Album: Nation of Language – A Way Forward review

by Craig Howieson

Finding hope in the hollows, A Way Forward’s masterful synth-pop has Nation of Language poised on the edge of something quite special

As the clocks fall back, the dark is once again dragged further into our lives. The nights extend into great expanses to explore and be swallowed up by. There are those who will go out and seek it – to actively search for the burning lights, thrumming dancefloors and palpable heartbeats of others that provide solace. While others will retreat into the nights, using the dimly lit hours for deep thinking as they nidificate until the spring. 

Brooklynites, Nation Of Language, straddle these two opposing approaches to the physical and metaphorical darkness that touches our lives. On A Way Forward, their second LP, there are both ecstatic bounds on the dancefloor and melancholic past gazing. It is a step up from their impressive debut, Introduction, Presence. While their sound may not be too dissimilar to what has come before, their words carry more weight, the production is clearer, the basslines punchier and their melodies ebb and flow in your consciousness like precious reminders of a time you thought you had forgotten.

Graced with the lustre of Beach House, the instantaneousness of Future Islands, and Paul Banks’ ability to reap meaning from the meaningless, the group foray into misty mornings where they face big questions on how life and social constructs can cripple us if we do not find a hopeful glimmer in the quagmire. And it is the innate hopefulness of A Way Forward that makes it such a special record. The band undoubtedly own one or two records from Joy Division and Kraftwerk, but they avoid the overbearing bleakness associated with the former and the soul stripped mechanical nature – often unfairly – thrown at the latter. The dip and sway of the rubber legged chorus of Across That Fine Line is as close to life-affirming as any synth-pop band has any right to be. And as singer, ​​Ian Richard Devaney, gives a show stopping performance on A Word and a Wave, backed by the incessant pulse of bass and spiralling synths, the group’s ecstasy infused ear for an anthem is fully realised.

There is quite a buzz around Nation Of Language ahead of this release – one that sees them well poised to crossover to an audience far greater than even they perhaps expected. But their ability to marry pop hooks with our overriding human quest for hope is something quite special, and they deserve all good things that lay ahead. 

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