Scranton’s Esta Coda’s second release, the EP “Miles Away,” is another blast of melodically contorted indie jangle pop that relies on sheer songwriting weight, an unblemished, transparent production value, and understated jubilation to serve up its three-minute slices of ambrosia.
The follow-up to the band’s debut EP, “Kindness,” “Miles Away” was recorded at Vudu Studios in Port Jefferson, New York, with producer Mike Watts – a guy who’s helmed releases for The Dear Hunter, As Tall As Lions, and Hopesfall, among many. Interesting to note is that within the band’s ranks lies another accomplished audiophile in vocalist/guitarist Jay Preston – resident production guru at Olyphant’s JL Studios, who has helped many local NEPA recordings become the stuff of professional’s envy.
Rounded out by Patrick King on drums, Jonathan Fletcher on bass and Dan Rosler on guitar and vocals, Esta Coda’s sound falls somewhere between the quirked-out, power-pop wisdom of Weezer and the more ethereal substance of Death Cab For Cutie. Immediately likeable about Esta Coda is the big vocal harmonies and hook-laden choruses – exemplified in “Rain.” The track has much happening without being over-produced or muddied – take into consideration the tandem guitar team of Preston and Rosler. A flurry of secondary-colored activity, one will hang on an autumn-crisp open chord while the other will toss on an octave run or hit a passing tone to produce an even bigger sound than what the production already achieves.
“Someone Else” begins with a Coldplay-esque intro before swelling into a finely ripened Dave Grohl-approved monster chorus – the tradeoff in vocal qualities between Preston and Rosler is equivalent to the delicacy of a painter’s touch; each voice offsetting the other in the aural spectrum as they ponder being “afraid again of a past that isn’t mine.” The track even features a tasteful harmony guitar line during the solo that solidifies the band’s “rock” credentials.
“Laundry” reveals a knack for Beatle-inspired progressions and rollicking melancholy – the blissful innocence found within the song is endearing, with passive lines like, “I remember when I took you home, you told me not to look so sad/blue eyes, when I’ll lie, I’ll lie for you.” Unlike many indie acts, Esta Coda revels in the tight-knit presentation of its musicianship – swinging like an iron fist, yet not such a firm grip that it loses any of the spontaneity implied.
The title track can almost find a home at adult contemporary radio a la Lifehouse or The Fray’s radio-ready fare, with a tattered polish that gleams brighter with the added group vocals of Ben Walsh and Melinda May causing the chorus to kiss the stratosphere. The bare-knuckled chording and rhythmic urgency of the track belies the empty ache of the lyrical implications of a relationship dying – “I wrote this letter for you to read after I leave/I can’t watch you read it, I’m much too weak.”
The EP closes with 1:56 of “Instead,” a scrappy acoustic guitar/piano cut more in the Americana cloth reminiscent of artists like Rhett Miller, exploring the rather inglorious exploits of youth (“Oxycontin teen in a Turkey Hill, sucking on gas fumes.”). There is a sense of resignation in the track, which perfectly caps the cohesive nature of the five songs on the EP in a final exhale of catharsis – music written and executed with emotion coming down off of a six-string sugar high.
Personifying the best traits of unadulterated indie-pop music, yet never pandering to the would-be trappings of the genre’s sometimes stringent hipster regulations, Esta Coda breathes new life into melodically accessible songwriter’s rock ‘n roll. If you’re a fan of a song actually meaning something to you, Esta Coda’s “Miles Away” will provide an instant connection.