March 17, 2011

Test Spins: Noah and the Whale

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Before we start, let’s do a quick roll call. Charlie Fink on vocals, guitar and ukulele? Check. Tom Hobden on the fiddle? Yep. Matt “Urby Whale” Owens on bass? Mhmm. Fred Abbott on the keys? Present. Well, the band might all be here, but there is a serious lack of something on Noah & The Whale’s third album, Last Night on Earth.

The London-based indie-folk band formed in 2006 and broke out in August 2008 with the release of their freshman album Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down. With some unique, upbeat tunes, like “5 Years Time” and “2 Atoms In a Molecule,” that were folksy yet artsy at the same time. The album flew to the top of the charts in the U.K. and Ireland. The First Days of Spring followed in 2008 as a rare chart-buster of a sophomore album with several exquisite melodies, such as “Blue Skies” and “The First Days of Spring.”

Now, aged and sage, Noah & The Whale presents Last Night On Earth, an album that takes a drastic turn from what made the indie-folk unit so phenomenal in the first place. The single “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” dropped on January 23rd to the delight of Londoners and foreigners alike, but the sub-par track is akin to something straight off Sesame Street. Any song that makes its listeners spell is questionable at best. Honestly, it didn’t work with Fergie’s “Fergalicious” or “Glamorous” and it doesn’t work now. Shocker. The album’s overall attempt to be inspirational, a vain try from the beginning with “Life Is Life” and “Tonight’s the Kind of Night,” an upbeat song à la ABBA, might score some fans in the nursing home but strikes out with the band’s regular clientele.

But the album is equal parts good and bad, as Last Night On Earth does have its gems. “Just Me Before We Met” is a cutesy relationship song that hits close to the high standard set by “5 Years Time” but doesn’t quite make it. “Give It All Back” is a fun, head-bopping number and “Waiting for My Chance to Come” is an encouraging song that reminds us to “take a gamble on our hearts” to lead us through the dark. But the true hidden diamond in the rough of the album is “Paradise Stars,” a stunning piano melody of purity and simplistic beauty.

As a whole, Last Night On Earth could be worse, but it fails to live up to expectations.

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Original Author: Heather McAdams