The Essex Green Hardly Electronic Review For Northern Transmissions

Merge Records

7.5/10

The Essex Green

Hardly Electronic

There’s truly something to be said about the power of an excited band. For their new record, The Essex Green bring a lot of enthusiasm to one part of their music or another. Though they often end up making either their instrumentation or vocals the standout part of the song rather than both, the music only really suffers from feeling too similar to the artists that inspire it. While this can split up the record in tone, The Essex Green hold listeners attention with great performances.

With tones of Belle & Sebastian blended with Kinks-like swagger and melodies, “Sloane Ranger” starts the album on a fast and ecstatic energy. Blaring horns and the band’s euphoric delivery really set the song over the top to make something both memorable and fun to listen to. They blend crisp distortion with pointed piano notes however on “The 710” for something emotionally deep and complex. In their atypical writing flow, they even bring in more psychedelic elements at times while sending the song through different waves of harmonies.

The vicious pace of “Don’t Leave It In Our Hands” however carries a much more sinister tone to it as the group seem to be ready to rebel. Using their conversational tone, there’s so much playful energy to the music that it’s easy to get caught up in their big choruses. “In The Key of Me” however is almost like a book on tape set to music at times, with all the whimsical vocals and vintage orchestral arrangements. There’s even a bubbling jazz to the bridge, where the group hit a rushing stride and the vocalists play along with the band.

Though “Modern Rain” chugs out with a fairly innocuous organ hook, the sheer passion behind their chorus calls is enough to really shake up the song. This said, even with its ELO overtones, so much of the song feels stagnant enough to make it hard to get to these choruses. Between its rustic guitars and a strange wash of synths “Catatonic” quickly has a much more assertive tone than much of the record. As it gains its roaring distortion, the song even takes off into a Starship-like aesthetic.

“Patsy Desmond” carries a much more sombre tone to its story, as the lyrics tell a story of a love that feels doomed. Despite much of the sonic exploration to match the song’s emotional core, the song suffers from the lack of range in the overall dynamics. With the united voice of the album, there’s just something completely out of place about the simple country of “Bye Bye Crow” that calls back to The Kinks, without tying it to the band’s own sound. Though “Waikiki” itself holds onto the twang, it mixes things up a lot more to make a song that really carries a sense of setting and time.

The lush harmonies and orchestral luster of “January Says” really carry a lot of majesty to them, as the band tell a heartfelt story about the passing of time. This said, the delivery feels so flat that it underscores the actual writing around it. The sonic shift on “Slanted By Six” feels refreshing, as the sound opens up to sparse pianos and weird country-borne riffs. The tension within the writing really sets the song apart from many tracks on the album, as it stands as a weird and unpredictable beast of a song.

The Essex Green’s contagious energy comes through once more on “Smith & 9th” where all their sounds come together in a kind of bouncy group ballad. With heavy rhythms and their most ambitious sound-work, “Another Story” finds The Essex Green really pushing themselves creatively and sonically on the whole. This exploration makes their fantastical writing on something like “Bristol Sky” feel all the more powerful, as they close the record out with a real sense of wonder and magic.

 

Words by Owen Maxwell