When we press the play button on the new single “The Folly of War” from singer/songwriter Neil Nathan, the first distinct component of the track we come in contact with is a layered vocal harmony. Nathan’s voice is stacked high and his melodies envelop everything that precedes in the song, and it isn’t long before he’s ushering forth a rather casual groove perfect for the peace-laden lyrics he’s singing. In this antiwar anthem, our singer is as focused on sonic depth as he is on the verses he’s composed, and it results in a very fetching and provocative listen for anyone who appreciates quality folk-rock.
The string parts in this single, although a bit removed from the lead vocal, are not isolated from the piano keys but instead made to form a solid body beneath the singing. It’s not as rigid as it could have been, but there’s no mistaking this arrangement for the shapeless chamber-folk we’ve been seeing and hearing more and more of in the past few years. Nathan is exploiting rock tones without prejudice, but it’s his voice that’s keeping the theme of this music on the hippie side of the spectrum as opposed to the loud, amplified end of alternative music.
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“The Folly of War” isn’t quite as retro as the concept for the composition is on its own, instead blending cosmetics from the past and the present to put an exclamation point on the seriousness of the narrative here. After all, this isn’t the first song of its kind to challenge the validity of war – the subject is as old as this medium is, but this isn’t preventing Nathan from giving us a wholly original performance in contrast with the bulk of his peers currently making similar content.
Something else I’ve been encountering a lot among this player’s closest competition in recent months has been overly condensed mixing, which isn’t a problem in either this single or its music video. Everything plays out very evenly, and there’s scarcely a moment in which we aren’t able to really appreciate the fullness of Neil Nathan’s singing, which I would immediately deem one of the most important elements you’re going to come across in this performance, if not the primary centerpiece of the song itself. He’s got more talent than that of a generic singer/songwriter, and the instrumental backdrop here affirms as much.
Easy-listening music doesn’t often sport the kind of weighty message that “The Folly of War” does, but as a folk/rocker, this is a track carrying on a tradition still sadly necessary to keep alive today. With all of the conflict raging in the world at this very moment, the relevance of the statements this artist makes is undeniably even to the novice listener or music critic, and Neil Nathan’s skillset is certainly being put to good use with every beat presented in “The Folly of War.” It’s a painful story to tell, but he does the job better than most of the people I’ve heard trying.
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