Andrew Whiteman, lead guitarist of Broken Social Scene is a smart man. I don’t know this for a fact. For all I know, the guy could be the Ralph Wiggum of Toronto. But I do know that at the very least, Whiteman was very savvy to pick the stage name, Apostle of Hustle. Why? Because by becoming Apostle of Hustle, Whiteman is guaranteed to hit the prime target demographics of fans of both apostles and hustling. Meaning the evangelical crowd, coke-rap fans, and fans of hustling-minded basketball players like Kurt Rambis, Ben Wallace and Mark Madsen, all will buy The National Anthem of Nowhere. Good work, Whiteman.

This is round two for Whiteman, as he delivered a fine solo debut with 2004’s Folkloric Feel. But with National Anthem of Nowhere, he’s upped the ante, improving lyrically and musically to produce one of the early year’s best records. Jettisoning the gauzy shoegaze of Broken Social Scene, the Apostle of Hustle albums retain a down-to-earth, rootsy feel, with a pronounced Latin influence. National Anthem of Nowhere sees Whiteman fusing moody Spoon-like guitar pop Spoon with the Afro-Carribbean rhythms of his Cuban roots, sounding like a unique artist, sound fully-formed.

The ballad, “Fast Pony for Victor Jara” provides an ample showcase of the album’s sonic diversity, with Whiteman crooning in Spanish, rocking the smooth baritone of a well-traveled mariachi, strumming his tres guitar in an flamenco rhythms backed by subtle horns and clockwork drums, letting the song drift away in a slow tropical haze. “Rafaga” is similarly latin-influenced as Whiteman layers angular guitar licks atop a tango-worthy backbeat. Makes sense, considering the Spanish-language song is likely named after the famed and identically-named Argentine Cumbia band.

Kurt Rambis: The Original Apostle of Hustle

Like any truly exceptional album, National Anthem of Nowhere has that one moment that reels you in, as the album’s best song bubbles up from the background, wriggling its way to the forefront with feverish urgency. Here, its on song two, the title track that fills that air with a jangling maelstrom of needle-sharp reverb-soaked chords, itchy bass lines and brooding lyrics.

Whiteman declared that “‘National Anthem of Nowhere’ is for everyone who feels that they have no voice or can’t be heard. They hear this title and something stirs inside them. Then they hear this song and they feel that they “know” it. They meet strangers in nowhere places and will never forget those meetings. They wander out into the suburban, in-between zones and there they are welcomed.”

It’s a fitting description of the song and the wayward imagery it carves into your head, reminiscent of another nowhere-minded track, Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows this is Nowhere.” The two songs might not reach the same heights, but in their own way, they both manage to convey a spirit of alienation and disorientation.

Rick Ross: A Far Inferior Apostle of Hustle

Chances are National Anthem of Nowhere won’t be a critical darling (though many blogs have rightfully given it the attention it deserves). It doesn’t overreach, it doesn’t take on pretensions and most importantly, it doesn’t have the name Broken Social Scene in front of it. But in many ways that’s part of its charm. In a year already marked by bigger names striving to make the most arena-ready music possible (Bloc Party, Arcade Fire) , Apostle of Hustle has come along and made a charming, deceptively complex record. If this is nowhere, you could’ve fooled me.

Rating: 8.5

Pre-Order National Anthem of Nowhere Here

See also Marathonpacks’ very fine write-up of the record.

MP3: Apostle of Hustle: “My Sword Hand’s Anger”
MP3: Apostle of Hustle: “National Anthem of Nowhere”

Bonus from Folkloric Feel
MP3: Apostle of Hustle: “Folkloric Feel”

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