Bradley Hale and KC Dalager, the duo known as NOW, NOW have returned after six years with brand new album Saved, out May 18 on Trans Records. And while sure, on the surface this is a very, very good electro-pop album, there are many layers to this particular onion. Dalager’s soft and lilting vocals often belie the tension found in the lyrics. If you listen closely you can hear the sounds of love, happiness, and heartbreak, sometimes all within the same song. And yet, one listen simply isn’t enough. This is a record that demands repeat listens, often as soon as the last song ends. In my case I must have done this six times in a row just the other day.
Right from the start, album opener and first single “SGL” reminded me of a warm summer day and a drive down the PCH, top down with the sun on our faces, despite the somewhat sad subject matter. It’s from the viewpoint of someone in love with her friend, who just so happens to be in a crappy relationship. SHE, the friend, knows they’d be much happier being with her, but the person just doesn’t see it…yet? “MJ” is KC singing to the King of Pop about her being in a deteriorating relationship. This one-two is such a great opening to this record, and both have such catchy, contagious hooks that you’ll be singing them hours later.
Eschewing the guitar sound at times throughout the disc, atmospheric tunes like “Can’t Help Myself” and “Window” take us down a deeply emotional path, and it’s hard to come away unscathed. One of the album’s masterpieces and a personal favorite (besides “SGL” and “MJ”) is without a doubt “AZ”. The light strum of the guitar, with just the right touch of synth, combined with KC’s mesmerizing vocal, surely make for one of the best songs of 2018 for me. “Back to the summer we all drove out to Arizona/Back to the heart of it all/Back to the summer we all drove out to Arizona/Back to the heart of it all” hit me hard in a way I just can’t explain. And the vocal effects at the end really add that extra something.
Speaking of tracks that hit hard, “Holy Water” blew my mind from the very first spin. Once again, it’s KC that anchors the track. Her voice conveys so many different feelings that it really is the strongest weapon in the duo’s arsenal. “Yours” is another single that was released late last year, and again the theme is having a crush on someone and being determined to make them yours. The line “I’ll make you stay, there’s just no way/I’m leaving without your love” had me believing that’s exactly what’s gonna happen. Title track “Saved” reminded me a bit of THE NAKED AND FAMOUS with its quiet bombast and chaos. They’re another band I love, so that’s a compliment.
“Know Me” and “Set it Free” are both mid-tempo fare, also with great hooks, while closer “Powder” is one of the most powerful songs on an album FULL of powerful songs. Over the course of 45 minutes and 12 shimmeringly gorgeous tunes NOW, NOW have crafted a sonic masterpiece, one that should be hailed by fans and critics alike. I can guaran-damn-tee you that Saved will be on a bunch of year end Top Albums lists. Hell, it’s already on mine and we’re only halfway through May. This is one of those emotionally searing records that I really, really cannot recommend enough. Big thanks to my awesome friend Tiaday Ball from THE WORLD OVER for sharing in my love of this one. P.S. she does a fantastic cover of “SGL” that you can find on YouTube!
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM