donderdag 28 februari 2013

These are the good times people. The Presidents of the United States of America

You can listen to 'Ladybug' here.

Going through my enormous collection of records, I noticed a record I do not remember buying, being given, not even stealing for that. Strange, as it was an album that I was looking forward to listening for years at the time.

The Presidents of the United States of America (PUSA) broke in The Netherlands in 1995 with the same three hits as in the rest of the world: 'Kitty', 'Lumb' and 'Peaches'. Two records followed that did not continue the success after which it became silent for several years. The break did the band good as 'Love everybody' of 2004 was one of the best punkpop albums ever. With the deeply philosophical study into the difference in the psyche of boys and girls 'Poke and destroy' as the absolute winner of 'Love everybody'. I saw the show in Het Paard in The Hague, a big party, smiles on everybody's faces. This album still comes by regularly and I enjoy it to this day. And then it became silent again, but now I found out that it didn't for nine years at a time, but four. 2008 saw These are the good times people. Please let me amend my erring ways.

PUSA is a band with a gimmick, Five snares are shared between two guitarists. In the end this worked against the band, as people focussed on the gimmick and forgot to hear what a great songwriter Chris Ballew is and what a great band, with a keen ear for melody and harmonies PUSA really is. These are the good times attests to this from the first song onwards. Some things have changed as "guitbassist" (three snares) Dave Dederer left the band and was replaced by Andrew MacKeag. Jason Finn is still on drums and together they go for great harmonies, not unlike The Kik, the early 60s beat element is just hidden a bit better with PUSA.

Chris Ballew has a strange fascination for animals and especially the small insect like ones in his lyrics. Again  several come by in the songs, but also a Bee(a)tle called John. There are also horns lighting up three of the songs and acoustic guitars. PUSA uses more extreme dynamics in several songs, so as a listener it is necessary to be patient for the party element to arrive. At the same time these dynamics gives the songs more depth and growth potential. A song like 'More bad times' appears to be very average, until the chorus is released on the listener.

These are the good time people, released in 2008, so irony or prophecy this title?, may be less exultingly pure punk pop, a song like 'French girl' proves that in this segment of music songs do not come much better. And I'm not even talking about 'Ghosts are everywhere' yet. It does come better than 'French girl'! 'Truckshop butterfly' allows for some country influences and 'Flame is love' has some jazzy stuff going on, all showing again that PUSA is flexing wings.

Where Fountains of Wayne only allows from a grim smile these days, faintly remembering the great songs in the 90s that made the sun come out on a dark, cloudy day, PUSA is delivering better than in the 90s. Yes, there's this gimmick, but look through it people, as this band knows how to write a song and present it in great form. How is it possible that I either missed this or did not hear it and laid These are the good time people aside in 2008? I think I did my best at making amends.


You can order These are the good times people here

or here

woensdag 27 februari 2013

Arc. Everything Everything

You can listen to 'Cough cough' here.

Arc is Everything Everything's second album. It follows 'Man alive' of 2010. Perhaps it was the name of the band that abhorred me, bringing to mind memories of bands with double word names like Medium Medium, Duran Duran in the early 80s. Any way, I did not have much room for 'Man alive' in my life in 2010. Pre-conceptions are usually not the best things to go after in life, so I gave Arc a chance and now see.

Everything Everything, not very modest these young gentlemen judging by the band's name, are they?, can be seen as part of a movement. Django Django paved the way for them as far as I am concerned. Like Alt-J did also recently. A little further down the road live bands like Foals and Yeasayer. In other words we are in the realm of bands that search for complexity and harmony in the same song. Everything Everything balances on this thin line in a very pleasant way. From the very first notes in opening song 'Cough cough' I knew that this would not be an average album and I better strap on my digital seat belts.

