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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: NOAH & the WHALE - Heart Of Nowhere

NOAH & the WHALE - Heart Of Nowhere (Mercury UK May 7, 2013)

The Twickenham band continues in the same light-pop-meets-arena-sing-alongs of 2011's wonderful Last Night On Earth, choosing not to vary the sound much.

On their fourth album, Noah & the Whale songs push and pull between intimate folky pop and big, swing-for-the-fences arena-ready sing-alongs. Often that struggle happens in the same song. It doesn't always work, but when it does, the results are exceptionally wonderful. At their best, Noah & the Whale is one of the strongest British acts currently making records. At their worst, the songs are still enjoyable, but a bit generic and samey. Tying it all together are the lyrics, which are interesting character studies and stories of people looking for hope, love, and inspiration.

I'm a big fan of 2011's Last Night on Earth. It was my #5 album of the year and hardly a month has passed since that I haven't played it. But even then I called it really good "empty calorie feelgood pop". Noah & the Whale started out as part of England's new folk indie pop scene of the mid part of the last decade, but quickly evolved into a more anthematic band with bigger production and songs with a wider reaching scope. The songs are catchy and instantly likable; uplifting despite the underlying melancholia that Charlie Fink's vocals veer toward. The songs are given extra depth thanks to a balance of organic performances and electronic drums and synth flourishes and smatterings of bouncy strings.

Part of me wishes that Noah & the Whale would vary their sound a little more. On their own every song is solid, but back-to-back they tend to blend together. Especially on the slower songs that don't have driving rhythms and larger-than-life choruses. That being said, Heart of Nowhere is an album deserving of many plays and Noah & the Whale are band ready for a larger audience.


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