Review Summary: Heartbreak snags Noah and the Whale, creating a soothing follow-up for those still grieving after 'For Emma, Forever Ago'.
What the hell happened to Charlie Fink? Just over a year ago, him and his folk troupe Noah and the Whale released 'Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down', a quirky and peppy indie-folk record that's biggest strength was it's kittenish and cute qualities (even if the record as a whole was a bit satirically melancholic). This doesn't ring true with their latest full-length 'The First Days of Spring'. Instead of opening the album with Fink playfully crooning "like two atoms in a molecule, separately combined
" over a jangly acoustic guitar line, you're treated with a downcast and mellow soundscape of post-rock-esque atmosphere while Fink somberly and brokenheartedly moans "I do believe that everyone has one chance to f--k up their lives
". Can you detect a change of heart? The entire album plays like a soft, despondent breath; it's no longer charmingly odd or bouncy, it's broken and depressed. The apparent dejectedness (and subsequent hopefulness) of 'The First Days of Spring', however, makes for an impeccable album -- an album that manages to be simultaneously depressed and
optimistic; a healing album of sorts.
Those looking for the outlandish allure found on their debut will be most at home with (but not really) 'Love of an Orchestra' as it remains the only true upbeat song with it's cackling choirs and clackity drums. The rest of the album, however, operates under a different sound. The album is hugely symphonic (see any of the instrumentals) and employs an eclectic range of instruments to reach it's respective climaxes. I am aware that post-indie isn't a genre but 'The First Days of Spring' better make it one; there's simply no other way to describe it (we also need more subgenres for better arguments on the internet, so win/win
). 'The First Days of Spring' is positively celestial: it's led to Sigur Ros-like crescendos with it's climaxing strings and disparaging vocal delivery while drawn-out electric guitars moan through vaguely dirtied up clean tones; it engulfs the listener in near-Disney classical instrumentals and evokes personal experience through it's emotionally anguished atmosphere and lyricism.
Harmonizing horns, riveting choirs and pulsing string sections are just one half of the album -- the other is Fink's disconsolate heartbreak, a topic that is essentially related to by the majority of human population. While Noah and the Whale's latest is universally solid, - no matter what your stance - I encourage you to discover this album when it aligns with personal despondency of any sort for a sole reason: a lot of people never understand
break-up records until that specific moment arises (case in point, Bon Iver for me). When an album is so dependent on it's luck pulling your heartstrings, it doesn't make any sense out of context. That's not to say that this isn't for casual, level-headed listeners -- you don't have to be a hapless, meth addict who was recently abandoned by a snake-wrestling woman named Benji to enjoy this, because the music is beautiful regardless of pretense. Yet what pushes 'The First Days of Spring' above and beyond is it's broken-down charisma and inarguable sincerity; it's an extremely personal album. A mostly sarcastic suggestion for any women reading this (none): start a serious and immeasurably loving relationship with a musician
and then break up with him when things can't get any better because people seem to write the best songs when heartbroken. Need evidence? Take a listen.