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This was the first Noah and the Whale album that I listened to and it was truly a revelation about a band, which you really only know about from their oft-repeated song 5 Years Time. Released in 2011, it is a bold-sounding pop record with catchy lyrics and impressive melodic hooks. However, once I got around to listening to their back catalogue (which in the end I discovered was only two other albums), I got a fuller appreciation of their journey. Their first album was more straightforward noughties folk-pop, which was not an especially brilliant album. Following this was The First Days of Spring, which was infused with classical and orchestral grandeur and a slower, more reflective tone. What really stood out for me, though, was how different this all sounded to Last Night On Earth. They have certainly been on a journey and as band members have left such as Laura Marling on backing female vocals and Doug Fink on drums, their sound has been constantly reinvented and revitalised. Once you listen to the album, you can hear their progression. The songs mingle the pop catchiness of their debut with the big sound of their second and this is the album where they matured into a legitimate songwriting tour de force.
Watching the performing a live session on a Channel 4 music show illuminated the album even more so for me. It proved that the grand sound could be recreated live, with the strings and other instruments offering a rich and satisfying folk sound. They also discussed the process of producing the album, mentioning for example, that in writing the songs, they wanted to get to the heart of its message and melody quickly. This makes the album much more accessible than its predecessor, which has longer tracks and is more about moodsetting and crescendo than individual pop song.
The songs themselves have character and the vocals are always charismatically delivered by Charlie Fink. The first track is an up-tempo pop piece that captivates the listener with its big sound and engaging message about a new life. In a way, the revitalisation of the band is epitomised in this song. Tonight's The Kind Of Night is often played first in their live shows, though this is in my opinion one of the least original songs on the album. This is made up though in the next song, the first single from the album, L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. It is a resounding pop song that will stay in your mind for some time. It is also a popular song, coming in sales behind only 5 Years Time, their otherwise most successful song. Other highlights on the rest album are Give It All Back, an anecdotal piece about looking back on forming and playing as a band. The musical interlude Paradise Stars is hauntingly simple and shows one thing that I adore about this album. It all knits perfectly together, since Paradise Stars was a phrase lyrically woven into the first track of the album. Waiting for My Chance To Come is another song that resonates with thick strings and is an optimistic and upbeat track that has the potential to get you through tough times as it did with me. Finally, the album slows down with its final tracks The Line and Old Joy. These provide stark relief to the beautifully bold rest of the album. They are beautiful and particularly the latter, have a tearful quality that hook you emotionally. This is one of my favourite albums of all time. Musical beauty is a tough thing to capture.
Noah and the whale Last night on earth
I bought this album after reading a review in a newspaper while not really trusting such media because they seem to have their own agenda when reviewing the album so I took the chance and decided to take a chance and buy the album it helped that it cost just over £5. If you are looking for something very edgy with lots of new sounds you're going to be disappointed and this album probably isn't for you. On the other hand if you're like me and enjoy easy listening music that it is just nice to listen to and switch off and get away from things for a bit of time then this could be the album for you. After just one listen to the album I had got into the music and was already singing along to the songs. I would recommend this album to anybody and if you can get for the same price as me then that's just an added bonus.
Noah and the Whale could have disappeared after '5 Years Time', the biggest hit on their debut album 'Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down'. You know the one, from countless adverts and TV shows - a whimsical folk ditty, the song was catchy but not exactly musically groundbreaking. Nor did the lyrics ("in five years time we could be walking round a zoo/with the sun shining down over me and you") have much ambition. And that was the best track on the record.
Cut to 2011, and not only have Noah and the Whale - former frontrunners of the British 'nu-folk' scene - survived, but they've returned with a record that's the best thing Bruce Springsteen hasn't produced in years. Musically-diverse, toe-tappingly cool and ridiculously upbeat, 'Last Night On Earth' is a huge slap in the face for anyone who ever thought this band were one-dimensional also-rans.
Distancing themselves from their folk roots, here we find Noah and the Whale embracing poppy Americana, perhaps as a result of the LA studio where recording took place, or frontman Charlie Fink's recent discovery of artists like Tom Petty and Arthur Russell. Whatever the reason, we now find the band making friends with the synthesizer and the rock and roll staple of three guitars and a drum set. This group, once so in thrall to the offbeat sound of new folk, have gone mainstream. It sounds good.
And the big guns are revealed in the album sleeve. Lead vocalist Fink's lyrics have been, until now, Noah's biggest letdown. First album 'Peaceful...' was almost pre-school basic, while second album 'First Days of Spring', though musically excellent and a great unknown break-up album, was full of "woe is me" cliches.
Cue 'Last Night On Earth', and Fink has made an unfathomable leap as a songwriter. Using the technique of imagining songs as if they were scenes from a movie has allowed the 25 year-old to flourish and bring immense detail and poetry to his words. He still excels at crafting catchy pop music - have a listen to 'Tonight's The Kind of Night' or lead single 'L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N' for evidence - but lyrically, everything on Noah and the Whale's third record is a huge step on from their early work.
Written mostly from the point of view of a different character per track, there is some great storytelling going on here. Whether the tale of a chancer on 'Waiting for My Chance to Come', a loveless marriage in 'The Line' or a woman driven to self-destruction by her oppressive surroundings in 'Wild Thing', it's actually rewarding to pay attention to the lyrics on this album. How refreshing in today's musical climate.
Not every song is flawless. The obvious strings on 'Just Before We Met' just don't feel at home on this record (it seems the band can't fully leave their folk past behind) while the second half of the album is sometimes jarringly downbeat, where the opening salvo of tunes are so life-affirming. It feels as though 'Last Night On Earth' should end on a high-note rather than with pessimism.
But all things considered, this is still an exciting record. It doesn't sound like this is Noah and the Whale's third album in, but the debut of a promising young band. Thanks to their reinvention, it essentially is; the average 'Peaceful' and the sublime 'First Days' belong to another act altogether. 'Last Night On Earth' is an imperfect record full of brilliance and vigour that should be the first step towards Noah and the Whale achieving greatness and realising their full potential. Keep an eye on this band - if they continue to grow at this rate, they're going to be huge. You can hear it on this album, and that's why you need 'Last Night On Earth' in your collection.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Life Is Life
2 Tonight's The Kind Of Night
4 Wild Thing
5 Give It All Back
6 Just Me Before We Met
7 Paradise Stars
8 Waiting For My Chance To Come
9 The Line
10 Old Joy