Thursday, May 5, 2011

ECC Expands Their Sound, Speak-AHH

Eastern Conference ChampionsThe Philadelphia-born, Los Angeles-based indie rockers Eastern Conference Champions (ECC) has escaped any Twilight stigma with what could be their best effort since the invention of the Internet (when all bands with long names were formed).

Speak-AHH is a compilation of the best kind. The album proves that ECC, which handles every aspect of their work from composition to production, isn't just hacking around anymore. They've mastered everything it takes it run without a label.

ECC has evolved from keyboard-driven sarcasm to deeply ambitious and honest compositions.

Formed in 2005 by Joshua Ostrander and Greg Lyons and originally signed with Retone Records and then Geffen/Suretone, ECC broke away on its own shortly before adding Melissa Dougherty on a second guitar (she rocks) to replace former CKY bassist Vern Zaborowski. Since, ECC has become progressively better without the restraints of the label other than their own RockHampton Records imprint, which is a nod to the town where the founding members grew up.

“I feel like we took risks with a couple songs and stepped out of our comfort zone,” frontman Ostrander told Campus Circle prior to the launch. “There is a song in the record called ‘Bull in the Wild,’ which I think is the biggest project to date for us."

Bull In The Wild is a departure from the band on an album about fighting to get out of the suburbs. The same can be said for their newest video to promote the album. Rather than run with the 4:40 version of their near-tribal track Atlas, the band ran with a 7:47 version more indicative of their concerts with extended and expanded jams. The video was produced by James Weir.

As good as both Bull In The Wild and Atlas are, there are several other bests that belong to the album. The folksy rock vibe of Attica and restrained Americana rocker Sunshine both hit a high water mark for the band. But perhaps even better than the band's balanced rockers are their laments.

Hell Or High Water and Patience showcase Ostrander's talent as a vocalist, weaving in emotional down-tempo tracks that leave brooding and melancholy notes lingering long after the music stops. Both prove Ostrander and Lyons haven't forgotten their roots, stripping songs down before building them up.

The commitment to the compositions is apparent, with an approach that still speaks to the idea that you're only as good as your next song. And their willingness to take on more stress as long as they feel the reins remain in their hands is obvious.

Speak-AHH By ECC Flys High At 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Any time a band breaks out on its own, to loosen up and play natural, is a good thing. This time around, Speak-AHH delivers with a deeper, richer sound. Not every track has a heavy rotation appeal (e.g., How Long is awesome on the first few listens, but gets tired), but every other song mentioned will quickly dominate any playlist you create. Offkilter included, with its amazing horn highlights.

Speak-AHH by Eastern Conference Champions (ECC) is available on iTunes, where the album continues to pick up near-perfect ratings. Speak-AHH can also be downloaded from Amazon. Also look for the EP, Akustiks, which dropped last December, especially Bristol Road and Silo. Expect to hear a few plays from the EP if you see them live; they're currently touring with the Neon Trees.
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