Like a soundtrack to some hip indie film about the awkward wonder of growing up and discovering the world, Noah and the Whale’s debut album Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down unfolds itself to reveal moments of sorrow, charm, confusion and hope, making for a pleasantly introspective and centering experience for the listener. Pitchfork be damned!
Right off the bat, set to springy, urgent Kimya Dawson-like acoustic guitar plucks, vocalist Charlie Fink ponders the big questions in “2 Atoms in a Molecule”:
And if love is just a game
Then how come it’s no fun?
If love is just a game
How come I’ve never won?
I guess maybe it’s possible I might be playing it wrong
And that’s why every time I roll the dice
I always come undone
Questions and conclusions–resignations, even–like these are scattered throughout Peaceful…, likely making it one of the most philosophical bodies of modern musical achievement that will sweep through your ears. Life, death and love are never far from the band’s consideration. Take an especially poignant verse from the closing track, “Hold My Hand As I’m Lowered” for instance:
O Death, do not feel like the victor
‘Cause my poor life makes you none the richer
Oh, your cold hands are clutching at cloth
I leave nothing on Earth that won’t rot
In “Give A Little Love,” the band updates the famous Golden Rule-inspired lines of giving what you get that The Beatles made famous in “The End”:
Well I know my death will not come
‘Til I breathe all the air out my lungs
‘Til my final tune is sung
That all is fleeting
Yeah, but all is good
And my love is my whole being
And I’ve shared what I could
But if you give a little love, you can get a little love of your own
Don’t break his heart
Brutal Spartan ideas in “Jocasta” (“When the baby’s born / Oh, let’s turn it to the snow”) are juxtaposed with the comfort and reassurance found in “Do What You Do” (“So if you trust what’s in your heart / Oh, what better can you do / Than if you do what you do / Yeah, you’ll do fine”).
Though Noah and the Whale frequently take on heavy subject matter in their lyrical compositions, the soothing musical backdrop of acoustic guitars, violins and rousing horns makes the meditative journey a gentle, enjoyable one that listeners will want to frequently make.
Hints of influence from artists such as the Magnetic Fields, Belle and Sebastian, Devendra Banhart, Rogue Wave, Fleet Foxes, The Boy Least Likely To, and Damien Jurado color Noah and the Whale’s lush melodies and charming approach to their art.
However much the band evokes memories of these other critically acclaimed indie folk gods, their unique mixture of Americana and British twee make their final sound something entirely their own. Peaceful… is a gorgeous, intelligent debut from a band that is sure to make big waves in the near future.
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