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On Second Listen: Noah & the Whale – Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down

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It’s taken a series of successful UK hits, but indie-folk rock band Noah & the Whale finally released its debut album, Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down. And despite the fact that two of their members (Laura Marling and Emmy the Great) left to pursue their respective solo careers, the band decided to channel on. Let’s take a closer look.

Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down is filled with catchy and cute indie-rock tunes that are reminiscent of some of Bright Eyes’s better songs. In fact, Noah & the Whale seems to have missed the boat by about a year now and has accidentally come into a scene that’s been around for awhile and badly in need of something different. Much like other new indie-rock bands such as The Dodos, Noah & the Whale has created a record using well-worn themes and spare parts from other bands within the indie-rock scene that provides a pleasantly familiar atmosphere that’s appreciated, but not ecstatically greeted either.

There is a limit for an album like this, that recalls so many obvious touchstones and Noah & the Whale is struggling with the repercussions of that, which is a shame because Charlie Fink is a talented singer/songwriter. Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down seems like the sort of album that will be appreciated long after its release, when the obsession with indie-rock has flattened out a bit, because it’s just too accessible right now. There’s nothing really peculiar or idiosyncratic about the music to make it stand out. It’s just a lean set of bouncy, acoustic love songs, which is the last thing we want to hear right now.

Although Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down is not very inventive, it’s hard not to like. It works as gentle background music, while managing to still be lively enough to keep your interest and catchy enough to leave you wanting more. Fink’s vocals are deep, clear and sublime, shining out above the peaceful and harmonious fiddle and backing drum beats, but lyrically the album is extremely simplistic with heavy repetition of the same themes and motifs. The songs ricochet between self-deprecation and devotion that at times feels borrowed or ridiculous, but maybe that’s because we’ve been introduced to confessionals like this about a hundred times or more.

About half the songs reference death and the afterlife, using various formalities, from “Jocasta” where Fink sings, “And oh the death will let you down/ Cause you’ll burst but still go on the same” to “Hold My Hand As I’m Lowered” where he borrows from Shakespeare, singing, “For death, I do not forsake thee/Though your dark stare is always upon me.” Ironically, the penultimate track “Mary” features a handful of lines that in the context of weaker tenors, would seem trite and overly sentimental, but Fink manages to deliver it stone-faced and with a scary amount of assurance.

Overall, the most memorable moments in Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down lie with the title track, which is both peaceful and sincere, and the hit “5 Years Time”, which features an almost irritatingly catchy chorus with whimsical lyrics about elephants falling in love. It’s hard to say if this band will survive in today’s indie-rock scene, but the group is young and talented, so if they tweak the sound a little and stop relying on what’s already been done, they just might be able to catch onto something really big.

Check Out:
“5 Years Time”

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