Arthur Nasson - Echo Garden
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2010
There's a good chance that in fifty lifetimes, one will never find a disc as prescient, eccentric and rewarding as Arthur Nasson's Echo Garden. After a 30-second piano instrumental, Nasson once again begins tickling the ivories and rattling away at his highly original brand of indie rock. "Bounce" is a rousing number and one of the disc's best tracks.
"The Other Side," offers up better movement but never once does Nasson allow his voice to take center stage. While the end result is still charming and winsome, it's not exactly the stuff of legends. "Bubblefish Part 1," however, changes all that. Whimsical, sunny and damn-near perfect, it's everything that Nasson should aspire to. To call it transcendent would be a disservice.
And then, for reasons only known to him, Echo Garden takes a vacation. Literally. The album's next nine tracks are ethereal, ambient and downright head-scratching instrumentals that seem destined to land on a movie soundtrack about space exploration. Of the nine, the standouts include "Unglued," "Echo Garden Theme Part 1," and "Firefly Chase."
Nasson returns to his piano on the bouncy and buoyant "Echo Garden Theme Part 2" a strident and uptempo number that one wishes would have been placed earlier in the record. "You Wouldn't Understand," is more of the same, while "Drag" is a noisy and clattering attempt at Beatles-esque pop. It's a good romp for sure, but once again the vocals are completely underutilized. The freewheeling and hip-shaking "Meant To Be," is buttressed by a winning piano line and a hip-shaking chorus but dragged down by Nasson's limp vocals.
By now, the entire song-and-dance is getting tired. When do we as listeners get to hear the Bostonian belt? When does he throw his vocals around and offer up his best Bruce Hornsby? The answer of course is album closer "Echo Garden," an autumnal and dynamic anthem that says and does more in four short minutes than many artists will do in an entire lifetime.
Okay, so maybe he did take a nine-song vacation, but if he can churn out songs like this on a consistent basis, there's little reason to think he won't be playing some of the Norheast's biggest rooms before it's all said and done.
So yeah, Echo Garden has its quirks, and yeah, the nine-song instrumental vacation is a bit misguided, foolhardy and downright strange, but who really cares? Far too much of contemporary music is cookie-cutter, inane and borderline trite. Credit to Nasson for chasing down something different, not being afraid to be himself and for thinking a little left-of-center.
Once upon a time a dude named Robert Zimmerman shook up the foundation too. Fifty years later and people are still wondering how he did it. Nasson is no Dylan, but much like the Midwest's greatest son, he seems to understand the importance of being original.