Nathan Oliver – Head in the Sand
The EP from Nathan Oliver, their first studio outing since 2009, is a six song affair entitled Head in the Sand. The band’s chief songwriter Nathan White hasn’t been keeping his head buried in the years since he last turned his attention to the band that bears his first name. He’s kept himself at the forefront of the indie alternative rock scene with a number of projects that have further honed his already impressive talents, so this release feels like a bit of a homecoming, the conquering hero returned deeper, wiser, and better than ever before. He’s brought along some marvelous players to make it happen – the rhythm section of drummer Robert Biggers and bassist Duncan Webster are ideal partners on this journey and provide the EP’s half dozen tracks with the sort of imaginative twists and turns that make the songwriting pop from the start.
“Marbles” opens the EP hellbent on taking your head off. This is Nathan Oliver in near full on punk rock flight and White, alongside his collaborators, makes it an impressive blast off for Head in the Sand. White certainly has the guitar chops to buzzsaw listeners with his punk rock chords, but he’s got the vocal grit to make it work to and it gets this release off to a blazing start. He wisely reins in the energy level on the EP’s second number “Clean Sheets”. There’s a little rueful humor in the lyric that White’s voice makes great use of, but this is ultimately a real heartbreaker with a great emotive vocal. The guitar takes the forefront again on the track “Little Belle” and moves from a quasi-cinematic slant during its opening half into a much moodier rock feel during the second part of the song. White adjusts his singing appropriately throughout the tune and his ability to match the musical mood makes this one of the EP’s best tracks.
“The Exquisite Wait” brings together some expansive textures and other passages with great guitar bite while sweetening it a little further with some of his best relaxed vocals. Ten years may have nearly elapsed before Nathan Oliver reconvened for a new release, but there isn’t a single hint of missing confidence. This band plays and writes like it never went anywhere and this track shows off their inspired spirit in an impressive way. “Sing Blue Silver” is a breezy and muscular alternative rocker that never gets carried away with itself and features another fine White vocal. It sets up the EP’s last song in a great way. “Kim Mi Young” doesn’t run over five minutes long, but it has a few more parts than you might expect in light of the preceding five tracks. It moves rather consciously from an acoustic beginning to a firepower packed conclusion that makes for an impactful ending. Head in the Sand is quite an effective return for the band Nathan Oliver and finds its architect, singer/songwriter Nathan White, working at somewhere approaching the peak of his artistic powers.