Nation of Language | Introduction, Presence (debut album)
Since its May 2020 release, I can no longer count how many times I've listened to Introduction, Presence, the brilliant, self-released debut album from Brooklyn-based synth/new wave trio Nation of Language. I've run out of fingers and toes for sure. Comprised of singer-songwriter Ian Devaney, keyboardist Aidan Devaney, and bassist Michael Sui-Poi, the band released its debut single, "What Does the Normal Man Feel?" in late 2016, followed by a series of one-off singles over subsequent years, including "I've Thought About Chicago" and "Reality," among other standouts.
Why is Introduction, Presence so addicitve? For starters, it's fresh, modern, brooding and bursting with retro-synth and post-punk energy. Complementing the band's well-crafted songwriting and tight production by Abe Seiferth are Ian's retro-sounding, edgy, yet swooning-at-times vocals, with addition of infectious snyth arrangements and entrancing bass lines. As an avid start-to-finish album listener, I can confidently tell you there are no sub-par songs on this entire album. Every one of the ten tracks deserves your undivided musical attention.
If you're a fan of retro-snyth, post-punk or early 80's new wave (when synth music was fresh and golden), Inroduction, Presence is a must listen. The comparisons are many and are noted in the most complimentary contexts.
With opening track "Tournament," the journey of Intoduction, Presence commences. Ian's brooding vocals at the song's outset are vaguely reminiscent of the late, great Ric Ocasek: "And that’s fine | I’m wasting away | I took the long road home | and it never paid off for me." It's at 1:34 into "Tournament" that I want to jump on my feet and start dancing uncontrollably. What a moment. You can just feel the energy surge as the bass guitar emerges and the depth of this killer opening track explodes.
I hear so many influences throughout this album. Both "Rush & Fever" and "The Motorist" conjure up elements of O.M.D. On the pulsing "Rush & Fever," Ian's smooth and somber vocals gently plead, "Save us, save us saints from above | Why would I say what I would want?" while delicate, sustained synths paint its atmospheric canvas. "The Motorist" creates a musical vibe and pace that feels like the lost and long-awaited sequel to O.M.D.'s "So In Love."
The haunting, descending synths on "September Again" evoke flashbacks of late-80's (clan of) Xymox with lyrics that hint at surrender and acceptance of cyclical nature of the seasons: "And it's September again | Flipping through the same old books | But you're reading less | And it's September again | I don't mind | I don't mind."
While Nation of Language's outstanding 2017 single, "I've Thought About Chicago" didn't land on Introduction, Presence, it's possible that "On Division St." is the nostalgic musical tribute to Chicago that did make the cut ("And still, I'm waiting there | on Division Street"). But it's likely referring to the historical Manhattan street. I hear threads and influence of early Ultravox at the outset of this standout track. The glossy synth arpeggios add the sparkle that floats atop the softened pulsing bassline.
"Indignities" is the most post-punk influenced track on Introduction, Presence with its echoed, bellowing vocals. The song's bassline provides an air of delicacy and throwback to 80's Cure ("A Forest") nostalgia.
The steadily pulsing synths on "Automobile" give way to a melody and infectious chorus that make me want to sing along ("You carry on for a long time | carry on for a long time"). Without missing a beat, the track seamlessly transitions into "Friend Machine" in both key and pace - a song in which I pick up subtle elements of Naked Eyes along with influences of Kraftwerk ("I need a friend machine to help me just to last the night"). "Sacred Tongue" alludes to unconditional surrender and love grounded in a time long past: "But if our shirts don’t fit and the jeans are ripped | That's fine, that's alright | And when our conscience clears I can murmur something trite| Laying by your side."
Closing out Introduction, Presence is the exceptional "The Wall & I." The powerful bassline on this is outstanding, clearly influenced by and paying homage to the great Peter Hook of New Order and Joy Division fame. Ian's stellar and anthemic vocal performance glides above prominent, pulsing keyboards and a driving beat. What an incredible closing track.
Be sure to give a listen to this outstanding, cult classic album of the future called Introduction, Presence, and look out for more new music from this emerging band. Follow Nation of Language on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube), visit their official website, and find their music on Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Music and other digital music services.