Plumbiferous Media

Last Night on Earth - Noah and the Whale

Apr 10th 2011
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Last Night on Earth - Noah and the WhaleNoah and the Whale
Last Night on Earth
Score: 31

Eng­lish indie-folk group Noah and the Whale, formed in 2006, released their third and newest LP, Last Night on Earth, ear­ly last month. Last Night on Earth is, at least in some parts, a step for­ward from the band’s last two albums, which, while at least some­what pop­u­lar in the band’s home coun­try, have been less than fas­ci­nat­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, while Last Night on Earth is an improve­ment for the group, it’s not enough of one to be tru­ly interesting.

Noah and the Whale seems to val­ue con­stan­cy above all else - for the vast major­i­ty of Last Night on Earth, every­thing seems to break down to a few well-defined loops. In the right sort of music, that can work. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this isn’t real­ly that sort. Instead, it just means that most of the album’s tracks don’t sound all that dif­fer­ent at the end as they do at the begin­ning. There’s sim­ply not enough going on in between.

Dull instru­men­tals could, per­haps, be excused if a lot had been done with the sound. And indeed, a lot has been done with the sound. It’s just not the right sorts of things. Instead, it’s the sort of bad mas­ter­ing that stinks of over-pro­duc­tion, like Noah and the Whale might have ben­e­fit­ed great­ly from at least son­i­cal­ly stick­ing to their indie roots. 2008’s Peace­ful, the World Lays Me Down was not a good album, but it at least felt like it had some life. Last Night on Earth has no such benefit.

Char­lie Fink’s voice is sol­id - he can car­ry a tune, and his voice nev­er becomes irri­tat­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, he nev­er goes much past that point. Through Last Night on Earth, his voice takes on a very con­stant qual­i­ty. From track to track, it falls into very sta­t­ic pat­terns - the fine ele­ments vary by track, but the rhythm is essen­tial­ly the same. Com­bined with instru­men­tals that do lit­tle more to dis­tin­guish them­selves, this has the effect of caus­ing the tracks to melt into each oth­er - not to such an extent that the album sounds like one long track, but cer­tain­ly to a point where it’s not espe­cial­ly clear that Last Night on Earth need­ed ten tracks for what is, more or less, one idea.

Lyri­cal­ly, Last Night on Earth is at much the same point it is vocal­ly - accept­able and large­ly banal, but not much else. There are sto­ries being told, but they’ve been told before. If they were improved, told in a dif­fer­ent way, or per­haps even word­ed dif­fer­ent­ly, this might not be a prob­lem. After all, it’s just about impos­si­ble to be com­plete­ly unique. But they’re not, and so Last Night on Earth nev­er feels all that inter­est­ing. On the oth­er hand, Last Night on Earth does a decent job match­ing music to lyrics. The soar­ing sound of “And it feels like his new life can start” fits just as well as the slow­er, almost plod­ding sound of the more melan­choly “He waves good­bye / To the town he grew up in / Knows that he’ll nev­er come back.” 

As a whole, Last Night on Earth is a decent album. It’s just not an inter­est­ing album. Noah and the Whale nev­er does any­thing annoy­ing, any­thing out of key, or any­thing dif­fer­ent. As it turns out, that’s the prob­lem. There’s noth­ing here that feels new or inno­v­a­tive. In the end, it’s that, rather than any of the usu­al sus­pects of tech­ni­cal flaws, grat­ing noise, or mis­guid­ed exper­i­men­ta­tion, that pre­vents Last Night on Earth from being any more than back­ground noise.

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