Josh Groban’s ‘Echoes’ A Masterfully Soulful Album
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 20:02
Josh Groban’s latest solo effort All That Echoes is a well-balanced collection that seems to make grandeur the norm. This guy never has an average day. In an hour he goes from waiting for love, to having a wedding, to waiting again, which leads us into a Stevie Wonder cover to close the masterpiece. Albums with similar breadth typically don’t live up to the high bar, but Echoes sets up an intense emotional tone from the very first track that is consistent throughout.
“Brave,” a quiet crescendo into an upbeat ballad, leads off the album. The lyrics nobly provide an uplifting call for people to be proactive in the face of hardship, but Groban’s lyrical delivery is the main attraction on display here. The lines, “You wanna run away, run away / And you say that it can’t be so / You wanna look away, look away / But you stay cause it’s all so close” is comparable to Shakespearean couplets—we like it because it sounds good first and makes sense later.
“False Alarms” follows suit, giving off a bit of an ambient, new-age feel that transcends into a bigger sound (a structure which could quickly be deemed cliche-ish on this album, but not here). The song also shows off Groban’s knack for aligned syllables—his crooning, “I can’t cage you in my arms,” and “You can’t tell me not to stay,” again just are so pleasing to hear however-so-often throughout the song. The sound just makes it much easier for us to get lost in this well-told story of one’s desire to experience true love and steadfast faith that it will arrive at some point.
Following this theme of hope and the lack of desire for settling, Groban sings, “Below The Line”—“Now, I know! / Just what we’re fighting for!” His big vocals really make you want to break out into song. Sometimes, the song comes off as a bit of a sing-along at times, like it will be featured on a musical somewhere. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but here it just makes the sound a bit cheesy at times. The concept of the song is good enough to be an integral piece of this album, however.
More of this properly executed storytelling comes on the more melancholy “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.” Whether the song is about a significant other, or the actual moon, it is definitely a moving piece. The vocal performance seems a bit too much in competition with the instruments, however—both combine to give an extremely grand sound. But the nature of the lyrics makes one ponder whether the song could have benefitted from some quieter moments with Groban’s voice featured more vulnerably.
The same rings true for “Happy In My Heartache,” a song about Groban’s faithfulness toward a lover he has been waiting to come around for quite some time. This song has the potential to be very heartfelt and passionate. However, the instrumental work on the song forces it into a different type of song than the lyrics suggest. It comes off a bit like a cheap painting that may have been more appealing to look at if kept as a plain beige canvas. The balance between extravagance and subtlety is ignored to the dismay of the track. This is a bit of a contrast to other places on the album where the balance is attained wonderfully.
One of these places is without a doubt, “Hollow Talk.” This song does the best job with musical transitions that allow the vocals and the instruments to complement each other well. As a result, it represents the standard to which all the other songs are compared. The lyrical ideas posed here are superb as well—it really gives us something to think about. Also, music comes alive toward the end of the song as Groban’s “ooh’s” float above masterfully. In that moment they achieved the perfect balance between Groban’s vocal presence and the music’s presence. With this track serving as proof (and the others being not so far away), Groban may have just successfully pulled off his most ambitious work to date. n