Release Date: Oct 6, 2009
Record label: Cherrytree/Interscope
Genre(s): Rock, Folk
As concept albums go, a trudge through the aftermath of a break-up hardly makes for a tale as fantastical as ‘Tommy’ or ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’, but even so, [b]‘The First Days Of Spring’[/b] is a story we could listen to again and again. [a]Noah And The Whale[/a] might have hijacked last summer with ‘Five Years Time’ – which was lovely the first few times you heard it, but the hundredth listen kinda made you want to build a wicker whale, fill it with all the recorders in Britain and take a blowtorch to it – but now is the time for forgiveness. The band have changed their tune to that of a sunny swoon, filled with regret, pain, poignant optimism and fewer zany instruments.
These Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach-loving U.K. indie hopefuls follow up 2008’s critically hurrahed Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down with a charming new proposition. The First Days of Spring falls in the gentle, folky space between Belle & Sebastian and It’s Jo and Danny, but manages to carve out a singular place for itself with thoughtful lyricism and artful songwriting.
For those who thought Noah and The Whale’s first offering was mellow, I present to you First Days of Spring; making its predecessor look like an up-tempo dance mix by comparison. If these are the first days of spring, then Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down was some sort of midsummer’s party. Ensnaring the listener from the off, it's a strikingly sparse and minimal record, yet rousingly epic at the same time.
Poor Charlie Fink. His south London band, formed with his brother and some mates, features two girls on vocals. Both leave to do their own thing: Emmy The Great to make music with her own band, Laura Marling to become a Mercury-listed singer-songwriter and one of the hits of 2008. But part of Marling's success is down to Charlie - he produced Alas, I Cannot Swim.
Noah and the Whale's second album finds frontman Charlie Fink ruminating over his failed relationship with Laura Marling, a fellow songwriter (and former love interest) who played a key role in the band's debut. With music serving as his therapy, Fink fills The First Days of Spring with lush soundscapes and folksy melancholy, finding the beauty that exists in the neutral territory between both camps. This is a cinematic album, one that's meant to be heard in conjunction with its accompanying film (also titled The First Days of Spring, available as part of the album's deluxe edition), and the track list unfolds in appropriate blockbuster fashion.
"This is a song for anyone with a broken heart," announces Noah and the Whale's Charlie Fink on Blue Skies, the ninth track on their second album. By this stage in proceedings, however, the broken-hearted have been so exceptionally well-catered for that this hardly needs saying. In fact, The First Days of Spring could no more diligently attend to the needs of the broken-hearted if it had been set as an academic assignment: "Write and record an album for the broken-hearted in under 45 minutes.
UK singer-songwriter Laura Marling and Charlie Fink were dating; now they aren't-- and she's also out of the band-- and Fink's Noah and the Whale made a record about it. (A movie, too, but we're not that voyeuristic.) The First Days of Spring is rife with heartbreak-- the first line is, "It's the first day of spring/ And my life is starting over again"-- and, Marling's compliance in their cutesy-poo debut Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down notwithstanding, the number they must've done on each other has made Noah and the Whale sound like an entirely different band. Nothing on Peaceful predicted this change in tone from slick, slaphappy twee to mostly somber, stripped-down folk.
Say what you will about Noah and the Whale’s debut—and critics sure have in the past, from lauding their earnest optimism to labeling them twee-pop wannabes—they know how to write a pop song. “5 Years Time” and “Shape of My Heart”, from their 2008 debut Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down proved it—don’t care that they’re silly, or that their lyrics are trite. (Aren’t all hit songs trite?) These toy guitar-backed songs still sputter along with eminent good nature, all buoyant and bursting with melody.
Noah and the Whale have written a breakup album, and it's called The First Days of Spring. Charlie Fink, the band's singer/guitarist, went through what must've been a nasty split from a lover (do the specifics matter?), and it left sadness and heartbreak all over Noah and the Whale's second album. Song titles like "I Have Nothing," "My Broken Heart," and "Stranger" drop not-so-subtle hints as to what is contained within.