Noah And The Whale split listeners down the middle back in 2008 with their slightly upper-class personality and folk-pop sensibilities and whilst thier first record was a mild success in terms of airplay, it was still given a rocky ride by the critics.
"Absolute nonsense" a friend once shouted angrily whenever their music began playing, "Sheer brilliance!" argued another. Again and again we witnessed verbal battles over the tiny London foursome known to the world as Noah And The Whale and time and time again we'd change our own mind, joining either the former or latter and never truly knowing where our own final opinion actually laid.
Now, three years into their life as musicians, the band finally seem ready to take themselves seriously and as a result; we too have finally made up our minds.
Comparative to their debut The World Lays Me Down, it's a vastly improved affair, exchanging childish 'five years time' chorus lines for stretching orchestral strings and slow, distant drums. Instead of barefaced indie-folk-pop, the band have become more vague in terms of genre, drastically moving on in sound and maturity and washing away the mildly enjoyable but mainly silly past that lay behind them. It's almost like they used their cute and catchy persona to get somewhere with a debut and then decided to show the world what they were capable of with album two.
Though it's surprisingly more consistent than their first outing, it still holds audible pot-holes that unsettle the journey overall and stand out when compared to the superior musical surroundings. Songs like Stranger drone on for too long and never fully unfurl as much as you'd like, stretching a building melody to only finish on a disappointing empty note. It's never necessarily terrible and, quite the opposite to that, it's actually a decent song; it just never fully fulfills it's potential.
Lyrically we're refined to the archetypal themes and arcs such as; women, love, happiness, life, loss, rinse, repeat, and whilst it's obviously not as intelligent or as comprehensible as the upper regions of 2009's music, at least it seems to be trying harder than most. Saying that; we still cant fully listen to the 'give me the love of an orchestra!' chorus line from the undercooked experimental mid-track Love Of An Orchestra without getting just a little frustrated.
Never a band to sound depressed, the group now come across as surprisingly melancholic in places and a shining example of that statement can be heard within track four, My Broken Heart. "Now my hearts been broken there's nothing you can do, I'm impenetrable to pain" sighs vocalist Charlie Fink without a single ounce of happiness inside his throat. The relaxed strums and dulled percussion work subtly together, complementing one another and eventually being aided even further by high-pitched violin yawns and a distant fuzzy electric guitar. They do indie-rock surprisingly well for a band who were intent on incorporating a bloody ukulele in every song they could.
Nothing particularly special and yet also a genuine achievement for the band themselves, The First Days Of Spring shows a band finally coming into their own instead of uncomfortably forcing songs together that offer nothing but a brief, catchy thrill. It's good to see a band grow creatively in front of your eyes and it's also a pay-off when you hear the final product and actually enjoy witnessing the hard work that the individual members have each put in. Sure it's still a little flimsy but it gets a fair amount of respect from us and we think, given time, you'll feel the same.