There are albums that are art projects and then there are albums that revolve around the artist's life. Sufjan Stevens recently stated that his latest album Carrie & Lowell which was about the death of his mother differed from his previous efforts in that way. I for one resonated with Carrie & Lowell more than his other albums because of the unapologetic sincerity and honesty and I think that is the same reason I enjoyed the debut release Naubinway from Adam Levy so much.
In the case of Levy he deals with a subject that is both intense and incredibly personal. Levy’s son Daniel was affected by mental illness and took his own life in 2012. A good portion of Naubinway was already in the works when this happened and obviously put on hold as Levy was processing. Levy stated, “the idea of writing a song about my experience, or trying to summarize my son's pain in any kind of art, just seemed to trivialize it.”
Naubinway is a gorgeous album full of grace as Levy eloquently touches upon ubiquitous emotions that almost all of us will experience as some point. The beauty in this album is the range of emotions Levy takes you through. You might think it would be incredibly depressing experience but that wasn’t the way I felt after listening to this album. Not matter what feeling it conjured up it feels heartfelt.
The album opens with the beautifully sparse “Take It as It Comes” which revolves around an acoustic guitar and his vocals. I couldn’t help but think the song is about acceptance. The lyrics are poetic and avoid feeling saccharine. “Potter’s Field” has some energy and also contains more instrumentation. The guitar picking is exceptional and so is the singing. Levy picks his spots to add a kick drum or bass and doesn’t over do it.
Up next is the fully fleshed out “Atoms Never Die” which sounds like a full band. I couldn’t help but think of the conservation of energy, which states that energy can never be created nor destroyed as he repeats the title of the song. “Atoms Never Die” felt pretty different from the first track but can say I enjoyed both about equally.
Guitar isn’t the only instrument, which has a central role on this album. “When Your Well Runs Dry” is a piano led song which reminded me of The Beatles. As the album progresses there are plenty of other songs that you won’t want to miss. “Pitch Black Path” is a poppy song with some slight psychedelic tendencies while “Clemens in Plainview” has a country vibe and features organ and laptop steel guitar.
Naubinway is a girth-y album with thirteen songs and sometimes feels slightly scattered in terms of genre. At the end of the day this arguably minor issue is innocuous when compared with what the album offers.
Overall, the album contains fantastic songwriting that I think people can relate to on a number of different levels. Highly Recommended.
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