Written By: Mike Acker
Label: Self-Released – Rating:
Here’s something you don’t see everyday: an album that leads off with the title track that’s first lyrics are the same as both the name of the song and the album – Noah And The Whale, a folk rock outfit from the UK, accomplishes that trifecta on their newest album The First Days Of Spring.
“The First Days Of Spring,” the opening number, is the longest song on the album, and introduces early the tone of the record; a little bit of sorrow, a little bit of longing, and a lot lyrical song writing. Noah And The Whale come by their band name as a combination of the title of one of their favorite films, “The Squid And The Whale,” and the name of the director of that film, Noah Baumbach. Anyone familiar with the work of Baumbach, whose latest film was 2007’s “Margot At The Wedding,” will have no trouble recognizing the influence of his themes in the songs of The Last Days Of Spring.
Baumbach often deals with complicated relationships, and Noah And The Whale use their lyrics to also look at complications in the relationship department. “My Broken Heart,” the album’s fourth track, gets going with the lyrics, “You can give up anything when your following your heart,” and eventually leads up to the line, “You can break my broken heart.” An indication that things can be bad, but they can always get worse. What keeps this track, and the album, from sliding into the territory of the sentimental is the simplicity of the way the song is sung, and the power of its instrumental accompaniment.
The First Days Of Spring makes a short one-eighty right in the middle of the record. “Love Of An Orchestra,” is book-ended by tracks titled “Instrumental I,” and “Instrumental II,” and sounds like something from Rodgers and Hammerstein, and not Noah Baumbach. Although the tone changes with this one track, and then changes back afterward, the feeling it brings isn’t one of disruption, but more one of a break from the heaviness of the beginning of the album. “Love Of An Orchestra,” one of my favorite tracks, strikes me as an effort by a talented band to show that they can excel in a completely different mode, and I think the song works as a fantastic counter point to the songs that came before, and the rest of the album that follows.
The track following directly after the second short instrumental break, “Stranger,” contains the most direct narrative song writing, providing a stark image of a person fresh off a break-up sleeping with a new person for the first time. The songs clocks in at five minutes thirty-eight seconds, and the final one minute and twenty seconds provide my favorite part of the album. After the whole tale of the song, two harmonious voices sing the reassuring lines, “you know in a year, I’m going to be happy, you know in a year, it’s going to be better.”
The First Days Of Spring is essentially an album about a break-up, and it takes the listener through most of the stages and the feelings that go along with breaking up. It’s a testament to the musical talents of Noah And The Whale that by the time you get to the end of the record, and the songs have gone from gloomy to more upbeat, that you want to turn around and start the record over again, and fell all those feelings for a second time.
The break up album of the year!