October 11, 2013

"Cool Kids" by Echosmith

This week's free single, "Cool Kids", is about as uncool as the kids from your high school. I am becoming seriously jaded toward iTunes' selection of indie-pop these days. Often they find real diamonds in the rough to promote as free singles. The work of Echosmith is not amongst them.

Echosmith is a four person sibling act - three brothers and their vocalist sister put together a little family band out in LA. They are a very, very young group. The eldest brother, Jamie, is just 20 years old, while the youngest brother, Graham, is still 14. The third brother, Noah, and their sister, Sydney, are 17 and 16, respectively. 

That means all but one member is still in high school, and it shows in their music. They have just released their first album, Talking Dreams, and it sounds, appropriately, like a high schooler's attempt to produce alternative pop music. 

This song is about popularity. Back in our high school days, we knew who the "cool kids" were. They played sports, were featured in the pep rallies, they wound up on student council and were in all of the advanced classes. They were the kids that always had a smile on their lips and a joke on their tongues as they traveled from class to class with their clique.

The verses of this song look at that group of kids from the inside and out. We first get the perspective of the "uncool" girl, lamenting at her lack of popularity and wishing she were as "put together" as the cool kids seemingly are. The second verse is the point of view of a jock of some sort. 

"He says I'm talking with a big smile, but they haven't got a clue."

Supposedly, the cool kids are just as lost as the uncool kids, "in the fast lane, living life without knowing." There's an attempt at lyrical depth here, trying to universalize the negativity of the high school experience or something like that, but it comes across as a romanticized lie. The message I get from this song is a sort of console to the unpopular in high school: "Don't worry, they're just as bad off as you are."

The music itself is nothing to write home about, either. They cite groups like U2 and Coldplay amongst their chief influences - unsurprising. The drums are uninteresting, the verse chorus structure is repetitive, and though the guitar work and backup harmonies are interesting, they don't do enough to save this mediocre song.

As much as I dislike this track, I don't think the siblings of Echosmith are untalented. For their age, their instrumentalism and Sydney's voice are really impressive. But out of all that talent, I only found one song on the album that I enjoyed listening to - every dog has its day, I suppose. "Come Together" was one of their first singles and music videos, and it's a solid anthemic pop song. The rest of the album comes across as childish and dull, and it makes me wonder what the audience is for their music. 

A talented sibling act like theirs could probably make a big splash amongst the high school scene by playing straight pop music. But, like most groups out of California, they feel they have to feign depth and substance by labeling themselves alternative and muddying the waters. There is a better way for them to channel their talent - that I believe - and I hope that some time to rethink their genre and their audience and to grow up a little will garner an impressive second album. They're just bad wine, but it should get better with age. Until then, you can overlook Echosmith, and their free single, "Cool Kids", which I give...

2 out of 5

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