When you hear about music made on acoustic instruments by a skateboarding collective, you might imagine a group of glue-sniffing caveman garage rockers, bashing out maniac three-chord punk rock. Imagine my surprise when I heard the cosmopolitan, carefully constructed compositions of Nature Of.
Nature Of started off life as a folk combo, based around Edmonton, Alberta, and quickly caught on by a few well-placed live performances and word-of-mouth. The band developed into a full-blown indie quartet, with amplified guitars and drums. They play a brand of tasteful (in a good way) indie music, along the lines of Death Cab For Cutie, The Shins, Bon Iver or Broken Social Scene, minus about five members. The songs are built around simple, clean guitar leads and crooning lead vocals, which are fleshed out with acoustic guitars and spacious drums. Nature Of was mainly recorded live, in the studio, to capture the original energy and excitement of the songs.
There is no unifying theme or concept to Nature Of. Instead, the band chose their strongest tracks based on dynamics, tempo, size and textures to create a unified whole. This approach is an undoubted success, as the album flows seamlessly, creating a real immersive mood, perfect for driving or staring out of windows. The quartet did everything in their power to avoid creating a monotone record. Somewhat ironically, the consistency of the former approach actually lends to the latter, as the laid-back tempos and spacious arrangements leave room for little flourishes to ring out, like the acoustic guitars of "Red Hand," or the gorgeous strings of "Lucy.” Most of Nature Of keeps to a romantic, wistful feeling that will become mandatory listening in the autumnal months, right around the corner. The reveries are occasionally dispersed, and Nature Of rock out a bit, like on "Stick Around Scare,” where the drums slip into double time and a reckless momentum is achieved.
Nature Of strike me as a young band, who are figuring out their way. They have exquisite songwriting and production instincts, aided by Noah Mintz at Lacquer Studios, but they occasionally sound too much like things you've heard before, which makes it harder for them to stick out in the memory. You've got to work a bit, to dig below the surface, to realize their tasteful, restrained guitars and vocals show real talent; great tone and performances all around, while the drums are the model of restraint.
Here's to the continuing evolution of Nature Of. If only all skate punks had such good taste.
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