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Oh in Five Years Time
Peaceful The World Lays Me Down - Noah And The Whale
Member Name: obscuredbykep
Peaceful The World Lays Me Down - Noah And The Whale
Advantages: Some really great songs, and excellent use of Laura Marling's voice
Disadvantages: A few weaker songs
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.
Summary: Some really great songs, and excellent use of Laura Marling's voice