Last year was evidently full of great albums that were easy to miss. From the opening drum grooves and crystalline guitar passages of “Out of Touch”, you’ll regret not finding November Lounge sooner. The band’s core sound is a summery blend of indie rock and jazz that manifests in songs that feel huge and cinematic. Arguably, this PA-based trio does prog better than many self-described prog bands.
There are nuances on Humble Universe which point toward a myriad of influence: the jam-band-esque “Tired”, the dreamy balled “Roots”, the ethereal “West Coast”, and the mathy “Wise Man” manage to show the spectrum of the band’s intelligent songwriting.
Humble Universe seems aptly-titled. It feels down-to-earth. It reminds me of local bands in my area or even smaller bands around the country. For whatever reason, it’s not a sound that seems to exist in the mainstream even though there is a heavy degree of mass appeal at play. “Humble” feels entirely appropriate, then. November Lounge is not boasting incessantly or standing on a pedestal and they don’t need to. Their music speaks for itself and it does so genuinely.
The lyrics follow in suit, opting for a more “say what you mean” approach rather than an egregious amount of obscure wordplay. It’s a relational album, though it’s far from myopic. We see love at its best and worst – the full roller coaster of emotions and the questions that come along for the ride. Humble Universe is not going to win a Pulitzer Prize for its lyrics but it manages to avoid pop cliches and still have something tangible to say.
The best part of the album, though, is the overall mood. Aaron Abercrombie’s voice is perfect for this sort of music, with its buttery timbre. The drumming is incredibly technical and energetic. Guitars weave between melodic bliss and funky chord-based segments. Bass is groovy and packs a decent punch. This results in an album that is relaxed but has a sense of urgency all the same. It’s not quite coffee shop material because of some of the powerful rhythm sections, but it wouldn’t be at home in a club because of the more restrained vocals and guitar parts. This is an unfortunate placement in some respects, but it cements the album’s position of being written for humans and not commercialism.
Hopefully Humble Universe has proven an effective gateway to the Philadelphia music scene for November Lounge. It’s an album that leaves an immediate impression. It’s a cozy collection of songs perfect for this time of year that satisfies both pop sensibilities and technical songwriting.