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Despite my love for my hometown, I am well aware of Austinís wavering, overrated music scene. For every band here with a spark of creativity, there are a hundred that are reheating Stevie Ray Vaughanís and Janis Joplinís leftovers and serving them to an audience too drunk to notice or care, and another hundred that are trying out all the trendy emo, rock, or pop formulas on an audience too young and self-conscious to know any better. Every once in a while, though, you may stumble across one of those one-in-two-hundred bands that offer a glimmer of hope in our fading utopia. And then thereís Endochine. Endochine doesnít glimmer. They donít pat your head and stroke your hand and tell you that everythingís going to be ok, that weíll all live happily ever after. Endochine fills your ears, steals your heart, and brings you into their gritty, sometimes painful, sometimes pleasurable, reality.

With their debut album, i, this young band didnít waste any time on finding their sound and strengthening it; they simply cut to the chase and blasted onto the scene with the confidence and integrity of seasoned veterans. Independent yet accessible, they exude energy and aggression without sacrificing melody or clarity. Their sound is an aural montage of their musical heroes, including a little bit of Sketches-era Jeff Buckley, a little Pink Floyd, a little Led Zeppelin, a little Jimi Hendrix, and of course (oh no, here it comes, the way overused comparison to) early Radiohead. Interestingly, they carry with them just enough of an Austin flavor to set them apart from Americaís current trendy sounds, but not near enough to lock them into the worn out Austin Band Cliché. And yet, their greatest strength lies in the voices of the two lead singers: each voice powerful, flexible, pure, and clearóyet unbelievably, their harmonies transcend their individual talent, rising to an almost spiritual level; the sum truly is greater than its parts.

The album kicks off with "Overjoyed," a catchy and energetic good riddance carol where vocalist Casey McPherson shows off his impressive set of pipes and promises more good things to come. The frenetic, angst-driven "Suffering" Ė the closest Endochine ever comes to stadium rock Ė gives Nathan Harlan a chance to display his from-the-gut vocal stylings. "Why Not" continues the passion and introduces the haunting harmonies as it questions stifling rules that have no logical reasoning behind them, then "My Home" slows down to a pensive stroll before "Nobodyís Laughing" shrieks in bitter pessimism: Pull the trigger and Iíll never have to know Iím alone. "Discover" is a hectic, dour criticism that would make Thom Yorke proud. Things slow down a bit for "Fire" and "Cry," but then "Collapse" comes in with feverish intensity in which they really do mean it when they say, I could collapse you, I could die before Iím done. On the heels of such heat comes the cool, sexy "Look Away," then the last song, "Darkness Comfort," is a hollow, aching, bare-breasted melody of gothic beauty. And then, just when you think itís over, just when you think that the whole album is serious and deep, they throw in a bonus trackóan off key, rowdy tavern chorus about their wild (and probably not fictitious) adventures in a cheap hotel called Bel Air.

My only complaint with i is that the production isnít what it couldíve been, but thatís forgivable considering that they are local, and self-funded. Overall, their deep personal friendships with each other translate into an incredibly tight sound that grabbed my attention and didnít let go for the full 45-minute playtime, and left me wanting more.

- Emily Strong

Track Listing:

  1. Overjoyed
  2. Suffering
  3. Why Not
  4. My Home
  5. Nobody's Laughing
  6. Fire
  7. Cry
  8. Collapse
  9. Look Away
  10. Darkness Comfort

Bonus track--Bel Air Hotel

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