I know Noah and the Whale a little. I don’t think I realized they were from England, especially since the lead singer/guitarist looks so much like Ben Stiller (with a big fro). I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard from them, although I can’t say I know that much about them (although see that Laura Marling was briefly in the band). For this Tiny Desk, there are just two men (one Noah, the other the Whale, perhaps? No, Charlie Fink (vocals, guitar), and Tom Hobden (violin, vocals).
Evidently they had a drummer but he left the band to pursue academic success so they enlisted a dreaded drum machine. (In the blurb, Stephen Thompson talks about how shocked everyone as to hear it). The one bad thing about the machine of course is that it limits then from playing anything spontaneously. But they sound very good even with the machine.
There’s a sort of Tom Petty/Bob Dylan vibe to the first song with the super catchy spelled out chorus of “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” When the violinist sings harmonies, the song sounds especially good.
He ends the first song by saying, “It’s most peculiar, this event.”
“Blue Skies” does not have the drum machine. It is a mellow, pretty song with Fink’s delicate voice singing a breakup song.
“Waiting for My Chance to Come” is a upbeat song (with drum machine). Fink switches to acoustic guitar giving this a bigger more vibrant folk sound. It’s really catchy and fun to sing along to.
I remember the last time I listened to Noah and the Whale (from an NPR show covering the Newport Folk Festival), I wanted to hear more from them. And once again I do, although perhaps with a full band (and yes, they have broken up).
[READ: March 3, 2016] “Buttony”
I re-read what I had written about McFalane’s previous story which I read in 2013. I enjoyed the first section (which was very short) but felt a little less grand about the second half.
This story (although it was much shorter) had a similar quality.
The story is only two pages and the first part is so charming. It is set in a school. The teacher allows her students to go outside to play “buttony.”
The game is a simple one, but it has some kind of near magical significance for the kids.
One student, Joseph, seems to always start the game and there is almost a hushed silence as he goes into the teacher’s drawer to get the special button. I enjoyed the plain origin story of the button.
The kids walk outside and the teacher lies under a jacaranda tree to enjoy the day. The kids gather in a circle around Joseph with their hands out. The game is a variant on duck duck goose or seven up. He touches everyone’s hands and into one pair of hands he places the button.
And then the kids try to guess who has it.
It’s a simple game but the way that she writes the story, she infuses it with an air of mystery or something–like something mystical could happen at any movement.
Its charming. Until the last few paragraphs. Joseph (who seems to be almost a magical child) decides to hold on to the button.
And the story ends with an overreaction. I simply can’t imagine things going n this direction, no matter how powerful the jacaranda or Joseph’s spell. I fell like its’ a shame this story went in this direction because it seemed artificial to me.
I have to wonder if others feel the same.