Noah And The Whale - Peaceful. The World Lays Me Down

Paul Cook 18/08/2008

Rating: 3/5

New folk sensations Noah and the Whale have experienced one of the fastest rises to chart success of recent times. Having formed just two years ago with just two singles released, (5 Years Time, peaking at number 7}, the debut album Peaceful. The World Lays Me Down looks set to follow in its wake.

Full of similarly upbeat, melodic tunes in the vein of 5 Years Time the debut is a solid first effort from the Twickenham-based folk five piece. Heartfelt, melancholic vocals go a long way in accounting for the single's success and the album makes full use of them throughout too. It's the instrumentals that impress above all other aspects; wistful and enchanting to the last. The biggest surprise are the lyrics, proving darker and deeper than one might expect from such a jovial-sounding band.

Opening track 2 Atoms in a Molecule is a delicately crafted, light-hearted folk love song. At just 2 minutes long and happily reflective in it's tone, it clashes head on with Jocasta. Darkly fantastical and brim-full of cynicism the lyrics jar with the captivating choral mid-section and country-tainted joyous fiddle in one of the album's tuneful highlights. One thing that will strike you listening to the debut album, starting with Jocasta, is that Noah and the Whale are a somewhat deceptive bunch. Gloomy, brooding lyrics are tangled up deep within some of the quaintest, jolliest folk tunes around and although both the instrumentals and song writing is intelligent and pensive, you're not in for an album of buoyant, toe-tapping folk songs.

Debut single Shape of my Heart is a simpler, less varyied track and continues the pessimism of Jocasta proclaiming ”I give thanks for this hollow chest of mine/if there's any love in me don't let it show.” Do What You Do follows on, slower and even darker in tone with a sorrowful violin poignantly marking the album's true timbre. Give a Little Love and Second Lover, despite being similar in title differ almost entirely in sentiment. The first dealing mostly with death and the worthlessness of life and love and the latter discussing the ”click clack of our boot heals” falling into line with our heartbeats.

Rocks and Daggers is a middle-ground and although the lyrics are somewhat lack lustre and frustratingly downbeat the up-tempo chorus, charming vocals from Laura Marling and purest of melodies from the fiddle make it one of the most enjoyable on the album. Title track Peaceful. The World Lays Me Down slowly delivers another downbeat message that ”It's a hollow love for a heart with no blood in it's veins/how can you believe in love when we're all just matter that will one day scatter.” The final two tracks Mary and Hold My Hand As I'm Lowered, the latter being fairly self-explanatory, are again a gloomy continuation of an almost entirely depressing album.

Noah and the Whale are a hugely talented, atmospheric folk band who with the right, listener-friendly lyrics could go far, however, with such a dark and brooding tone present in every song of their debut album, potential fans could be put off instantly. The best tracks are those with quaint, harmonious instrumentals and beautiful vocals and with little of those featuring on the album, Peaceful. The World Lays Me Down will likely disappoint even the most ardent 5 Years Time fans. What use is a collection of wistful, timeless melodies set to such depressing and morbid lyrics?

Release date: 11/08/08