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Noah and the Whale – Heart of Nowhere album review

This is about as stereotypically indie as a release can possibly get, but as it turns out, that’s a really good way to get me to like an album. In a lot of ways, this band’s working in the “modern indie sound” – that is to say, disco beats that take more from New Order than anyone probably ever expected, ringing guitars, the occasional violin, and all sorts of great hooks. This is why I say that most of the great pop anymore is indie pop – whereas your Lady Gagas and Rihannas and Nickelbacks and everyone else on the radio seems almost afraid of being branded as pop and constantly falls flat on their faces trying to prove that they’re actually serious artists and who said they weren’t, most of the indie pop groups I’ve heard have been pretty on the level about the fact that they want to give you catchy, fun music. This is much appreciated.

Granted, all the sweetness and light may get to you if you’re not accustomed to indie already, and the fact that this band’s name is Noah and the Whale and that they’ve got one foot in early twee (the kind that was more guitar driven, sort of a jangle pop/noise pop hybrid – “All Through the Night” takes that basic sound and cleans it up quite nicely) might put some listeners off. This is perfectly understandable. However, if you know what to expect, I imagine you’d have a good time with this. I know I did. The fluttering string hook on “Lifetime,” my favorite song here, is terrific, and the title track makes good use of disco beats and chamber pop strings; meanwhile, the Neil Young fan in me loves the “I was looking for Harvest, but I only found Silver and Gold” line from – you guessed it – “Silver and Gold.” Some might find that too cutesy, too clever-clever, but again, that’s all part of the indie pop package. If you like that package, and I very definitely do, you’ll probably like this album. If you don’t, you probably won’t.

Things get a little heftier on side two, although it’s more about prettiness than big emotional Arcade Fire-style catharsis. This also works quite well, as far as I’m concerned – the string interlude on “Not Too Late” was an inspired touch in my opinion, and the slow build of “One More Night” comes off pretty well. “Still After All These Years” is warm and nostalgic, and there’s a lot of great songwriting that went into the probably related duo of “There Will Come a Time” and “Now is Exactly the Time.” So, hey. If you’re a fan of the genre, lap this right up – it was pretty much made with you in mind.

By Christopher William Schahfer

An English major from Detroit who's been writing about music for about ten years now. It's good stuff, I'm tellin' ya - great way to organize my opinions and thoughts and, more importantly, get to the bottom of why I think the way I do.

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