Vertical Horizon: Echoes From The Underground

Posted October 14, 2013 by in Alternative



4.5/ 5


Genre: , ,
Genre: Rock, alt-rock, pop-rock
Producer: Matt Scannell
Label: Outfall Records
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 57:16
Release Date: 8 October 2013
Spin This: "Lovestruck," "Instamatic," "Broken Over You"


Crumbling love, diverse styles and a smart chronological playlist order gives off the idea that Echoes is a concept album


At times, Scannell voices needs more toughness to match the wailing guitars and lyrical despair

Echoes clearly stands out as Vertical Horizon’s best album

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Echoes clearly stands out as Vertical Horizon’s best album so far

After hitting their peak with 1999’s Everything You Want (yielding “You’re a God” and the chart-topping title cut), Washington, D.C.-based (now L.A.-planted) alt-rock band Vertical Horizon slid into a cove of safe adult contemporary rock and somehow managed to produce a few discs that rode the waves of Sugar Ray and Train. Technically, their beefier rock kicks a little more ass than that, but the winds of change failed to give their wings any flight. Their contract with RCA ended in 2003, leaving the band absorbed in the independent market. With drummer Ed Toth and original member Keith Kane leaving, the group needed a pivotal reboot. Echoes From The Underground, the band’s striking come-hither album, could be the rites of salvation they need. For starters, “Broken Over You,” the album’s lead single, runs like a glorified rock romp containing reverberating electric guitar chord strokes and above-average AC throbs. It’s a worthwhile performance that remedies those who absconded from VH due to much of the safeness aboard 2009’s Burning the Days and the six-year absence that followed 2003’s Go. Even with all the arena-ready stamina stamped on its display, there’s a heavy burden embedded in the lyrics as a salted love affair crumbles within minutes. “Part of me knows that part of you is broken/’Cause I am broken too, I’m broken over you,” lead singer Matt Scannell echoes with a confident radio-ready croon. That near-perfection in creating mainstream rock confetti also documents the album opener “Never Let Me Down,” a composition that Scannell shares co-writing duties with Richard Marx. Although it’s top heavy with high-decibel guitar strums and even some psychedelic distortion from the very top of the VH isn’t afraid to test the waters, which explains the seriousness of the album title. The album plays like a movie, opening with raging rock and then settling into an euphoric collection of inventive balladry. Giving off hints of a concept album, there’s an underlying theme of sadness and troubled love throughout the course of the disc.

Unlike most albums where the back of the disc fades into mediocrity, VH breaks new ground and keeps anticipation aloft. “Lovestruck,” a song that plays like a slow jam off of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories or some lush Peter Gabriel soundscape, is entranced by its glorious electronica overlay, giving fans something totally different from their usual. The first half of “Frost” places careful synths atop Scannell’s melancholy (“All the leaves are green on every forget-me-not/But all that we may have been is covered in frost”), ultimately shaping what sounds like a seductive piece of ‘80’s radio rock. VH then turns up the fire on the second and third rounds of its chorus before fading the song fades into a triumphant sunset set off with a subdued trumpet and synth strings. Probably the most ambitious of the offerings is “Instamatic,” which shows off the genius of Rush drummer Neil Peart. Decorated with various time changes, dogfighting guitars, killer drum execution and one muscular vamp (“Now you’re gonna run”), it’s almost impossible to hear this and not imagine it as an epic encore to their future sets. And like hearing the Foo Fighters going full blast, this happens to be the band’s best wild card of arena-rock indulgence and probably the most boisterous they’ve ever sounded on a studio album. The seven-minute closer “South for the Winter,” “Evermore” and the easily accessible “Consolation” are also wholesome additions to the album’s treasure of versatile tracks. With hardly a selection that feels like conventional album filler, Scannell and Co. culls out their best and most accomplished project to date. That’s saying a lot for an indie album that was practically funded by crowdsourcing.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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