The National Bank is a Norwegian supergroup consisting of members of Jaga Jazzist. Susanna and The Magic Orchestra, and BigBang. To round up the line-up on vocals, is Thomas Dybdahl, who is considered one of the most talented singer/songwriters in Europe. The sound of this band is pretty much the combination of the names you heard above. The result is an album full of breathy ethereal pop-songs, not as progressive as Jaga Jazzist, not as emotive as Thomas Dybdahls solo stuff. The closest thing to compare it to, is bands like Radiohead, The Postal Service, Mew and Zero 7.
1. I Hear The Sparrow Sing
A pretty solid opener, starting with a repetitive synth melody, with Dybdahls beautiful vocals hovering over it. But the song becomes more arranged and soaring as it progresses. The songs rhythm is very much arranged around the differerent melodies, and gives it a nice relaxing feel.
It opens with a strange lo-fi electronic beat, with Thomas once again singing with amazing range. The chorus is pretty poppy. I love how the instruments blend together in this dreamy little song.
3. Hello, My Name Is Fred
The tiptoe-ing little melodies remind me alot of Stereolab and Jaga Jazzists previous album ,Whate We Must. Another nice little song, a bit of a quirkier in nature. The lyrics seem to suggest it's about a lonesome geek that wants to live next door to a girl he has a crush on.
4. A Recorder In Red Plastic
Another very subtlely arranged track. The song has a very loungy feel, but Thomas sings with his usual fragile falsetto, which is a pretty awkward contrast. The violin melodies are simple and add a nice depth to the song, that otherwise has a bit of an empty feel.
5. Blue As We Like It
This song sounds as a song that didn't make the cut on one of Thomas' solo albums, but because it doesn't have that magical "october sound"-production, makes it come across as a pretty average song. I really like the string arrangements though.
6. What Is Left?
This is one of the best tracks on the album. It reminds me very much of Radiohead, especially with the weird electronic soundscapes and computerlike spoken voices in the background. Good stuff.
7. Look Twice
This song is the closest thing to a Jaga Jazzist track on this album. It's a very adventurous song, with the jazzy drums, uplifting vocals and melancholic guitar work. It's another one of those tiptoe-ing songs. Really good.
8. The National Bank
The title song has very highly tunes acoustic guitars, yet very lowkey-ed piano choirds, but it works quite well. The spiralling piano melodies in the chorus. The vocals are simply amazing, probably Thomas' best delivery on this record. The song intensifies and becomes more adventerous in it's climax, before returning to the chorus rather gracefully. One of the more cleverly composed tracks on the album.
9. Half Blind
Follows the title track perfectly, starting with Thomas signature subtle guitar work, and emotive singing. The combination of Dybdahls folk-pop and Jaga Jazzists soothing prog-jazz works probably best in this track, with the soothing woodwind melodies carrying the song into this nice lullabyish middle section, that makes you want to drift to sleep. It breaks down to this epic, almost fairytale-like climax. It's in my opinion the best song on the album.
While this is a very nice album, The National Bank still feels more like a collaboration than a full-fledged band. I've reviewed both Jaga Jazzist (What We Must) and Thomas Dybdahl (That Great October Sound & Stray Dogs) quite fanboyantly, pardon me, flamboyantly...but together in the same band doesn't consistantly work. Thomas Dybdahl is incredible, Jaga Jazzist is amazing...but The National Bank is just good. The album itself is very nice, easy listening stuff, but it still sounds like a band that looks for it's identity. Nonetheless, The National Bank is another band that signifies the Norwegian music scene is very vast and as sizzling hot as it ever was. 3.5/5