After last week’s blogging frenzy, I took a little break. Back now, in any case, with a few thoughts on the latest effort from Londoners Noah and the Whale.
My previous exposure to the band is limited, having heard their breakout song ‘5 Years Time’, which I loved, and a some pre-release material from 2009’s The First Days of Spring, which I didn’t care for, and so I never bothered looking into the full album.
So it was with a little reservation that I listened to the streaming version of this year’s Last Night on Earth. The album opens with the slow-and-steady ‘Life Is Life’, which is a really nice preface to the record. The real start, however, and what caught my ear, was ‘Tonight’s the Kind of Night‘.
It’s got an anxious rhythm that keeps the tune moving, and there’s something Meatloaf-esque about the vocals that gives this song a really vintage feel that I absolutely love. The “woooooahhhh-ooooahhhhhhh”s in the bridge are also great too. It’s a song that is big without being epic, and stirs just enough emotion to make you want cause a little mischief. Makes you want to shake things up, just a little.
The next song, the lead single and perhaps the most obnoxious title to type, ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.’, has me a little torn. I like the pacing and the lyrics of the verses, which are really solid prose, and even the part which gives the album its namesake,
On my last night on earth, I won’t look to the sky
Just breathe in the air and blink in the light
On my last night on earth, I’ll pay a high price
To have no regrets and be done with my life
My one complaint is the spelling gimmick of the chorus. It just irritates me because it somehow strikes me as a little childish. Nearly any other introverted indie-hipster-rockstar drivel in there and I would probably not have a problem, but this particular thing irked me a little, even after plenty of listens. Still a good song, but maybe not as good as it could have been.
‘Wild Thing’ slows it down a little, and ‘Give it All Back’ speeds it right back up. They’re solid entries that bolster the overarching thematic sense of viewing adolescence through a lens of nostalgia. Still in this vein is ‘Just Me, Before We Met‘ which is a really honest track about how silly we look to ourselves after enough time.
My favorite thing about this song is the contrast between the subdued verses and the energetic chorus, set to the backdrop of looking back on your younger years with a sense of humor.
After a well-placed instrumental track, ‘Waiting for My Chance to Come’ is the last really fun song. It’s the most direct, purposeful song on the record, and is a pretty strong anchor late in the album.
Following it is the black sheep of the bunch. ‘The Line’ is a surprisingly dark, thoughtful song exploring the limits of what one can tolerate in a life or a relationship. A really nice addition to the album, it adds a certain degree of depth to a work that would otherwise be a little fluffy. I’d like to see what Noah and the Whale could accomplish by following this idea, but I worry that their ‘sound’ is just too friendly to really get much harsher than this.
The closer is the only dud, trying to infuse gospel backing vocals with a forlorn, wandering lead in an effort to end on a pensive note. It ends up being somewhat dull, which is a discredit to an otherwise fun and energetic record.
Is Last Night on Earth an especially deep piece of music? No, but it never aspired to be, and so that’s hardly to its discredit. As a very listenable set with some fun songs and zero pretension, it a rare find in that regard and something to take note of. It’s also a further refinement of Noah and the Whale’s sound in a direction that I think plays fantastically to the band’s strengths.