London-based Noah and the Whale are known for switching up their style every now and again. In four albums, the band has evolved from modern folk, to upbeat pseudo-electronic and now with their new album, Heart Of Nowhere, they’ve gone back to basics with instrumentals of the yesteryears. Inspirational 80s anthems without the synthesizers, to be exact. Instead of synthesizers, the band utilizes stringed instruments throughout tracks which they’ve done in past albums. The lyrics aim to inspire, and sometimes, they aim too high.
The album laments on the past, second guesses the future but also wants the listeners to look forward to life. The band gives blatant advice in “Now Is Exactly The Time” when lead singer Charlie Fink sings, “Oh, victory will be won and lost a thousand times/ So if you can, offer empathy, don't get lost in pride / Oh, forgive your friends, they are only young / Oh, forgive your friends like you've always done.”
“There Will Come A Time” also offers advice by telling you that you can always rely on friends. And the inspirational message is matched by the stirring chorus at the end with multiple harmonies and nothing but the bass thumping along.
Besides the anthems trying to uplift, at least three tracks mention three different women and the story that comes along with them. In “Heart Of Nowhere,” the violin-induced title track, Fink not only talks about death, but he talks about a girl named Sarah. Jennifer makes an appearance in “One More Time,” where she gets married six months after a breakup. “Still After All These Years” mentions Lisa, a “dark and brooding, fickle” girl.
The track with the best quality of lyrics and production is at the end. “Not Too Late,” an emotionally tender song reminiscent of their 2008 album, Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down, has a shaking rhythm and simple guitar melodies with lyrics to match. They are stripped of trying to give insight: “I wanna give you a job while I still can / Wanna find my own way to be a man / I wanna fight in a war / Don’t wanna raise my hand / I wanna find my own way to be a man.”
While the songs do tell stories, they don’t dig deep enough. Combined with lackluster choruses, most tracks rely on a heavy drum and bass line that tend to share the same pace. But their venture into anthemhood isn’t necessarily bad; their experimentation shows that they don’t want to be stagnant in their style.
You can stream the album below.