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I was introduced to Noah and the Whale, after watching an interview with Laura Marling, who was a member of the band for a while and the lead singers ex-girfriend. She mentioned them, so I promptly went and downloaded a few tracks to see what I thought. I was instantly caught by their shanty like music, infused with a soft folk sound, and, in general a very summer feel to the music. So I went out the next week and got the album.
The album was released in August 2008, and received a positive critical response, which isn't surprising. They offer something different to the majority of other commercially successful groups. From the album there have been about 5 singles, the most successful was "5 years Time", which has that catchy and memorable whistling at the beginning.
The band come from Twickenham, and are a four piece male group, but have had various accompanying singers, since their songs have female vocals, mainly as backing. This is where Laura Marling had fitted in, unfortunately she doesn't perform with them anymore, but can be heard on the album.
2 Atoms in a Molecule
Fading in with the ukulele and gently transferring the riff to acoustic guitar, the album kicks off with "2 Atoms in a Molecule". The backing riff a gentle, repetitive piece, which has a happy feeling about it, the drums are not constant, coming in and out the song, with something which sounds like tapping a spoon on a glass, being the main percussion. Lyrically, it speaks of the singers failings in love, a theme which underlies a few different songs in the album. The end lyrics of "And if love is just a game, then how come it's no fun?" pretty much some the song up.
It is followed with "Jocasta" which jumps straight in with a quick strum of the guitar, and a drop of the fiddle, after the first verse, the drums begin, and the fiddle plays the main tune while a deep bass line comes sliding in. It carries a folly beat, and the song overall is pretty cheery. The lyrics are based upon the story of Oedipus. Overall, it is quite a catchy song, albeit not a favourite of mine from the album.
Shape of my Heart
"Shape of my Heart" was one of the first songs I heard, and one that enticed me into liking the band. Kicking straight in with lyrics, and a taught bass line and forceful sounding guitar chords, before the percussion clapping begins. The chorus has a break from the music, with just a violin playing, but it jumps straight into something regal sounding, fanfare's, trumpets and such, and the song is now in full pace. As they fade out, the drums and real music comes in, and the lyrics reach their peak. The song speaks of love, and how he doesn't want to be in love, because in the end it leads to hurt.
For your heart is like a flower as it grows,
And its the rain, not just the sun that helps it bloom,
And you don't know how it feels to be alive,
Until you know how it feels to die
Do What I Do
"Do what I do" brings the tempo down, the guitar strums slower, there is a real calm air to the song, which speaks of the end of a relationship, and how he hopes that she will go on fine, and doesn't hate her for ending it. It is different to the previous songs, due to its clearly more depressing music, and unfortunately, there are bits that sound hideously like a Coldplay song, thankfully, a well placed piece of violin, brings it back to the Whale!
Give a Little Love
We then start with something more upbeat, musically at least. The drums sternly putting in a fierce beginning, but as soon as the singing starts, its dries, leaving the drums intermittent, slower, a soft guitar being plucked in the back. It feels all about the words. "Give a Little Love" introduces some piano sounds, in a firm strong note form, not melancholy, more purposeful, like its getting past something. That is the same with every piece of music in the song, it has purpose, it has a feeling. The lyrics read like a final goodbye "If you do (what you love), I will always be the Sun and Moon to you".
"Second Lover" again begins slowly. Ukulele notes introducing it, with gentle xylophone notes injected in. The song keeps simple, never with anything more that 2 instruments at a time until it reaches the peaks of the song when the separate parts mix to form the real music. Lyrically, I think it is about his love for someone who he never had a proper relationship with, but was just a fling or something. It ends on a high, from the despondent feeling, to something more "I'm over it", the music builds into something jolly, and the lyrics pick up to a simple end.
5 Years Time
Next comes that famous whistle, as "5 Years Time" comes onto the speakers. The ukulele chords play, and the fiddle comes in, creating that real summer feel which the album presents. The music has a really jolly feeling, kicking back the feel of the last few songs. It was the song that really made them known with the majority of people, and was great to hear it live when I saw them last year.
