Nat Johnson & The Figureheads – I’m across, I’m ashore

Stream – ‘Astronomy’

After making a wonderful and tender EP last year (review) that made it to our “Best of 2011” list (cheap plug, I know), Nat Johnson & The Figureheads are back with a full length album, I’m across, I’m ashore. 

Whereas previous efforts by the band have been a little more sober affairs, bordering into confessionals and cathartic ditties, the songs in I’m across, I’m ashore are rockier and peppier. Maybe not happier, but you can’t have sunshine all the time, you wouldn’t appreciate it any more.

‘Astronomy’ and ‘Your majesty’ are the straight out faster paced tracks in the offering. A combination of fast-paced drumming with a steady bass beat, they are in a classic Rock and Roll territory the band feels so natural at (and, hey, it offers a monumental track called ‘The Steeplejack’, waiting for you at the end of the album).

‘Margot’ is such a sweet number and even if it feels like it’s taking the place of a newer track, it makes sense to pair it with the rest of the tracks, as there is a clear cut affinity with the sound of the album. Not that it was out of place in What the heart pours in, so no real problem there.

Which doesn’t imply that the album is 100% rock. There are several acoustic songs that honestly tell it like it is. ‘I know I’m good’ is sweet and full of longing. ‘Is my heart needed for it’ takes out the sweet part, cranks up the longing and goes into majestic territory. It’s both sorrowful and uplifting, strangely enough. It’s like life: sometimes you’re thrown into situations where two very different emotions are walking hand in hand inside your head.

Although the Rock palette that Nat Johnson & The Figureheads is quite a bright, wonderful colour, their folky side is the perfect opposing force, creating a sort of chiaroscuro effect. ‘Body, no’, that warning we sometimes ignore; ‘Straw and hay’, that sweet moment that will stay forever, always drawing a smile even if it’s now a very distant memory (glockenspiel flashback included).

‘Hard to follow’ is an interesting song: it’s less than two minutes long but it feels quite grandiose and complete (there’s even space for some trumpet, booyah!) and in a way, it feels like the perfect opposition to the minimalistic ‘The Pie Bird’. Don’t want to assume (probably overanalysing again) but it feels like a good plan by the band to put these two short songs jealously guarding ‘Is my heart needed for it?’.

I’m across, I’m ashore is an offering full of feelings and emotions, both the good and the bad. A slice of life, if you will, where Rock and Roll, Pop (a brainier form of) and even Folk don’t clash, but harmonise together.

Words: Sam

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