Whether Andrew Whiteman’s Apostle of Hustle is considered a side project or a primary one is not entirely clear. He plays a major role in Broken Social Scene, which can be considered a super-size side project itself, and National Anthem of Nowhere, Apostle of Hustle’s second full-length, is certainly the work of a member of that collective. I bring this up because side projects are often easy to dismiss. But in this case, it’s clear that Whiteman has an individual voice and is ready to explore his own realm of possibility.
Much of that exploration involves Spanish music and instrumentation, although neither this album nor the band’s 2004 debut, Folkloric Feel, is defined by the Latin elements it employs. In fact, had certain moments on National Anthem of Nowhere, particularly the title track and “Chances Are,” been put through the David Newfeld grinder (the Broken Social Scene member produced Folkloric Feel), they would have been ideal inclusions on a Broken Social Scene album. But instead of letting Newfeld’s influence overwhelm the track, Whiteman layers it with a scarcely noticeable horn and buzzing organ. “The Naked & Alone,” with a lurching bass line and jerky tempo, grooves and dirges along, revealing an unexpected sexiness in Whiteman’s psyche. “My Sword Hand’s Anger” is an understated yet thoroughly successful attempt at a pop song, with stabs of distorted bass, minimal guitar work and a catchy singsong chorus.
But most striking about National Anthem of Nowhere is not its discreet beauty but its consistent attention to detail. Whiteman is a master of the minute, skillfully matching mood with its accompanying instrumentation. He matches his precious moments with subtlety, his enchanting moments with mystery and his anthemic moments with optimism, best displayed on the title track, an ode to silenced outcasts suddenly united. Whiteman’s shouts crescendo into a full brass assault, with the horns intensifying the vocal resulting in a cathartic climax.
National Anthem of Nowhere has allowed Whiteman the benefit of applying Broken Social Scene’s aesthetics to his own vision. The result is an album that is warm and inviting without being overpowering and rich and varied enough to warrant repeated listening. It’s a treat to enter Whiteman’s world, and an even bigger to explore it.