Many moons ago I first heard K’s Choice grace the radio airwaves in the Denver area when “Not An Addict” off their Paradise in Me album got a ton of airplay in 1996. Something about the conviction in Sarah Bettens’ voice (lead vocals, guitar), her amazing harmonies with her brother Gert Bettens (guitar, keyboard, vocals) and the raw emotion in the lyrics resonated with me. Though I’d never faced addiction myself, I was becoming familiar with the art of denial and self delusion as part of the human condition.
I played the hell out of that album for a number of years, fascinated by the variety among the tracks. The dark undercurrent through it all was punctuated by humor (tracks like “Old Woman” and “Something’s Wrong” – “When your pubic hair’s on fire, something’s wrong” from the latter track) and the genuine nature of some of the stories (“Dad”). It’s difficult to pigeonhole their music as pure “rock” with all their folk and storyteller influences, but somehow it fits seamlessly into the mix. Those harmonies, amazing writing, melodies and guitar riffs have stuck with me after more than a decade.
Though I enjoyed a couple of their other albums like Great Subconscious Club (1994) and Cocoon Crash (1998), I kind of lost track of the band even before they went on a sabbatical in 2003 to go do their own things for a while. Sarah recorded some solo work (Scream and Shine) while Gert helped produced an album for another band and released a couple of albums with Woodface (Good Morning Hope and Comet). They even toured together for a while, performing some K’s Choice songs occasionally.
By 2009 it seemed they were ready to get back together and released their fifth studio album, Echo Mountain, in Europe in 2010 as well as an acoustic CD called Little Echoes in 2011. Both are finally getting a North American release this month. Not only was I excited to hear that they were back together, but I was excited to reconnect with the band’s music on a personal level and “rediscover” them again.
Suffice it to say I wasn’t disappointed. Echo Mountain has all the chewy goodness one would come to expect of a K’s Choice album. Once again in 12 tracks they bounce all over the place with solid influences, great music, and those amazing harmonies I was looking forward to. But whereas Paradise in Me seemed to focus more on looking at the dark parts of the human experience, Echo Mountain calls on feelings of love, hope, and transition.
“Come Live the Life” kicks off the album with a simple acoustic guitar intro and the voices of Sarah and Gert raised in perfect harmonies. The lyrics seem to be encouraging someone to forgive himself or herself for something: “So come on, come on, come on/All is forgiven/…/Come live the life you’re given.” While behind them, the song erupts into a joyful mix of electric guitar, synthesizer, and a driving drum beat.
“Echo Mountain” expresses joy, gratitude and excitement with a driving guitar. Summer’s here. “For every setting sun I feel so humble/For every shadow cast there will be light.” It’s almost a party anthem as the world warms and we feel like it’s time to cut loose. And “16” focuses on that magical time when we’re just coming into our own, finding and exploring love. “One perfect kiss/That makes us immortal/For a second that is.”
The combination of harmonies, hope, and tempo seems to be the combination used repeatedly on the album. No two songs feel quite the same and yet, the key components to the K’s Choice sound is throughout.
Though nothing for me will replace Paradise in Me, there’s a lot to like in Echo Mountain. This is a K’s Choice that’s matured and found light in the darkness over the years.
Both Echo Mountain and Little Echoes are available now at your favorite electronic or brick-and-mortar vendors. For more about K’s Choice, their albums, and their tours, be sure to check out their website, kschoice.be, for details.Powered by Sidelines