet something more redemptive. With Moyes feeling warmer inside, it has reminded him that "everything's gonna be just fine". Like previous numbers, there is a memorability and 'catchiness' to proceedings; the melodies and lyrics will forge their way into your brain and not shift. Once more, the entire band play their part superbly. The guitar work is varied and striking; percussion keeps things levelled and constantly engaging; bass is solid and persistently engaging. Siobhan's voice is not often heard on the L.P. (as she is not part of the band line-up any more), yet in this case, adds sweet and seductive tones- to pair alongside Moyes' unique voice. With visions of "kaleidoscopes and silhouettes", our duo combine: "Enjoy the moment/No regrets". Echo-y and burbling guitar notes mix with purer shades; creating a brilliant punctuation- which takes us into the final stages. A final rally call is summoned up (by our hero), Siobhan joins implores- before the outro. arrives. A shimmering and delicate last few seconds closes Joker- completing another compelling and fascinating song. Once more, piano sounds greet our waiting ears; in Hide and Seek's opening moments. Here, they are more romantic and tremulous; when combining with percussion, the result is hugely effective. The drums do not overwhelm, instead stutter and smash (without too much force), creating a delicate and soothing sound. The introduction of strings and guitar only add to its beauty and sway; and you find yourself surprised at just how good the band are when it comes to intros.- few other acts are so consistently impressive and mobile in this respect. Our hero is soft and reflective of voice; hearing the rain come down ("It hits my window pane"); its loneliness remind him how much he is missing his love. Although it has been nine days, it "feels like half a year"; Moyes is looking for a way to have his sweetheart by his side, unable as he is to make it so. At this point Hide and Seek is the most romantic and gentle tracks on the album; sighing brass and twinkling piano are highly effective; the pace and weight is kept light to allow the song's meanings and intentions to get inside of your heart. When Siobhan (once more) adding vocals, the two combines; our hero confession that he "can smell your perfume still..."- its scent lingers on his skin. Imaging and remembering fondest memories of his romance, there is a certain sadness to the recollections. When our hero announces that he "still can't love (you) more", his voice is at its purest and most soulful- emphasised and paid tribute by the twinkling and tender piano parable that follows. Moyes has his hands over his eyes and is counting to 10; admitting that if he can't see his beau then he'll "never say goodbye". Just before the 3:00 marker, the brass and horn influence becomes more dominant- and joining with bolstering electric guitar- creates a hugely emotive and vivid scenery. There is a slight Jazz element, and you can imagine our hero walking the rainy streets; under the street light he looks up at neon windows, and wonders when he will see his girl. Imploring for her to "Come on home" (it is a mantra that is repeated and reinforced), our hero lets his voice climb and strike; you can hear the conviction and urgency. As the pace increases (and Siobhan ably supports with a gorgeous vocal line), sonic elements combine and rush. Sprinkling and beautiful piano, mixes with determined percussion and mood indigo brass; the fire burns, and you get the sense that this saga is not over- that there are more twists to come in the tale. After the romanticism and emotion of Hide and Seek, Four Lights begins energetic yet tempered. With a twirling and twisting guitar line, married to a driving and pattering percussion, the song builds curiosity and excitement early on. As our hero comes into view, some oblique but striking words are offered up: "Let the sunlight sting your eyes/Familiar feeling it should come as no surprise". Displaying their talent for stunning compositions; Four Lights manages to elicit the maximum anount of weight and stir- with as few notes as possible. Whilst our hero sings of "Shield your face/From the eyes that look you through", the band combine delicately sprinkle in their ingredients. The guitar is particular impressive; in the early stages it is subtle but impressive- as the energy explodes it is incredibly powerful. With hands tied and selfish pride being investigated, our hero's voice is as direct and potent as ever. At the 1:40 point, the guitar becomes more snarling and crunchy; "You don't wanna be the one to finish last" is repeated and enforced- the message directed at the anonymous central figure. When our hero delivers the lines "Untold pleasures come from keeping her around/for your own gain", you wonder what he might be referring to; pictures and scenes are built up in mind; you get the sense that Moyes has a heavy weight on his shoulders. When the chorus comes back in, you find yourself singing along, carried along in the sonic rush and energy. As the final minute arrives, the light and sparse guitars build back up; the song always keeps you on edge and introduces something surprising and new. A low-down and burbling bass line opens up High Hopes and Low Expectations. The percussive and bass elements create a Jazzy and groovy intro., one which our hero is equal to. One more time through the looking-glass, his voice is soulful and firm. It appears that there are worries on Moyes' mind: "I can't take any more/flickers of the past". Our hero is looking at his life (as well as the past); he is surveying scenes; and ask people to "Forgive the flaws you see". The guitar strikes hard; drum rattles and smashes as our Moyes implores: "Take these memory/Burn them 'til they're gone". Our hero is determined to start again and forget the past; get rid of the demons- essentially become reborn. Boasting one of the most impressive vocal turns on the album, the band show how tight and impressive they are. Once again horns are deployed to add to the gravity; the entire band are on top of their game, and ensure that every note and second gets inside your head. Whereas the band have their influences and idols, there is such an original voice and flair that comes through, that you are hard-pressed to notice anyone else. This gives tracks like High Hopes and Low Expectations. Similarly, the lyrics are both relatable but personal; they offer sing along choruses and considerate verses- meaning by the end of seven you are in no mood for the album to end any time soon! Satellite arrives next, and keeps momentum up, and appetites wetted. You get the impression- from the intro.