It’s always inspiring to see a band stretch its wings - bending them toward the sky, if you will - and fly. And that’s what Bay Area indie-rock combo the Morning Benders have done with its sophomore full-length, Big Echo (Rough Trade), beckoning to listeners to reach for their headphones and follow.
The opener, “Excuses,” starts where the band left off last, glancing back sonically to the pure throwback pop that the Morning Benders do so well: It’s a euphoric Wall of Sound bliss-out that sounds like Phil Spector spinning wildly out of control, pillowed by a dense assemblage of strings, da-da-da-da’s, and quirky percussion. The group’s love of classic pop is apparently intact, though it’s rendered with a new, eccentric and delicious mille-feuille of sonic complexity, courtesy of Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor - he co-produced Big Echo with the group’s Christopher Chu.
“Promises” rises to the occasion with waves of rippling piano, counterpointed with guitar twang and hand claps - this music doesn’t shy away from playful aural ornamentation. It’s thoroughly planted in a sonically teeming wonderland populated by such kindred spirits as Grizzy Bear, Animal Collective, and Dirty Projectors. Far from current Top 40 trends toward electro minimalism, the approach is nevertheless firmly rooted in the rich soil of studio wizardry, even when Chu and company takes it down a notch or three for the kick-back indie soul of “Pleasure Sighs” or quiet down and miniaturize with the down-low “Mason Jar.”
There are even a few drastic departures, lest one fears the ensemble has gotten a complete personality transplant - look to the electronic-handclap-propelled new-waver, “All Day Daylight,” a lovable union of epic rock and ‘80s camp, with massive synths taking the place of elephantine beats. And how better to close this dream of an album than with a track titled “Sleeping In”?
The Morning Benders play March 30, 8 p.m., at the Independent, 628 Divisadero St., SF. Miniature Tigers and the Mumlers open. $15. (415) 771-1422. www.theindependentsf.com