The Echo Wall – These Shipwrecked Words

“Is he good?” one of Shannon Bailey’s colleagues asked me conversationally. Most people who know of him know that the Bethesda Game Studios programmer is fond of singing, but not everyone’s heard him sing.

“Yes,” I replied. “By which I mean that he’s the kind of good that makes you wonder if he’s in the right job.”

A computer whizz he might be, but he’s also blessed with the kind of voice that, knowing how few people get to make a living from music, makes you think that if there was any justice in the world he’d be one of them. It’s Shannon’s voice that makes the band – an unforgettably beautiful Thom Yorke-style soarer with just the right cracked edge of pain to make it sound bittersweet rather than cloying. It’s the kind of voice that could sing a Miley Cyrus song and make it sound good.

Of course, The Echo Wall is not a one-man band, and there are seven other talented musicians who put this delightful folk-tinged indie EP together. Four downbeat acoustic ballads for $3 is good value, and after hearing the first 20 seconds of Imogene I needed no further persuasion to invest in a copy. It’s definitely the cooler type of folk rock – the sort of thing you’d come up with after too much Kristin Hersh, Lisa Germano and Mojave 3. Dreamy steel guitar, violin, glockenspiel, the odd bit of distortion: just enough bite to give it substance. The weakest track is the last one, At Your Door, which is still rather charming and beautifully-arranged – just rather too up-tempo for my tastes. The Echo Wall are at their best when sounding frankly miserable.

Life might be unreasonable, but if this is the result, it’s making me very happy right now.