Ryan Evans’ travels as a musician and songwriter have carried him a long way from his youthful beginnings in Pensacola, Florida. His journeys include brief sojourns in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even Berlin, Germany – the wealth of experiences accumulated in each of these locales definitely goes into forming Evans’ creative makeup and has often dictated the sound and approach of his band Echo Bloom and their respective albums.
Evans has toyed with various iterations of Echo Bloom and the latest lineup settles on a four-piece configuration that proves quite potent on the band’s latest release Green. He’s working with musical peers talented in their own right and fully understanding of the songwriting vision Evans brings to bear. The current lineup has barnstormed a trail in recent years, including many American dates and a recently concluded 60 date European jaunt. The chemistry they’ve established is quite audible on this release.
It’s scarcely possible to have Green open better than it does with the song “Comet”. There’s definitely a rootsy quality surrounding a lot of the material of Echo Bloom, specifically on this song, but there’s an interesting contrast struck by the obvious orchestration of dynamics fueling many of Green’s performances. “Comet”, like many songs on Green, has a particularly effective chorus that never pushes the envelope too far. Cody Rahn’s drumming has an artful sound, but it has a strong presence as well, and he pairs up nicely with bassist Alex Minier.
The rootsy aspects of the opener disappear entirely with the second song “The Duke” and the rhythm section stands out once again. Rahn’s drums have a sharper, more visceral quality than we heard with the first soon and Minier’s bass pops out of the mix. The postmodern folk song stride of “Grand Marquis” brings keyboardist Aviva Jaye’s backing vocals more to the fore than either of the previous songs. Green captures acoustic instruments with every bit of the same clarity and bite we hear from the rockier songs and Evans possesses the vocal dexterity to maneuver well between these disparate styles.
There’s a playful, romping feel coming across with the song “Cecil DeMille” built around a simple, straight-ahead drum pattern and jaunty piano. It’s a song that takes a number of creative turns along the way and reveals another side of Evans’ songwriting character and works as a welcome shift in mood for the listener. “Song for Steven” revisits the orchestrated elements we heard with the opener, but the approach is even more refined here than before and has one of the album’s best choruses. Evans delivers an especially emphatic vocal performance. Rahn brings Echo Bloom into “Love & Superglue” with an understated swagger soon adorned by a mix of acoustic and electric guitar flourishes.
Evans gives another memorable vocal performance that unwinds with the same patience we hear in the musical arrangement. The penultimate tune for the album “The Swimmer” has a meditative elegance that builds from a quiet opening to a relatively rousing finale. It sets up the album’s finale “Unchanged” quite nicely and Aviva Jaye’s vocal contributions are important here as well – she acts as a ghostly counterpoint to Evans’ singing. Echo Bloom’s new album Green has an astonishing variety of songs for past and new listeners and there isn’t a single instance of filler along the way. It’s their best effort to date.
FInd more Echo Bloom at http://www.echobloom.com/
Music on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/green/1341050222
– review by Scott Wigley