Fresh on the heels of last year’s self-titled debut triumph, power-trio Noah’s Arcade return with Easy, the band’s second album and a further powerful dissection of characters in desperate times or taking even more desperate measures. Whether the musical vibe is laid-back and loose or grimey and aggressive, this group (fronted by vocalist/guitarist Noah Gabriel and rounded out by bassist/vocalist Chad Watson and drummer Justin O’Connell) bares all in the stories of woeful journeys and what’s waiting on the other end. While the band’s first album was a fiery blend of blues-rock swagger and the ennui of each song’s subjects, it’s as if Easy is bringing the same emotions of the lyrics to the music this time. Yes, there are honest-to-goodness grooves in cuts like “All The Roses” and the album-closing scorcher “29&66,” yet the latter ends in a wall of grinding chaos, echoing much of the sentiment of Easy‘s verbiage as a whole. With their previous album, the three-piece had been playing together only six months at most; Easy finds them locked in even tighter, exploring more than just where the songs can go, but how the room where they’re recording can add textures and depth.
Helmed by Zach Staas at Rockford-area’s Midwest Sound, Easy sports a breathtaking set of extremes, be they more fluidly orchestrated (like a timpani-esque roll to intro the album, on the title track) or deliberately messy, like the discordant feel of “Looking Back” or “Vultures,” which welcomingly recall 90’s groups such as Mad Season. As mentioned before, the narratives in these songs are of people at their wit’s end, and the slightly off-kilter chords that Gabriel is bringing to the table reflect that frustration well. Easy is unabashedly an ironic title for the topics brought to the forefront lyrically – from people never changing to family members turning each other in to authorities – and the band performs them with ferocity and gumption.
The album as a whole was recorded within five quick days over a two-weekend span, and the laid-back, almost woozy vibe of “For You” almost never made it to Easy, with Gabriel bringing in the skeleton for the song last-minute during these sessions. Spending the night at Midwest Sound and cranking out the tune after dinner, Gabriel muses about chemicals stripping away his skin (“Got a beautiful carbide / with a supernatural glow”) over a breathtakingly rustic tune. Though the album could’ve been complete in a sense without it, “For You” adds a genuinely gorgeous moment, paced like how someone’s chest rises and falls through breathing, allowing a break from some of the album’s tense moments. All in all, it’s that sort of lifting of burdens that some of Gabriel’s subjects are looking for throughout Easy themselves.
Noah’s Arcade will perform at FitzGerald’s May 9th, and details are linked here.