Do not operate heavy machinery while listening to Echoes in Time, the fifth album from the Canadian duo of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Sills and vocalist Frank Smith. In fact, this mesmerizing album is best heard when you have the time to sit back and let the music — a light blend of folk, prog and rock with hints of jazz and blues — float into your head. Because Echoes in Time takes its time, and that's not a bad thing.
Sills & Smith open the album with "We Are Receiving," a strolling song that gradually picks up the pace. "The Chalice/The Blade" is one of the duo's dreamiest and most melodic songs, while a lone saxophone lends the ballad "One Step Behind" a film noir atmosphere. The bouncy keyboards on "Echoes," well, echo Ray Manzarek and The Doors, but the surf-music vibe doesn't quite fit with the spooky lyrics.
I've been listening to these guys since 2012's No Way Out, No Way In, and I still can't figure out which one sounds like Warren Zevon. But the world-weariness of his voice brings additional authenticity. Taken collectively, these songs make Echoes in Time Sills & Smith's best album yet.
But Sills & Smith didn't make this record by themselves. Several guest musicians appear on Echoes in Time, enhancing songs with mandolin, trumpet, saxophone and a variety of organs. A special shout-out to guitarist Blair Michael Hogan, whose screaming David Gilmour-style work on "The News" lifts one of the album's already most upbeat and progressive songs to best-of-the-bunch status. Then there's singer Tara Holloway, whose emotional backing vocals on "Slicing Up the Clouds" blend so well with the duo that maybe it should consider expanding to a trio. Sills, Smith & Tara, anyone?
1) We Are Receiving
2) Slicing Up the Clouds
3) The Chalice/The Blade
4) One Step Behind
5) They Don't Come Knocking
7) I Was Really Something
9) The News
10) After the Smoke Clears
11) Is the Mirror Reflecting You?
12) The Sacred Valley
13) Pick Me Up With A Song