Gone are the days of trying to “be like the cool kids.” With sophomore EP “Inside a Dream,” alt-pop group Echosmith is finding a new voice and asserting itself among a growing coterie of alt-pop and synth-pop artists.
Echosmith shot into national consciousness in 2013 with smash hit “Cool Kids,” which became a radio mainstay and double platinum hit. Both Echosmith’s 2013 debut “Talking Dreams” and new release “Inside a Dream” feature pure vocals and an earnest likability, though “Inside a Dream” marks the group’s departure from its more organic rock roots.
The band’s artistic direction isn’t its only recent change.
In November 2016, the band announced eldest brother and guitarist Jamie Sierota, 24, would be leaving the group to remain at home with his wife and young son. Jamie’s departure left a significant musical and technical hole as the group prepared its second release.
As a family affair, Jamie’s departure also struck a strong emotional chord. Remaining members Sydney Sierota, 20, Noah Sierota, 21, and Graham Sierota, 18, told Billboard the transition without Jamie was difficult professionally.
Debut “Talking Dreams” was a guitar-centric, alt-pop and rock-inspired offering, with traditional instrumentation, a cohesive sound and clean delivery. Jamie’s guitar prowess was at the center of that style, and his departure compelled the now-trio to reevaluate their sound and the band’s musical direction.
The changes forced the group to delay a full album release and accompanying tour to spring 2018. To keep fans interested and build anticipation, Echosmith released its seven song EP Sept. 29.
The result is an experimental and synth-pop laden mission statement declaring the group’s new direction. Like a colt struggling to stand on untested legs, the extended play release is at times wobbly, but with strong promise for the future.
EP opener “Lessons” is a transitional lead off, easing existing fans into the band’s more heavily produced offerings. While it’s clear the opener lacks “Talking Dream’s” signature guitar, the song still harkens to traditional 80’s rock, even featuring lyrical references to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and other 80s hits.
After “Lessons” it’s a straight dive into the EP’s fourth single “Get Into My Car,” which opens with upbeat drum machine tones and a tale of flourishing young love. The song picks up with the first chorus and becomes a driving-with-the-windows-down style jam, and one of the more dance-friendly tracks on the EP.
My only qualm with the song stems not from the track itself, but from the accompanying music video. “Get Into My Car” features lead-singer Sydney as an Uber driver whose passenger becomes a romantic interest.
While a cute concept in theory, the video feels more like an extended Uber commercial and the obvious product placement distracts from the lyrics. While watching the video, the song quickly transformed from an effervescent love song to a track about taking on a side hustle as an Uber driver.
Next, the group digs into self-exploration and acceptance in “18” and “Future Me.” Both tracks explore self-acceptance, growth and working to become the best version of yourself.
Things take a moodier turn with lead single “Goodbye” and “Hungry,” easily the most mature and well developed tracks on the release.
“Goodbye” looks beyond the sugary-sweet throes of burgeoning love and frankly addresses pain and betrayal with a breakup hit. The use of acoustic guitar in lieu of electric and upbeat electric drum beats provide nice counter elements to the harsher lyrics.
Meanwhile, “Hungry” could easily fit in today’s radio cycle with its intimate tone and exploration of desire and fulfillment.
Closer “Dear World” is an interesting final note for the EP. Veering from the synth-laden, more heavily produced tone of the release, “Dear World” is an emotional, pared-back acoustic song exploring brokenness and finding hope in a world filled with pain.
The song features background vocals and acoustic guitar from departed member Jamie, as well as a beautiful keyboard accompaniment in the chorus. “Dear World” is both a love song to the world and a nice reminder of the stylistic distance the group has covered in a short span.
“Inside a Dream” marks a promising new chapter for Echosmith and, pending new additions in the spring, looks to be a strong and well-rounded sophomore effort for the group.
Listen to “Inside a Dream” below.