monoblogue music: The Great Escape (self-titled)

For the most part, popular music in this day and age has devolved to a beat-heavy marriage between rap and hip-hop. In this genre-bending era where rock has become rap and country edges closer to rock, it’s refreshing to hear a group which takes a more analog approach to instrumentation and songwriting while firmly placing themselves in that pop category.

The Great Escape is a three-piece band of transplants to the Los Angeles area, either by way of Germany or the East Coast. Their bio states they met while songwriting for other artists, and that wide circle of influence shows on the album as their standard three pieces of guitar (Malte Hagemeister), drums (Kristian Nord), and vocals (Amie Miriello) have been augmented by a number of studio musicians providing instrumentation like the blues harp, keyboards, and a horn section along with backing vocals. All these elements and even some good old-fashioned hand clapping are sprinkled among the nine tracks on this debut release.

So which ones are the most catchy? The early votes would favor the rhythmic opening tracks All I Think About and Rebel, or the harmonic The Secret Song. This trio opens the compilation by setting it in a retro pop direction, borrowing from the classics but with a fresher approach.

Yet you can tell the band has fun – as they recount it, many songs were one take and done. While the unusual progression and almost annoying ending chorus of It’s Getting Better can be a little much, they can’t even keep a straight face in the fade. Similarly, the upbeat Let’s Go emotes a good time.

All is not straightforward retro-style pop with The Great Escape, though. Closing the album is a heartfelt acoustic-based song called I Just Can’t Help Myself. It’s quite intriguing because the track before it, Put It On Ice, shows off their attempt at a more urban, funky vibe – even with the deep harmony vocals. They make a good run at it, but just can’t pull that sound off.

Instead, I thought the album’s best song was the middle one called Don’t Wake Me Up. It’s a bluesy track, but well-sung and with just the right touches throughout leading up to a dreamlike ending. As The Great Escape’s longest song, it’s worth a listen if you like a nod to something more traditional.

As a self-produced first effort, The Great Escape has more hits than misses. There were a few opportunities for improvement on various songs left on the table – for example, why not more horns on Put It on Ice – but if you’re looking for something different in the modern pop world The Great Escape comes up with a solid debut. But don’t just take my word for it – listen for yourself and see if this is an L.A. sound worthy of succession to the various musical waves which have come from there in the past.