Review Summary: John Nolan crafts his statement album.
For years primarily regarded as the backup singer for Taking Back Sunday, or perhaps for briefly leading the project Straylight Run, John Nolan is a man who’s had a successful but humbling musical career. He never ascended to fame the way that bandmates Adam Lazzara or Jesse Lacey did, but he has carved out a comfortable niche over the last nine years embarking upon his solo career. With each successive release we’ve witnessed growth, but Abendigo
– his third full-length – is clearly the apex. Nolan’s latest piece demonstrates his pop-punk foundation but also transcends it, blending passionate emo melodies with rich ambient atmospheres and gorgeous electronic flourishes.
For fans of Taking Back Sunday and the tree of bands that it spawned, Abendigo
might feel like an eclectic combination of influences. The intensity of a track like ‘Do You Remember’ recalls Daisy
, with fierce grunge-inspired riffs and shouted vocals that pour out of the music like smoke billowing from an explosion. The way that same song transforms itself through a lengthy piano passage and synth wash is a nod to Straylight Run. ‘Anything You Want’ feels like a lost track from Tell All Your Friends
, and when Nolan screams “Say it for yourself, this is what you wanted / It's all over now baby, no surprises”, it’s hard not to allow memories of ‘There’s No ‘I’ In Team’ to creep up. The catchy pop-punk inclination of ‘Half a Block to Go’ feels like any number of moments from Taking Back Sunday’s latter and more refined discography. So to call Abendigo
a cohesive album wouldn’t necessarily be accurate; sure, it’s held together by a lot of similar dynamics with roots all traceable to Nolan’s past, but if anything the eight songs here merely exemplify just how diverse his career has actually been.
Nolan’s greatest strides come in the songwriting department. Sad, Strange, Beautiful Dream
were Nolan albums by name, but they still sounded a little bit like he was just continuing TBS on his own. As minor tweaks and improvements came, especially on Dream
, they still weren’t quite enough to jettison him outside of the long shadows of his past. That’s where Abendigo
shatters expectations. The songwriting here is not choppy or by-the-numbers like you might expect. Instead there is a free-flowing aura, benefitting from organic and seamless transitions between emo, pop-punk, electronic/ambience, and even shimmering indie-rock. The most accurate comparison might be to say that this is John Nolan’s Science Fiction
– an album that likewise tied together Brand New’s past influences while presenting them in a new light and with sleeker, more full-sounding production. Abendigo
is recognizably Nolan, but it’s also so lush and beautiful at times that it qualifies as an evolution in his sound.
is a statement album. It feels like Nolan has finally come into his own, embracing a unique style that is simultaneously accompanied by vast creative and technical improvements. This is an immense step forward both personally and professionally, and one that should finally see him earn recognition for what he’s accomplished in his own musical career. John Nolan is no longer living in the shadows, and Abendigo
is a much needed burst of color that will undoubtedly pave the way for his future.