The Minnesota duo Now, Now has been building their new, quietly exuberant sound for the better part of the last decade. Founded outside Minneapolis by vocalist and chief songwriter KC Dalanager and instrumentalist Brad Hale, the band first found its cult following with 2012’s raw, emo-inflected “Threads,” which managed to pick up fans with emo-to-pop crossover icons Paramore enough for Now, Now to open for them on their European tour. Now, Now did not take all the newfound open doors lightly, working mercilessly over the past 6 years to craft the perfect follow up in an album that blows all of the band’s older material out of the water. “Saved” is a vibrant, exuberant collection of synthpop songs that veer just left of center, making for a reinvention of Now, Now that retains the band’s intense sounds and raw, unsettling lyrics.
When Now, Now debuted the first song and opening track ‘SGL’ last summer, it proudly proclaimed that the band was about to tread into waters they never considered before. While the opening guitar recalls fellow confessional indie-turned-pop stars Tegan and Sara at their mid-aughts indie peak, the song dives headfirst into sparkling synths with a wind-in-your-hair sense of freedom. Dalanger is eager to the point of breathless as each word cuts, “I got the seat back, windows up, just say it, I’m yours.” In its quiet nature, Dalanger’s voice still managed to act as an integral instrument to Now, Now’s sound. Her breathy huffs and clear diction cut through the lavish production, and lends a sense of urgency to even the most exuberant tracks. Leading into the sparkling, bouncy ‘MJ,’ Dalanger offsets the seemingly playful sounding song by imaging a conversation with her childhood idol Michael Jackson about a deteriorating relationship she believed to be the one. Written with just enough references to the pop icon- “I know i’m not the only one who listened to you, Billie Jean, baby please, he’s a criminal”- the song acts as a proper tribute in detailing how such a famous figure can inspire his fans in their darkest moments.
Exemplified from the title itself, “Saved” is rife with religious imagery, but still a far cry from any heretic Christian music. From the slight reference on ‘MJ,’ “I used to think that she could’ve been an angel, But she left all her demons on my front step,” to the more blatant tinges of heavenly bodies like on the album’s title track that has Dalanger repeating “Oh Holy mother, you’re a saint…Oh my God, I’m saved.” However, these references are juxtaposed with tales of wanting, desire, lust, and intimacy to assuage any idea that Now, Now has crossed over into Contemporary Christian radio. The references get heavy handed at times, like on the sonically haunting but lyrically benign “Holy Water,” but the pulsating energy makes listeners want to continue jamming through.
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“Saved” could easily be an underdog runner for album of the summer with it anthemic choruses and beats anyone could bop their head to. “AZ” proves the songwriting strength the band has gained over their 6 year absence, and fleshes out two chords throughout the entire song into an ebullient anthem as the chorus repeats, “Back to the summer we all drive out to Arizona, back to the heart of it all.” It’s a simple lyrics that everyone can shout back at them and feel every words, but also lets us into the stories that make up Now, Now’s narrative. Even after such a long hiatus, Now, Now has reemerged ready to prove that they can pull off any sound with their universal songwriting.
The full track listing for ‘Saved’ is…
Can’t Help Myself
Set It Free