Life is short, and Nathan Oliver is not going to spend it waiting.
After 15 years and three albums of brilliantly crooked rock, this onetime bedroom project of band namesake Nathan Oliver has quietly grown into one of the best kept secrets of the North Carolina music scene. And now with their fourth album, Thank You For Your Generosity, the Chapel Hill three-piece has returned with a journey through grief that is by turns contemplative, explosive and — because it’s still a Nathan Oliver record — fun as hell.
As with prior outings, Thank You showcases Oliver’s catchy, pop-forward songcraft in the vein of Alvvays and The Love Language, though cut from a slightly more ragged cloth. Still present are his irresistible shout-along choruses and burrow-in-your-brain guitar hooks (Exhibit A: “Everybody’s Swimming”) set against the stop-start dynamics of influences like The Pixies and Enon.
But this album is something more.
Oliver began writing what would become Thank You after the death of his brother in late 2017. The pain, confusion and embrace of his brother’s optimistic spirit gave shape to this collection — the title of which is both a play on the formalities of grief and a genuine expression of thanks.
It opens with “Generous Seas,” a piece of instrumental scene-setting: waves of guitar washing over you in reverse, ringing in your ears, conjuring a state of rumination. Fade into “Isle of Youth,” a searching swirl punctuated by sharp melodic bursts. Emerging from that place is “Everybody’s Swimming,” a classic Nathan Oliver stomp that breaks into an exuberant pogo-stick chorus.
The album’s centerpiece, “Even If You Go,” is an aching letter across time, culminating in a stripped-down final verse that stops everything and lands in the gut. It’s a timeless song that feels like it’s always existed (attn: TV music programmers).
Bookending that song are “Air Control” and “Stand In Line,” two off-kilter rockers bursting with loopy hooks and acid humor. And then comes the album’s climax, the tense, tortured “Runaway.” You might say it sounds a bit like The Strokes playing tug-of-war with Unwound — though any comparison fails to capture the song’s unique power, how it maps so closely to a feeling of desperate panic.
The denouement, “A Tangent In Time,” is more peaceful, though unresolved. Something of a cosmic dial tone carries you through its swaying “whoas,” marking a gentle goodbye to a past that’s never quite over.
If Thank You sounds more organic and cohesive than past Nathan Oliver releases, that’s by design. Unlike Oliver’s usual practice of crafting in private and bringing to the band, the songs on Thank You were fleshed out and fine-tuned over months of rehearsal with band members Joe Caparo (bass, guitar, pianet) and Brad Porter (drums, percussion). Their chemistry predates Caparo and Porter’s addition to the Nathan Oliver lineup: The two have backed songwriter Brett Harris and played together in Some Army; and Caparo has played with Nathan Oliver since 2017, way back when live shows were a thing.
Recording began in October of last year at Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium in Kernersville, N.C., with Missy Thangs (Reese McHenry, Wye Oak, Ex Hex, H.C. McEntire) in the engineer’s seat, and continued with additional tracking at Thread Audio in Raleigh. While touring is off the table at the moment, before long (2021?!) Nathan Oliver will return to the same stages they’ve shared with Neil Halstead, Bombadil and Des Ark.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROSITY
CD / Digital (2020)
HEAD IN THE SAND
CD / Digital (2017)
CD / Digital (2009)