Fans of NoMBe have long awaited the release of his sophomore album Chromatopia. NoMBe (aka. Noah McBeth) builds the album’s pleasing poptimism aesthetic by combining genres like disco, 80s pop, early 2000s music and classical music however, NoMBe is as reinventive as he thinks he is.
Chromatopia is not a party album. Lyrically it focuses on love, social and emotional liberation, while sonically generating a feel-good vibe. The album opens with an experimental synth piece as a short precursor to the track ‘Something to Hold Onto’. The track is a laid-back reverby electro/acoustic love song that ends with the increasingly distortion that has become more present in mainstream pop music as of late.
Chromatopia bares many traditional pop characteristics, particularly lyrically. The tracks ‘Weirdo‘ and ‘Heels‘ have simple, repetitive and at times trite lyrics such as “only a weirdo, a weirdo/Could love someone like me”. ‘This is Not a Love Song‘ attempts to play on the sappy love-tropes in pop music but fails to realize this became a trope in and of itself long ago. There are many tracks where the pop/electro music is so lush and filled with personality, one would expect equally inventive lyrics along the lines of alt-J or Milky Chance. Instead, NoMBe’s lyrics are almost derivative of a Post Malone chorus.
Chromatopia is fresh and summery-sounding but the album is meant to be played with the top down on a summer drive with your friends, not to be blasted at a rooftop party. Songs like ‘Heels’ have a lot of potential in their content and in the chorus’ catchy lyrics “put your favourite heels on/ and walk all over me”. The quality of NoMBe’s voice is very relaxed and almost whispery at times, which leaves out a lot of the richness of the melody he sings. There are also not enough significant build-ups to build the enticement and anticipation necessary for a true pop banger.
McBeth’s classical piano training (encouraged to him by his godmother and soul/pop icon Chaka Khan) really shines on the ‘Chromatopia’ tracks (A, B and C) and ‘Happy Birthday, Frank!‘. His swelling and train-of-thought method on the piano is similar to Claude Debussy. The instrumental solo in ‘Paint California‘ is reminiscent of reverby early-2000s dance music with a piano chord progression eerily similar to Coldplay’s hit ‘Clocks‘. ‘Think About You‘ is perhaps the low point of the album. There is no intuitively identifiable melody or catchy beat to hang onto, leaving the listener behind as the music continues to roll on erratically.
Through Chromatopia, Noah McBeth has demonstrated he is a skilled musician who knows how to put together a trendy and vibey electro/pop album. Unfortunately, the album is not musically enthralling enough to be the next big thing. It seems to be directed towards a Gen Z audience – attempting to embody both complex ambition and casual shoegaze effortlessness, maximalist and minimalist. Chromatopia’s sound is for the most part attractive, but it isn’t original enough to leave a concrete lasting impression. It induces occasional head nodding and shoulder wiggling, but the songs just aren’t intoxicating enough for repeat listens.