I’ve waited years for this album. NoMBe landed on my radar with his 2015 single “Letting In” with Beauville, a track that incorporated a tasteful acoustic guitar lick with chill drums and synths. His vibey, breathy voice enticed me, and I’ve been hooked ever since. His 2018 debut They Might’ve Even Loved Me is a quality album all the way through, solidifying NoMBe (a moniker derived from his name, Noah McBeth) as a unique voice in the alternative genre.
This new album mirrors the focus of its predecessor, which was about the influential women in his life. Here, he concentrates on love in its many forms. His effortless synthesis of beach tunes and digitally infused sing-alongs separates his music from a saturated genre, reaching the forefront of the public eye via Billie Eilish’s increasingly alternative sounds.
The three-year wait is now over. CHROMATOPIA, NoMBe’s sophomore album, is finally here. He is an artist who holds the envied, shadowy traits of a good songwriter. It’s difficult to verbalize all that’s involved in excellent songwriting — part of music’s power lies in expression without language — but it’s a sometimes intangible quality you recognize as soon as you hear it.
Due to the natural attractiveness in NoMBe’s music, I find it hard to parse out individual highlights in this album. However, “Weirdo” and “Paint California” exhibit his talent well. Something about those songs just makes you want to nod your head and sing along.
“Prototype” is another surefire summer anthem. I can easily imagine myself driving down some palm-lined road with the windows down, this song blasting into warm August air. With the toned-down chorus and whimsical instrumental breaks, it perfectly rides the fine line between minimalism and maximalism. Its crushed, tinny key melody calls to Clairo’s brand of bedroom pop, but the swagger in his vocals reminds me of Harry Styles’ veteran confidence. Oh, and that funky bassline in the instrumental breaks… I’m left speechless. Robot-filter vocals during the bridge are just a cherry on top.
An exploration of love as a spectrum, the new record also explores new spaces musically. It features four instrumentals that allow NoMBe to show off his musical chops that may be normally obscured behind his velvety vocals. The “Chromatopia” tracks (A, B and C) expand upon one melodic motif, displaying how notes can sound so different in certain settings, likely an allegory for how love can be different for everyone but still hold the same meaning.
The project ends with an instrumental on “Happy Birthday, Frank!,” a triumphant piano composition that sounds like it was orchestrated by one of the great classical composers of music history. The track is a tour through hardship, success and love. You can’t help but listen to all three and a half minutes, like a good book you can’t put down. The range and dynamism of the piece excel to create an epic journey from the lowest notes to the highest, loudest to the softest both on the piano and in life.
Another subtle change in NoMBe’s sound is the occasional substitution of his primary instrument. In his previous discography, NoMBe relies heavily on guitar-driven melodies and chord progressions supported by synths — but, in CHROMATOPIA, we see these switch on several songs, namely “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Think About You.” Piano and synths take over the instrumental, with the guitar merely used as homophonic support.
I genuinely enjoyed every track on this project, and I can’t seem to find fault. The most disappointing part of this album is that it lacks newness. Five of the 14 songs were released as singles ahead of the album. There was even a track on the album previously released in 2019.
Four of the remaining nine are instrumental tracks, and although I enjoy those new components to NoMBe’s discography, I really only hear NoMBe’s voice on five new songs. Surely, the pandemic, among other reasons, (his studio flooded four times) is to blame for the album’s delay — but it is the product of 70 to 100 demos, according to NoMBe’s Instagram. There must be some songs cut on the edge of the album, and I anxiously await a deluxe release.
NoMBe on CHROMATOPIA is different from the artist we’ve heard in the past. He sounds dreamy, introspective and wiser. He’s always explored love, but now he takes experience and self-awareness on the adventure. His lyrics cry out to lovers, toxic masculinity, God, the Milky Way and the West Coast — yet magically each word resonates with the listener. He manages to make disparate elements sound whole — in NoMBe’s music, no matter how different we are, we all find harmony in love.