Album Review: Northwest’s “Heaven from Athens”

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Northwest has released their new album “Heaven from Athens” just in time to close out the year. This is their third project together since forming in 2017 and recounts stories from 2021 and 2022. Independent production (directly from members of the band) and gently sung lyrics join forces in its nearly 30 minute play time. Behind the watercolor-esque cover, the band ventures into a nostalgic timeline of the emotions they have explored over the last few years.

“Heaven” guides us through the first few minutes of this new album with a twangy, dream-like introduction. Its lyrics struggle with knowing the grass will get greener within an emotional recollection of losing somebody. Instrumentals and flickering production eventually break the funk of this song in its reflective closing.

Track number 2 is a drive down memory lane where our narrator is “staring out the window/ ‘2004’ “ . This song, named after the lyric’s respective year, is a very personable addition to the album. Alongside shoegaze-y vocals and a newfound drum presence, it holds tight to the feeling of childhood nostalgia. Various instruments and their accompanying effects echo and stretch in the background before reaching a turning point in the bridge where production slows for a moment. Lead singer Lukas Needham reminds listeners to “remember the sun always rises” before the initial verses circle back, putting a cap on the song and all of its sentimental glory.

Where “2004” feels more youthful and even sociable, “Campfire Nights” follows in an introspective haze; coming of age turns into being of age, and secrecy is key. A simple, acoustic guitar led melody lies behind lyrics like “Maybe I don’t even know me” and “Maybe this is why I’m unapproachable”, which almost come off as self-induced reality checks.

 The next song is fourth in the new project from Northwest and the first of two lead singles. It carries a faster tempo, especially between verses, giving it more of an indie pop feel when compared to the rest of the album. While guitars harmonize and dance around breezily in the background, the lyrics play with the idea of a memory that you’d rather forget repeatedly coming back to you, hence the title “Driftwood”. 

“Fishing” builds on the gradual increase in sound throughout the album that started with “Driftwood”. Instruments maintain a rougher edge against lyrics that sit on the edge of confrontation. The track displays a back-and-forth conversation, coated in tension, that leads to a sudden awareness:  “I’m fishing for answers that will never come/ Seeking help from ten different opinions”. It ends on a rugged guitar solo, perfectly contrasting the more light-hearted melody played at the beginning of the next song.

“All I Want (is What you Want)” feels like a sequel to its forerunner. It does, however, vary in the sense that our narrator seems more willing to work on issues that have risen. “Untitled” is the album’s finale, formed around misplaced thoughts and scattered melodies. Behind every lyric lies lessons learned and notes taken from each track’s story.

“Heaven from Athens'' is a 7-song memoir of situations experienced and emotions felt over the last couple of years. Adjacent to its words, guitar dances around each song and rises above laid back vocals like slow moving fireworks. Other non-vocal melodies mimic each other throughout each track, which does allow the album to feel coherent as a whole. I enjoyed how instrumentally heavy it was, with songs like “Campfire Nights” and “2004” being incredibly easy to fall into. Gentle and occasionally monotone vocals also build in volume and versatility, fitting into genres like indie rock, shoegaze, and even hints of folk. The captured sounds of a backroads summer road trip have been packaged and repurposed in Northwest’s new album, and it is one that I recommend for all of your moody December needs.

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