Noah and the Whale deserves another listen

Writer: Rob O’Donnell

Contributing Writer

 

To be clear, “Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down” by Noah & the Whale is not a new album by any stretch of the imagination. It’s almost four years old. But this is not a column that exclusively deals with new album releases; there is not always a new album worth writing about every week. This is a column that I hope will introduce you to good music. Essentially, it’s a recommendation column rather than a review column. So, with that out of the way, on to the album.

I’m starting to believe that Laura Marling is the epitome of a muse. I don’t normally pay attention to who musicians date, but in Marling’s case, I’m going to have to make an exception. Three of the people that she has dated are the lead singers of my favorite bands: Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons, Johnny Flynn of Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, and yes, you guessed it, Charlie Fink of Noah & the Whale. She’s collaborated with all of them on one of their albums, and without exception, it’s always their best albums.

On “Peaceful”she has a small role, contributing only backing vocals, but her voice completes the album. Her harmonies with Fink are simply breathtaking; they became the new Joan Baez and Bob Dylan in my eyes. Another of Marling’s contributions was the inspiration for many of the lyrics, at least I assume.

This album is absolutely perfect if, like many University students, you often find yourself at registers on Friday nights contemplating the meaning of love in the context of an uncertain life with death around every corner. Or maybe you’re just going through a bad breakup, or you’re in love with an uninterested best friend. Either way, Fink’s lyrics packs a powerful emotional and philosophical punch. It’s not for the light of heart, as shown through songs like “Jocasta.” For those of you that don’t know Greek mythology, she’s the mother of Oedipus. For those of you that still don’t understand, ask a psychology major and get prepared for a really uncomfortable conversation.

To keep the album lighter than the lyrics suggest, the actual music is incredibly uplifting and remarkably structured. The song “5 Years Time” is a perfect example of this. It’s four minutes of pure musical joy. Ukulele and whistling result in a rare folk song that makes you want to jump up and dance. It’s not until the song ends that you realize that the singer is heartbroken. That’s how brilliant the music is. It allows Fink to delve into hardcore philosophy and emotional pain, without worrying that his music will be dismissed as too depressing or heavy-handed, like Elliott Smith’s later albums. Noah & the Whale are, in my opinion, the best folk musicians right now, rivaled only by Laura Marling. Fink has an unusual voice, but when mixed with Marling’s, it becomes genius.

If you’re looking for music that breaks with the mindless pop songs about partying and that has true substance and value, you should buy this album. For fans of Mumford & Sons, “Peaceful” is perfect for the countdown to their new album.

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