Success is all about keeping it in the family – or at least, it’s working for Echosmith. Having played music together their entire lives, the siblings nabbed their first record deal with Warner two years ago. Now barely out of their teens, the band have had their first taste of mainstream success following their hit Cool Kids. It seems like their hard work and god-given musicality have paid off, because this has garnered our attention to their debut studio album, Talking Dreams. And my oh my, are they a talented bunch.
It’s the sort of album that takes you back to your teen glory days. You know those times where you were young, beautiful and free of any responsibility? The album’s opener Come Together is an anthem for angsty teens; the ultimate call for liberation. Both upbeat and rousing, the track includes a rich assortment of live and studio instruments – think dreamy synth keyboards mixed with electric guitars. Lead singer Sydney sounds older than her 17 years; not an adult, but not exactly adolescent either. This isn’t the bubblegum pop you’d expect from a young musician, but rather, a brand of alt pop that’s refreshing and altogether catchy. Let’s Love follows the same up-tempo dynamic, the perfect formula to get hearts thumping and adrenalines soaring. Here, the brothers also have an input to the track, creating delightful harmonies and musical chemistry. ‘Let’s love while we’re young, let’s love before we’ve even begun,’ the siblings belt, over a carefree and positive arrangement. Unfortunately, that’s the first and last time one of the brothers get such a heavy feature on a track – which is a real shame because it really shows off their musical versatility and skill as a family.
Then of course, there’s Cool Kids, the track that had us all buzzing in the first place. With its synth keyboards and hazy vibes, the song takes us back to those long-ago school days. But it’s not all happy times – with the nostalgia comes uneasy memories of pressure and isolation. Sydney needn’t be angsty to describe those turbulent periods of social anxiety and peer pressure; it’s all there in the yearning of her tone. As we progress further in the album, we learn that she’s rather good at expressing those teen emotions through song. In Come With Me, Sydney is breathy at times, flirting with her sweet falsettos as she croons, ‘you’re the only thing that I ever needed to know.’ Again we’re off to a dreamlike start, before the full band revives us with a strong riff and marching backbeat. Things are toned down though for Bright, an acoustic guitar number. Ditzy and sparkling, Sydney is able to capture the excitement and newness of first love. It seems that Echosmith’s best material stem from these themes of freedom and love, all laced with a bit of wild adventure too.
But are these themes enough to carry a 12-track strong album? Eventually they’re so played out that we all end up rolling our eyes. The wishy-washy Tell Her You Love Her is again dreamy, but doesn’t quite cut it. Like a romantic comedy, Sydney recites a list of cliche’d love advice over a corny guitar riff. Things do pick up momentarily in the chorus, but not in an explosive way that makes you sit up and listen. It’s the same old deal with Nothing’s Wrong, where we are presented with another upbeat track that celebrates the young, wild and free. Which would be fantastic, hadn’t we already heard it four times previously. Thankfully, the album is redeemed by the second last track, Safest Place. With its irresistible riffs, subtle harmonies and Sydney’s soaring vocals, the album gets a breath of much-needed life – especially so close to its finish.
To be fair they are young musicians themselves, so an album that glorifies what they know best is hardly inappropriate. Talking Dreams is full of hits and some misses, but the overall result is something truly special. Not that Sydney does an inadequate job, but Echosmith may fare better if they featured more solos from other members of the band. Then again, their careers are only just getting started – and we’ll sure be looking forward to watching them evolve as a band.