Year of the Album — #086
Grand & Noble – “Grand & Noble” (2012, Independent)
I’m really getting excited about the music coming in 2012, and Grand & Noble’s self-titled debut (out January 10, 2012, or right now as a name your price download via the band’s website) is right at the front of the pack. Fronted by Jon Elling’s emblematic vocals, which resonate immediately and provide a real sense of depth to the music, the band rocks out with touches of Wilco-inspired alt-country and more than a bit of modern piano blues-rock thrown in for good measure. “This Light” gets the album going in the right direction with a touch of Ryan Adams guitar melded with a bassline which brings to mind Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. Lyrically it’s right up Kellogg’s alley: “Call me up and say what’s there left to do but save our money for some ordinary shoes? I don’t believe the fun must end so soon …” Elling queries, raising his plaintive vocals to the sky as he wails the chorus: “Don’t say it’s over! Don’t say it’s over! Don’t say it’s over ’til you’re through.” By the time the song reaches its zenith you’ll be hoping this song won’t have to be over anytime soon.
“Paris (and Danielle)” picks up the reins from there with a touch of bass-heavy blues melded with a throughline of piano which pushes the song into the territory of top 40 music too good for top 40 to ever dare to play. “Feel the heat now, feel the friction – living life without permission,” Ellis sings forcefully, as the song takes its own motives to heart, the guitars crunching with wild abandon as the band breaks it all down and makes this seem so damned easy. But the band really brings it home on the soulful, introspective “Episcopal,” which features excellent harmonies over acoustic guitar and piano: “Somewhere in my shattered faith the chance I want is waiting there,” Elling sings as the band provides him wth a backdrop so filled with measured yearning it’s impossible not to keep the faith in what this band’s offering.
The rest of the album lives up to the challenge these songs set for Grand & Noble, crafting a debut of self-assured daring and willingness to build on what’s come before while forging their own identity. This is an album which is immediately revealing of a major artistic force, while the music reveals intricate original touches that will challenge any self-respecting music fan to listen repeatedly long into the new year. I’ll go out on a limb and say you won’t find many more adventurous debuts in 2012 or any other year. Put succinctly, Grand & Noble is a keeper.
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You can sample songs from the album below via Bandcamp: