Our singer croons with his heart on his sleeve in “Lean on In,” but as captivating as its performance is in this simple ballad, it doesn’t overshadow the play of the remaining band in North of Tomorrow amidst this profoundly poetic cornerstone of their new album, Something Unexpected.
Together, they bring emotionally-charged songwriting to life in twelve of the most inspirational and evocative songs of the spring in this stately LP, and although they face some stiff competition both in and outside of their scene this March, theirs is a full-length that I would place among the most powerful of any to see widespread release in the last two years. Something Unexpected doesn’t aestheticize its centerpiece narrative as many other records would but instead seeks to teach us something about the nature of songcraft and the very concept of melody itself.
You can tell that “New October,” “Something Out of Nothing”, “Pray for Rain,” “Go Where You Find It,” and “My Sweet Spot” are incredibly personal compositions for North of Tomorrow, and while most of the emotion that we hear in these songs originates in the stellar arrangement of the instrumentation, it’s typically the soft serenade that creates the most tension, and subsequently, catharsis in the music. The method of execution is surgically precise, but never robotic – a balance that’s difficult for even the most talented of vocalists to strike. Other than the exquisite string melodies that shadow her every word in “Window Dressing” and the driven “Shakey Bones,” the voice demands all of our attention with little more than standard supple singing would in this album.
This mix is very well-detailed, to such a degree that I would even say “We Were a Heart Away,” “SuperExtraordinary” and “It Could Have Been Me” actually sound like measured live performances that were recorded in some quaint, intimate venue instead of within the four walls of a professional studio somewhere. A lot of time and attention was put into making every one of these tracks sting with the same level of physicality that one would expect to hear in a stage setting, and while North of Tomorrow isn’t an act that I’ve had the chance to see yet, they demonstrate a searing dexterity in these songs that nevertheless makes me wonder how brilliant they would sound in person.
Engaging, provocative, and stunningly embracive in every way that counts, Something Unexpected is a beautiful, menacingly emotional listening experience that, though not for the casual fan, is one that I would recommend to anyone who has ever been touched by the magic of good melodicism. While North of Tomorrow isn’t a household name, they sound like legitimate icons in this collection of honest compositions, and if their new studio album finds an audience beyond the college radio circuit this season, there’s not a doubt in my mind that they could receive a lot of much-deserved mainstream exposure this coming summer.
They’re by far the most talented trio of musicians I’ve listened to this month, and in Something Unexpected, they share a glimpse into a devastatingly dark subject that people need to be talking about more than they already have been this year.
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