Try putting Northern American band into Google and see what comes up. This was the quandry I was faced with when trying to find out about this latest group of LA twentysomethings, who according to some of the blurb just might be your new favourite band. Following up their 2013 debut EP with their debut album, a ten track collection. Their sound has been described as a cross between Local Natives and the National, although the band themselves have said that while they appreciate the comparisons they don’t see themselves like that and like to think of themselves as much simpler.
I would be inclined to agree with the band. They are more in keeping with Phoenix, The Killers, even The Strokes at times. All great bands for sure. There are even some moments on this album that call to mind U2, particularly in the opening track ‘Feel Like Whatever’, with the breathy vocal delivery and insistent bassline. Second track ‘So Natural’ sounds like some kind of weird hybrid of Phoenix and the Verve but works very well, with the chorus of the song kicking around in your head long after its over. Another word you could use to describe this album is smooth, with no rough edges evident. The title track, with the opening line “give me something it doesn’t need to be extraordinary just real”, is just the right mix of groovy verse and big head-nodding chorus, complete with string section and bells, yes bells. It is quite extraodinary and real. There’s more where that came from, with ‘Days Between’ and ‘Elysian’ particularly deserving of praise. The former is funky, groovy and perfect for our three day summers, the latter closing number notable for its looser more laid back feeling. It’s a suitable end to the album and gives us a glimpse of where this band might go next.
It’s clear that Northern American have a knack for writing tight, melodic radio friendly hits and I wouldn’t be surprised if this time next year more people didn’t know about them. They are they are not re-inventing the wheel or doing anything new, but there is no denying the talent and class on show here. Its a debut album packed with tunes that plenty of bands would be very proud of, so in that sense they can hold their head high. The only downside is that in pursuit of pop perfection they have reined in some of the unexpected twists and turns which made their EP such a good listen and Modern Phenomena maybe suffers a little bit because of it.
This album announces the band, the next one will define them. But for now they have set down a pretty good marker which does nothing to harm their reputation for being the next big thing in waiting.