A perfect Album. Melancholy and thought provoking but with a wonderful blend of orchestral instruments. Listening to 'The First Days of Spring' is like taking a journey through a broken heart and coming out the other side. As a whole album it works perfectly but each song has plenty of merit on its own. If you like anything Noah and the Whale have ever done you will like this album.
I recieved this album as a Christmas present and after listening to it I was honestly speachless. Every single song on this album is beautiful, made to absoloute perfection. It was just the most wonderful combination of sadness and joy, with beautiful lyrics and breath taking music, so gentle and delicate. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is thinking of buying it. I will guarantee you will be left speachless after hearing it. It has just the right balance of calm and sadness without making it dreary. Five stars all the way.
I'd like to express some criticism before the wave of five-star reviews takes over the shores of this page (not for the sake of it but for the reasons below).
Concept albums about the break-up of a relationship have been around for a long time now - famous examples include Joni Mitchell's Blue (1971), Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks (1975), Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear (1978), and Nick Cave's The Boatman's Call (1997). More recently, we've had Smog's Knock Knock (1999), Beck's Sea Change (2002) and Annie Lennox's Bare (2003) to name a few. So the news that Noah and the Whale were releasing an album about the dissolution of lead singer and chief songwriter Charlie Fink's relationship with Laura Marling represented nothing new. But promoting its release in The Guardian, Fink emphasized that he had something "unique": the band was to release a "unique audio-visual project", a film along with the CD that is "a visual version" of the songs. Now The Beatles for one might find the notion of "uniquely" uniting film and music quite amusing, given that about forty-five years ago they were releasing films such as A Hard Day's Night (1964), Help! (1965) and Magical Mystery Tour (1967) to accompany and complement their music (it's likely that there are other examples which precede the Fab Four). Other musicians have continued this long-standing tradition: Cat Power, for example, released the CD/DVD package Speaking for Trees in 2004 and countless artists include downloadable music videos on their CDs, which is a stone's throw from the concept that Fink is promoting.
But to the music itself: What makes the break-up albums listed above special is that they endeavour to transcribe as exactly and vividly as they can an emotional truth (it doesn't have to be *the* truth or *their* truth necessarily, but it needs to feel emotionally authentic). With Fink and co., you have the feeling that the aim was a different one: it sounds as though they are curled up inside a soft feathered duvet, sipping herbal tea with a copy of T.S. Eliot's Selected Poems on their laps (in fact Fink steals from Eliot in 'Our Window' when he sings "Spring can be the cruellest of months". Eliot opens The Waste Land with "April is the cruellest month"). Almost all of the 11 songs on The First Days of Spring are painted in the same monochrome: the droopy pace, the strumming electric guitar, the orchestration, and the stray-dog self-pity ("I have nothing / I have no-one" and "You can't break my broken heart" are typical refrains). The one track that isn't - the mid-album Love of an Orchestra - sounds clearly reminiscent of Belle and Sebastian/God Help the Girl. It's only when the 23 year-old Fink gets more specific that the music becomes more compelling and individual: On 'Stranger', we get a bit of authentic detail at last: "Regretfully lying naked / I reflect on what I've done / Her leg still forced in between mine, sticking to my skin". Yet on the whole, without either the amusing self-irony of Bill Callahan (Smog) or the genius of Will Oldham, this album comes across as too self-stylised and intentional.
It'll sell itself, though (not all of which is NATW's fault): the recent success of and publicity given to his ex-girlfriend Laura Marling, along with the extensive marketing of Fink as a brokenhearted innocent, the hip film starring IT girl-of-the-moment Daisy Lowe and the digestibility of the tracks will ensure that this album sells well. But we might just find that in a year or two Fink has forgotten all about his heartbreak and this "song-cycle of pain" is a distant memory as the next break-up album - Scarlett Johansson's second album 'Break Up' is hitting shelves soon - and the next big thing take up their places on the carousel.
After really enjoying the (ever so slightly twee) Peaceful the World Lays Me Down, I purchased The First Days of Spring with an air of expectancy. I was really hoping that the band would continue to harness their folk roots and youthful enthusiasm to build on the obvious promise of their debut offering. However, as much I have tried to like this album I have been left a little disappointed. Noah and the Whale seem very much like a band that has lost the joy of making music together. The mood of the majority of the album is sombre and melancholic and seems to dwell almost entirely on the break-up of lead singer Charlie Fink and former band mate Laura Marling. It is almost as if this were a set of songs written exclusively for her ears and lacks the playfulness and ability to connect with an audience that its predecessor had. There are some high spots, like the change of pace injected by the delightful `Love of an Orchestra', and the slight (but not entirely convincing) optimism of `Blue Skies'. Largely though this is an album that seems devoid of the spark that have made contemporaries such as The Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes and even Laura Marling herself so endearing.
I will now leave the CD in my car stereo for a couple of days to see if it turns out to be a grower. I don't hold out much hope though and am pretty sure it will be on a dusty shelf somewhere long before the first days of summer roll around.