Key Track: “Happy?”
It’s tempting to call No Man’s Valley a throwback band for today’s music. The Dutch group has the constructs of a typical rock band – vocals, guitars, bass, drums and keyboard. But the band prides themselves on incorporating 60s’ style rhythms and moods into their songs, and there’s elements from many different eras. The songs have a garage rock energy to them, and there is a frequent use of soundclips. When the whole package comes together, it becomes a band taking many different influences to become their own unique sound.
No Man’s Valley hails from the Netherlands, but their feelings are universal. The band sings of common themes like work, not fitting in, and, on the opener and best song “Happy?,” societal pressures to seem happy. “Happy?,” serving as a single of types, is the most 60’s-inspired song on the EP. The guitar-and-synth at the song’s beginning sounds like something the Zombies would have jammed on, if they sang about struggling to be happy instead of an actual happy song. it has a slow-burning energy and has a classic feel to it. “Sleeping on the Job” is a much more ‘recent’ era song – another slow-burner, but one that angrily takes on the tediousness of working (specifically, at an ad agency). Again, the song’s guitar/synth combination is a winner, this time taking on a 70’s feel.
“Moon” is definitely the most experimental song on the release, to the point where it almost doesn’t fit. But it’s a great song. The nearly five-minute song is slower, and has a hefty instrumental midsection played over soundclips, before erupting into a big, synth-heavy climax. Lyrically, the song tackles a feeling of loneliness, with the frequently repeated “The moon is a good listener” speaking volumes. The follow-up, “Black Sheep,” the quickest, shortest and most energetic track. It might be the least interesting one, but it does capture the band’s 60’s inspirations pretty dead-on. Finally, “We Have Lost the Way” serves as a fitting finale. The midtempo song strips away the vocals for a majority (save a soundclip, again tackling the ad agency), for a rousing sendoff, before bringing them back in and ever so slowly fading out.
Listeners could strike many comparisons to No Man’s Valley. One of the most immediate would be Nick Cave. Cave’s music is eclectic, but with a strong personal identity. “…And Four Other Songs” has a consistent tone and energy, combining many styles while staying original. The vocals might be compared to the vocals of Scott Walker – deep, and almost crooning at times. It doesn’t always work on this EP, but it often reinforces the dark and introspective lyrics. No Man’s Valley find originality in established influences, and “…And Four Other Songs” only goes to show that.
“Happy?” is streaming on their bandcamp page, and the EP will be available for free on March 23rd.
-By Andrew McNally