Noah and the Whale: five years' time...
September 13, 2011 11:46 PM   Subscribe

It's been exactly five years since Charlie Fink and his musical band of friends - his brother Doug on drums, Tom "Fiddle" Hobden on violin, Matt "Urby Whale" Owens on harmonium and bass and Laura Marling on backing vocals - first appeared on the London nu-folk circuit, their moniker a conflation of a famous indie film and its director: Noah and the Whale.

The essential NATW timeline:


- first gig at the Betsey Trotwood, playing to the sound engineer plus an audience of 7.


- their Wes Anderson-esque antics for the bittersweet whistle & ukulele ditty Five Years Time quickly gather them a following: the song becomes a summer hit and eventually reaches #7 in the UK charts. (Together with their own original upload, it's currently at over four million YT views.)

- performance at Jeremy Warmsley's house in the WelcomeToOurTVShow series.

- experimenting his cinematic inclination, Charlie directs an early video: 2 Bodies 1 Heart.

- Charlie produces Laura Marling's first album Alas, I Cannot Swim, which is later nominated for the 2008 Mercury Prize.

- their gear is stolen, and then recovered.


- their first album, Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, debuts at #5 on the UK charts, and earns them one scathing critique.

- Laura Marling leaves the band - and Charlie Fink (for Marcus Mumford).

- NATW play for Vincent Moon's Take-Away Show #91, shot in Paris.

- NATW tour the US and licensed their hit song for Saturn and Sun Chips commercials.

- they record an as-yet unreleased punk album, including covers of Daniel Johnston, Jens Lekman, and Jackson C. Frank.


- with a new line-up they release their second album, First Days of Spring, an in-depth exploration of Fink's heartbreak, published both as a CD and as a 40-minute album film (that you can watch here).

- they record a beautifully intimate acoustic version of Blue Skies at the WFUV's Alternate Side.


- NATW contribute a cover of Tom Petty's Last DJ to protest the proposed closure of BBC6.

- after an extended tour of Europe and the UK, they begin recording their new album in studios in Bethnal Green and Venice Beach.


- their third album, Last Night on Earth marks a further transformation for the band, and reaches #8 on the UK charts. As a corollary to the recording, they publish a cinematic look into their creative process, including all the original demos for the album. You can also watch their sing-along anthem L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. as filmed by Charlie or else as performed live at the recent Reading Festival, as well as a great video (shot by Autumn de Wilde) for Life Is Life.

- NATW's recent covers and collaborations include a track with Charlotte Gainsbourg and a version of John Cale's Barracuda for a BBC1 session.

- hear their whole Sasquatch 2011 set here on NPR.

So, here's to... five more years?
posted by progosk (7 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think I'm having an episode of Baader-Meinhof this week... Minutes before I saw this post, I was listening to their Tiny Desk Concert. (Tiny Desk Concerts previously, recently on the blue.) Excellent history, progosk.
posted by knile at 1:05 AM on September 14, 2011

"Five Years Time". I see what you did there.
posted by whuppy at 4:44 AM on September 14, 2011

Thanks, this is a lot to click through. :)

I try to keep track of my favorite singles of each calendar year, and right now L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N (boy that's a pain to type) is ranking up pretty high for 2011. It's just the right combo of sing along and earworm.
posted by librarianamy at 5:02 AM on September 14, 2011

In related news, Laura Marling has a new album out, and it's pretty darn good.
posted by schmod at 5:15 AM on September 14, 2011

I read an article a few years ago on the indie-pop revival, which started with Young And Lost, the label Noah And The Whale are on. The gist was that it was essentially what Sarah Records would have been like if it had been started by some posh Sloanes.
posted by acb at 5:38 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I liked their first album, and then dude got uber sad and wallowy and his songwriting suffered, imho.
Thank goodness there are awesome bands like The Twelves who can take their best saddest stuff and make it more awesome.
posted by Theta States at 6:11 AM on September 14, 2011

Oh this is my favorite post ever.

A friend I met while studying abroad convinced me to buy a ticket to their concert. I hadn't listened to them, and it was two weeks before the concert, and I began to panic: I don't like going to concerts if I don't know the music! I get claustrophobic and sad!

Luckily, it took just two weeks to fall in love with Noah and the Whale. Yes, they're a little sad and wallowy sometimes. But they're lovely—that's the only word for them. Lovely, in a sad way sometimes.

The concert was amazing, by the way.
posted by good day merlock at 10:06 AM on September 14, 2011

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