Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Morning Benders
What: Indie Rock
From: Berkeley, California
Label: Rough Trade
Live at: First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia on November 11
The Morning Benders is an indie rock band hailing from Berkeley, California. The four-man band has released two albums since it started playing in 2005, Talking through Tin Cans (2008) and Big Echo (2010), through London independent label Rough Trade. The Morning Benders’ sound is sometimes upbeat, sometimes soft, but is always carefully crafted.
Their first album, Talking through Tin Cans, is barer, with electric and acoustic guitar playing to the sound of singer Chris Chu’s plaintive voice. Some songs, such as “Heavy Hearts,” start at with a slower beat and then accelerate as Chu sings of romantic disappointment. “Patient Patient,” on the other hand, goes straight to its catchy beat and lyrics: “Doctor, doctor, won’t you give me the love I’m after.”
“Dammit Anna” and “Loose Change,” draw you in with their pop-rock sound. But the Benders make little effort to depart from the familiarity of their indie pop-rock arrangements. The one exception is “Chasing Ghosts,” where they attempt — and somewhat fail — to develop a harsher sound.
Released earlier this year, Big Echo‘s sound is slightly more experimental. I think Grizzly Bear member Chris Taylor, who shares a co-production credit on the album with Chu, is probably largely responsible for that.
Their first single of this album, “Excuses,” is dreamy and moody. It’s lulling melody serenades the listener. It’s a song that could rock you to sleep—deliciously soothing. Hazy electric guitar and delicate piano notes open the song and are joined by percussion, acoustic guitar, violins and Chris’ vocals. “I made an excuse, and you found another way to tell the truth,” he sings. I recommend the Yours Truly session of this song:
The Yours Truly session of “Excuses”
With its soft vocals, “Promises” recalls “Boarded Doors” from the debut album, though this time the band joins in on the verses and choruses of “Oooh…”
“Cold War (Nice Clean Fight),” on the other hand, is deliciously poppy with its steady beat and use of a glockenspiel (which is like a xylophone).
“Cold War (Nice Clean Fight)”
The Benders, though, seem to lose their direction on songs such as “Pleasure Sighs” and “Sleeping In”, which alternate between distorted and acoustic sounds and vocal choruses reminiscent of the Fleet Foxes’.
Overall the Morning Benders have produced a nice range in this new album, from soft pop ballads to rock anthems. If you enjoy indie rock, you will surely appreciate the music the Benders have to offer. Be sure to check them out live, accompanied by Twin Sister and Oberhofer, at the First Unitarian on November 11! The show is $12 and tickets are available online.