'Cough cough' opens the album and set me on the wrong foot a bit. It sounded so much like Django Django in a song like 'Default'. Luckily for Everything Everything the band takes a sharp left very early on in the song, catching my attention. As a whole Arc is an album that succeeds. I was challenged as a listener to follow the band's musical adventures, there is a lot of variety in approach and arrangement to songs. Even ballads like 'Choice mountain' get a treatment that make it special. When the strings/synths set in, I was completely surprised, caught off guard. The Elbow connection in the music of Everything Everything is showing here quite evidently. 'Duet' is another song that at the basis is completely beautiful, but at the same time has so many "distractions" from the plain beauty. It is what makes this band stand out and distinct. One of the more normal songs is 'The house is dust'. The shiver down my spine sort of great song. 'Cough cough' and 'Armourland' are examples of more rhythm based songs, but also of the Bloc Party light influence on the album. Producer David Kosten has assisted Everything Everything in making Arc stand out in many a way. Like a beautiful, multi-coloured sunset on a field of Prickly Pears at times, but special and outstanding.

The high voice of singer Jonathan Higgs may deter some people. Give it a chance though, it fits the music Everything Everything makes. The mix between electronics and traditional band instruments works well and allows for the accents the band presents in the arrangement. Higgs' voice is the constant in most songs, sometimes accompanied by high background vocals. The music is allowed to do anything that feels right within one song. Do not be surprised by many mood changes, when drums, guitar, synths coming in and disappearing out of the mix. It's like a song is not allowed to start at a and proceed to b in the way most bands do. The difference is not in the verse - chorus - verse - chorus - solo - chorus, etc form, no, it's purely in the arrangements. Instruments are only present in parts of the songs, setting these parts off against each other within a song. As I said a trend in music, ike several recent reviews attest to.

Arc is an album that is complexly beautiful. An album that forces you make an effort to discover her beauty. Do so and you will not be disappointed as Arc holds many a gem.


You can order Arc here

or here

Out of view. The History of Apple Pie

Je kunt hier naar 'Do it wrong' luisteren.

Invloeden uit de shoegaze en dreampop schitterden na de bloei van de genres gedurende de jaren 90 langere tijd door afwezigheid, maar duiken op dit moment bijna net zo vaak op als tijdens de bloeiperiode van beider genres. De uit Londen afkomstige band The History Of Apple Pie opereert voor een belangrijk deel in hetzelfde straatje als het eveneens uit de Engelse hoofdstad afkomstige Veronica Falls, dat ik gisteren nog bejubelde. Vergeleken met Veronica Falls blijft The History Of Apple Pie wat dichter bij de grote voorbeelden uit de jaren 80 en 90, zodat we dit keer voornamelijk invloeden van bands als My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Lush en, wat dichter bij in de tijd, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart horen. De belangrijkste ingrediënten in de muziek van The History Of Apple Pie (een naam die bij mij overigens niet direct associaties oproept met shoegaze en dreampop) zijn honingzoete vrouwenvocalen en alle kanten de bocht uit gierende gitaren. Het is een recept dat inmiddels is gebruikt voor talloze platen, maar desondanks verveelt Out Of View van The History Of Apple Pie geen seconde. De hoofdrollen binnen The History Of Apple Pie worden gespeeld door zangeres Stephanie Min en gitarist Jerome Watson en ze maken er allebei een glansrol van. Stephanie Min beschikt over één van de meest aangename stemmen in het genre, terwijl Jerome Watson imposant hoge, maar steeds weer net wat anders vormgegeven, gitaarmuren opbouwt. Omdat The History Of Apple Pie de honigzoete vocalen en imposante gitaarmuren steeds weer verpakt in schaamteloos aanstekelijke popliedjes, is Out Of View al heel snel een plaat die maar lastig is te weerstaan, zeker voor een ieder die de dreampop en shoegaze een warm hart toe droeg of nog steeds toe draagt. Als je vervolgens wat beter naar de plaat luistert, valt op dat The History Of Apple Pie, als je het horen wilt, zo af en toe wel degelijk buiten de gebaande paden van de shoegaze en dreampop treedt. Het gitaarwerk zit af en toe dicht tegen dat van noicerock bands als Sonic Youth aan, terwijl de muziek van de Londense band ook lekker kam rammelen zoals dat in de hoogtijdagen van de lo-fi gebruikelijk was. Met Out Of View van The History Of Apple Pie kun je uiteindelijk maar twee kanten op. Of je hebt geen behoefte aan deze portie muziek uit de oude doos, of je omarmt het debuut van The History Of Apple Pie als een eigentijds meesterwerk. Ik hoef zelf geen seconde na te denken over mijn keuze. Out Of View was heel even niet meer dan heel erg lekker, maar is vervolgens snel tot grote hoogten gegroeid. Een briljante plaat als je het mij vraagt.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Out of view hier bestellen

