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The First Days of Spring (Bonus Track Version)

Noah & The Whale

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iTunes Editors’ Notes

Rarely have violins been used to such goosebump-raising effect as they are on the opening song of this stunning soundtrack to what was surely an epic break-up. The First Days of Spring is the rare killer sophomore release that shows a band clearly in charge of its artistic development. The set’s architecture mimics the emotional stages of a broken heart, and though the elegant first three tracks (acceptance, loneliness) are hard to beat, one track sequence in particular — four through seven — is particularly effective. Floor toms, violins and shakers converge in quiet elegy on “My Broken Heart,” which ends with ruptured, howling guitars, but two brief instrumentals bookend the determinedly optimistic and joyful, choir-driven “Love of an Orchestra.” After a misstep in the name of healing (“Stranger”), our protagonist partakes in more optimism (“Blue Skies”), engages in deep soul-searching (“Slow Glass”), and finally accepts the situation’s inevitable denouement (“My Door Is Always Open”). For those romantic shipwrecks that lie ahead, The First Days of Spring may offer not only solace, but some profoundly enjoyable listening as well.

Customer Reviews

A Morose Change of Pace

In The First Days of Spring, frontman Charlie Fink grieves for his recent breakup with now ex-bandmate Laura Marling. I have found the raw emotion of the album's earliest tracks to be quite moving. However, the mood of the album notably changes with the upbeat Love of an Orchestra. Whilst Charlie's grieving mostly contrinues for the rest of the CD, there are notable moments of hope--acknowledgements of life-after-the-fall sort of thing. I should clarify that while The First Days of Spring is a breakup album (and one of the best I've ever heard) with a rather morose tone, the band is quite good at refraining from any sort of whininess that would certainly put a release like this in jeopardy. So, whilst certainly different in mood than the band's previous effort (Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down), The First Days of Spring is a fantastic album through and through, and I hightly recommend it.

The First Days of Spring - Noah and the Whale

This is, without a doubt, the best album of 2009, and I can say that with pure, unadulterated confidence.

The first track, after which the album is named, opens up with a simple bass drum, before blossoming into a harmony of strings and guitar. Before long, singer Charlie Fink softly groans, "Well, it's the first day of spring and my life is starting over again." He sounds depressed, and he damn well should be. After ending a relationship with Laura Marling, NATW's backup singer, as well as Fink's protégé, one can imagine he's not feeling all that great. ("Spring" has a continuing narrative that follows the breakup from intolerable grief to eventual acceptance.) He follows up with lines such as, "I do believe that everyone has one chance to f-ck up their lives," and "I'm still here hoping that one day you may come back." The man is struggling, yet there are still signs of hope. The six minute epic, slowly yet surely, crescendos louder and louder until the bold, spectacular finish when all of the band's voices; strings, guitar, bass and drums, erupt in a clash that will warm and enlighten your soul on the darkest and gloomiest of days. That one song alone blows anything on their first album, "Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down," right out of the water. To say the band has matured would be a tremendous understatement. They have surpassed what one defines as "adulthood" into a realm full of wisdom and experience that could never be imagined to exist. And that's just the first track.

"The First Days of Spring" is followed up by "Our Window," a song describing the beginning of the end of the relationship. It puts the listener in the middle of one of the last arguments, during which both man and woman "are talking like a stranger" and are "callous and cruel." A lighter song, accented by piano tinklings and Fink's throaty baritone, finishes with an echoed, fading voice promising that "blue skies are coming," yet, by the sound of it, not anytime soon. It transitions into "I Have Nothing," with opens with the moanings of a mournful choir, an acoustic guitar, and Fink, who sounds like he's singing through tears; "I'd do anything to be at your side, I'd be anyone to be at your side." The lyrics are nothing new; one can probably name at least ten songs that say something similar, yet that is the genius of the Whale. They use familiar lyrics to attract the listener; something that he or she can relate to and take a hold of, yet it feels brand new, like you are experiencing this sadness, this loneliness, for the first time. "My Broken Heart" is the exact same way. The words are old, almost recycled, but this is the one time, the exception to the rule, when that is not a bad thing. Both the familiarity and the complexity of this album make it a masterpiece.

There are two instrumentals on the album. "Instrumental 1" acts as a prelude to the beautiful, joyful "Love of an Orchestra." One can hear the trumpets, flutes, violins, trombones warming up before striking a chord (a D major 6th for all you music geeks) to start off the flowing, racing punches of horn, string and piano. The wordless music gathers speed, adding layer upon layer, prancing along until the big finish - yet it has only just begun, for that's when the choir joins in, singing in exuberance, "If you gotta run, run from hope." By the time the song gets into full swing, you're already gone. The happiness is infectious, so much, in fact, that if you are not careful, you may find yourself running down the street, beaming and jumping and singing at the top of your lungs. Fink presents to the listener the fact that there is still good in the world, even if at times it doesn't seem true. Could this be the song to save your life? I think so.

"Instrumental 2" opens the second half of the album with a quiet picking of guitar that acts as a nice, refreshing palate cleanser for the songs to come, the next of which is "Stranger." The song finds the narrator in the middle of the shame and nausea that he feels following the first one night stand after the breakup. Fink sings, "Her legs still forced in between mine, sticking to my skin," recounting the sickening feeling of disgust that is pitted in his stomach. Yet, by the end of the tune, Fink is optimistic, crooning, "You know, in a year, it's gonna be better. You know, in a year, I'm gonna be happy." He's almost out of the woods, ladies and gentlemen. The remaining three songs, "Blue Skies," "Slow Glass," and "My Door is Always Open," place the listener into Fink's mind, giving him or her the feeling of bittersweet melancholy. Each song perfectly fits with the one preceding it and what remains with you after the echoes of vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar of "My Door is Always Open" die out can only be described as miserable bliss. Then again, my words seem to be meaningless when compared to the album itself.

"The First Days of Spring" comes with an accompanying film of the same name, written and directed by Charlie Fink, which contains little dialogue and is scored by the album itself. And while I haven't watched the entire film yet, I can safely assume it will be just as beautiful as the music. So, why should you purchase this album? In my opinion, this album is not just music. It is a soundtrack. It is a soundtrack to your life and my life and everyone else's, and that is what makes "The First Days of Spring," as well as Noah and the Whale, perfect.

Amazing CD

Although a somewhat depressing departure from Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down this is a beautiful and complex album. Highly recommended.

Biography

Formed: 2006 in London, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Noah and the Whale became a leading light in the British folk scene with the release of 2008's Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, their popular debut that cracked the U.K. Top Ten and spawned the hit single "5 Years Time." Formed in the southern suburbs of London, the band also attracted attention by serving as a launching pad for Laura Marling, who left the lineup to 2008 to launch an award-winning solo career. Noah and the Whale forged...
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The First Days of Spring (Bonus Track Version), Noah & The Whale
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