Noah And The Whale - Last Night On Earth
Sometimes music can be about so much more than entertainment; it can be therapeutic as well and if you don’t believe that, ask Charlie Fink. Fink bled emotionally over every note of Noah And The Whale’s previous effort, The Last Days Of Spring, after his break-up with Laura Marling and that cathartic experience has clearly helped. Never more has a lyric been more appropriate than what we hear on opener ‘Life Is Life’ as when Fink sings about the main protagonist, he might as well be singing to himself (and the band to an extent) - “And it feels like his new life can start / And it feels like heaven”. Heaven might be a hyperbolic way to describe Last Night On Earth, but it definitely comes pretty close at times.
There’s no avoiding it, The Last Days Of Spring was heavy-going at times so perhaps the main reason that the follow up works so well is that it’s the polar opposite. Noah And The Whale has rediscovered their sense of fun and, in doing so, every track on the album is imbued with a sense of hope as well, no better exemplified than on lead single ‘L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N’ – “What you don’t have now will come back again / You’ve got heart and you’re going your own way”. It isn’t sugary pop but you’d have to be pretty stone-hearted not to be lifted by the joyous beats of ‘Tonight’s The Kind Of Night’ and ‘Give It All Back’. The latter, in particular, is one of the best things the band has ever done with glockenspiel hooks and soaring finale, all wrapped up in a warm reflective story about childhood and the band’s love of music – “One morning in art school assembly, played a cover of Don’t Let Me Down / The performance was nervous and awkward, but the passion was real and profound”.
It’s a phrase you’ll be thinking throughout the album - that each track is one of the best they’ve ever done - and you wouldn’t be far off. A close second would be ‘Wild Thing’ which ensures that it isn’t all sweetness and light with a tale about a girl who’s “living without wings”. It opens with the profound and dark theory that “time can make more rubble out of dreams than anything” and yet somehow, in keeping with the album’s theme, you feel that the main protagonist is going to be okay, even as the distorted and echoing synths create a sense of unease around the whole track. And you heard that right, Noah And The Whale have discovered synths so even as they seemingly regress to the sprightly folk of their debut, they’re still experimenting as a band which ensures Last Night On Earth retains its own character and distinctive sound.
They haven’t completely lost their folk charms though as ‘Waiting For My Chance To Come’ shows with its excellent use of violins and acoustic guitars, but it’s ‘Just Me Before We Met’ that showcases the best marriage of the old and the new style of the band. Violins open up proceedings with synths bubbling under the surface before everything combines into a gorgeously mellow wall of sound that perfectly epitomises how Last Night On Earth sounds quintessentially Noah And The Whale and yet, at the same time, completely fresh and innovative.
If there’s to be any complaints, it’s to do with its brisk running time of just over thirty minutes with one of its tracks a short instrumental (‘Paradise Stars’) that, however lovely it sounds, doesn’t really add anything to proceedings. It may be a selfish complaint but you’re definitely left wanting for more, only to have the crushing realisation that you’ve probably got at least a year to wait for new material. Still, when all you’re left with instead is nine tracks of rich storytelling and infectiously upbeat folk held together by Fink’s husky but soothing vocals, there’s not really much to complain about as a repeat listen isn’t exactly a bad substitute.