There are break-up albums and then there are albums like this.
Most break-up albums, or the ones we are most familiar with, are melancholy and full of laments over how great the relationship was and how they want their lover back. And then of course, there’s the angstier version, where they detail how they are gonna stick-it-to-em by finding someone better.
In the vein of Kelly Clarkson’s break-up anthems, which I have seen more than my share of girls belt out at somewhat inappropriate times, I think the break-up album is fairly superficial, just scraping the surface. As catchy and as true as these songs and albums may be, I cannot help but feel they never seem to get down to deep dark places of a newly ended relationship.
I don’t think this can be said of NATW’s second studio album The First Days of Spring.
(The back story: Lead singer Charlie Fink recently broke up with former band-mate turned singer/songwriter Laura Marling. And judging by the album’s lyrics, she was the one doing the breaking.)
I don’t want to be accused of overselling this album, so I will say that it isn’t completely devoid of the usual clichés of a break-up album (but really there are only so many ways to say “I’m sad” or “I want you back”). Lines like “still here hoping that one day you may come back” and “I saw my world cave in, felt like giving up” don’t exactly showcase Fink’s originality, but then those are only a few lines out of the many written for the album, and even in the cliché, he sings them in a way that you know he means them.
This album’s uniqueness is best appreciated by taking a step back to look at the whole story Fink is telling. Somewhere along the way, this surpasses being a break-up album and becomes a healing album. And although the sad instrumentals throughout the eleven tracks aren’t very convincing of that fact, the album’s first line, “It’s the first day of spring and my life is starting over again,” fully describes Fink’s mindset and determination.
The most refreshing thing about this album has to be Fink’s brutal and sometimes unnerving honesty in song writing. He holds nothing back. In the song “Strangers,” Fink details his first sexual relationship after his break up and the guilt and regret that trails that bad decision. It feels like we are getting direct excerpts from Fink’s diary, and the result is uncomfortable and familiar at the same time. We all know about regret and Fink does a superb job of capturing that feeling in song.
The only glimpse we get of the playful and whimsical sound of their previous album Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down is the song “Love Of An Orchestra” which features, you guessed it, an orchestra. While it is arguably the best song on the album, its sound is such a polar opposite of the other tracks on the album that it is a little distracting. I think they should have saved it for an EP or for their next album where Fink will undoubtedly detail the awesomeness of a new relationship.
I’m not sure that I would recommend this album to a person who recently ended a relationship, because while the overarching theme is healing and recovery, the dark moments are dark enough to push someone into some serious crying jags. For me, this album was beautifully melancholy; a wonderful rainy day album that forces you to reflect on the ups and downs of relationships.
I feel confident saying that this is NATW’s best album to date, but sadly looks like it may be their last. Shortly before this album was released, it was rumored that Charlie Fink was leaving the band to pursue a career in medicine (I know, WTF?) For the sake of us, the fans, I hope this isn’t true because this album proves what they’ve got in them and only leaves us wanting more.