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Sad, yet engaging concept
album from promising
London quartet

Noah & The Whale - The First Days of Spring
(Cherrytree / Interscope)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Oct. 27, 2009
Noah & The Whale

Review by Tony Bonyata

"This is a song for anyone with a broken heart," croons Noah & The Whale's frontman Charlie Fink at one point on their newly released sophomore full-length, The First Days of Spring. But in reality this entire album is for the broken hearted, as Fink documents his own painful experience with lost love through all 11 tracks.

Gone are the jaunty pop tunes, carefree whistling and uplifting spirit that propelled their infectious debut Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down. And while much of the subject matter and musical tone is somber and often downright maudlin, there's a sense of knowing maturity and even hope for a better future that shines through these songs. While the idea of a concept album of sorts built around a break-up probably shouldn't work (especially considering that in the pantheon of pop music this terrain has been well-traversed), it nonetheless manages to pull its audience in closer with each listen.

The break-up in question was between Fink and former band member Laura Marling, and perhaps as a symbol of their separation and Fink's loneliness there are no female vocals on this effort. But even without the warmth of Marling's or any other woman's voice, there's a wonderful richness throughout. A brass section adds a positive spark to the downtrodden "My Broken Heart," while a lovely chamber orchestra ebbs and flows on the short "Instrumental 1," before erupting into the celestial and sunny pop of "Love Of An Orchestra," complete with vocal choir and huge cinematic sound courtesy of an adjoining symphony.

While pain and heartache dominates much of The First Days of Spring, as the album progresses and moves towards its inevitable end a sense of hope and healing begins to emerge on the song "Stranger" as Fink admits "You know in a year it's gonna be better, and I'm gonna be happy," realizing that time may be the only thing to heal the deep and painful wounds from Cupid's arrow.

Related articles:

Noah & The Whale - basement tapes session #15 - November 2008

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