Album Review: Nathan Meltz and the House of Tomorrow’s “Tales of Failed Utopias From the Era of Victoria”
TROY – With their latest release, Tales of Failed Utopias From the Era of Victoria, Nathan Meltz and the House of Tomorrow have put out another fun collection of songs. Mixing sardonic, cheeky lyrics with a hue of historical context alongside poppy retro-productions, the band has crafted a fine album, indeed.
A jangly intro reminiscent of bubblegum pop of the mid-1960s serves as the intro to “Time Machine,” track one. This is further exemplified by the poppy and bubbly melodies and harmonies. It’s a nice way to start the record. About halfway through, the song is briefly stripped down to bare-bones instrumentation and vocals before ramping up to an energetic conclusion.
Track two, “Nautilus,” has clean arpeggiated guitar riffs that fill out the introduction. As the full band kicks in, the lyrics join in soon after. Reminiscent of The Decemberists, the song is filled with tongue-in-cheek words relating to imperialism and colonialism, all the while set over happy melodies. It’s the perfect blend of acerbic wit and pop. “Libertatia,” the following track, shares many similar elements to this song.
The fifth track, “Chicago 1893,” features exciting instrumentation that jumped right out at me, and firmly grabbed my ears. What I really like about this band is their ability to weave historical moments into their songs, with a bit of humor along the way. Though there are notable influences throughout the record, this tune, to the ears of this particular author, has a very Beach Boys feeling to it. Speaking of bands from that era, something unexpected on the album was their take on The Kinks’ classic song, “Victoria.” While it didn’t stray too far from the original in terms of sound and arrangement, they did manage to modernize it a bit with production, it’s a fantastic take on the tune.
Blending the sounds of Del Shannon with feel-good melodies of surf bands of yesteryear, “Port Sunlight,” track eight, is yet another danceable and enjoyable selection off the album. The synth degradation halfway through reminded me of the quirkiness of some new-wave bands that remain popular to this day.
Harkening back to the vibes of acoustic singer-songwriters, “Guild of Saint George,” track ten, is far less in-your-face than other tunes on the record. The mandolin and strings—whether they were real or synth is unclear—featured in the end of the piece are a welcome addition to the arrangement and composition.
Serving as a conclusion to not only the record but the other two parts that occur earlier in the album, “Billy Morris Part Three” feels far more connected to the previous track than anything else. It’s a chill tune that closes out the album, but personally, I don’t understand the lyrical connection to “Billy Morris Part One” or “Billy Morris Part Two, and as a listener, I would’ve liked to. Despite that, whatever the songs were meant to allude to were nevertheless enjoyable.
Nathan Meltz and the House of Tomorrow have added yet another entertaining album to their repertoire of tunes. Combining the pop productions of the 1960s with the sardonic wit seen in modern indie-rock bands, Tales of Failed Utopias From the Era of Victoria will find fans of both genres. Check it out for yourself here.