Officially Echo Nebraska is a very young band. But that’s not taking into account the time spent by lead singer/songwriter Devan Christodoulou and guitarist Andy Schichter prepping nearly 20 demos before heading into Blue Light Studio with fellow recruits Karen Hefford, Stacy Mack and Gunn Park to record debut Send the Ships.
Christodoulou and Park had actually been in the process of recording for their band Amber Hills when an encounter with audio engineer Schichter steered their sound into a new direction and provided an outlet for some of Christodoulou’s other compositions. The result may not have been what they initially had in mind, but the stunning five-track EP proves the band at least had the sense to realize they had something great on their hands.
It’s a quick EP that feels like it ends far too soon, with the final notes of “Pilgrim” leaving a sense of emptiness after they’ve faded. Christodoulou’s vocals are filled with richness and complimented by the backing vocals he and Schichter are so fond of. Meanwhile the album teases out the favourite creative instruments of modern folk, folding in the banjo and mandolin as they fill out the band’s restrained dynamic.
Laid out over the sparse strumming of a guitar, “Hey, Allison,” focuses on Christodoulou’s voice as it arches up to the chorus. Crying out, “my baby’s coming back… My baby’s coming through,” he channels the song’s narrative of mental illness into an emotional climax that forces you to lean in and listen.
The gentleness of “I’ll Get it Right” makes a nice contrast as the album winds down from its intense opener, skipping along softly and offering itself up as a mid-EP breather. It’s nestled in between the playful “Nice Philosophy” and the rough-edged “Out of Time,” a dose of peace matched only by the dreamy closer.
Chistodoulou and Schichter were definitely onto something when they whipped up those 20 demos—and again when they selected these five songs to finesse as Echo Nebraska’s introduction. Though as the final, whirring notes of “Pilgrim” echo out—possibly a nifty shout out to their own nomenclature—it’s hard not to wish they’d offered up another handful of those tracks to stretch Send the Ships out just a bit longer.
Top Track: “Hey, Allison”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)