Buffalo, New York cosmic rockers Head North return to the spotlight with their long awaited debut album, The Last Living Man Alive Ever in the History of the World, and it’s nothing short of groundbreaking.
The world last heard from Head North in the summer of 2016, when they announced a forthcoming record with the release of the single “God (Bring It Back),” but it would be almost a full year before that record came to light. The reason for this is unclear, but frankly I don’t care at all, because TLLMA is well worth the wait. An ambitious, experimental, spacy record full of big ideas and beautiful intricacies, TLLMA makes me feel like nothing else has in a long time.
Head North have a history in the pop-punk/indie-punk/emo scene, evident by their past releases, but The Last Living Man Alive pushes the boundaries of genre and expectation so far that it’s hard to say who their peers are anymore. The band took a sharp left turn, and it’s paid off; they’ve never sounded better or more self-assured. It feels like every song was crafted with the utmost care and attention to detail, and the finished product is weird and wonderful.
From the first song until the last, the spacy 1970’s inspired rock ‘n roll vibe doesn’t let up, making it a cohesive album best appreciated in full. Certain songs focus on the softer atmospheric side of things, like “Hibernation Hymn” and “Somewhere, n.D.,” while others are more bombastic and rocky, like “Head North is a Business” and “Broke.” “Pulse” and “The First One” are my early favorite songs, because of the way they blend the more upbeat with the more experimental. The instrumentation is so strong and groovy, showing exactly how much the talent the band possesses. Tying this all together are instrumentals, spoken word parts, guitar solos, vocal effects, atmospheric samples, and short interlude-type tracks. All in all, TLLMA is an album that never gets boring, never drags, and never ceases to amaze.
Vocalist Brent Martone has an incredible voice that he’s able to manipulate in some unique ways. On occasion the vocals act more like another instrument, blending into the music instead of standing out in front. I’ve never heard something quite like it before and it fits the tone of the album perfectly. Martone’s voice is so beautiful that I wish it were less buried sometimes, but it serves these songs in a very thoughtful way. Everything about TLLMA is thoughtful, in fact, though it still feels raw and organic. It’s evident that Head North care very much about what they create.
It’s difficult to find the words to describe an album this unique, especially because it hit me on such a specific personal and emotional level. As a general rule I try to keep subjectivity to a minimum in my writing, but it’s impossible to do so when talking about TLLMA. This record makes me feel nostalgic for a life I never led; I feel transported to another space and time whenever I turn it on. I feel the entire scope of the universe and my own existence on my shoulders and I want to cry at the beauty and the heartbreak found within the notes and lyrics of this expansive work of art.
Music is so amazing because of all the different ways it can be enjoyed. Some records are great because they make you want to dance, or because you enjoy them with friends, or because they’re sad and cathartic. In the case of The Last Living Man Alive, I love it because it’s so awe-inspiring. Truly unlike anything else I’ve experienced, so outside of the norm, so strange and dense and gorgeous and heartfelt, TLLMA is exactly what I’ve been missing.
This is not the Head North of years past, and that’s a good thing. All of their previous releases are great, and I would have been perfectly happy if they stuck to the sound and style of 2015’s Bloodlines, but what they’ve chosen to do instead is more exciting, more ambitious, and more satisfying. This is Head North at their most realized potential. I would call The Last Living Man Alive the band’s magnum opus, but it’s only their debut and it’s obvious they have a long career ahead of them. Head North are making their own rules and living in their own world, and it’s stunning to behold.