New York-based emo/indie pop act Head North’s debut LP The Last Living Man Alive Ever In The History of the World is a satisfying follow up to 2014’s A Will Away/Head North split and the 2015 EP Bloodlines. The record features all the twinkly goodness the band teased in those earlier recordings; albeit, focused into a much more ambitious project. The songwriting is catchy, the musicianship is solid, yet the piece as a whole must be taken as much more than the sum of its parts to be fully appreciated.
In many ways, The Last Living Man is something like a David Lynch film not only because of its offbeat plot, involving an alternate time where concepts such as God and love are outlawed, but also in how much part the audience plays in the unfolding of the narrative itself.
Songwriters Brent Martone, Ben Lieber, and Alex Matos are the primary eyes from which we view the story unfold. There is plot, certainly, with a blatant rise and fall in action as reflected in the album’s faster first half and then slower, more dream-pop influenced second half. However, the thread stitching the patchwork of vantage points given in each song only holds together loosely at best. This leaves a fourth participant, an invisible and silent co-protagonist: the audience, who are forced to fill these gaps with their own imaginations.
Yet, that is exactly what makes this album so meaningful. Though the story may be far-fetched, it reflects life, told bits and pieces of experience at a time like mirror shards on the floor.
Musically, there is an aura of nostalgia permeating each track, a bittersweet excitement not unlike meeting a long-lost friend only to remember you both must soon part ways again. Hearing songs such as “A Presidential Decree” is sure to evoke memories of one good time of another. Meanwhile later ones such as “Hibernation Hymn” or “God (Bring It Back)” montage feelings of regret, acceptance of one’s flaws, and walking away.
Truth be told, there is a soft spot in my heart for this type of revivalist emo. Despite all the bad press the genre receives, whether for its laughable fashion, whiny lyrics, or rather pretentious, snooty fan-base—there is truthfully no better genre to salt one’s already open wounds. And sometimes we need our wounds salted. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played bands such as Knapsack or Cap’n Jazz after some relatively insignificant heartbreak left the whole world crashing down around me. People aren’t supposed to feel that way, of course, the same way that hurting yourself with music isn’t supposed to help you, but sometimes drops of consolation tasted behind closed doors can satiate you just enough to not feel so damn alone. Really, that’s the power of any music worth its salt, regardless of genre or label: to move us through dark territories and just close enough to sunlight again to walk into it should we wish.
I tend to think that’s what musicians have in mind when they release an album like this.
The Last Living Man Alive Ever In The History of the World is available now. Ask for it at your local record shop!
Visit the Head North’s official site for tour dates, album downloads, merch, and more.