I first heard NO about two years ago — roughly late 2011 or early 2012 — on a car ride home late at night listening to a KROQ local music show. It had been a late night finishing production at the newspaper when the song “Stay With Me” came on the radio and almost immediately struck me. After arriving home I did a little research online and found that this band, called NO, had recently released their debut EP, “Don’t Worry, You’ll Be Here Forever,” free on their website.
Now, after what seems like an eternal wait, the Echo-Park-based six-piece has released its full-length debut, “El Prado.” The album takes the promise shown in their EP and expands on it. Nothing is drastically different, but often more polished.
While the obvious comparison would be to the National, thanks in no small part to Bradley Hanan Carter’s booming baritone that compares favorably to National lead singer Matt Berninger’s, it would be incorrect to say that this band doesn’t stand on its own merits. NO’s pulsating synths — and the fact that they all aren’t clones of the National’s band members — more than sets them apart.
These pulsating synths are hugely apparent in the lead single, “Leave the Door Wide Open.” Carter menacingly sings, “We come together / We fall apart / We make some noise inside a room and call it art,” over an unrelenting, throbbing synth. As the song builds up, Carter’s vocals swell in intensity as the rest of the band chants with him, “Leave the door wide open.”
Some of album’s strongest tracks are recycled from the band’s original EP, and repetition is not a bad thing here. The aforementioned “Stay With Me,” along with “There’s a Glow,” “Another Life” and “The Long Haul,” make their way from the band’s debut effort to this release. “Another Life” is a particularly strong point for the band, as an airy-yet-anxious guitar flutters over a consistently pounding bass as Carter sings about the sentimentality of a lost, but not forgotten, lover. Other highlights include the driving “What’s Your Name,” and the anthemic “North Star.” However, songs like “Go Outside” or “So Scared,” while decent tracks, wallow in an atmospheric tone for too long before building to their climaxes.
While still a young band, “El Prado” finds NO establishing their niche and producing an extremely consistent album. While parts of “El Prado” could possibly be tightened up to produce a clearer product, it does not detract from a band that is clearly ready to make waves and claim its spot in the competitive world of indie rock. The only place to go for NO from here is up.
Rating: 3.5 stars