Noah and the Whale – Last Night on Earth
Record Label: Mercury Records
Release Date: March 7, 2011
There’s something very ominous about naming your third album Last Night on Earth. Fans of Charlie Fink and his sometimes-dreary, sometimes-cheery folk outfit Noah and the Whale could interpret such a title as a sign of the band’s forthcoming demise. Or maybe it’s just a title; just an outlook on what we’ll do when that fateful evening comes. But to me, our Last Night on Earth is meant to be a happy one. And on album centerpiece “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.,” it’s clear Fink feels the same way. Atop meandering guitar and a cutesy backing choir, he muses, “On my last night on Earth / I won’t look to the sky / Just breathe in the air / And blink in the light.” What will happen will. And what didn’t isn’t worth a thought. Not exactly Eureka!-type sentiments, but they are still important ones to remember.
While fans of the band’s previous albums might find fault in Last Night on Earth’s less cluttered, electronica-tinged songwriting, it is Fink’s simple songs and flexible voice that carry the most enjoyment. On the uplifting Brit-pop of “Life is Life” we hear, “Gonna change his ways / And it feels like his new life can start / And it feels like Heaven.” Now if that isn’t a wonderful way to start a record, I don’t know what is. Especially after some of the downers the band has penned previously (“2 Atoms in a Molecule” or “My Door Is Always Open”, for example).
But this is Fink we’re talking about. His life through song is never perfect. However, now there are songs like “Old Joy:” a slow, piano-heavy ballad that is both sad and extremely optimistic. That song contains both the line, “Tall buildings and a wife won’t be enough for me,” and also, “There is more in the world to be found than dreams.” There’s a strength in Fink’s voice now, one that seems to imply that he’s not only growing up but growing better. “Old Joy” is one of those songs that closes one door and opens another. Another introspective, Interpol-esque track, “Wild Thing” is an intelligent upswing for the group. Rather than the simple woe-is-me-isms that we became enamored with on The First Days of Spring, “Wild Thing” uses storytelling enriched with beautiful imagery (“There’s eyes behind the curtains and there’s ears below the floor / Cracks inside the ceiling and there’s shadows at the door”). We’re lead through like a novel rather than being told how to feel.
So although Last Night on Earth is a new, and for the most part, completely different type of Noah and the Whale album, it is still a worthy statement. Short and mostly bittersweet, it mixes the upbeat (“Just Before We Met”) with somber electronic fare (“The Line”) without sacrificing cohesion. And while the band is transforming its sound, it’s not altogether clear as to where the next album will go. But with Fink at the helm, we can be sure it will put real life through the magnifying glass and teach us all, one way or another, a lesson.
RIYL: I'm From Barcelona, The Decemberists, a less theatrical Arcade Fire
I like this and TFDOS in two different ways, as they represent two different states of mind, this is more joyful and with a more sing-like-it's-the-last-song-you-will-ever-sing and live-like-it's-the-last-day-you-will-ever-live attitude and Charlie's voice is incredible, didn't know it would've fit in a more electronic-based record.