Notes To My Blood by Norwood.
Fresh off the success of their 2015 debut album, Year Of The Bear, indie folk rock outfit Norwood is back with their impressive follow up, Notes to My Blood. As founding member Christopher Norwood explains, “This album is for the middle children of culture. The people who are constantly being told what’s cool and how they should think…Anybody who feels pinned down by a thousand voices coming from all directions telling them they aren’t good enough for any of a million bullshit reasons. Fuck that.” In case that was in any way unclear, the Queens, NY, based Norwood is not offering the stereotypical indie folk rock sound but instead, is taking a refreshingly organic, free-spirited musical approach that demands your attention.
Within seconds of hitting play on Notes to My Blood, you realize Norwood has a way of keeping things interesting since that is about how long it takes before the opening track, “Prayer,” smacks you in the face. After luring you in with peaceful, acoustic guitar strumming that might be expected on a song with such a title, Norwood greets you with the lyrics “Oh Lord/Please make me/Punk as fuck.” It isn’t long before his prayer is answered as they move into the high energy track, “Randolph Carter Rides Again.” Combining hints of punk with a straight up cacophony of sound highlighted by a violin, “Randolph Carter Rides Again” kicks down your door and keeps the pace throughout.
“Art is Free” takes the tempo down a notch on this track about the trials and tribulations of being an artist and how no one cares because all people want “…is another free song.” Nastasia Green adds nicely to the vocals here as well as throughout the release. “New Song” combines percussion, acoustic guitar and violin to create a more subdued feeling and it is nothing short of enthralling. “On the day I collapse/I will see you dancing solo on the porch.” Lead off single, “Moonlight,” beautifully relays the complexities of intimacy in a way that does Norwood justice. It is a fun, upbeat sounding track with meaning, shared vocals and a musicality driven by standout violinist Hajnal Pivnick.
One of my favorite tracks on Notes to My Blood is “I Never Told You,” a haunting ballad that opens simply and remains steadily low key. There is a melancholic vulnerability to the story about a relationship where people cannot find the strength to reveal their honest emotions. “Pretend” picks up the tempo with Norwood and Green sharing vocal duties once again, perfectly complimenting each other as Pivnick masterfully directs with the violin. Norwood’s songwriting style shines with lyrics such as “If you can bear with the ebb and flow/We can pretend your scars don’t show/And if I can prove my stories are true/We can pretend I’m pretty enough for you.” If there is one raise your beer, anthemic type song simmering with a revolutionary undertone on this release, “Middle Child” and its trademark phrase, “I say fuck em all!” is it.
Notes to My Blood begins to wind down with “Skin.” Opening with an acoustic guitar accompanied by a tambourine, ‘Skin” is the type of song you can really get into if you’ve ever made a mental list of things you were not going to do anymore and who hasn’t done that? Another one of my favorites, the lyrics and the music work seamlessly together to create a stand out track. “I wont worry about the women that I’ve met/They’ll eventually forgive my stupid ass/I will not be scared of satan/Or his brother Jesus with the fish tattoo/I won’t fright if I lose my mind tonight/Yeah my skin, my skin will fail when it do.” Notes to My Blood wraps up with “When the Time Comes.” Bringing the release full circle, “When the Time Comes” combines the best aspects of all the previous tracks with that fighting back, soldiering on, screw societal compartmentalization, spirit that defines Notes to My Blood.
Norwood’s Notes to My Blood is a career igniting sophomore effort by a band firing on all cylinders. Artistic but never pretentious, even with a backing band that is outright symphonic, Norwood has seemingly found the perfect recipe of personality, songwriting and musicality and the end result is a winner. Every day run of the mill folk music, this is not. Give them a listen and Norwood might just change everything you thought you knew or have been told about indie folk rock.
Notes to My Blood is available now.