Brooklyn band Nation of Language have drawn comparisons to indie darlings like Cut Copy, Bloc Party and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Which is fitting, given their penchant for the kind of groove-heavy, nostalgia-driven sound that music nerds like me couldn’t get enough of in the mid-2000s. And although there’s definitely an air of familiarity to their music, Nation of Language are also treading new ground that’s well worth a listen.
Consisting of Ian Devaney (lead vocals, guitar, synthesizer, and percussion), Aidan Noell (synthesizer, backing vocals), and Michael Sue-Poi (bass), Nation of Language produces a surprisingly big sound for a trio. The band’s formation was initially inspired by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s “Electricity,” and you can tell the bandmates are all music geeks of the best kind, digging deep for influence from synth-pop pioneers to inform their sound.
On their second album, A Way Forward, the Brooklynites continue to develop a grand style indebted to the past. Like other revivalist acts, they wear their influences as a badge of honor. The repetitive riffs and refrains on tracks like “The Grey Commute” bring to mind New Order, while you can’t help but hear bits of Kraftwerk and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark on the sweeping, electronic new wave stylings of songs like “In Manhattan” and “Wounds of Love.” While the majority of A Way Forward airs toward the dancy-er, more uptempo side of things, the band also isn’t afraid to strip things down, with experimental cuts like the melancholic, angsty “Former Self” and the epic “A Word & A Wave,” both of which reference synth trailblazers Laurie Spiegel and Cluster.
Comparisons aside, the music is brilliant, emotive stuff. The juxtaposition of straight-ahead synth-pop and more out-there numbers makes for an incredibly well-rounded album that’s got something for everyone. There are a lot of bands trying to pull off this kind of future-retro sound but very few succeed, and Nation Of Language have done so with ease.