- of a satellite orbiting Earth. There is a weightlessness and nocturnal feel; the guitar opening trips and teases. In a way it reminded me of Amnesiac-period Radiohead; there is that same quality and sound that comes through; it is both dark and light- foreboding and open. When the vocal is introduced, you are already picturing scenes and images. Moyes' voice is breathy and seductive; as though he is drifting to sleep, or else in a dream. Early words hint at a restless mind in needs of rest: "I've been counting sheep/But it never works for me". Our hero seems to be speaking to a particular subject; a sweetheart; Moyes is in protective mode ("I'll never let anyone hurt you")- without them around, our hero is empty and lost. It is nice to hear Moyes' soulful edges as they are one of the most vital facets on the album; made strongest and most effective when his mind looks towards love. You can hear the conviction come through with every note; this is made crystal-clear not only by the splendid production, but by the band as a whole. Guitar, bass and percussive inputs are not intrusive at all, but help to emphasise the words and add a sense of longing. Putting his heart on his sleeve, our hero confesses (to his love): "I'm lost without you". Once again, Echo Arcadia display a knack for effective and layered sonic parables. Satellite boasts a tremendously evocative and stunning break, which sees glistening and spacey guitars mingle with delicate and tender percussion. It is a track not only to be seduced by, but one which allows you to relax and drift inside your own mind- and for me, marks itself as the finest song on the album. As an acoustic guitar strum comes into the mix, our hero repeats the words "Knowing that you're mine". Backed by Siobhan, it seems almost like a lovers' duet; the vocals blend wonderfully. As the song ends, you cannot help but smile and feel warmer; whether this is the intention or not, I am not sure, but that is how it left me. Lucinda is the penultimate number, and begins its trajectory with a striking combination of piano, drum and strings. Moyes arrives to the mic. and speaks to our heroine; urges her to walk towards the light, something that "Strips away your apathy". Whether the song is aimed at a wrong-doer in need of redemption; or a woman with love in her heart in need of direction, she is in the light, as it is "Lifting you above it all". It appears that our heroine needs clarity and direction. As she lifts her arms in child-like prayer, the strings ache; the percussion sternly pioneers- only Lucinda can acquiesce to leave her sins. Chugging guitar, together with dreamy strings (and piano) elicit an aural storm; a wind of change perhaps? Our hero has been here before; he sees through our heroine, and shows the scars. Whether spiritual guidance is needed or just self-examination and repentance, our hero says that when the light's so blinding "fall to your knees". Mixing ecumenical and religious themes (and imagery) together with personal problems and negative proclivity, is hugely effective; you can visualise the heroine and get a clear impression of whom is being referred to. Hollow of beliefs and with thread-bare lies, our hero is in emphatic voice; striking out against Lucinda. Tenth, and by no means least, is Into Another Day- the swan song of a bounteous album. Ghostly and spectral wordlessness opens up the track; backed by trickling guitar there is an instant sense of stillness; perhaps of the night and all it holds- of floating into space perhaps. Such is the nature and beauty of those first seconds, that your mind wanders and imagines. Guitar and piano (once more) combine tenderly, and you sense that something epic and emphatic may soon be upon us. Moyes speaks of "One last breath of air/Before the darkness falls"; his voice controlled and with an unnamed subject in mind, our hero tells them not to "let this slip away from you". Fleeting moments pass to another day, and you get the sense that there is personal relevance and meaning behind the words. Perhaps not referring to himself (but maybe a friend or sweetheart), the words paint pictures of someone whom may be low (at the moment), but can regroup and re-gather. When the words "We've come from nothing/And we'll return/Back there again" the song acquires new meaning and direction. Our hero is placing himself under the spotlight, and is in the midst of the action. Like all great and remarkable albums, it ends with a song which is both unexpected but perfectly fitting. There are no rambunctious intervals or guitar smashes; no strained utterance and thoughts- the pace and mood are kept level and touching from start to finish. It is the finale to the film; the light at the end perhaps. A lot of emotional and ground has been covered, and the dawn's light is starting to break. When Moyes re-introduces the words "Don't let this slip away from you" the song reaches its closing stages, and the dawn breaks. It brings to a close a remarkable and assured debut from Echo Arcadia. The album is filled with brilliant and memorable vocals; insightful and stunning lyrics- and a band performance that is consistently engaging and powerful. Not only is it staggering to witness the range of sounds and sights across 10 tracks, but the L.P. never drops a step- or misses a beat. A compelling travelogue from end-to-end, it is an album that you will be repeating for weeks to come; quoting lines and melodies- wondering whether our hero has gained satisfaction and whether the album's supporting cast have found absolution and (renewed) purpose.
