Nick Cove takes full control of the indie space with this superb new album of originals. Utilizing contrast to the boldest degree, Fog Of War kicks things off and quietly lulls you into the false belief that this may be an acoustic project – intimate guitar, a raw, live sounding personal performance. Soon enough the true grit and passion of the concept strikes with absolute weight, Cove’s voice adapting to the change with immense emotional integrity and volume.
All of this hits like a blessing from a simpler time – alt rock and grunge bands from an earlier decade, the albums that comforted us during long periods of insomnia and uncertainty. Perhaps then, 2020 is a fine time for this style to return.
The seven songs on this project are the sort that require more than a single listen to appreciate the intricacies of each story and musical set-up. It’s easy to get lost amidst the overall sound, the melodies, the angst, the poetry, the clarity of that voice – accessible and honest. Underneath it all though, is a lyrical backbone that screams authenticity, provocative conceptualizing of familiar ideas, and a generally refreshing sense of literary artistry that’s beautifully united with the changing stages of each soundscape.
This Is Where I Hide – softness meanders through explosive territories, a wall of distortion falling heavy after unexpectedly gentle whispers of thought. Then with Glass Houses, a classic emo-rock riff and a marching drum-line lead you into an equally considerate, quiet and intriguing story that again feels familiar yet fresh in approach. The artist’s take on these topics relating to isolation and loneliness is incredibly poignant, absorbing, and very easy to connect with.
Throughout the various moments of this album, I was reminded briefly of acts like Incubus, Radiohead and Muse, as much so as songwriters such as Elliott Smith. The former is that clever switch from lightness to weight, the poetic observations, the blending of all of us and simply me. The latter is the breathy and calm yet haunting acoustic aspect – notable throughout songs like Oculus, as it pours through with overwhelming, unsettling emotion, yet with not a hint of distortion or drum-work to be found. Cove and the band carry the weight purely with the strength of their writing and performance, and that’s a powerful and rare thing. Brilliant.
Rain picks up the pace and injects and unexpected though subtle hit of optimism and joyful rhythm into the process. This one offers an unmissable big finish. The live sound is superb, the entire project consistently creates a gig feel that begs for you to experience it in real time. Here’s hoping the scene returns in full force next year.
Then we get the softness again, reflective intimacy – The Year That Comes Around. Acoustic finger-picking keeps things clear and right there in the room with you. The raw recording style connects once more as Cove calmly meanders his way through this poetic story-line with increasing passion.
Tower Of Babel follows to bring things to a similarly folk-lore inspired yet later heavy and powerful finish. Cove and the band exercise their creative freedoms explicitly here, paving their own way and ending things on a unique high.
Really well done, a refreshingly original artist with a thoughtful way of framing ideas and arrangements.
Download or stream the album here.