Like most up-and-coming American emo bands (often labelled punk-pop), Echo Screen got noticed by the seminal Drive-Thru records in the US before the release of debut album Euphoria. The band signed to Rockout and such is the life of young bands these days, Echo Screen has already replaced a guitarist and broken up (a hiatus), only to reform to record new songs. The result of this is the Goodbye Old Life EP.
The key to getting yourselves noticed in a genre so saturated with every teenager who picks up a guitar and forms a band is to be something slightly different. Sounds obvious but when fans seem to revel in compilations full of manufactured punk-pop outfits, off-the-shelf bands for the masses are everywhere, all striving for individuality. Thankfully Echo Screen are beginning to stand out from the crowd. Euphoria is largely stuck to a formula but the album is liberally sprinkled with gorgeous genre-breaking moments from sweeping ballads to quirky pop.
The 5 track EP Goodbye Old Life continues this trend. Singer Shaune Scutellaro has an uncanny resemblance to Ben Folds on opener I Amsterdam, a sound mirrored by the band complete with dancing piano and a cheesy handclaps before a slowdown outro. A decent start and miles away from the tried and trusted world of emo pop. The Ballad Of Jack Shepard (Battle Chorus) moves more towards Ben Gibbard. Comparisons aside, this is slower soaring dream pop with a big ‘woah woah’ sing-a-long chorus. In spite of all the effort the song feels very distant and soulless - the great lyrics are lost in a heavy guitar mix (take note Ace Enders - one of the only times he gets it vaguely wrong on production duties).
When I Escape (L.A.) combines the approach of the first two songs to produce something much more comfortable. Some great vocal interplay between Scutellaro and the band. The staccato guitars and drums are a distraction from the flow but the last minute exceeds early expectations. JT Sanford joins in the vocals on Bombs Away and it doesn’t quite gel. The ‘live’ feel of the recording with clear vocals and stark raw acoustic guitars is excellent but it sounds like the song was a ‘one take’ that took a couple of minutes for the two singers to synch. The EP closes with an open-hearted ballad about the trials and tribulations of being a band on the road - The Sun. An obvious subject matter considering the fractious nature of the band and ‘making it‘ but a fitting close.
Goodbye Old Life is a good EP - solid and tuneful and full of great moments, but what we really want is a full album. There is enough evidence here to justify the band’s continued existence and more cohesive effort could, and probably will, create a good career defining sophomore album. Until then this is a short and sweet taster of Echo Screen’s capabilities.
-- CS (for Altsounds)