Noah & The Whale - Heart of Nowhere (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
SOME critics appear to have been harsh on Noah & The Whale of late. But for my money, they remain one of Britain’s brightest bands (in spite of some melancholy tendencies).
Fourth album Heart of Nowhere merely underlines that assertion. Maybe not as great as their seminal work, The First Days of Spring, or quite as good as third album Last Night on Earth, this is still a masterful creation that runs through a range of emotions.
On occasion, it’s full of life and energy; on others it’s more brooding and introspective. It’s seldom less than beautiful, as exemplified by the opening xylophones and superbly realised strings of Introduction… the type of opening blast that lets you know you’re in safe hands and in for a treat.
Sure enough, once the songs begin, the quality is instant. Title track Heart of Nowhere maintains the strings of the opener in equally vibrant, positive fashion, building towards a terrific chorus that juxtaposes the gruff tones of Charlie Fink’s vocals with those of guest vocalist Anna Calvi.
You have to wait until verse three for Calvi to take flight on her own but by then you’ll be instantly smitten.
The opening moments of All Through The Night sound like a Police record is about to unfold, before detouring into its own territory.
But Lifetime offers the next highlight, as the strings return for a stirring opening that only gets better as the instrumental layering kicks in. The opening blast of “we got high a thousand times in your brother’s room” has a wonderful sense of nostalgia about it, even though the tale itself that unfolds is decidedly bittersweet. It’s as if Noah & The Whale are channelling the compositional style of classic singer-songwriters such as Tom Petty with their own unique spin.
One More Night slows the tempo nicely with a tale of romantic longing tinged with regret (“you got married too young, but you didn’t listen did you?”), drawing you into its quiet, even dreamy despair. It’s a fine example of how Noah & The Whale can shroud melancholy with beauty.
As if to underline their ability to mix things up, though, former single Still After All These Years then picks up the tempo once more amid some cute guitar licks and a tale of everlasting love that finds Fink picking up with an old flame.
Of the album’s remaining tracks, There Will Come A Time is another anthemic moment that boasts a chant-worthy chorus and some catchy electronic hooks, Now Is Exactly The Time boasts an easygoing style over a tale of forgiveness and coming-of-age, and Not Too Late concludes proceedings with some gorgeously pensive offerings from Fink at his brooding best (“I wanna give you a child while I still can, wanna find my own way to be a man”). It’s a classic mix of Bono and Johnny Cash that ends things on a high.
Like we said, Noah & The Whale remain one of Britain’s best acts. Heart of Nowhere is another masterful collection of songs.
Download picks: Introduction, Heart of Nowhere, Not Too Late, Lifetime, There Will Come A Time, One More Night