Album Review: Northern National – The New Age (Winner of NewMusicFriday – Ep 14)

Northern National are a cool indie rock band. I mean all indie rock bands think they are cool with their fashion and trendy style, but seriously these guys ARE cool. You can hear in the layered sounds and pure vox that they know how to get the crowd going.

The opening track of The New Age is the title track. It feels big and energetic. There’s a jam factor to it. The guitars fill the track and then some distortions make it feel mechanistic in a good way. The vocal humanizes the performance, urging the listener to live right. “No matter how you live… tell me how we can break free…” provides a sort of postmodern permissiveness about living “we run like the sun’s running in our veins.” It’s a song that will get you amped up, even if the meaning is not totally evident.

The second track “Addiction” is certainly a timely track given the state of the world today. It’s about popular addictions, but it’s also about personal failings as well. It’s one of those songs that’s about a person… but you can’t help but wonder if it’s also about a substance. “We fall… we fall hard. We will kiss all our feelings away.” Hmm. I’m no substance abuse expert, but it might not just be about going on a date with a pretty girl. Either way, the music hits hard and the distortion on the guitars is perfect. I can’t put my finger on an era for the rock style, but it’s definitely a 21st century alt rock vibe.

“Love Is Fire” seems to actually be about love… or maybe just about sex. But anyways it’s a track that builds to an interesting powerful vocal. The layers of the sounds are really sort of “celebratory.” The lead definitely wants to be “taken away” by the partner. What I like about the song though is that it’s not sensual without being a bass-driven bump and grind song. There’s a real energy behind it that gets you standing, dancing, and clapping in a pop rock way without compromising the real romantic heart of it all.

The following “FBFW” is a symbolic and interesting track. It has a cooler vibe more like a jazz rock track than some of the others on the album. The “you can’t hold me down” message also is an outlier from the others on the album and, I’d say, in a good way. The cold shoulder presented in the track is welcome in what could have been just too mushy of an album. This one has a complicated reality to it. It feels like it’s something that would be on one of those Abercrombie and Fitch mixtapes you’d pickup with a $36 v-neck tshirt. I mean that as a compliment, honestly.

I think the album ends on my favorite track, “Dallas.” Even though the title track won the band the review, “Dallas” is a really well written song. It’s got a country music core in much the same way that Green River Ordinance and Needtobreathe write with that style. The song comes back to a romantic theme with an authentic, narrative style. The song seems to be the future of Northern National, too. It’s rich and real, moving beyond some of the lyrical styles of the other tracks, favoring more of a pure electric guitar and vocal simplicity. There’s a focus on life, love, music, and writing that feels rewarding. I hope to hear this one live some day.

All told, this is a satisfying little album. They are all good and interesting songs, with some that are outstanding. “The New Age” and “Dallas” are definitely exceptional tracks that deserve some broader airplay. As you listen to an album like this, be sure to add it to your rotation and share with your friends. It’s awesome.

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