A gem amongst gems, the best song on this album is "Me, Ray, and JR". It rolls through multiple emotions within its 5 minutes 19 seconds, but the overall attitude is one of mischievous gleefulness. There's a chord that skips in and out throughout the song that makes me tap my foot, with Nicolai's perfectly imperfect voice floating over it. It's like the victory song of a boy's club, innocent and thus a great joy to the ears.
But then, I guess, that sort of describes all of Nicolai's songs. Even when he gets serious and sad, it is the somberness of a child who is older than their years. It engages you as easily as a hug from a child who has just learned to trust you. Don't get me wrong, though: Nicolai is not childish. He merely seems to have the kind of lucid, appreciative outlook that most adults have lost.
As teenagers, it seems to be expected of us that we will act like we know everything, like the world is not something so special that we can't conquer it. We're so busy being cynical to impress our friends, we forget how to enjoy things of beauty. The best example I can think of is in the movie American Beauty. The girl Mena Suvari plays, Angela, is constantly talking about all the sex she's had, when she's really a virgin. Her exact opposite is Ricky, who finds the beauty in something as simple and absurd as a plastic bag floating on the wind, something that no one would take the time to notice, let alone record on videotape as he did. Listening to his music, it's obvious that Nicolai hasn't lost the ability to be amazed by the world, and that, in fact, the beauty of the world is perhaps what inspires him in the first place.
His lyrics are so well composed, it's hard to find one or two lines to quote. He changes little from one verse to the next, but gives them different, complimentary meanings that feed off of the similar lines that came before. I find myself wanting to share the entire song. Deprived of their context, they are also deprived of their greater meaning. Yet I can't leave them out. How about a few lines from my lyrical favorite, "Truth About The Blues"? "Go and love the sun, go and love/ the wind, go and love everything/ apart from what you've done./ Tell me son, the way you drive/ Tell me son, the way you hide it/ If it's the truth, that you've finally/ Found the blues." Considering English isn't his first language, this is doubly impressive.
Add to this Nicolai's affective, strong-with-vulnerability voice, and it's like silently watching ants walk by, or watching the sky change as daylight slowly colors the sky. There isn't much more beautiful. You just have to take the time to notice it. 8/10 -- Eden Hemming Rose (25 May, 2005)