The Morning Benders: Big Echo

One of 2010’s most buzzed-about bands has been The Morning Benders, a group of trendy, Urban-Outfitted prepsters that resemble the unsigned younger cousins of Vampire Weekend.  Nattily dressed in cardigans, skinny ties, and Sperry’s, the band has been riding the success of their release Big Echo and parlaying it into a plush opening spots for Black Keys and Broken Bells and late-night appearances on Jimmy Fallon and Carson Daly.

Big Echo’s ten tracks echo some familiar turf, treading lightly in tinny, swooning studio chirpiness that predominately substitutes for standard rock and roll bass, drums, and guitar.  Sounding a lot like early Shins or Grizzly Bear, bands who themselves borrowed heavily from The Beach Boys, Sgt. Pepper palettes, The Morning Benders struggle to find an identity as the songs amble along in an undistinguished manner.  Album opener, “Promises” starts with actual vinyl LP scratch (a nod to the new wave of youngsters discovering vinyl) and a flurry of orchestration resembling Etta James’ “At Last” before scaling back to reveal singer Christopher Chu’s vague tale of hipster hook-up gone awry.   The album’s second song and lead single, “Promises” ups the pace a bit but ultimately falls under the weight of its “What does it all mean?” trite lyrics.

As the album rambles on, the aforementioned reference points continue to become evident and the listener may struggle to remember just who they are listening to.  One or two songs occasionally draw your attention back to the album, notably the bluesy strains of “Hand Me Downs”, which also serves as a good mid-album pick-me-up, but for the most part, the album drifts by in a wash.  It is an unwritten rule in pop music to borrow from your sources, but when you fail to establish a unique identity of your own to stand on, it becomes difficult to maintain relevance.  The Morning Benders in this regard seem to be heading into a hit-or-miss territory.  Can they distinguish themselves from their like-minded peers or are they just some pretty faces with enough tunes to pop up in scenes of your favorite CW weeknight programming?     

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