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Echoes In Blue is not concerned with answering questions. It is interested in the reality of being spread too thin, of being unable to shut out the noise, where we’re told to buy a house, with a mountain of debt, and do what we love, to be passionate and driven, whilst also making enough time for our wife or husband, boyfriend or girlfriend, for our children, parents and friends. Has life has ever been more exciting or more artificial? Why are we so connected yet feel so alone? Perhaps, in all this excitement, we forget to be bored and examine ourselves a little more closely. Or maybe we should just embrace the rage.” – City Calm Down

We hear a lot these days about the elusive ‘work/life balance’, usually in the context of opposing family and career commitments. But for City Calm Down frontman Jack Bourke, it was just as difficult to juggle recording their second album while working and getting married in the middle of the process.

“They both just happened at the same time, despite our best efforts,” he says. In fact, the Melbourne ensemble finished mixing the new album’s dramatic lead single, ‘Blood’, on a Thursday night, only for Bourke to get married that Saturday and see the single released the following week.

But that undercurrent of stress pays dividends on Echoes In Blue. Right from the first scene-setting moments of opener ‘Joan, I’m Disappearing’, City Calm Down – Bourke, Sam Mullaly, Lee Armstrong and Jeremy Sonnenberg – have consolidated their strengths and stretched their horizons. Bourke’s vocal delivery is more grounded and assured than ever, and the band’s moody, synth-laced rock follows suit. Simply look to the third and latest single, ‘In This Modern Land’, which propels Bourke’s debonair brooding to a horn-kicked climax.

It’s a massive step forward from 2015’s In A Restless House, which has earned over six million streams on Spotify and saw the band conquer Falls, Splendour, Sugar Mountain and other festivals. They even found time to reimagine Foals’ ‘Spanish Sahara’ for triple j’s Like A Version, which has since racked up more than 330,000 views.

Reuniting with producer Malcolm Besley (Northeast Party House), who helmed the first album, City Calm Down recorded locally in two 10-day stretches in February before finishing the record on evenings and weekends over the following six months. The dozen new songs that resulted were written during weekends away in the Victorian countryside and the members’ home studios in inner Melbourne.

“We wanted to start opening new doors,” says Bourke, “but we weren’t really thinking about what might follow. We were conscious of not repeating ourselves, while also wanting to keep some of the things we really liked about the first record: aspects of the sound palette and emotion.”

There were challenges along the way, but those actually led to some of the album’s most thrilling twists. Bourke and the band’s drummer, Armstrong, struggled for a long time to execute the interplay between the drums and bass line in the final section of the title track. “That was very difficult for us to write,” says Bourke. “By the time we finished it, we were mentally exhausted, which is a touch ironic given our focus was to make the part feel hypnotic and effortless.” Likewise, the smouldering vocal take for ‘Blood’ came around 2am, after everyone but Bourke and Besley had headed off to bed.

Other highlights include ‘Kingdom’, with its blurted drums and overlapping vocals, and the lush ‘Blame’, complete with a film clip shot in Las Vegas. Uniting all the songs is a sense of hard-earned crescendo – an emotional build and release. Again, the inspiration goes back to Bourke balancing his relationship and job with his music, as he and his partner were only seeing each other when waking up or going to sleep.

“We were working such long days, and during much of the recording process I felt as if those two worlds were collapsing in on each other,” he recalls. “And I was imagining where that ends when you can’t break the cycle of working around the clock. It’s a common struggle, and I’m very fortunate I only had to go through it for a brief period. But that was the starting point for a number of songs.”

Following that trial by fire, City Calm Down emerged on the other side with their most sweeping, universal material to date. And anchoring Echoes In Blue’s epic pop drive is the band’s accomplished songwriting, which catalogues the mounting anxieties of our age with an unflinching eye. As more and more of our daily lives get parcelled out to meet endless round-the-clock demands, City Calm Down meditate on what’s being lost in that transaction – and why it matters.

Twitter: @ccdmusic  | Instagram: @citycalmdownmusic