It’s hardly surprising that the Londoners in Noah And The Whale decided to make a movie to accompany their second album, The First Days Of Spring: Their band name mashes up a favorite film and its director (Noah Baumbach’s The Squid And The Whale), and there’s a pervasive sense of Wes Anderson’s corduroy coats all over their records. But the star of this show is clearly the music, not the amateur-ish mumblecore travelogue that accompanies it. The First Days Of Spring removes the playful elements of 2008’s Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down, whose “5 Years Time” found a bit of love in America and much more in the UK. But that song’s droll folkiness (think Moldy Peaches) wasn’t indicative of what came next, and Spring takes things in a far more somber direction. It’s a breakup record, which is clear both from the song titles (“I Have Nothing,” “Stranger”) and the slow march and melancholy strings evident throughout. The cute pop elements have mostly disappeared in favor of something that sounds like a more straightforward Smog, with that band’s mystery and booming baritone replaced by cinematic instrumentation and a dryer delivery. It’s an intriguing record brimming with solid songs (the epic-leaning title track and “Stranger,” which recalls Arab Strap a bit) that only loses step by keeping to a narrow path. Still, it’s probably best not to break this sad spell when it’s generally so enchanting.
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