As a result of COVID-19, New York City synth-pop band Nation of Language had to delay the release of their debut album, Introduction, Presence, by several months. When it finally saw the light of day in late May, it offered the perfect escape to the madness and chaos of those early days of the pandemic. It was also a reminder that a great record will not only make us forget about reality for a moment, but it will cause us to take some time to contemplate our existence. From its ’80s-influenced artistry to its provocative songwriting, Ian Devaney (vocals), Aidan Noéll (synths), and Michael Sue-Poi (bass) crafted one of the year’s most outstanding records that will undoubtedly be on our year-end list.
Now with 2020 showing fading into the horizon, the trio return to document our recent history. They achieve this in the only fashion they know – through a retro sound that is all-embracing and words that will spin endlessly in your mind. Through a song that is simply, well, outstanding.
Blending the old-school beats of OMD, the ingenuity of Talking Heads, and the contemporary thoughtfulness of Future Islands, Nation of Language unveil a titillating number in “A Different Kind of Life”. It is intoxicating and dreamy yet dizzying, where you just want to close your eyes and slowly spin round and round with our arms widely stretched out. This is escapism at its finest. Devaney, though, keeps us grounded in the present. He immediately says:
“Early in the morning
I cry for better times
Chest wide, bleeding all kinds of light”
And later, he perfectly captures the harm we’ve created on ourselves:
“So now we find ourselves in the waiting room of history
And hate ourselves for being so blind
I’m so naive it’s like they came up from behind me
And they gouged me in the eyes”
All this because of one man:
“Pray we’ll find our common sense
Pray we’ll find our hearts in all of this
They said be fair, give him one more try
But he checks all of the boxes of a racist troglodyte”
Maybe, just maybe we’ve turned the corner. And maybe we’ve escaped the worst and a different kind of life awaits us once the reality show comes to a conclusion.
The single is available on Bandcamp and streaming everywhere. Be sure to pick up Introduction, Presence as well because it truly is one of the year’s most cherished gems.
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