SYN Reviews: City Calm Down – ‘Echoes in Blue’
Jacqui Picone reviews City Calm Down’s new record ‘Echoes in Blue’ (released April 6th, 2018)
“It sounds just like The National” I shrieked at my boyfriend the first time I heard the opening track from City Calm Down’s new record. Darkness creeps at the door of all the tracks, especially ‘Joan, I’m Disappearing’. Singer Jack Bourke’s deep baritone voice leaves a sense of unease; a foreboding watermark on the entire album.
The tension feels at its greatest on ‘Blame’, synths build and build and crescendo into silence and it leaves the listener off balance. It’s like someone is having a conversation with their emotions, all the feelings build until they just might explode but there is no sure way to express them, so silence pervades.
Mid-record stomper ‘Kingdom’ is unexpected. It sidesteps the darkness for a moment and the rhythm reeks of Springsteen. It’s a true surprise, however, that the tension is higher on this track than others, with an air of desperation winding through the words and delivery. The pivotal elements of the album are still front and centre but the two or three tracks that explore a variation elevate it and expose the record’s emotional and sonic complexities.
Whereas their opening track had echoes of The National, the closer and title track ‘Echoes In Blue’ brings it home with a soundscape that would happily belong on Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree. Deep, disjointed and impossible to predict, it’s a culmination of a record that demands, takes and keeps your attention.
There’s a strange disconnect that comes with this release. It’s an agitated, sombre and scowling record with cover art to match. A rough, tumultuous sea crashing into rocks and cliffs; gloomy with a not-quite-visible horizon. It’s Echo & The Bunnymen turned up to eleven. It’s 80s melancholia expressed via synths. It’s constantly shifting and stingingly raw. It grabs at the deepest part of your gut and drags you along for the ride. It’s City Calm Down, and it’s really quite remarkable.