Noah and The Whale The First Days of Spring

Based on their very catchy song, "Five Years Time," Noah and the Whale hurtled to the front of new English folk scene. They seemed unstoppable until their leader, Charlie Fink, got dumped. He and former band member Laura Marling broke up, and so their second album, The First Days Of Spring, is an altogether different experience. Gone are those bright, breezy pop songs and there's a contemplative, reflective tone that makes for a more substantial, satisfying record. After all, there's nothing quite like heartbreak to inspire a songwriter. It turns out that despite the folk label, Noah and the Whale have a broader range than they've hinted at in the past. Songs like "Slow Glass" and "My Broken Heart" have more in common with the world of indie rock than folk, with rumbling guitars in the background echoing his mood. The almost relentless melancholy does begin to overwhelm, although there is an attempt to end on a more optimistic note. It does hint, however, that Fink might be over the worst of it, and that might not be the best thing for him, musically. Fingers crossed for another failed relationship soon. (Mercury)