of hier

dinsdag 26 februari 2013

Holy fire. Foals

You can listen to 'Inhaler' here.

With the release of album number three it is safe to conclude that Foals is one of the bands to watch as a lover of the more serious modern rock music. 'Antidotes' was a bit too much for me, 'Total life forever' got a positive review in WoNo Magazine circa 2,5 years ago and 'Holy fire' is on the way to undergo the same treatment. Without selling out commercially, Foals is finding its more poppy side, while at the same time producing very interesting music, with some references that are quite surprising.

Let me start with 'Inhaler'. A monument of a song. There is this Phil Collins/Genesis 1980s element in the rhythm, a falsetto voice as if The Scissor Sisters are not the day before yesterdays' thing and at the same time reminds me of Mick Jagger. With some great classic rock guitar work for size. The song is intriguing beyond a doubt......

Foals is a five piece from Oxford. The move to London seems to have allowed the band to move from the head to the heart as well. Yannis Philippakis sings and plays guitar, Jimmy Smith plays guitar, Jack Bevon's on drums, while Walter Gervers and Edwin Congreave sing background vocals and play bass and keyboards respectively. Distinct dance influences, if not plain disco, have permeated the sound, that could well work on dance floors, although I doubt whether this is what Foals aims for. In my dance hey day, the years around 1990, it definitely would have worked, in between songs of Talking Heads, Simple Minds, The Waterboys, with Bee Gees 1978 thrown in for good measure. 'Everytime' has a 'Nightfever' flavour to it, despite the more difficult and multi layered background. Deep down this is pure white men's disco.

'Bad habits' reminds me of 'Change' of Tears for Fears. Especially the gamallan sort of sound in the back ground, with Big Country like guitars. Two bands I used to dance to as well. The question is whether this change of direction is going to be fruitful for Foals in the longer term of its career. Foals has given up part of its uniqueness for something that has been done before (and is played on the radio in return ...). So in the short run it appears a wise choice. On the whole it makes me doubt whether I will listen as long to Holy fire as I did to 'Total life forever' as this album was more multi-layered in its approach and execution.

What remains interesting to explore on Holy fire are the rhythms, the guitar figures and burst of percussive playing. There's a lot going on in 'Providence'. Around the 3 minutes almost more than my brain could translate. In this sense the "old" Foals is still here. Hence my interest in Holy fire as an album. 'Stepson' is more laid back, but has all these layers of sounds that reveal themselves during the course of the song. With a beautiful, very simple but effective cello near the end. The more restrained songs on the album also give Holy fire a bit of a schizoid edge to it, but in the end lift the album to a higher plain. 'Moon' is more impressive than 'Bad habits', but more so by the comparison. A great song with impressive soundscapes that are the main part of it.

All in all the balance certainly falls to the right side. Holy fire deepens the sound of Foals out further and shows new perspectives the band is pursuing. These paths remind me of a lot of music made in the 1980s, but there is enough Foals in the mix to keep things interesting. Where all this leads to in 2015, we will see. For now, let's enjoy it.
And as an aside, another great cover. 2013, the year of excellent albums covers?


You can order Holy fire here

or here

maandag 25 februari 2013

Hundred Waters. Hundred Waters

You can listen to 'Thistle' here.

