Noah & the Whale

Noah & the Whale

About

I don’t know how many people watch Cougar Town or One Tree Hill, but this is where Noah and the Whale have gained a bit of their popular appeal.  Their tracks “Give a Little Love” and “Blue Skies” were featured respectively on these shows.  “Waiting for My Chance to Come”, a peppery, even danceable, track from their latest LP, was featured on the British drama Skin.  The band is also apparently tight with Wes Anderson and have fashioned their name after the Noah Baumbach film The Squid and the Whale.

You might think that there’s something about the band and their music which lends itself well to film and TV.  And that might be right.  From my experience with the band, however, there’s more to it than that.  They’re good at encapsulating a mood or a story or at making an emotion more apparent than it is in dialogue, especially when it comes to melancholy.    

Take “Blue Skies”, for instance.  It’s got just the right key and melody and guitar hook.  It’s basically an ideally crafted song for those times that-let’s face it, everyone’s been through- when the fallout from a bad breakup seems like it’s getting better even when, as Charlie Fink aptly states, “It’s hard.”  The song powers to an almost anthem finish, which suggests something implicit about the message: that the blue skies are going to shine through, after all.

There’s an optimism here, which cannot always be said about some of the band’s contemporaries, like Belle and Sebastian or even Mumford & Sons.  It’s this optimism that informs one of Noah and The Whale’s biggest hits off their new record Last Night on Earth.  The track, titled “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N” practically begs for you, the listener, to remain light of heart.  Fink tells us a story about Lisa, a bartender at a nightclub who’s seen her share of it all.  It’s a folky tune with a real catch.  Here’s Fink, channeling Lisa, matching the punctuation of the title in the song itself,

L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.
You've got more than money and sense, my friend,
You've got heart and you go in your own way
L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.  What you don't have now will come back again,
You've got heart and you go in your own way.  

You might as well take L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N as an icon for the rest of the album or even for the rest of the band’s work as a whole.  But there are standout tracks that problematize this theory.  Take “Second Lover” for instance.  A markedly slower track, it bends and unfolds at a slower pace.  It also tells a story, but a sadder one.  Here’s Fink again, this time a little less eager and certainly more plaintive,

And I will die and never ever hold your hand
And I will die and never ever hold your hand

But I'll kiss my lips and I'll blow it to you
It'll be the last thing that I ever do
And wherever you go and whatever you do
There's a man underground that will always love you

Oh, wherever you go and whatever you do
There's a man underground that will always love you

Sounds like real love to me.

- John Scherer

Links

Calvin Performances

  • with Nikki Lane
    Wed, Nov 9; 9pm, CFAC
    $20 public; $10 w/ Calvin ID