Joshua Hyslop has been forging a name for himself over the past few years, touring with folk artist Passenger and opening for “A Thousand Miles” singer Vanessa Carlton. With the passage of time and the release of two studio albums, multiple EPs, and a handful of stand-alone singles, he’s established quite clearly that he’s far more than just an opening act; a stripped-down folk artist with stories to tell and music to share, Hyslop’s music is full of emotional depth and honesty, tales of woe and compassion, inner conflict and inner peace.
Last Friday marked the release of his third studio album, Echos, which exists as further proof that Hyslop stands in a league of his own. An album about empathy, the singer-songwriter has said, Echos takes stories from the people in his life and translates them into a heartfelt, 11-track album that ranges from the string-laden “Say It Again,” which serves as a powerful start to the album, to songs like “This Is How It Goes,” a mournful song about the struggle of addiction, or the bright and hopeful “What’s to Come.”
It’s in this song that the album’s title arises, Hyslop crooning in its second verse, “All the lines I’ve made across my face are echos of my life.” The words are a beautiful and effective contextualization of the album’s tales, all serving as their own echos of the life to which they belong.
Instrumentally, Echos is relatively standard fare for Hyslop; the music is largely acoustic, centered around guitar, banjo, and orchestral strings. However, songs like “Long Way Down” and “Into the Dark” include harmonica as a poignant and unexpected accent. It’s not necessarily revolutionary, but I can’t peg that on Echos as a criticism; there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when his homey, gentle folk sound is so emotionally compelling and suits him so well.
Furthermore, the fact that it doesn’t change his style radically doesn’t keep the album from being a musical step forward and its own, self-contained work. As gorgeous as his previous releases have been, Echos embodies a common theme in a way neither of his two previous albums did, the intended kindness and compassion radiating from his tender vocals and singing strings in all its songs, the hopeful and hopeless alike. Tied together with its enchanting album artwork by Alie O’Connor, Echos has a soothing aesthetic that’s simply irresistible, and continues to commend Hyslop’s wonderful musical talents.