Rocks and Daggers
"Rocks and Daggers" the guitar that starts us off is jangly, in a strange way, sparkly. The music is really jolly, and a soft trumpet sound comes in until the lyrics are ready to be sung. The guitar continues, just resting in the background behind the xylophone sounds, the violin and the insistent drumming. There is a great fiddle solo in the middle of the song, its just so toe-tappy and happy sounding, before the lyrics continue again, singing the praises of the girl which the song is aimed at. Another bit of fiddle is played, before the song trails into repeats of the line "But there's no need to play with my heart", which start off slow, but gradually build, Laura Marling's over tracking comes in again, and the song really kicks it up, back to the happiness of the beginning before abruptly stopping.
Peaceful the World Lays me Down
The title track to the album is the longest song. It starts with soft played acoustic guitar, before it later gains some drums and xylophone notes. The song keeps a very slow tempo, but doesn't have too much of a melancholy sound, which would seem like a downer after the previous two songs. Lyrically, it says about how really, we don't matter in the world, and that after we've gone, the world still carries on. It is an OK song, but I wouldn't rank it as the strongest on the album.
"Mary" is quite a pretty little song. It starts with really soft notes and chords, gentle vocals, and carries these through until after the first verse, when things begin to pick up, it gains both volume, and tempo, as well as some percussion. Lyrically, it isn't massively impressive, but it's presentation gives it a quaint feel, which really suits it.
Hold My Hand as I'm Lowered
We now end, with "Hold my Hand as I'm Lowered". Coming in with perhaps the slowest song on the album, and certainly the most melancholy, with it's simple, slow strummed guitar chords, and strong singing, and near the end, there is an almost orchestral feel, as the refrain is sang, with the sound of trumpets, a regal drum-roll, and Laura Marling contributing her soft voice. It is a beautiful end to the album, and lyrically, I think it seems to speak of dying, if not literally, then metaphorically, of heart ache, and unrequited love.
The album presents itself in two moods, there are the really merry summer songs, and the melancholy tunes which group in with them, it is perhaps possible to call it a bit of a concept album, with all the lyrics speaking of love, but never in a positive light, always of being on the wrong side, where your love isn't returned, or you're spurned and rejected.
There is a good mix of songs, some I really love, such as "5 Years Time", "2 Atoms in a Molecule" and "Shape of my Heart" which carry real upbeat feelings, and the music with connotations of summer and happiness, although I do like some of the more slow songs, the best being the final track. It isn't a flawless album, I think that a couple of the songs aren't really all that great, such as "Do What I do" which, if not on the album, the consistency of the songs would be better.
Laura Marling's contributions to a number of the songs add new depths to them, the layered vocals which are used in the songs really adds a beauty, and in sometimes a ghostliness, and it really benefitted songs having even just the faint sound of her voice, such as in "Shape of My Hear" where you can just about hear her, but it's enough to really enhance the track.
Would I recommend the album? Well yes, I would, although perhaps it doesn't need to be on the top of your albums to get. For anyone who likes the modern folky sounding music, or fans of bands such as The Decemberists, of which Noah and the Whale sound ever so slightly like in parts (with the fiddles, the violins and general sounds). The band would also appeal to anyone who likes Laura Marling.
If you're left unconvinced, take a look at :
where you can listen to the entire album for free.
Next on my list of recent albums by Glastonbury acts list is Noah and the Whale's debut album Peaceful The World Lays Me Down.
The album starts off with the catchy, fast, simple but effective Atoms in a Molecule which seems slightly childish and makes you kind of wonder why you are enjoying it so much in a same way numerous They Might Be Giants tracks do. Some songs sound a little out of tune and a bit raw, a sort of hammered farmer playing acoustic music in a field type sound (this can be seen on the next track of the album Jocasta - sounds a bit like a folky and more upbeat version of Coldplay).
Overall the album is quite quirky and enjoyable but I think the singers song could become nauseating after a while, it sounds a bit like the lad's nose is blocked up and at times comes out like he is in fact a whale cleaning out his blowhole!
