The First Days Of Spring
Noah And The Whale follow up their upbeat twee indie debut Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down with a darker twist in the bands story. The First Days Of Spring is a heartbreak album, markedly different from their previous material, creating a new chapter full of tremulous strings and soaring choirs.
With a Album like The First Days Of Spring it is nearly impossible to start without a little bit of history. Laura Marling, of Mercury Music Prize Nomination fame, was once a member of Noah And The Whale, and Charlie Fink (Noah And The Whale’s frontman) was her boyfriend. Fink produced her debut Alas, I Cannot Swim and then, shortly before Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down was finished, she left him. This may seem like an idle piece of trivia, but this story seems to be the backbone of all Noah And The Whales music. Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down is full of love songs, upbeat and cheerful, if slightly over zealous on the cheesy pop whistling and cute boy/girl harmonies. These were what could be called the ‘Marling years’.
The First Days Of Spring is the antidote to this. Conceived in a world of Bon Iver, Sigur Ros and Belle and Sebastian it is sombre and sullen, full of swelling orchestral moments and more than its fair share of reverb filled Sigur Ros violin parts. The song titles give away the abiding feeling of the album before the disc even enters the player. ‘I Have Nothing’ and ‘My Broken Heart’ set the scene a little too clearly. The ‘Without Marling years’ are definitely upon us.
My immediate impression was that it was all a bit heavy. The appeal of Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down was in its unbound optimism, its sense of love, freedom, youth and well…more love. I got the feeling that the whole thing could simply not work at all, that the Ellen Page and Michael Cera characters of this world would choose this moment to walk away from Noah And The Whale. The First Days Of Spring takes a few listens to truly sink in and anyone who makes that step will not budge from Fink and the boys. The grandeur of the album may, at first, seem a bit naff, but like Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down its appeal draws on its own naffness but in a completely genuine way. Fink seems prepared to sing whatever he feels whether or not it has been said a thousand times before. Noah And The Whale have kept something youthful and almost naïve alive in their music even though their world of love and happiness seems to have been smashed against the rocks. What’s more ‘Blue Skies’ is a stand out single and one earmarked to become a new ‘5 Years Time’ for the broken hearted.
One thing that cannot be denied is that Noah And The Whale have sidestepped critics to produce something fresh and thought provoking and I’m sure I can hear a small and somewhat heartbroken cheer from their corner as their ‘twee’ tag is dropped for good.