Nation Of Language’s third album, ‘Strange Disciple’ opens with the deep, spatial synth-pop tryst ‘Weak In Your Light’. In it, frontman Ian Richard Devaney sings about tumultuous love, fumbling, being frantic and beleaguered, his subdued voice somehow displaying peak levels of yearning. The introduction speaks to the greater theme of the Brooklyn trio’s latest LP, which they’ve said deals with “infatuation and how one’s reality can be warped by it”. It’s an ideal intro for an album that perfectly conveys the inner chaos of infatuation, not just lyrically but with every note the trio plays.
‘Strange Disciple’ follows Nation Of Language’s critically acclaimed second album, 2021’s, ‘A Way Forward’ and their 2020 self-released debut, ‘Introduction, Presence’. But where their previous two albums drew comparisons to acts of the past – New Order, Kraftwerk, to name a few – their latest dives head first into the future. ‘Sole Obsession’ backs this assertion with jittery and crawling percussion and Devaney taking breaks between singing and speaking lyrics in monotone delivery. It’s imbued with layers of post-punk nostalgia sure, but the kinetic energy in the arrangements steer it from being derivative. The album’s title is lifted from the track’s lyrics, “Empty idol, strange disciple,” giving more credence to the song taking on the role of the album’s thesis statement.
Another album highlight, ‘Swimming In The Shallow Sea’ swings in like a distorted slow dance, overflowing with lyrics about floating and a lover out of reach in a shallow sea. ‘Too Much Enough’ takes on a similar role, again telling the story of emotional collateral damage, but this time with a quicker pace and more questions, building up to the inquisition “All for what?”.
Though their third LP is brimming with delightful moments, Nation Of Language’s true power shines when they hit all of their sweet spots simultaneously, pouring out pristine lyrics, retro propensities and imaginative soundscapes all at once. This can be heard in ‘Stumbling Still’, as they match crystalline sonics with raw lyrics, as the words, “I’ve been stumbling still waiting to fall,” sit on top of a stuttering beat, highlighting the band’s ability to play with space, words and sound. The result is a slow-building, burning example of the trio’s talent.
‘Strange Disciple’ is a testament to the band’s growth in the brisk three years since their debut. With their third album, Nation Of Language prove their able to stretch their auditory imagination, all while sticking to their roots. In just 10 quick tracks, the NYC band demonstrate that their reminiscent sound has always been more about the future than the past.
- Release date: September 15, 2023
- Record label: PIAS