Hundred Waters is a band that is around since 2011 and is from Gainsville, the town in Florida Muddy Waters almost defiantly mentioned in his great song 'Deep down in Florida' on 'Hard again'. Hundred Waters has nothing to do with the loud electric blues Waters recorded with Johnny Winters in the 70s, anything but even. Hundred Waters is pastoral, atmospheric and striving for beauty. Like the cover of the album, a beautiful sunrise (or set) bringing out spectacular colours to the fore in the landscape, like a giant peacock's tail in the sky. The name of the band is derived from Austrian painter, artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser (Friedrich Stowasser), an artist who impressed me many a time (and not just in museums, but in unexpected geographical places as well). So, if we are talking colours and beauty...

The music on Hundred Waters has a strange effect on me. I come back to it again and again, but am repelled and attracted depending on my mood, but this reaction is so extreme that it can happen to me within one song and several times at that. 'Boreal' is the best example to underscore this I can think of. The strange rhythms and part of the fast paced synth sounds repel, while the singing attracts. In other songs it is the high, unstable voice that almost has the effect of nails on a blackboard to me. In the rhythm there are influences from dance. Triphop can be mentioned as there are some resemblances to e.g. Portishead, without the scratching. All this makes Hundred Waters fairly unique for me, as there are no other albums in this genre I have ever listened to often before.

What grabs me most on this album is the atmosphere. It's tranquil at times and allows my mind to wander in the directions the music and melody lead me. Sort of like meandering down a slow river, with loads of broad bends, carved out in the mountainous landscape. Loads to hear, some beautiful and some not. 'And-or' is ethereal, so thin and relaxed, that it comes close to meditating, while opening song 'Sonnet' is pure beauty. It reminds of me a song like 'Coming back to me' on Jefferson Airplane's 'Surrealistic pillow'. The same intricate playing and soft singing, while the suggestion of all sorts of sounds hangs in the air, but can't be heard. As if they still hang in the air in the studio from a former recording session. Until 'Sonnet' flashes out that is and the instruments do fade into the mix. This hints at a folk influence in the music of Hundred Waters. Which is there, in the flute, in the melodies of the songs. Just listen to 'Thistle' and you'll here the pastoral quality hidden in the song. The voices of Nicole Miglis and Sam Moss blend during most of the album, both singing soft-voiced, Kate Bush light, not so much pleasant to listen to as perfectly fitting in this context.

The music is a mix of modern rhythms and soundscapes with traditional acoustic instruments. Piano, guitar, flute, strings, horns. There is some traditional drumming on the album as well. The contrast in atmosphere between the acoustic 'Sonnet' and the electronic 'Visitor', song one and two on Hundred Waters, is the example of what makes the album so intriguing. While the way the songs are filled in are totally different, the mood of mysticism and perhaps even otherworldliness remains the same. A better way to explain why I keep listening to Hundred Waters I can't give you.


You can order Hundred Waters here

or here

zondag 24 februari 2013

The carpenter. The Avett Brothers

Je kunt hier naar 'The once and future carpenter' luisteren.