The variety of jolly tunes amongst a handful of slow love related ballads will please many a listener but I have a feeling there is more to come from this band and that their first album will be bettered by future releases, there's a sence of rawness to them but an obvious splash of talent too.
1 2 Atoms In A Molecule
3 Shape Of My Heart
4 Do What You Do
5 Give A Little Love
6 Second Lover
7 5 Years Time
8 Rocks And Daggers
9 Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
11 Hold My Hand As I'm Lowered
Like many people I'm sure, I first heard of this band when I heard '5 Years Time'. I absolutely love this song, and it inspired me to purchase their album 'Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down', which was released on August 11th 2008.
Noah and the Whale don't appear to be a very well known band asides from 5 Years Time, so I thought I'd start my review by telling everyone a bit about the band.
Apparently, Noah and the Whale are classed as 'Folk rock' which I suppose makes sense when listening to the album. They consist of; Charlie Fink (vocals, guitar, ukulele, harmonica ), Doug Fink (drums), Tom Hobden (fiddle) and Urby Whale (bass, harmonium) and are from London. Laura Marling also features on backing vocals at times, although according to the lovely Wikipedia she is no longer part of the band. They formed in 2006, although their album was not released until 2008. They are currently working on their next album, although the release date is not yet clear.
Now onto the album and the treasures that it features!
Track 1: Two Atoms In A Molecule
The start of the opening track sounds different to what I expected. However it does sound rather folky and acoustic and lovely. As the vocals start there is a nice rhyme behind the lyrics and it sounds like quite an upbeat song because of what I'm presuming is the ukulele in the background. There are some rather harsh lyrics, but the foot-tapping beat behind it makes it sound like a happy song despite this! It's a good start to the album, and I think it's a good song.
Track 2: Jocasta
A guitar opens this, which is a bit different! There is clapping involved every now and then, and string instruments which sound lovely. The voice sounds less polished than it does in other tracks, but still lovely. The musical breaks in this song have a lovely combination of instruments which work very well together. Female vocals can be heard every now and then, and it is a nice contrast from his voice. Despite this, it's not one of my favourite songs of this album, although I appreciate very much the different techniques they use throughout this track!
Track 3: Shape Of My Heart
This song sounds like something indie which you could hear on the radio to start with. However as the track goes on you can hear a large mixture of genres featured in this quirky little number. Once again the different instruments which are used surprises me. It sounds wonderful but it's surprising that such a large mixture of things can be used, and used WELL. The beat will keep you interested, as will the different uses of music. I was very, very impressed with this track.
Track 4: Do What I Do
This track starts off slowly and is very different from the rest of the album. This is probably my least favourite song on a very good album. It's not that it's not a good song, it's just very different from the rest of it, and I almost felt like it didn't really fit very well. It's very slow, doesn't feature the large array of instruments in such an obvious way and just generally doesn't appeal to me as much, especially as the pace never really picks up.
Track 5: Give A Little Love
The title of this track had me excited, as I expected it to be lovely and rather uplifting. However it has the same kind of issue as track 4 - it doesn't seem to go anywhere. The little musical interludes are pretty, but asides from that, this track doesn't really do much for me at all. His voice almost becomes boring, when in all the other tracks, I think it is awesome. It has a rather nice little choir part every now and then, but in general I don't really appreciate this track.
Track 6: Second Lover
The opening of this track sounds almost like a nursery rhyme. The music in the background sounds like something which a little child would appreciate, as it is very repetitive, yet pretty. There are female vocals featured in the background which contrast well with his main vocals. This song grows on you, but I like it. It has a good mixture of instruments at some parts, and has the usual clapping as well. The song is quite slow, but worth a listen.
Track 7: 5 Years Time
The track which this band is probably most famous for! This song always reminds me of summer. Not just because of the ever catchy "sun sun sun" in the chorus! It sounds like summer. It's happy, upbeat, and full of clapping, abstract sounding instruments and a good beat. The whistling which appears throughout makes the track, I think. It sounds incredibly happy and lovely and I can't recommend this song more. It always makes me smile and want to clap along and stamp my feet! The chorus is catchy and it won't be long before you're singing along too!
Track 8: Rocks And Daggers
This has a nice sounding start as it sounds rather peaceful although repetitive. There is a lot of instrumental in this song, but it sounds nice anyway. This band has a big enough range of instruments and vocals to mix them up and still sound good. The beat is catchy, but the music doesn't quite match the beat in my opinion. I always think that Charlie's vocals sound better when contrasted with a girl singing with him. This is one of those tracks where I think they would have benefited more from having the girls singing slightly more. I want to say it sounds like a violin playing, but I don't think it is. Whatever it is, it fits in well and sounds lovely against the voices.
Track 9: Peaceful The World Lays Me Down
To start with I thought this track was fairly monotonous, however the more you listen to it, the better it sounds. There's another story element to this track, and it's worth listening to. The music isn't as obvious for some of the track, but it sounds quite gentle, and in the parts where there are no vocals, it sounds beautiful. Every now and then there are female vocals thrown in, and as always they sound lovely - I think it's a shame there are no longer females in this band permanently! Anyway, the musical background seems fairly repetitive but it gets more interesting and sounds beautiful. The tempo of the track varies throughout, but this makes it more interesting, as if it stayed at the same pace as the beginning of the track, I don't think it would be worth listening to! As the track progresses the music gets louder and the lyrics get stronger and they sound very pretty. I think that's what I love about this band. They do everything to extremes, and it seems to sound good no matter what! As the track comes to a close, it goes back to being slow and fairly peaceful. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album, definitely.
Track 10: Mary
The opening of this track also sounds like a nursery rhyme. However the lyrics sound fairly sad in contrast although it sounds pretty. Once again, the music in this song is one of my favourite parts. The female vocals feature randomly but this time, rather than enhancing his vocals, it makes the song sound even sadder. The song overall is quite pretty, but it is one of the more melancholy on the album. It has a poignant feel to it, and I think that adds to the style of the song.
Track 11: Hold My Hand As I'm Lowered
Once again, this song sounds quite sad. The lyrics seem to be looking back at life, as if the person singing is dying. It's quite sad. The beginning features merely an acoustic guitar - which is a great contrast to many of the other tracks with a huge range of musical instruments. However drums also feature as do a few other instruments, but they are not as obvious as in many of the other tracks. The lack of music is what I think makes it seem like a sad song as does the slow pace. There is climax to this song, featuring a mixture of instruments and female vocals, however this does not make the song feel much more upbeat - just more poignant.
I think I must add that I got this album on the internet which does not include track 12, and therefore I do not have the final track which features on the CD if you buy a hard copy, so I cannot review the final track of this album.
Overall though, I think this album is super. It's such a mixture of instruments, vocals and talent. The contrasts between the happy and sad songs are truly wonderful, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I appreciated this album.
On Amazon UK the CD is currently £4.98 which I personally think is a bargain.
Although I understand this album may not be everybody's cup of tea, I love it. It's different, quirky, and interesting and I genuinely believe this album has made me appreciate the use of musical instruments more than I did before.
Peaceful, the World lays me down.
Noah and the Whale, 2008.
If you buy this album in the shops you get 12 songs, buy it on iTunes and you get 11 songs plus 3 videos....need I say more?
Well yes actually because you might decide after this review that there is a bargain to be had, or, that it is not worth the money.
Not a particularly well know band or album (I am the first reviewer), the band hails from London and consists of:
Charlie Fink (Lead vocals, ukulele, harmonica, guitar), talented so and so!
Laura Marling (Backing vocals)
Doug Fink (Drums...relative maybe?)
Tom Hobden (fiddle)
Urby (Harmonium and Bass)
Okay, time for a spot of honesty, I do not have the whole album. After listening to it a couple of times I decided which tracks I wanted and downloaded those only, not the whole album.
However, just because I do not own the album in it's entirety this does not stop me from reviewing it. How many of you out there have watched a film and reviewed it without actually 'owning' it. On checking the new, shiny Dooyoo oath, I feel that I am not committing any sin, breach or otherwise executable offence by doing this. I have listened to the whole album, 3 or 4 times actually, so there!
