Review Summary: The cliche album dealing with heartbreak and the slow progression out of grief rarely sounds so beautiful and sincere.“This is a song for anyone with a broken heart.”
A slow, pounding drum beat can be heard off in the distance, and The First Days of Spring
begins. With this simple, deliberate beat and the entrancing line, “It's the first day of spring/And my life is starting over again,” Noah and the Whale set the tone for this monstrous indie epic. Like most great records, The First Days of Spring
is an intricate journey, laden with the sounds of towering mountains, deep, convoluted valleys, and the winding streams in between. A maturation of sorts, The First Days of Spring
is a graceful expression of the sadness and growth that accompanies heartbreak.
“Broken hearts are a fickle thing and complicated too
I thought I believed in love but I've never seen it through
Oh I didn't marry the girl I loved
I saw my world cave in, felt like giving up.”
The First Days of Spring
can best be described as natural- from the lyrical imagery, to the symphonic accompaniments, and possibly the slow drone of the electric guitar and minimal production. This feature of the album even extends to the album cover, with it’s fuzzy characters placed behind the top of what appears to be wheat, with a dim, blue sky set in the background. The spacious, faltering, and despondent vocals only further this theme, and resonate loud and clear amid a flurry of ornate horns, luxurious strings, and a lonesome guitar. The First Days of Spring
give themselves the label of “post-grunge folk,” but even a genre this specific fails to quite grasp what makes them special. While some records keep you coming back for more listens with catchy hooks, or grand climaxes, or spectacular displays of musicianship, it’s hard to credit Noah and the Whale with any of these specific accolades. What got me (well, what gets me every time), was the extraordinary display of emotion that can’t be ignored on The First Days of Spring
“But like a cut down tree, I will rise again
And I'll be bigger and stronger than ever before.”
Torn between writing a record about heartbreak and the new beginnings that rise from the ashes of said heartbreak, Charlie Fink creates a lush and tender mix between the two. The title track begins with Fink wallowing in self pity, but by the time the closer comes around he’s no longer afraid to say, “Yeah I love with my heart and I hold it in my hands/but you know, my hearts not yours.” The only detraction from the brilliant spectrum of feelings Fink lets us in on is the onslaught of cliches he uses to get there. I realize he’s heartbroken, but I felt that Fink’s lines like, “Still here hoping that one day you may come back,” on the title track, or begging to, “Go back to the start,” take away from the unique feel of this record. Though the whole “heartbreak” thing has been done before, Noah and the Whale makes it sound fresh and renewed.
“This is the last song that I write while you're even on my mind
'Cos it's time to leave those feelings behind
Oh, 'cos blue skies are coming
But I know that it's hard.
I don't think that it's the end
But I know we can't keep going.”
By the time Fink has recovered from his loss of love, I felt like I’ve fallen in love with The First Days of Spring
. Everything from the naturalism, to the sorrowful yet relatable heartbreak, to the lavish musical arrangements and the remarkable progression, felt like it was made solely for me. There’s little better feelings than being able to revel in an album that feels so intimate and personal. I forgive The First Days of Spring
for the obvious faults, the song that seems slightly out of place (Love of An Orchestra), and the cliches that plague Noah and the Whale. The First Days of Spring
, for me, is immensely personal, and I find it difficult to stray too far away from Fink’s tender lines. I found it easy to fall in love with The First Days of Spring
, and I can say, without hesitation, that this is my favorite release from a heartbroken artist since Beck’s Sea Changes
. Now, I can only hope that The First Days of Spring
shows more mercy towards me than the she-woman did who broke Fink’s heart.