Reception (so far) has not exactly been 'ambivalent' with concerns Beauty in an Average Life- feedback has been incredibly positive. It is no surprise, given the impact that Broken Chapters had; and being aware of the Edinburgh music scene, I am not shocked, either. The likes of Universal Thee are presenting their Pixies-cum-Pavement mandates to the world- and are a band whom will be big future names. Echo Arcadia are a six-piece whom were mere stranger a mere few days ago, and I am exceptionally glad they are no longer anonymous. I will be following the career and trajectory of the heroic Scots with a close eye, and will make an effort to see them live- if they play London in the future. When chatting with Moyes earlier in the week, a great humbleness and modest came through; as well as a desire and ambition to take his band as far as he possibly can. I started this review by investigating the mixed fortunes of various bands; the inequalities that are present in the market- and how hard it is to hear about genuinely great new bands. When it comes to mainstream or established music, then it is easy to find out about new releases. Between various music magazines, websites (and T.V.) new albums and E.P.s are advertised widely, ensuring that the public have plenty of notice. New musicians have to work a lot harder to get the word out. If you live in a particular region or area, then you may hear of local acts and neighbours- but how often are you made aware of further-placed acts? As I am based near London, I know of some great acts here (as well as talent in Surrey and West Sussex); yet rely on happenstance to locate great music in other locales. A great proportion of my reviews are as a result of luck or second-hand word-of-mouth; sources such as The Guardian are quite instrumental- it shouldn't be this difficult! The bands (and solo acts) are doing all they can and free from culpability; it is the media and social media sites that should be doing more. Being a fan of the likes of The National, Radiohead, Pink Floyd and The Smiths, any band that employs elements of these groups seem ready-made for me. We need to discover a smoother way for great musicians to connect with potential fans; build clearly and concreted links between them and us- it seems so obvious. Until something is figured out, I will be glad for each opportunity that arrives, which allows me to discover great music. Echo Arcadia are a mature, intelligent and pioneering group whom not only sprinkle some key influences into their cannon, but project an authoritative and compelling individuality and unique sound- one that is hard to shake off. The reviews that have come in for the album so far pay testament to just how strong the six-piece are. Too few acts manage to truly get inside your head and heart; whether because of lack of insight or potential, a great deal come off as being hollow, generic and one-dimensional. I feel that a lot of bands are put on pedestals and drooled over (by critics); play the huge festivals and are subjected to a great amount of feverish praise- without any real reason why. I shall name no names, but there is too much of it in music; and it comes at the cost of genuinely purposeful and incredible bands. Echo Arcadia will have no fear, as they have a huge critical backing, and now (they have a big label behind them), opportunities and avenues will be opened to them. The vibrant personalities and everyman approachability of Moyes and his men comes through firmly; the guys are good-humoured, down-to-earth and hungry- and proud of the music they make. I hope that our heroes come down to London very soon as I would love to see them play in a live setting. After performing at the Voice of Scotland showcase a couple of weeks ago, Echo Arcadia are taking Scotland by storm; and it will not be long until they go off on their travels and begin an itinerant campaign. It seems that every week I am uncovering acts whom are capable of ruling festivals and venues in the future, and it seems that another has been covered. Whether our heroes will take this route or stick to more modest settings will be in their hand, but I am sure that for the moment they will see how Beauty in an Average Life is received. They have influenced some songwriting in me, and compelled me to re-investigate my best work, and push boundaries and limits even further- such is the merit and hallmark of an influential band. Their 10-track opus is not something that will appeal to fans of certain types of music/bands; there is an openness to their music that encourages all to participate. Some of the lyrics may tread a darkened road, yet- as explained earlier- Moyes sees it as a way of extinguishing fear and dispelling any anxieties. Our upbeat band of men are keen to instil themselves into the public forum as potently as possible, and I feel that this summer will be a very busy and prosperous period for them. With April slipping away, and the weather being unpredictable as ever; sit back and unearth a Scottish band whose stock will rise; six fellas whom will be on the scene for many a-year; and above all absorb...
ONE of the most compelling albums you'll hear all year.
Apple Moon- 9.7
Love Song- 9.8
Hide and Seek- 9.8
Four Lights- 9.7
High Hopes and Low Expectations- 9.8
Into Another Day- 9.9
Standout Track: Satellite
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