Album review: Echosmith’s ‘Talking Dreams’ lacks originality

Posted by Daniel Bromfield on Monday, Sep. 30 at 12:00 pm.

I first became cynical of the “indie” aesthetic around the time “Juno blew up. After the 2008 Oscars, every TV commercial had music that sounded like Kimya Dawson and JetBlue’s pre-takeoff safety videos were animated with pencil stick figures on “notebook paper.” Being in the middle of my larval classic-rock radio period, I was distrustful, assuming “indie” to be another meaningless marketing word like “all natural.”

After I started getting into and writing about indie music, I became a first-hand witness to its slow descent into exactly that. It started when Arcade Fire sold a million albums, then the advent of bands like Young The Giant who kind of sounded like them, followed by bands like Imagine Dragons that play shameless pop who are dressed up in just enough flannels to make a difference. Finally, we have arrived at Echosmith.

It’s hard to believe the members of Echosmith are siblings — their music doesn’t even sound like it was made by humans, let alone four who were born and raised together. This is “indie pop” at its most anonymous, a mishmash of the tricks that made their stylistic predecessors click with audiences. It’s easy to tell which band the producers had in mind on each song — Ellie Goulding on “March Into the Sun,” The xx on “Come With Me,” Young The Giant on “Nothing’s Wrong.”

The only aspect of their sound that might possibly distinguish them is the vocals, if only because every voice is naturally slightly different. But one would need either an incredibly keen ear or a minimal, Echosmith-inclusive knowledge of pop music to recognize Sydney Sierota’s voice. When she doesn’t sound like Ellie Goulding (which she does for most of the record), she sounds as if she’s struggling to nail the gasping thing Britney does so well.

My indictment of Echosmith’s music is not an indictment of all bands of their ilk, as the formula the band works under can be done right and has been by quite a few bands. Youngblood Hawke and Electric Guest have extremely charismatic front people; Atlas Genius and Lorde are capable of creating highly interesting sonic textures.

But Echosmith possesses exactly zero qualities that elevate them above the rest of the pack. Their main distinguishing trait may be, in fact, their subpar lyrics. Most of the songs here sink into cliché with overused imagery involving dangling cigarettes and young lovers running into the night. But some are just plain awful.”Bright” could be a decent parody of every astrologically-themed ballad in existence, from “Yellow” to “Drops of Jupiter,” but it’s completely serious.

The album’s biggest lyrical tragedy would have to be “Cool Kids,” which might have been the album’s best song if not for its cringe-worthy chorus of “I wish that I could be like the cool kids/Because all the cool kids seem to fit in.” In addition to giving Snoop Lion’s “Take care of mother earth because she be the planet” a run for its money for the year’s most redundant couplet, it’s a terribly ironic line. Echosmith has already fit in. But the cool kids are the ones that came before them, and Echosmith merely follow in their wake, trying to look and talk and think exactly like them. They only fit in because it’s what everyone else in their social current does.



  • coolkid123

    fuck you this album rules.

    P.S. the ducks suck.

  • Ofmice

    Echosmith is just a bunch of teenagers doing what they love.. Haha you’re funny man.

  • Trevin

    I don’t understand how you can criticize a band so young, and so talented. Yes, they fit in a genre but it doesn’t they don’t lack originality. In no way did Sydney sound anything like Ellie on any of the tracks. You must be tone deaf or have really awful taste in music. These guys are going somewhere.

  • KellyEld

    What an incredibly ridiculous review of a really good and refreshing album. These kids are super talented. For anyone who wants to read a real review from someone who actually matters read Kevin Bronson’s BuzzBands.LA review.

  • Iwrite4wsj

    If you really want to be an educated music journalist, you should take notes from a real journalist. You are just a clueless college”wanna be” that clearly has no clue about current music. On the plus side you are in college so you have years of learning ahead. Maybe they teach a “current music 101″ course at your school. Clearly you haven’t even listened to some of the bands you mention. Journalism is about credible research. I mean please you casually use the term “producers” without mention of the one of the biggest producers out there who made this record Mike Elizondo. Do your homework my friend! You can only dream about being as credible of a music journalist like Kevin Bronson. http://www.buzzbands.la/2013/10/02/ears-wide-open-echosmith-2/

  • WSJwriter

    If you really want to be an educated music journalist, you should take notes from a real journalist. You are just a clueless college”wanna be” that clearly has no clue about current music. On the plus side you are in college so you have years of learning ahead. Maybe they teach a “current music 101″ course at your school. Clearly you haven’t even listened to some of the bands you mention. Journalism is about credible research. I mean please you casually use the term “producers” without mention of the one of the biggest producers out there who made this record Mike Elizondo. Do your homework my friend! You can only dream about being as credible of a music journalist like Kevin Bronson. http://www.buzzbands.la/2013/10/02/ears-wide-open-echosmith-2/

  • ncw

    wow…criticizing a young band…who made you king of indie – pop?? grow a pair.

  • arlard

    These comments make me laugh. Oh shit they’re a young band so we shouldn’t criticize them!!!!1111 Holy shit, what kind of logic is that ? Btw, I love this band and disagree with the reviewer but that’s his opinion and I respect it. You naive fanboys should grow up.

  • George

    I love this album, especially Cool Kids and Bright. For a debut by a young band the tracks are killer. It remains to be seen whether they can grow and refine their sound to become a definer of “indie” rock. For now, these songs are lovely to listen to, simply and young like the band itself.

  • HawaiiPDX

    This review has fucking tainted this album for me! I love this record but I read this review before I heard the record and now I can’t help but think of this shit whenever i listen to it. Fuck you for being so damn cynical. You have to realize that Sydney Sierota is only 16 fucking years old. Of course she’s gonna gain influence from other similar artists, that’s what 16 year old girls do! I will add that her musical style is way more mature sounding than you’d expect from a 16 year old. It sounds like your indictment is against most modern indie-pop. If you’re this cynical than shut the fuck up. We don’t need you to be the fucking bad apple.

  • Bill Greene

    Echosmith is NOT ‘indie’. The writer either didn’t do his research on the group or he has no idea what ‘indie’ means.

  • Remus

    The problem with the indie label is that almost any alternative or non-mass produced music can be called “indie” and can fall in the same pitfalls of regular pop music, adhering to stereotypes and playing music that is all vaguely similar. It’s Hipster fodder and is just as bad as generic pop manufactured by a record label or lame uninspired hip hop.

    That being said Echosmith is not as bad as you say, they may not be the most ground breaking band but they do have good messages in their songs and the Sierota siblings have much potential to grow. I favour that over bands that are too caught up in fame and popularity and wallow in self absorbed hipster wankery.

    So I get what your saying Daniel about the commercialization of indie music, and you do say that your dislike of them is not an indictment of all alternative pop/rock bands. My caveat would be that lets not be too damning of young and upcoming bands that can only get better. It also doesn’t help that radio overexposure and the need for pop magazines and websites to call every new band the best thing ever that causes this reflexive backlash of indie bands.

    Echosmith and their debut album may not be terribly original but in my opinion there also not the worst, they’ll improve with time.