EASTERLY - Easterly

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These copies are the left ever copies of this particular Not Lame label release. If you do not own it, you can’t beat this last ever, lowest price ever for this release. This is it.

Velvet Crush, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, Fountains of Wayne, Pernice Brothers, Zombies, and Beatles. Those are some pretty heavy bands to compare Easterly with, and they deserve every one of them.

"Noah Hall’s songs are tinged with quiet melancholy, reflecting on love and broken relationships and even a broader general malaise with a wisdom borne of experience. His soft vocal delivery and classical pop music canvas invite apt comparisons to that of singer/songwriter Joe Pernice (The Pernice Brothers). Hall is the talented creative wunderkind behind Easterly, whose eponymous debut contains ten impressive tracks of soothing, guitar-layered contemplative smart rock.

When Noah expanded his solo act to include a band that could translate his songs, he needed a name. “Noah Hall & Oats” was rejected, wisely, avoiding possible lawsuits. In the end, it was a suggestion by fellow musician and friend Angie Heaton that stuck. She liked the way meteorologists described weather patterns, particularly directional names. Being from the West (Salem, Oregon) the group decision was to go with “Easterly”.The band is comprised of Hall (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Andy Douthit (guitar), Kerry Kincanon (bass), Dan Miles (drums, guitar) and Paul Brady (piano, keyboards). Flynn Nisbet is credited with providing energy, art, and ambiance, and guitarist Larry Adams has since joined the group (but isn’t featured on the CD).

The real treat here is the music. In no way does this betray itself as a debut—these guys sound like time-tested veterans. The music comes across as knowingly familiar right from the first note—the beleaguered stances of the narrative ring true.

The CD opens with “A Lover Is Fine,” a softly endearing melody that espouses a twist from the usual needs: “No one can say how long it will last / You’d think that someday we might learn from the past / Only one thing is for certain / It will happen again / And a lover is fine when you can’t find a friend”.

The harmonies draw you into the bouncy upbeat blues-rocker “Blister”. This song serves as lyrical invitation for the hope of sin, as the singer declares he’d be “proud to fall” should the call come.

Truly awful relationships and their inexplicable appeal are the topic matter of “Wicked Conversation”. Hall manages to convey both sides of this ghastly equation in lyrics that speak directly: “Obsessive and repulsive / uneven eyes and damaged hair / What a fucking pair / Who said life’s not fair? / Not me, couldn’t be / I love your faults and frailty”.

“Getting Back Together” is an upbeat tune for the angry, disappointed, and downtrodden in love. Bitter compromise is the order of the day here, a man resolved to give up on love and getting back together with “the girl that I was married to before”. It’s not exactly bliss he’s heading toward, but “there’s something to be said for being comfortable enough”.

Rejection leads to anger and frustration and a desire for vengeance. That’s the familiar terrain of the ballad “One of These Days.” Hall again shows his gift for capturing the feelings directly: “One of these days I want to break a heart / And I hope it’s you”.

Once upon a time, Hall attended Yale Divinity, where he considered becoming an Episcopal man of the cloth. His experiences there—his battles with epistemology—still surface in many of these lyrics. In “The River”, a pretty melody couches a call for baptismal soul-saving for his sins, but in the end there’s no satisfaction: “I still don’t know for sure if all this loss was worth the lesson / How come I still don’t feel pure?” The song that best portrays his battle with religion and how it didn’t provide inner fulfillment is the album’s centerpiece, “Happiness”. While sounding somewhat upbeat (nice guitar-driven melody and harmonies), the lyrics reveal a rather bleak epiphany: “Contentment can’t fill me / Desire won’t thrill me / His spirit isn’t stilling me / And happiness is killing me”.

“Only So Much” is another slower song, a sweet exploration of the limits of forgiveness, understanding and second chances. Hall’s vocal work is moody and evocative here, gripping you with its emotional truth.

“If You Knew” is a short, melodic wake-up call, providing more advice than sympathy.

“Blame Cupid”, the closer, sounds like it could be an Aimee Mann song, embittered and harsh in summarizing what’s gone on: “You can blame it on the bad choices / of the voices you hear / You’re not crazy, you’re stupid / So blame Cupid for one fucked-up year”.

Easterly is an auspicious beginning for Noah Hall and his cohorts. Hall manages to counter his sometimes sullen and oft bitter lyrical forays with lush, strikingly beautiful melodies and vocals. There’s intelligence behind the songwriting, and a soft emotional honesty that draws you in and keeps you there, track to track. These aren’t just fictions—you believe he’s fought the battles—and the pretty arrangements and production find the right balance to present these songs in sensitive, endearing ways.

Fans of the Pernice Brothers will find a kindred spirit here, but if you like the idea of contrasting soothing music with harsher lyrics, then Easterly’s for you. The quality will have you questioning the fact that it’s a debut, but ultimately will leave you begging to hear more soon. As the Easterly front approaches, the forecast is very good." - POp Matters