You’d never know just from the opening bars of “I Am” just how potent a melodic presence The Noted can be when they’ve got nothing in their way to slow them down, but as the song presses on, it becomes clear how much of an emotive juggernaut this PDX-based unit can be in the right circumstances. The Noted unleashes a wave of harmony-based thunder in this piece, toeing the line between folk-rock and soft pop like the two aesthetics were always meant to run together as opposed to separately, and while they’re a fresh face to me and a lot of international critics at the moment, they don’t appear poised to remain under the radar of the mainstream for very much longer
The hook in “I Am” is strong, but I wouldn’t say it’s the main draw in this single. If anything, it’s the lead-in to the chorus that sets up the most exciting moment for the track, as the vocals gain pressure from the ascending bassline and the percussion breaks up the tension in one single swoop. I wouldn’t normally want the gentle beats quite as loud as they are at the climax of this song, but I can also appreciate the angle that The Noted was trying to go for in giving them as much of a presence as they did. More percussive energy means less oomph from the bottom of the string play, and compared to what their peers have been going with consistently in 2023, this is a much leaner, meaner look for sure.
Folk music usually revolves around a chorus that binds together the verses with the melodies in a singular, profound moment, and it’s in this department that you could say The Noted’s new cut is on par with the standard in the genre. That said, I think the climactic release in “I Am” is just a bit more significant than most because of how it’s being presented by the players; they’re all-in on this harmony, pushing the verses into a cauldron of conservative melodic surrealism, and by the time they get to the other side of the chorus it feels like we’ve learned something greater about their depth as performers than we would from listening to entire albums from most of the artists in their scene today.
I didn’t know anything about The Noted ahead of hearing “I Am” for the first time just recently, but it’s quite obvious that they’re sitting on a superb style of folk-rock that needs to score some spotlight ahead of fall’s official start. The plasticity of the modern soft pop aesthetic is largely missing from this piece, and better yet, the pseudo-Americana of indie pop’s more harmony-driven content is also nowhere to be found in “I Am.” This is a unique hybrid of contemporary pop conceptualism and old-school folk-rock framing, and if it’s used without a lot of indulgences worked into the mix, I think it’s going to bring The Noted a lot of much-deserved attention from both critics and listeners hungry for original hooks around the globe.
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