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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