North of Tomorrow dispenses a colorful, albeit confessional, opus in their new album Something Unexpected, a record that is both a twelve-song tribute to the best parts of simplistic songwriting that is unlike any other that I’ve heard in recent memory. Produced with a divinely evenhanded approach to melodicism, Something Unexpected’s most formidable offerings – such as “Something Out of Nothing”, “Window Dressing,” and “Lean on In” – are defined by their intricate instrumental detail, and not by a hot cosmetic polish as has become commonplace in American indie rock lately. Whether you got into this unit via their reputation or are just now discovering their sound for the first time, this is one album that belongs on your stereo this March.
“We Were a Heart Away” and “Go Where You Find It” have a surreal feeling that is magnified by their postmodern production style, but there’s never a moment in Something Unexpected where North of Tomorrow sounds unfocused or lacking in concise musicianship. “Go Where You Find It” entrances us with grooves that replicate a sorcerer’s pinwheels, twisting and turning us through an eclectic arrangement that is as emotive as the words it supports so elegantly are, and though it’s as unpredictable as a winding mountain road, it doesn’t come across as improvisational at all.
Something Unexpected has an organic warmth to the tonality of its instruments that I haven’t heard a lot of this year, and in tracks like “Pray for Rain,” “New October,” and “SuperExtraordinary,” we’re given a front-row seat to some of the most stirring play that the album has to offer. The instruments are as much of a star in these songs as the lyrical lashings are, and although they’re just as impactful in the other tracks that we hear in this tracklist, their contribution to these three is probably what won me over in my initial listening session with the LP
The vocal element here is an absolute treasure from beginning to end in Something Unexpected, and in the song “My Sweet Spot,” it dishes out a vocal performance that ranks among the most seductive of any you’re likely to hear this season. This singer has got so much moxie here, and while he’s ably backed by North of Tomorrow, his vibrant command of the verses steals the show in tracks like this one, “It Could Have Been Me,” and the dark yet square “Shakey Bones.”
Though its tracklist is, more often than not, uncompromisingly brooding, I would deem North of Tomorrow’s Something Unexpected a must-listen for alternative fans everywhere this March. I was admittedly enamored by what their peers have been up to lately, but what the band has accomplished in this most recent batch of recordings is undeniably some of the best material that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing all month long. Something Unexpected doesn’t ask us for anything more than an open mind and a decent set of stereo speakers, and in exchange, it rewards all who give it a spin with a gilded songcraft that is as unique to this band’s music scene as it is to the personal journey of the players who comprise it.