The Never’s latest album, Antarctica, carries with it the subtitle of A Storybook Record, and that explains it in a nutshell—it’s a CD with a bonus book (or a book with a bonus CD, if you prefer), supposedly making for an audiovisual multimedia experience…or something like that. The CD is fantastic—it’s poppy and orchestral in all the right places, and it has a vague theme of the passage of time as represented by the seasons. “Leaves Start to Fall” is lovely and lilting, complete with some third-based harmony lines and lots of synth buzzes and whooshes that complement the typical four-piece band setup perfectly. Noah Smith sounds a little like Self’s Matt Mahaffey with the rough edges removed, portraying an innocent sound, perhaps unprepared for the winter to come. The storybook, then, feels a little bit disjunct when placed next to the album, as its bleak tone (the rhyme scheme points it toward children, while the dark subject matter steers it away) and colorful-but-stark artistic style don’t quite meld with the lush acoustics of the album. Still, the mere fact that Smith is resposible for the entire book as well as one of the driving forces of the music is very, very impressive, for even as the two don’t quite meld, there’s certainly plenty of talent to be found in both. Plus, it’s easy to appreciate the moral of this particular fable, especially amidst a worldwide climate of fear and distrust. The Never has quite a document on its hands here, and while it never quite melds like they seem to hope it does, it’s well worth a look or three.
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