It's been almost three years since Josh Groban released his last album, "Illuminations," but his latest offering, "All That Echoes," sounds more joyful, for the most part.
Groban's latest release is an eclectic mix of strings, piano and Groban's signature operatic voice, but is it truly anything new?Groban has gone on record saying that his last album was an album he was happy with, but he feels that it had a dark, sad feeling overall.
"All That Echoes" is still an album about heartbreak; however, Groban tries to change things, but only on part of the album.The album starts with the single "Brave," which gives listeners an idea of what roughly half of the album has in store. Groban shows his positive outlook on his latest heartbreak by singing, "Hold on, hold on, so strong, time just carries on / And all you thought was wrong is pure again." Groban's voice sounds as good as ever on the lead track, and the joy with which he sings the song provides a much-needed pulse to his music.
The album's second track, "False Alarms," starts off slow, but soon builds into easily the best chorus of the album. Groban is experimenting with a new style of songs, and "False Alarms" is perhaps the best example of this. The arrangement is wonderful; however, it's a shame that his lyrics fall short when compared to the steady strings and excellently placed bits of reverb-laden piano.The next two tracks, "Falling Slowly" and "She Moved Through the Fair," drag along and sound like Groban's typical formula of songs that wouldn't sound out of place in a Disney movie remake. Groban's growth as a songwriter gets seriously stunted on this portion of the album, and after such a strong opening it changes the flow and feel so drastically that it weakens the album overall.
The fifth track, "Below the Line," puts the album back on the right path. Groban picks things back up, and again the arrangements are superb with flutters of flutes pulsating around occasionally through the mix of shimmering guitars and vocals. However, unlike with "False Alarms," the lyrical content matches up well this time around.
The beginning of the album's second half marks the first of three tracks sung in a foreign language. "E ti Promettero" includes a guest performance by Laura Pausini, and again Groban slips back into the same old song and dance. The album begins dragging along for this track and the following track, "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress," which sounds like an emotional piece written particularly for a musical about some sad sap feeling lonely in the moonlight.Groban picks the tempo back up with "Un Alma Mas," as well as "Happy in My Heartache," and a pattern seems to be forming: two upbeat, exciting and innovative songs, followed by two slow emotional typical Groban songs. "Un Alma Mas" has a wonderful Latin feel, with Groban delivering one of the album's finest vocal performances over a sparse track of nylon string guitars and piano."Hollow Talk" is a haunting song that returns to Groban's slow side; however, the stripped down arrangement fits in nicely here. The song feels different from the other slow songs on the album, perhaps because of its wonderful eeriness. As far as the slower side of the album goes, "Hollow Talk" is the high point.
The album's last original song, "Sincera," sounds much like the rest of the slow powerful songs on the album. Groban strains his voice throughout much of the song, and he begins to sound like a theatre student past his prime. Groban seems to have lost track of his own limits, and this song is the least promising on the entire album.
The album closes with a Stevie Wonder cover, "I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)." The arrangement is sparse throughout the song and Groban sings a rather pleasant rendition of the Stevie Wonder song; however, even at its high points Groban's version leaves something to be desired.
The overall feel of "All That Echoes" is that Groban was unsure of exactly what he wanted to do with the album. Half of the album is a rather new sound for him, being upbeat and exciting, while the other half sounds like he is trying to remake "You Lift Me Up" with troublesome results. Overall, he plays it very safe with this album, only trying to half reinvent himself. If you are a Josh Groban fan, this album plays it fairly timid, but if fans ever wanted something more from him, their best bet is to listen to "False Alarms" and "Below The Line" and see if his new style finally appeals to them.