Hiss. Pop. Crackle.  The sophomore release by The Morning Benders opens with the sound of  vinyl spinning as the needle of a record player gently touches its surface.  This humming buzz sets the tone of Big Echoes, an album that plumbs the depths of 1960s production aesthetics, orchestral chamber pop and summery sounds of the beach boys.
As the hissing of the vinyl fades away, album opener ‘Excuses’ takes over with a swaying, waltz-like rhythm.  It’s a gorgeous languid song that features lead vocalist Chris Chu singing grotesque prose (old bodies/slip when they make love) gently above a haze of strings, glockenspiel, delicate piano and sea of messy percussion.  
‘Promises’ follows and immediately bears the mark of album co-producer Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear.  It’s a strong guitar-driven piece, elevated by the layering of vocal arrangements and a subtle use of piano underneath thundering drums.   Similar in scope is ‘Cold War’, the shortest cut on the album, a fast paced acoustic-guitar driven track.
Whilst Big Echoes appears to be rather front-loaded, it’s the latter half of the album that contains the most ambitious song-writing.  The penultimate track ‘Stitches’ is an urgent slow-burning number, driven by nervous vocals and the constant thumping of drums.   The sparse arrangement allows the song to swell into a soup of richly layered guitars complimented by Chu’s soaring voice as it reaches its crescendo.
As ‘Stitches’ draws to an abrupt close, the hissing sound of spinning vinyl returns to guide the listener into the final, dream-like song.  Big Echoes is a masterful evolution for The Morning Benders, taking the band into a new sonic direction by looking to the past.

– Adam Christou