Stick a glockenspiel, a ukulele and a few handclaps on a young folk-pop quartet and voila, the claim of new Neutral Milk Hotel is easy to throw around. Add a reference to a Wes And
Stick a glockenspiel, a ukulele and a few handclaps on a young folk-pop quartet and voila, the claim of new Neutral Milk Hotel is easy to throw around. Add a reference to a Wes Anderson movie and you’ve got yourself something that’s either very easy to dismiss as contrived or very easy to love. There’s no middle ground here.
So where do Noah And The Whale find themselves? Is their music strong enough to break the Jeff Mangum stereotype? Or are they just feeding off hipster delight at hearing a something thatâ??s almost, but not quite?
The first indication that it’s the former is Charlie Fink. The vocalist’s gloomy, puppy dog delivery is almost Conor Oberst-esque in its melodrama. When he sings “If there’s any love in me, don’t let it show”- ‘Shape Of My Heart’) the cheerfulness of the melody gets a poker-faced punch to the guts, only to burst into a chorus of horns. The effect in charming, brought together by a resounding string section.
What gives Noah And The Whale the edge over their peers is the fact that their excesses are in the lack of them. Sure there’s a major multi-instrumental barrage just waiting to be kicked in at every bridge, but restraint is the name of the Whales’ game. ‘Give A Little Love’ features essentially a bare rhythm section and lots of empty spaces which could easily have been filled by a blast of the whole eccentric, folky-shebang. But it’s left undressed, which makes it eerie and memorable.
Fink’s lyrics are often sugary-pop and the arrangements make no bones about them. It’s the presentation that makes it heart warming and particularly rich in a Kimya Dawson sort of way. The chorus “There’ll be sun, sun, sun/All over our bodies” (’5 Years Time’) with Laura Marling backing Fink’s croon is terribly endearing, even if a little cheesy.
With their measured approach to songwriting and refreshing execution, Noah And The Whale make you feel good about your life and unashamedly proclaim that they too feel the same.