The Great Nostalgic is a virtually new Austin five-piece that has wasted no time in gaining a buzz. The band, captained by Abram Shook, was named by The Austin Chronicle as one of 9 bands to watch in 2009. With a name that invokes a sense of grandeur, they seem poised to join other high theatric-sounding bands like their fellow Austinites Shearwater, or Arcade Fire.
The album opens riding a haunting piano on “Grace,” as Shook’s dark vocals (think modern Bowie dipped in Robert Smith’s gloom) encapsulate a nightmarish lullaby. “And these are the stories of the city / you’ve loved, and lost,” he sings setting up the narrative for the rest of the album. Shook’s vocal then opens the second track “The Kingdom” accompanied by whirling guitars that help him explode the track when the hook hits.
“Young Lovers” is the token pop tune to turn the frown upside-down and focuses on the happier moments for the heart. It’s a summertime love song purely fit for holding hands. Elsewhere on the album “House of My Father” displays similar pop appeal, featuring the most rhythmic dance moments.
But between those songs there are some monsters. The quiet ballad “The Letter Opener” features a seductive vocal performance from Pink Nasty (who also shows up later to harmonize on “Queen and Country”). The Great Nostalgic have a real burner on their hands with “Fire Brigade,” which comes midpoint and features pretty much every musical movement found throughout the album on this one song.
“Return to the Kingdom” is an epic closer you can only expect after listening to all that had come before it. Relying more on the instrumentation and subtle harmonizing, than Shook’s lyrical antics, it puts its entirety in context of the theatrical sound of The Great Nostalgic.
While it does feature several stand out tracks, this album is one best if listened from beginning to end. Like a book or a motion picture, each chapter can only fully be appreciated given its placement in the overall big picture. Each song features internal moment that in the greater scheme fits with the progression of the album. In this The Great Nostalgic have created a symphony more that just an album. This is indeed an impressive effort. Good show!