Nat Lyon - new england paradigm shift
Release Date: May 1, 2013
There are some records that even the vastest review will fail to adequately describe the sound and substance of. They just need to be heard. On new england paradigm shift Nat Lyon fuses organic indie rock sounds with so much distortion, layers and unidentifiable noises that the end result is impossible to pin down even after repeated listens. Constantly combining the stripped down intimacy of minimalist recordings with a penchant for jarring doses of creativity that prevent the listener from getting too comfortable. All of which is appropriate for a record about a transforming New England. A collection of stories about the changes that push people to leave and the resolve that forces them to stay. The result is an album ripe with uncertainties, equal parts a lament of and a love song to a region in flux.
The album opens with “for people in cars on i-95” which is a two minute loop of a line from the closing track. It’s a haunting, spacey track that gives the listener a feel for Lyon’s penchant for simultaneously expressing ambition and fear. The album continues with “gin and visions,” which may be the single track that best summarizes new england paradigm shift. It starts by relaxing the listeners guard with some acoustic strumming, but then over a couple of minutes Lyon jams the track full of spoken word vocals, sound effects and background melodies. When Lyon sings “everybody's got a cousin like that” it’s just one of the many nods to commonalities on an album that doesn’t shy away from the developments that drive people apart.
“spoke” employs a subdued indie-rock urgency to discuss how things that were once familiar can fail to hold value over time. In this case it’s the person that got away, but whose decline in character makes the narrator feel blessed to have avoided a similar fate. The track shares the haunting duality of new england paradigm shift by mourning changes while celebrating the beauty that still exists. It’s largely up to the listener to decide just how much the competing factors offset.
The album comes full circle on the standout closer “paradigm shift.” A track dominated by simple guitar work and drums, but as is the norm here, full of subtle, and not so subtle, flourishes that reflect the changing New England that is on trial. Notably, this is a seven minute track on an album where they rarely exceed three minutes, and not a second is wasted. It’s a blunt track dealing with the little uncertainties and the daily occurrences that can end up defining a person. As Lyon has expressed throughout, a region in a state of flux can make it hard to differentiate between “your greatest victory” and “just another train wreck.”
new england paradigm shift merits a handful of listens from anyone who enjoys indie rock. It will sound at once familiar and brand new. And that is only appropriate for an album that is celebrating the very region that breeds the troubling uncertainty that inspires Nat Lyon.