In an effort to further her musical education, Susan Omand has been set "homework" of listening to albums released after the 1980s that she has missed out on. This week she seeks out The Search...
Find the full list of albums for Educating Omand: Year 3 here
Here’s a what if… what if you put Eminem in front of the LSO and the Symphony Chorus, with a side order of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop? Yeah, that’s never going to happen. Is it?
Welcome to NF.
OK, so it’s not specifically Eminem, or the LSO, or the Chorus, or the Radiophonic workshop, but that’s what The Search sounded like and it could be, this album is that good. I had never even heard of NF, aka Nathan John Feuerstein who hails from Michigan, before listening to this and, to my mind, he’s very nearly as good as Eminem in style and delivery. I realise this is saying a lot, and I can just hear the Eminem fanbase going off on one about copycats and pretenders to the throne and, lyric-wise I totally agree – Eminem is a poet whereas NF is an angry young man – but, surprisingly, NF wins it for me on the vocals. He has a very engaging singing voice with an attractively reticent tonal quality that balances so well with his bombastically confident rap delivery, which is pin-sharp and FAST.
But it’s the instrumental arrangements that makes this album stand out a mile. From whooshy ambient soundscapes to classically stabby attack strings that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hans Zimmer soundtrack, the orchestration is astonishing. The choral work in the title track is epic, and it’s a song which left me open-mouthed when I first heard it. The warped music box sounds in Options and retro Carpenter-esque minor leitmotif in WHY gives me the creeps in the best way. There’s also an insidious feel to the insistent bassline of Thinking but this contrasts beautifully with the melancholy piano and legato strings that backs the balladic Trauma, which also showcases NFs softer side wonderfully.
The weakest track in the album, for me, is his collaboration with the baby-voiced Sasha Sloan on Only. It is still ok but it’s much more “charty-hip-hop” in sound and the machine-gun-rattle of his rap isn’t quite on point this time.
However, that is a minor dip in an otherwise stunning album that appeals to me on so many levels. So yes, Mr Ames, oh hell yes, you can call me educated on this one. Album of Year Three so far, by a long way, (and that includes Coheed – sorry).
Image - Amazon