Northern American – Modern Phenomena review

Yesterday marked the release of the debut record from Los Angeles quartet Northern American, Modern Phenomena. Since the success of their 2013 EP Happiness Hungover, the band have developed their sound into a shimmering style of captivating indie rock that has gained them airplay on BBC 6 Music, XFM and Amazing Radio. Thanks to their unusual manner of having all four members contribute lyrics, melody and rhythm, there’s a well rounded and thorough feel to the music, that each element is as polished as the last.

Take the hypnotic vocals of the album that match so succinctly with the music; the throbbing, bouncing pronunciation of “modern phenomena” in the album’s title track is a perfect example, and throughout there’s a whirling, spiralling feel, as though the music is only kept in check at all by the confines of a studio – let it loose into a live show and expect a whirlwind of sound.

However, there’s another, stricter side to the album that shows the four piece still have full control over the music. The instrumental that welcomes eighth Strange Behaviour continues with a regimented pace throughout the song, like a tight canvas that the melody and vocals lay themselves across. The attention to detail in the instrumental of second So Natural is another joy of the album, and melancholic and Western-tinged Elysian serves as the perfect five minutes closer.

There’s a lightness to the record and carefree, minimalistic rock style that few have entertained since the Parachute days of Coldplay (bar, perhaps, Marcus Mumford), though there might be an argument as to why. Despite its delicacy and quaint tendencies, there’s a… well, musak feel to the album. It’s the sort of record that whispers “apathy”, and if you’re willing to give it enough attention, there’s certainly a powerful atmosphere to Modern Phenomena, but I fear for too many people might slip into another “indie” rock band of smooth vocals and shadows of other sounds.

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