Over the course of 2017 and 2018, the Brooklyn synth-pop group Nation Of Language released a series of highly addictive singles that prompted us to name them a Band To Watch. But since the arrival of “Reality” in May of last year, the band’s been pretty quiet aside from their steady presence onstage around NYC. During that time, it was easy to wonder (and hope) that Nation Of Language were off in seclusion working on new music. And, well, good news: Today we learn that was indeed the case.
Nation Of Language have returned from their absence with a new track called “The Motorist.” It’s the first preview of a forthcoming debut album the band is gearing up to release in early 2020. “The Motorist” is a standalone song on digital platforms, but there will also be limited edition physical 7″ singles that come with another new song, “Sacred Tongue.” Here’s what frontman Ian Devaney had to say about “The Motorist”:
“The Motorist” took shape during a period of preoccupation with the distance and the filters that develop between old friends and me. In a car, you’re isolated, and things can be put to your exact specifications. As I continuously dial in my vision of my future, the gulf between myself and essential figures of my past seems to grow.
In what could probably be derided as mixed metaphors, I also wanted to bring a filmic aspect into the song, as the internet (a series of curated images) becomes the primary form of keeping up with one another. We’re posting the best take of our day and saying, “This is what my life is like now.” So I’m more sealed off, and the things I’m seeing outside are feeling more rehearsed and surreal. (Which is not me pointing fingers about social media usage … I do the same shit.)
Around the time I was trying to come up with artwork, I was looking through old photos my dad had taken when he and my mom were living in Manhattan. I came across this shot he took out his window and it felt pretty perfect.
Each of Nation Of Language’s singles thus far have been a little different from one another, while still existing together, helping flesh out the different ends of the band’s style. You had the gloomier, more brooding new wave aspects of “What Does The Norman Man Feel?” and “On Division St.,” the spacier and meditative dispositions of “I’ve Thought About Chicago” and “Reality,” and the snarling post-punk epic “Indignities.” But they’ve never put out a song quite like “The Motorist.”
With the new track, Devaney tries a different approach — delivering the verses in spoken word. The backdrop of “The Motorist” is a lush and transfixing array of synths as usual, with the cars and highways inspiration of the song further expressed through some light krautrock hints. Something about the combination of the instrumental and Devaney’s vocal make “The Motorist” one of their trippier songs so far — like a sunrise musing, a moment of enlightenment, coming after the arc of their preceding songs. It’s a promising glimpse of how Nation Of Language might extend their sound over the course of a full album. Check it out below.
Nation Of Language also have some live dates coming up, including this Friday’s single release show at the new Brooklyn venue the Sultan Room. If you are in one of these cities and haven’t seen them yet, you should really fix that —- their live show is often a visceral and cathartic interpretation of their music:
10/11 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Sultan Room
11/01 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent (Supporting Holy Ghost!)
11/02 – Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom (Supporting Holy Ghost!)
11/04 – Los Angeles, CA @ Gold Diggers
“The Motorist” is out now. Pre-order the vinyl single here.