Review: Noah & The Whale – Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down (2008)

Should you have only been exposed to Noah and the Whale’s single, 5 Years Time, through the Saturn Outlook commercial or a few cursory listens, it may be too catchy to be taken seriously. The Twickenham, London four piece (including Laura Marling at times) has been stirring up excitement for well over a year when they first formed in 2006. Early demos and small festivals led to Radio 1 mentions before bursting through with their major debut, Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down (CherryTree Records, 2008).

Simple, wistful and playful folk rock full of pop tendencies with rare, well-placed orchestral flourishes carry Peaceful…. Accompanied by violins, piano, and horns, it takes a step closer towards Broken Social Scene familiarity without losing the folk-centric aspect of a singer and his acoustic that caused them to get noticed in the first place. These are smart folk songs, building in intensity at key moments as in Give A Little Love while stripped back to basics to shine the spotlight back on Charlie Fink’s vocals as on Jocasta before a driving snare and violin rise in.

Although many of the songs were exposed previously through wonderful live performances, they retain the collective musicianship that made them so enjoyable the first time. Rocks and Daggers is one example as Charlie and Laura’s chorused vocals give way to Tom Hobden’s swinging violin that levitates the song at numerous points. The slow tempo, quivering build-up at the end doesn’t lose traction with each knowing exactly the pace the other is going at before letting the angelic young voice of Laura Marling become the finishing touch.

Now, you aren’t going to see the complex lyrics of Arcade Fire but something more basic and attuned to Stars. Many are love songs, poignant and at times sorrowful. “She said I love you and it suddenly clicked that she was only saying what she wanted me to hear. And I said, please don’t lie to me Mary.” Yet don’t let these lyrics be taken in isolation, as simple can mean both good and bad (honestly, I’m thinking Kimya Dawson taken over time). It’s the comforting, sweeping melodies, juxtaposed vocals supported by expertly placed dabs of horns and dashes of violins.

If You Like:

Andrew Bird

Belle & Sebastian

Conor Oberst

Jens Lekman

Johnny Flynn

Laura Marling

Lightspeed Champion

Los Campesinos!

Mystery Jets

Rating: 8.5/10

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Founder, Editor, Writer, Photographer. (Austin, Texas)

Founder, Editor, Writer, Photographer. (Austin, Texas)

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