Noah and Whale ride wave of artful extremes
Sometimes an apology from the stage really only matters to the musician making it. Charlie Fink, the forlorn frontman of the British indie-pop quartet Noah and the Whale, was sorry for his voice at the Paradise Rock Club Wednesday night. He had lost it at the start of this new tour, "but no one seems to care," he said, dejectedly.
Fink probably didn't realize that his wayward croak added another dimension to some of the heartrending songs from the upcoming album Noah and the Whale recently recorded. The catch in his voice - sometimes wavering, sometimes swelling - suited the ennui unfolding in the lyrics ("Broken hearts are a fickle thing") and gave the songs a wounded elegance largely missing on the band's debut,
At times the show was an odd juxtaposition of the group's latest material, which was resolutely downtrodden yet compelling, and the bouyant power-pop songs that made them famous. For every late-night ballad ("Our Window"), there was a glimmer of hope peaking through the clouds ("Give a Little Love").
"5 Years Time," as heard in a car commerical last year, called for even happier days: "And there'll be/ Sun, sun, sun/ All over our faces/ And sun, sun, sun," Fink sang, as if trumpeting the arrival of summer. "Give a Little Love" started as a lethargic lament, colored by harmonies from the whole band, and eventually cracked wide open in a collision of instruments going full throttle.
The band has a penchant for this kind of dynamic extremes: Fink's lacerating guitar solos and his brother Doug Fink's pummeling drums were matched note for note by Tom Hobden on electric violin and Matt "Urby Whale" Owens on bass.
Of course, misery loves company, and Noah and the Whale had the perfect opening acts in tenderhearted troubadour Ferraby Lionheart and violinist-singer Anni Rossi. Lionheart crooned a set of songs that could have doubled as love letters, and Rossi was riveting as she plucked her violin like a guitar, coaxing layers of melodies amid the melancholy.
James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.