Noah and the Whale

Last Night on Earth

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On The First Days of Spring, Charlie Fink mourned the absence of ex-girlfriend/ex-bandmate Laura Marling while the rest of Noah & the Whale churned up a sympathetic mix of folk and sad-eyed indie rock. Released two years later, Last Night on Earth finds the band recharged and redirected. “He used to be somebody, now he’s someone else… and it feels like heaven,” Fink sings on the opening track, a tribute to transformation that doubles as the album’s mission statement. Although released during the golden days of England’s indie folk scene, Last Night on Earth reaches far beyond the genre, relying heavily on keyboards and leaving the acoustic riffage to Mumford & Sons. Some of the basslines are synthesized instead of plucked, and some of the percussion is programmed instead of played. At times, the band appears single-minded in its determination to turn over a new rock, and the album suffers whenever Last Night on Earth focuses on presentation -- the polished production, the overdubbed handclaps -- instead of content. But those moments are few and far between. Noah & the Whale sound genuinely happy to be exploring a new direction, and tracks like “Tonight’s the Kind of Night” fuse the Arcade Fire’s chest-swelling anthems with smart, radio-ready sensibilities. On “Wild Thing,” Fink proves he can still wring some serious mileage out of melancholy, too, delivering a Matt Berninger-like vocal over synths and lonely guitar lines.

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