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Album review: Now, Now – Saved (2018)

KC Dalager and Brad Hale

We’ve been fans of Now Now (formerly known as Now Now, Every Children) ever since their 2007 debut EP, Not One But Two. It’s a great feeling when you discover that bands you loved when you were younger are still around making wonderful music, so when we realized that in 2019 the band had dropped Enda – a massive single which saw the duo refining their sound from their latest album Saved – we decided a closer look at their latest album was in order.

Now, Now is a band of two halves, or eras: Saved was a departure from the more guitar and drums-driven indie-rock sound which the band had honed between 2007 and 2014 to a more synth-based one. Enda can be described as an explosive rave track – frontwoman KC Dalager describes it as being born from struggling with depression – and it is certainly one of the band’s best singles.

“Enda means heart/center in elvish. The core of something. This song is about hating the things we do to ourselves that are in our control but feel out of our control. Knowing yourself enough to know you’re going to do whatever it is that you are trying to avoid doing. This isn’t about habits or addiction, but more self destructive tendencies in general.” – KC Dalager

A lot of Enda’s evolved sound was already present in Saved, itself an album made of two very distinct halves: a dark, synth-driven, electronic sound and a more upbeat, pop-anthem one.

Powder, the last track from the album, is one which evokes the feel of School of Seven Bells, featuring vocal manipulations a la The Japanese House, with a great twist: halfway, it too punctuates the more silent moments with thumping bass sounds and explodes into the same booming, brooding, but satisfying rave peaks of Enda.

Holy Water is instantly one of the album’s strongest moments, equally a synth and a dream-pop track. Pitchfork describes the album as a “lavishly produced collection of pop songs fueled by hedonism and desire“, and lyrics like “You touch me like an angel/ But you kiss me like a sinner” make the song radiate with warmth and intense emotion.

Window‘s gated synths and pitched-down samples being mixed up with the strong vocal delivery make it our absolute favorite track – it is simply Saved in a nutshell: dark, seductive, explosive. At the 2:00 mark, the song’s blissful outro drops like a supernova, providing a release that feels like the most “witch-house” moment of the album.

Meanwhile, from the album’s sunnier side, Yours – a synth-pop anthem benefiting from a video which, together with AZ, MJ and Enda, seems to be part of a loose narrative – wouldn’t feel out of place in one of Tegan and Sara’s latest albums. One of the band’s selling points was always Dalager’s unique enunciation, present on this track more than anywhere else on the album.

MJ is a welcome reminder of the band’s past glory and their more guitar-driven sound. It is really the album’s true masterpiece, a trippy dream-journey through the night, with visuals out of this world and the band’s more recognizable elements all in place. With a huge replayability factor, Dalager declares “I want it all“, while the blue filter and the ominous feel of some scenes (the instant messaging texts hint at a horror-like descent into the underworld) make the video truly stand out. And then there’s the mood-whiplash of the outro, which really makes it feel like an art-horror piece, a prequel to Enda.

Of course, when you find out about what the song and video are perhaps truly meant to be – a tribute to Michael Jackson – the puzzle pieces seem to fall into place, and it also gains a controversial edge (you can read more about what Dalager has to say about being inspired by Jackson in her KEXP interview).

The title-track, Saved, takes some cues from electronic R&B, but halfway, it switches the more Banks-sounding production style, explicit lyrics and vocals to a more a Realiti-era Grimes feel. It’s catchy and deceptively simple, culminating into a dimension that’s entirely its own and showcasing the band’s almost effortless ability to switch genres. “Halfway switches” is definitely the album’s modus operandi, and it couldn’t delight us more.

Overall, Now Now’s Saved is an album without weaknesses, an electronica meets dream-pop experiment which paid off, definitely one of the most underrated releases of 2018. While it entirely eschews the band’s traditional explosive guitar & drumming moments and fans might decry the absence of former member Jess Abbott, its and Yin and Yang-like structure really makes it look like we got two albums for the price of one. The band is intent on surprising with every song off this album, and the incomplete feeling left in the wake of listening to some of the tracks will only lead to more obsessive listening. Dalager’s vocal delivery remains one of the band’s strengths and we can only look forward to what Now,Now does next.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

(5 out of 5 stars)

PS. To conclude, we just have to mention two of the band’s former songs, Magnet and Not One But Two, in order for new listeners to realize what they’re missing out on and pinpoint without using words what exactly this album does differently. We’re also including a remix – this band is eminently remixable and they’ve had (not one, but) two remix albums so far. Be sure to give the Threads album a listen in order to see the band pulling off alternative/emo/noise-rock perfectly.

[EDIT: Initially, our review mentioned that the lyrics to MJ were “Damn, I want It All”, when in fact they’re “And, I Want It All”. Dalager seemingly prides herself on only having used expletives on “Saved” and no other song except that one.]

Featured image is Depression by sabgeid.

Reading material: Bored Panda’s showcase of 137 visual art pieces related to depression.

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