erasing clouds

Namelessnumberheadman, When We Leave, We Will Know Where We've Been

reviewed by Dave Heaton

The Kansas City-based Namelessnumberheadman is a 21st century pop hybrid, melding introspective acoustic songs with electronic textures, marrying the guitar to the sampler and drums to synthesizers once and for all. On their debut EP, 2000's 100,000 Subtle Times, mellow ballads suddenly switched gears and mutated into pulsating dance tracks. There they displayed a multidimensional personality fitting for a band which takes its name from a character in a movie called Schizopolis. Their first full-length album, When We Leave, We Will Know Where We've Been, more thoroughly fuses those styles until they've become one. Hazy layers of atmosphere hang over beautifully crafted modern-day folk songs. Upbeat pop-rock tunes are built on a foundation of sharp electronic beats.

The three musicians, who each play an assortment of instruments, are experts at arrangement. Their songs have phases that are seamlessly joined; quiet moments of peace glide into frenzied experimentation and back again. Songs rest next to each other like old friends, like they're where they were always meant to be. The album has an atmosphere that's both familiar and new, one that feels startlingly imaginative but also comforting.

That balance of comfort and imagination spreads into the lyrics as well. They're reminiscent of a friend ruminating with you on life and what it's all worth. They delve into the big questions in a delicate, friendly and impassioned way. "Read the play in the spring/thought a lot about God's role in suffering," one song starts. Yet the lyrics also have a level of poetic abstraction which leavens the serious reflections. The words get you feeling and thinking even when you're not sure what the song's supposed to be about. And Nameless… are so adept at composing that often the music itself will resonate with listeners in an even deeper, more moving way than the lyrics.

In fact, some of the most amazing songs here are instrumentals or near-instrumentals, such as the beautiful "Time Slows Down At Midnight," an elegiac yet inspiring piano composition that sounds like the score to some imaginary cinematic masterpiece. Part of the album's charm lies with the sense of versatility that the band exudes. Namelessnumberheadman give the impression that next they could write a pop hit, a collection of troubadour folk songs, an avant garde classical composition or some music for the dance clubs. Most likely they'll do all of the above at the same time, making it seem like a natural combination. That's essentially what they do on When We Leave…, using some sort of new science to craft an amazing pop album from disparate components. Animated, serene and filled with surprises, When We Leave… is a gem.

Label: Urinine Records
Band site:

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