"Impressive, thoughtful and frequently beautiful..."
Noah And The Whale

Getting dumped is painful, and a thousand times worse if it’s by someone you love. So Charlie Fink must have been seriously in love judging by the pain that seeps out from every track on his band’s new album, 'The First Days of Spring'. In fact, things were so terrible that Noah And The Whale have also made an accompanying film to share the grief with us.

The album chronicles the period following Fink’s heart-shattering breakup, possibly with ex-bandmate and girlfriend Laura Marling, who left the group in its early days to record her own Mercury-nominated album under Fink’s production. Is it true? Well, everyone loves a good pop music saga so we’ll say it is for now.

For anyone who loved the sunny playfulness of the band’s first record, and even for those who didn’t, the prospect of listening to an album devoted entirely to one man’s lonely pinings might be a daunting one (then again, it worked for Bon Iver.) On first listen, it’s possible to dismiss much of 'The First Days of Spring' as a self-indulgent wallow, a dismal meander through Fink’s misery. Gone are the handclaps and whistles of 'Five Years’ Time' and in their place are slowly plucked strings, depressing piano lines and song titles like ‘I Have Nothing’.

But there’s so much more subtlety and texture to the album than a single listen can reveal, and the leap between the band’s new record and their debut is staggering. 'The First Days of Spring' is easily one of the most cohesive albums released this year, testament to the band’s artistic vision and substantial talent. It’s remarkable to hear the screaming, fuzz-laden guitar of ‘My Broken Heart’ somehow segue perfectly into the choral majesty of ‘Love of an Orchestra’ – a song that manages to be at once ridiculous and triumphant.

Lyrically, too, it’s impressive and thoughtful, conveying changing emotion with a rare insightfulness. Fink may start by telling us it’s time for his life to start again, but you can feel the tears being held back. After declaring he’ll never be lonely (“I’ve got songs in my blood”), despair returns with the realisation that everything he loves has gone away. But soon comes a resolution – “you know in a year it’s gonna be better” – and before you know it, “blue skies are coming”.

Impressive, thoughtful and frequently beautiful, The First Days of Spring is one of those records that asks for the hard work of the listener but rewards ten times over.

8/10

Words by Steve Harris
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