Review Summary: A spectacular leap forward.
Just minutes into The Last Living Man Alive Ever in the History of the World
, it becomes clear that Head North are not the tween-friendly, pop-punk inspired alternative rock band they were two years ago. Though their older material was better than that of their scene peers, it needed something more to really propel them along the path to greatness. On their debut LP, Head North show the world that they have found that something by disregarding the boundaries of genre and embracing sonic experimentation.
The changes are obvious from the very beginning of the record, courtesy of opening track “Sort of Medicine.” The song isn’t terribly unlike the band’s prior work, but it’s the first example of Head North abandoning their reliance on melody while retaining their ability to convey emotion through sound. It’s this sort of experimentation that gives The Last Living Man…
its unique flavor.
“Pulse” might be the most jarring example, with its tense atmosphere and tight indie pop rhythms that give way to a gritty guitar solo, but Head North somehow make even the strangest moments of the record sound just right. “Somewhere, N.D.” offers something new, too; the track is mostly spoken word, and its slow, brooding instrumentation is the perfect follow-up to album highlight “Stranger Sounds.” The latter track is likely to be a new fan favorite thanks to the delicately layered guitars that help immerse listeners even further than the already evocative lyrics.
Experimentation aside, The Last Living Man...
isn’t a total departure from the band’s earlier work. Tracks like “By Presidential Decree” and “Fallow” hark back to the earnest sound Head North displayed on Bloodlines
, with “Fallow” serving as the gripping climax of the record. The band’s growth remains evident even in these tunes, however, in the maturity of the songwriting and the impressively poignant lyrics. Other tracks, like “White Light” and “The First One” effortlessly pair the band’s new, noisier influences with their old emo tendencies, and it unfailingly works out in the band’s favor.
Considering the amount of stylistic risks taken on the album, it comes as a pleasant surprise that the The Last Living Man…
doesn’t present itself as a total mess. But thanks to the impeccably raw, yet vibrant production and a few quirky interludes, everything flows together remarkably well, resulting in a solid full package. From the boisterous introduction of “Head North is a Business” to the deliciously folky “Hibernation Hymn,” The Last Living Man Alive Ever in the History of the World
offers plenty for listeners to sink their teeth into, and the record is a perfect representation of a band that has embraced change for the better.