Monday 06th, January 2014 / 13:20



Toronto mainstay indie label, Arts & Crafts, has been on a roll lately, combing North America far and wide for some of the most brooding, expansive, emotionally-draining indie pop they can find. Fans of local heroes Reuben & the Dark will find much to like on Los Angeles’ NO’s debut album, El Prado: both display a knack for crafting dark, lush pop that seems best suited for overcast skies and rain-soaked urban landscapes. Though it’s tempting to suggest that despair is the name of the game on El Prado, there’s a stalwart sort of optimism that runs throughout, as if to say that things will get better somehow, you just have to believe.

The first standout track on El Prado is “Stay With Me,” a slow builder of a track that draws from some of Lou Reed’s more straightforward, introverted tracks, carefully building to a crescendo chorus before majestically crashing down, “Stay with me/Wasn’t there a place for me inside your heart/Stay with me/We were never meant to be apart.” Frontman Bradley Hanan Carter sounds defeated and deflated, though the track seems to belie his moodiness: it’s immaculately composed, letting each part resonate inside what sounds like enormous cathedral, complete with shafts of golden sunlight filtering through ancient stained-glass masterpieces. Despite the lyrics, the track feels uplifting and affirming, a quasi-religious experience that compels you to get up and try again.

With attention from NME, SXSW and the LA Times following their debut EP, Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Here Forever (2011), NO are set to break as a buzz band in 2014 on the strength of their debut full-length. The sextet has struck a fantastic formula that speaks to the hopeless, eternal romantic and balances a decidedly modern indie pop sound with a classic songwriter’s attitude. Keep your eyes on NO, they’ll soon be just about everywhere.

By Sebastian Buzzalino