Simple

Nightmare And The Cat

Capitol, 2014

http://nightmareandthecat.com

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/27/2014

I usually have a better origin story for how I discover the music I vibe with. But when it comes to the debut full-length from Los Angeles indie group Nightmare And The Cat, I swear that one of its songs just appeared on a playlist of mine like an apparition. One listen to the dynamic, complex and catchy track “Blackbird Smile” and I was drawn in. Luckily, the origin story of the band is a little more interesting – it was formed by brothers Samuel and Django Stewart, the offspring of Eurhythmics’ Dave Stewart and Siobhan Fahey of Bananarama. Obviously, talent is in their DNA, but does it come through on Simple?

Simply put, yes! From start to finish, this is a stellar debut, full of insightful lyrics, sweeping energy, and eclectic melodies that still manage to sound seamless. Starting the disc out is title track “Simple,” which begins slow and blissed-out, reminiscent of early period Muse or a chillwave wedding march, but morphs into a defiant, spirited rocker. As the track gains steam, Django Stewart delivers this indelible line, addressing the critics of their famous family and the brothers’ inescapable draw to the industry: “Mother, tell me, is this what you wanted? / I have tried my best to keep away from the privilege in my father’s name / So who’s to blame for certain?” It’s indicative of the Nightmare And The Cat sound, which is a cool mash up between mature, musically intricate compositions and a rebellious energy that fuels the flame. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Next up, “Desert Heir” finds them combining slinky grooves and dramatic slashes of guitar with a swooning pop chorus, which paves the way for the fuzzed-over, gorgeously melodic “Goodbye So Many Times.” Django’s voice takes on an ethereal quality reminiscent of Muse’s Matt Bellamy as he guides the track through dips and swirls of feeling and equally shimmering instrumentation. 

Nightmare And The Cat’s gift for blurring genre lines is what makes Simple endlessly listenable. Every track here veers its way through multiple tonal changes but never sounds manic or confused; they’re gifted at maintaining the energy and verve throughout, uncovering the secret structure of a song that’s going to make it symphonically fascinating and super catchy. Take “Undercover,” which seems at first blush like it’s going to be a tender ballad (“You walk into the room, your eyes like two full moons”), and yet soon reveals itself to be a poppy, morally-disinclined charmer. “I knew you came with him but I just didn’t care,” Django reflects over a swath of harmonies, leading to the gloriously impulsive chorus: “I’ve got a car if you wanna drive / Take you all the way to the coastline / No one knows about you and I, so let’s keep this love undercover.”

Meanwhile, while “Sara Beth” launches out with soft, muted strums and folk-tinged vocals in the vein of Mumford & Sons, things don’t stay so straightforward for long. Suddenly, the guitars and drums start building and the song becomes a raucous clash topped off with a chorus that’s halfway between jangly and punk.

While I could go through and dissect every track on Simple, I’ve got to highlight “Blackbird Smile,” my aforementioned entry point into the album. It’s a five-minute tour de force detailing love gone wrong – but oh, how that can be love of the most intoxicating kind. Django is both bitter and ardent when he sings, “It’s strange that fate should lead you to my door when I don’t want you here / Make no mistake, you’re the one that I adore / Still I don’t want you here.” All that restless romance is underlaid with tight instrumentation, between chugging swirls of guitar, ferocious drums, and a swirling harmonic breakdown about three minutes in, which revs back up into a sonic meltdown as the track whirs toward its close. 

Needless to say, Nightmare And The Cat has got a new fan in me. Simple is an enjoyable and auspicious debut from a band whose name is as unique as their sound, and whose sound is all their own even amid a starry legacy.

Rating: A-

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