Amplifier – Echo Street
”Its just a few miles to oblivion now, there was a bad connection from the start.”
It has been almost a decade since Amplifier released their self-titled debut album which successfully fused different musical elements, resulting in a very interesting sound combining the best of Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Alternative Rock and Space Rock with a heavier edge. Since 2004, the band has put out several EPs and two studio albums, the latest one being a big behemoth called “The Octopus”, a two-hour long double-album. The Octopus was an album with a very dark and heavy atmosphere. But that was two years ago, and the band is now back with a new album, the follow-up, Echo Street, which is almost the complete opposite of what The Octopus was.
Where the latter was a heavier album with a sometimes muddy sound and dark atmosphere, Echo Street is a light and bright album with a more clean production and more focused songwriting. In many ways, Echo Street is a very unique album in the Amplifier catalog. While I personally really liked The Octopus, it is very refreshing that Echo Street sounds completely different. It is noticeable right from the very beginning of the album, and the opening-song “Matmos” (and the whole album in general) will probably divide fans when it comes to opinions. It starts off quiet and really takes its time to build up, by some simple and effective chord strumming and singing. When the chorus finally kicks in after almost three and a half minutes, the song really lifts to higher levels. The song sets the tone for the album and what will come.
Musically I would say Echo Street is the least heavy album the band has put out, and the focus has shifted more towards creating epic soundscapes and crafting melodies. The Pink Floyd-influence shines through on a few of the longer songs, in a positive way. The band manages to make something unique out of it. Two fascinating songs on the album are “Where the River Flows” and “Between Today and Yesterday”, both are calmer songs, and the latter has this singer/songwriter-sound to it. Very unique compared to what the band has done before, and in a positive way. The melodies in these songs really stand out, and to me it is proof that the band has matured even more since the previous releases.
But if you like Amplifier for their more Progressive-side, do not worry. There are plenty of epic moments, the 12 minute song “Extra Vehicular” features a bass line so catchy that any bassist would be jealous, and it has one of the best solo-sections on the entire album. Five of the eight songs on the album are longer than seven minutes, and they all take their time to build up. What makes Echo Street so unique is the fact that most of the songs are fairly calm and light in terms of tone. Previous albums have had heavier, faster and more straightforward songs, but this album sounds almost like you would expect from the front cover.
I also highly recommend checking out Sunriders EP which came as a bonus if you bought the limited version of Echo Street. The songs on the EP are pretty different from how the album sounds, and the title-track on the EP is just as good as the best stuff on the album. Really amazing song with some sweet melodies, overall the EP gives you four songs that does not really fit with the rest of the album, but makes an excellent partner. Echo Street is in my opinion the best album the band has put out so far. I really hope this initial reaction will remain, right now this is an early favorite for best album in 2013. But it is a long year, and anything could happen. Recommended for anyone who likes Progressive music.
Standout tracks: Matmos, Extra Vehicular, Where the River Goes, Paris in the Spring, Between Today and Yesterday.