That might explain why everything about Opportunities, his debut album as Nuns, comes across so fluently and effortlessly; it’s not so much a second language as the only one he has ever really known.
But it’s nurture that allows nature to thrive, and there’s a lifetime of artistic consumption and creative dialogue informing Opportunities, a purposeful cherry-picking of classic melodies, ’90s alt-rock radio hooks and modern psychedelic swirls.
It’s concise and coherent, especially for a debut, with instincts and learned habits colliding in a perfect way.
The album — each part played and recorded by Hanewinkel — bears the kind of fruit that first outings rarely do. The Friday Night Lights-worthy levels of roller coaster emotions and epic, big sky beauty on “You Mean So Much to Me” have no business being divined so early on, a chill-inducing break in the bridge that would make Explosions in the Sky proud.
Fringes of emo mark the start of “Resurrect This Pawn,” but lest the moody antics prove too strong, it’s thrown in a reverb-soaked psych spin cycle, tumbling to a muted stoner-metal conclusion.
The post-punk-inspired guitar points of “The End” and “Novice Authors” are fun surprises, and the trippy traipses “Beautiful Little Fool,” “The Clear Light” and title track “Opportunities” espouse Tame Impala-flavored mind-expansion and The Verve Pipe’s earnestness to equal degrees.
These all come together most succinctly and successfully in “I Don’t Know Where I Stand,” a timelessly catchy single that plays the same in 2014 as it would have in ’74. From Hanewinkel’s boyish coos and throbbing percussion to the star-shower synth flurries and prominent, searing guitar, the planets align for a hard to argue with, pitch-perfect pop-rock song.
And while Opportunities doesn’t offer much in the way of failed attempts, its undeniable solidness proves a little rigid at times.
Too polished? Too contained? Maybe. The record never gets overexcited, almost to a fault. There are doors that are pulled when they should be pushed instead. Hanewinkel tiptoes over borders when it would work better to sprint through them. “Colours” builds beautifully but stops short of the heights it had the momentum to ascend to, while “Nothing’s Ever as It Seems” goes unhinged in riveting bursts but too quickly anchors home. Both are good songs that could have been just that much better.
Even Nuns’ loosest moments are given a calculated length to roam from, but those tethers are born more from maturity than fear of the unknown. Hanewinkel knows what he’s doing and does it well, and the sharpness with which he executes Opportunities is worth marveling at again and again.