~~The feel of the songs~~
Well, this is a new way of me reviewing albums, I will probably go back to a track by track review with scores, but thought I would experiment with a different style.
I wanted to buy this album after hearing and buying '5 years time' (track 5) which was released ahead of the album. It is a cracking feel good song that is just shy of being 'too twee'. It has a lovely whistling opening accompanied by acoustic music which is not quite indie, not quite folk. It is like a happy Chumbawumba (imagine that!) This track is undoubtedly infectious; the clapping, foot tapping nature is just joyous....now there is a word I do not use often in music reviews. The lyrics are amusing and tell a story, it is very, very good.
So what about the other tracks?
The first track is a bit confusing and too 'Mid west' for me, though I can see the appeal. Jocasta is much more 'indie' in nature and is rather good apart from the affected accent of the vocalist which is a little off putting.....two tracks, no downloads.
The 3rd track, shape of my heart, is bloomin' great. A very quirky song with a slow start that grows with some full on musical backing which is, well, hard to describe...loud, folk'ish, indie, Celtic, Asian? I don't know, but it is a real footstomper...and downloaded. The video is pretty damn good too.
Track 4 is not my thing, all a bit Tom Petty for me. Track 5, likewise, for a London band they seem to have a real American influence, the last two tracks do not seem to 'fit' to me.
Track 6, 'second lover' gets us back to 'quirky' and I quite like it....many die hard, 'I know my music', snobs will hate this, well so be it, it is different, I like it and it has a 'grow on you' effect which is quite interesting, I ummed and ahhed about downloading it, glad I did in the end. Track 8 is much of the same but more 'musical' and loses a bit of quirkiness due to that, downloaded, but unsure and unconvinced is my verdict here.
The title track is a strange and delightful affair. The 'story telling' aspect is back and the musical backing is altogether strange and nice and maybe not and maybe it is, oh I don't know! One thing is for sure, it warrants a listen and then another, and then, oh, actually it is quite good!
'Mary' is a bit more melancholy actually it has a really sad feel about the music, let alone the lyrics....I really quite like this too, especially as it changes half way through to become a lot more upbeat in musical style but just as downbeat in intention.
Track 11, the final track on this interesting if a little twee album (if downloaded) is called 'Hold my hand as I'm lowered'. This has gone some gorgeous acoustic guitar work on it and the vocals are quite poignant. Like many of the songs on this album it is a 'grower'. My first listen was not overwhelming but it just seems to keep getting better. Very slow, very dark in it's own way, it seems to be about dying and 'letting go of the World.
Track 12, should you buy the album in the shops is called 'Death by Numbers'. Another nice piece of acoustic work but the vocals are very strange and strained and somehow, completely out of synch with the music, not good.
Well I know I am reviewing an album but I just want to mention their video's. It is almost like you don't 'get this' band until you see some video's. They are very geeky, very arty, very amusing in an 80's alternative style. They are out of their time and I quite like that.
They are different enough as a band, and this is a different enough album to make it and they stand out. I cannot help feeling though that would be better 'seen' maybe on a Sunday afternoon at a sunny festival, I say this as some of the music does not 'stand up' when played at home, unless played in a quiet room and really listened to.
The whole album manages to mix being very clever with being quite childlike, that in itself is a feat. I am looking forward to hearing more of this lot in the future. Worth a buy in my opinion, or at least a good few could be downloaded.
~~Full Track Listing~~
1. 2 Atoms in a Molecule
3. Shape of My Heart
4. Do What You Do
5. Give a Little Love
6. Second Lover
7. 5 Years Time
8. Rocks and Daggers
9. Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down
11. Hold My Hand as I'm Lowered
12.Death by Numbers
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 2 Atoms In A Molecule
3 Shape Of My Heart
4 Do What You Do
5 Give A Little Love
6 Second Lover
7 5 Years Time
8 Rocks And Daggers
9 Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
11 Hold My Hand As I'm Lowered