Review Summary: Sonically jovial, atmospherically somber, and equivocally brilliant.
Lofty critical assertions encompass Noah and the Whale's bipolar debut 'Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down'; poignant declarations that the band had created the new millennium's 'In the Aeroplane Over the Sea' or that the band were non-negotiable successors to Arcade Fire's proverbial indie throne. These statements - while perhaps overzealous and unnecessarily farcical - are not completely baseless: vocalist Charlie Fink does a laudable Jeff Mangum impression and the band seamlessly transition poppy, clackity choruses with solemn, melancholic interludes much like their more celebrated colleagues. Yet amidst Noah and the Whale's undeniable tendency to "borrow musical ideas" from their contemporaries, they manage to maintain a relative distinctiveness in their sound; proving to be both familiar and idiosyncratic at the same time. 'Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down' almost-successfully embodies the witless praise that swarms around it, coming dangerously close to becoming a classic in it's respective genre -- close, but no cigar.
Fairly eclectic in it's presentation, 'Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down' owes much of it's charm and appeal to the heterogeneous instrumentation that accompanies it: ukuleles, whistling, tambourines, flutes, and perhaps most importantly, a fiddle sum up the peaceable running time of the record. In songs such as the soberly dour title track and the shape-shifting 'Rocks and Daggers', their immensely Celtic influence - worn proudly on their sleeve - is aurally supplied by fiddler Tom Hobden, instantly making the quartet's sound unique and creative all at once. As if he found a garden of eccentricity and began uprooting and munching on the carrots of quirkiness, vocalist and guitarist Charlie Fink guides the stringed assault with his unorthodox and slightly unsteady voice, managing to sound completely sincere and emotive while maintaining legibility and melody. Existing in perfect parity with the carrots of quirkiness are Fink's zucchinis of zaniness: his lyrics. Falling somewhere in between the blurry lines of irrational brilliance and poppycock blather, Fink musters all of his carroty dedication into delivering lines like "Just a sad pathetic moan/And maybe I just need change/Maybe I just need a new cologne
" or "There’ll be love in the bodies of the elephants too/and I’ll put my hands over your eyes, but you’ll peek through
" with surprising lucidity.
Perhaps the record's most lovable facet is it's replay value: 'Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down' doesn't spoil itself by repetition or lack of variation; it churns with multiple emotions, multiple styles and multiple influences. Before tiring out a certain niche of their ever-expanding sound, they hop a different train and whiz off in the opposite direction -- luckily, these are relatively mellow and slow trains, so the motion-sickness commonly associated with ADD-songwriting is left at the train station. Tripe-tastic metaphors aside, the eventual result of amalgamating these contrasting elements and influences together is somewhat brilliant: Noah and the Whale's debut is brimming with eccentricity, paradoxical moods and quirky instrumentation; a near-flawless indie-rock record with a lopsided heart and a parasitic stomach. Through it's imperfections and through it's adorability, 'Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down' is communicative, addictive and absolutely recommended -- I don't mention carrots, zucchinis and train stations for just any album.