Nov 4th, 2022
For their first full-length Hamburg based outfit Angels Of Libra team up with Irish singer-songwriter Nathan Johnston to create a soulful & atmospheric journey, painting old-school soundscapes with a modern grooving twist. Self-titled album Nathan Johnston & The Angels Of Libra is characterized by remarkable, funky vocals accompanied by a strong rhythm section and heavenly horns/strings arrangements, while the lyrics throwing a bridge between old mythologies and various themes of the contemporary world.
The main theme of the record is centered around courage and perseverance when faced with personal struggles of self-doubt. Johnston divulges his experiences growing as both a musician and artist and the challenges that go hand in hand with coming of age in this new age of the arts – where everybody wants a taste of fame and often it can feel like authenticity and integrity are being slowly cast aside in favour of material things. The whole idea of first single “Angel of Libra” revolved around hope – It is based upon the story of the Archangel Joseph, who will help guide you when there is confusion or a feeling of being lost.
Opening track, “Curtis“, introduces us to the idea of being ‘bold not safe’ and questioning one’s life choices, which sets the tone for the rest of the record. The song’s title is a tribute to Curtis Mayfield, one of the most influential soul artists of all time, whose lyrics were particularly politically conscious especially in relation to African-American music and whose sound heavily inspired the sound of the record.
Second track “All Your Love“ is about love, lust and the passions & desires of newfound romance. The upbeat, light and breezy brass heavy tune is juxtaposed both lyrically and musically with the third song on the record, “Nine Angel Choirs”, an old school love ballad accompanied by lush vocal harmonies and some cheesy lines asking a lover to “smile won’t you smile and tell me you love me”.
“In A Different World” examines what it may be like to live in someone else’s shoes. There is an element of social and political commentary here with trying to find some solidarity among those who have not had it so easy. The song invites us to try to acknowledge what we have, stop comparing with others and to make peace with the hand we are dealt.
“Curtis (Reprise)” is both a wink and a nod to the theme of “Curtis”, only this time we take the approach of being on the ‘outside looking in’. Before we are swept away into a heist scene from the Italian Job, with almost rallying horns and bass lines, Johnston delivers some heartfelt spoken word commentary about what it means to be a musician and how our needs and wants change as we get older.
The second side of the record opens with “Modern Times” – where we continue with the theme of disillusionment with society and what it means to be honest. The song was vocally and lyrically inspired by Charles Bradley’s passing and some of the lyrics are an homage to Bradley‘s truth and honesty in his lyrics and his story of working odd jobs most of his life until he finally got a break when he was already in his 50s. This is a real show of what it means to never give up.
In contrast to the more introspective lyrics of “Modern Times”, the next tune, “Jericho” leads us on a much darker road with social commentary from Johnston on the current global state of affairs, fake news and conspiracies.
“Icarus” is the only instrumental on the album, a super groovy upbeat song that still has a dark and eerie feel to it provided by the sound of the Philicorda. The final song “Euphoria” deals with the normalization of ‘class A’ drugs among youths and how it is affecting people’s sense of belonging and the need to join in so as not to feel left out.