Having got the “difficult second album” out of their systems it is often the case that third albums are with hindsight, a turning point, and in some cases the apogee of a band’s career. Think Electric Ladyland, London Calling, The Yes Album, Screamadelica, After The Goldrush, OK Computer, to name but six off the top of my head. Fog Electric was North Atlantic Oscillation’s second album, and although it had its moments I found it a tad hard to like, as if it was trying too hard. This fine Scottish band have always showed promise, and now, having benefited from a stable line up since forming in 2005, something that is becoming increasingly rare these days, they have arrived at a point where easy confidence strides hand in hand with an effortless art-pop swagger as they present us with their shimmering third album.
Boy, have they delivered, and then some! Is it prog? Who knows, and frankly, who cares. The Third Day exists in another universe, one where labels and genres are unnecessary and restricting. This other plane, where the seemingly ill-defined swooshes and grand sweeps of sound intertwine and end up making perfect sense, is reflected in the cover art; I only have a pdf of the cover picture, no doubt the CD booklet reveals more. Taking inspiration from “Codex Seraphinianus, an illustrated encyclopaedia of an imaginary world created by Italian architect Luigi Serafini. We took inspiration both from specific illustrations in the book and from its general aesthetic of non-narrative nonsense in the shape of sense”. And yes, it works.
The path to this musical starpoint was laid down by band leader Sam Healy’s solo album Sand where he gave free reign to his dreampop instincts. Now back with his bandmates, their rhythmic anchor attaches seamlessly to Sam’s dreamy confections to produce some of the most uplifting music you will hear in this or any other year.
While I could eulogise all day about the songs on this album, for once I’ll keep it short and sweet. Highlights, and there are too many to mention, include August, an anthemic pop blast and the first single from the album. Rather than dissect it further in print, judge for yourself, for here it is…
A Nice Little Place is the angelic son of Scott Walker doing post-rock. If doesn’t give you goosebumps you have no soul. Wires is a spookily swoonsome stroll through dislocation set to a tune that somehow pulls off being both energetic and languid at the same time. The joyously righteous Dust takes you right up into the stratosphere, and then album closer When To Stop gets all Beatles on us with a knowing wink. Yes, they know when to stop; it’s after 45 minutes of intelligent pop perfection!
“Finally you see my wires” sings Sam Healy, and on The Third Day it is apparent that Sam and the band have revealed what makes them tick like never before, in a way that only a band with just the right amount of self-belief could. This album never spills over into the empty bluster of arrogance, it merely displays the justified conviction of a band knowing they’re on to something damned good. I seem to have become a bit of a fanboy judging by the hyperbole that has been pouring out of my keyboard, but put simply from this new fan’s perspective The Third Day is a joyous slab of instantly infectious space pop that is easily retaining its zing after repeated listens. Some “instant” albums fade rapidly, but this one looks like it will just keep on burning.
North Atlantic Oscillation’s third album The Third Day will be looked back on with justified pride by both band and fans alike. If you only buy one pop album this year, it should probably be this one…in fact it should definitely be this one! The album is out on 6th October, and is available to pre-order.
01. Great Plains II (2:45)
02. Elsewhere (5:38)
03. August (4:38)
04. A Nice Little Place (2:59)
05. Penrose (3:42)
06. Do Something Useful (4:44)
07. Wires (3:46)
08. Pines Of Eden (5:57)
09. Dust (7:38)
10. When To Stop (3:13)
Total Time – 44:50
Sam Healy – Vocals, Guitar & Keyboards
Ben Martin – Drums & Programming
Chris Howard – Bass
Record Label: Kscope
Year Of Release: 2014