Voor liefhebbers van Amerikaanse rootsmuziek is het jaarlijstje van No Depression nog altijd een lijstje om naar uit te kijken. Het legendarische alt-country tijdschrift is weliswaar een aantal jaren geleden helaas opgedoekt, maar de No Depression website leeft tot dusver voort en biedt de liefhebber van Amerikaanse rootsmuziek met enige regelmaat waardevolle tips. Van de top 50 van No Depression (met een terechte eerste plek voor Iris Dement en een opvallende 50e plek voor de niet-rootsmuzikant Fiona Apple) heb ik bijna de helft besproken op deze BLOG, maar de nummer twee uit de lijst heb ik vreemd genoeg gemist. Dat ik The Carpenter van The Avett Brothers heb gemist is bijzonder, want ik was drie jaar geleden bijna lyrisch over hun vorige plaat I And Love And You; een plaat die ik overigens via het jaarlijstje van een andere Amerikaanse muzieksite (PopMatters) oppikte. The Carpenter ligt in het verlengde van zijn voorganger, maar laat een nog net wat toegankelijker geluid horen. The Avett Brothers maken nog altijd muziek die zo lijkt weggelopen uit de jaren 70 en verwerken voornamelijk invloeden uit de country, folk en pop. Ondanks het gebruik van een behoorlijk traditioneel instrumentarium in een aantal songs, klinkt de muziek van The Avett Brothers verrassend lichtvoetig. De broertjes Avett grossieren op The Carpenter in perfecte popliedjes, die ondanks de ruim aanwezige invloeden uit de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek bijna Beatlesque klinken, zeker in de wat meer uptempo songs (die overigens misschien nog wel meer aan 10cc doen denken). Wanneer The Avett Brothers wat meer gas terug nemen doet het wel wat denken aan de muziek van The Eagles of The Jayhawks; nog twee bands die het perfecte popliedje hoog in het vaandel hadden staan. Door het bijzonder toegankelijke karakter van de muziek van The Avett Brothers hoeft de band niet te rekenen op de sympathie van alle liefhebbers van Amerikaanse rootsmuziek. Dat is aan de ene kant begrijpelijk, maar het is ook jammer, want The Avett Brothers maken wel degelijk rootsmuziek (in de breedste zin van het woord) van hoog niveau. The Carpenter is niet alleen een plaat met even aanstekelijke als hoogstaande popliedjes, maar het is ook een prachtig klinkende plaat, wat met een producer van het kaliber van Rick Rubin ook niet zo gek ik. Als ik moet kiezen tussen de ballads, de uptempo popliedjes en de wat stevigere songs, kies ik voorlopig voor de ballads, maar ook met de andere songs is niets mis. In tegenstelling tot drie jaar geleden duiken The Avett Brothers dit jaar nauwelijks op in de jaarlijstjes, maar hun fraaie tweede plek in de jaarlijst van No Depression is als je het mij vraagt volkomen terecht. The Carpenter is de zoveelste hele mooie plaat van een band die al lang wereldberoemd had moeten zijn. Echt veel te mooi om te laten liggen.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt The carpenter hier bestellen

of hier

zaterdag 23 februari 2013

Great waste of time. Villeneuf

You can listen to and order Great waste of time here.

Villeneuf played the support slot for Moke in the LVC in Leiden recently and I have to say I've discovered a new band I like. The gig left me wanting to hear more. So I bought the album online to support the band and find out more. Does the band deliver in the MP3 format as well? (Mind there is no cd. Villeneuf opted for artwork and MP3.)

I can be very short as far as this question is concerned. Villeneuf delivers and more, as I have been playing the album ever since. Great waste of time has a mystical touch to it, that exhumes itself on the listener, much like a band like Midlake also has. It was no coincidence that Midlake's best song 'Roscoe' was played just before or right after Villeneuf's gig. Midlake goes straight back to The Moody Blues. Beneath this organic sound, Villeneuf co-opts for electric beats and bleeps which a band like Trio experimented with in the early 80s. 'Cities will burn' has this beat, making a better song than Trio ever made as Villeneuf injects a song, melody and a sixties like mellotron sound, thus vibe over the electronic foundation. In short creating beauty.

Another major influence seems to be Coldplay. The piano intro of 'She's moving like the seventies', Villeneuf's take on a disco song, is Chris Martin. ', WV',a small song, could also have been recorded by Coldplay on 'Parachutes', its its first album. More in singing and melody than in the way the song was recorded, as Villeneuf shies away from Coldplay and moves straight into the Midlake realm from the moment the flute kicks in. The arrangement of ', WV' is bare but inventive with the flute and the harmonies. I'm just summing up some of the finer qualities of Villeneuf here.

The mix between what humans are capable of doing and what they can extract from electronics is nearly impeccable on Great waste of time. 'Song for lion' is all electronics, even the voice of Michiel van Poelgeest is treated with a device, while the human angle, the melody, is fully intact. This makes the song very intriguing to listen to.

'Talk show host' takes this mix to another level. A superior song, great melody and fantastic singing, with surprising interjections in counter singing. The electric drums drives the tempo forward, an electric guitar boosts the song with strong playing and keyboards and singing provide the atmosphere that characterises Great waste of time. Villeneuf even gets away with an up tempo almost dance song 'She's moving like the seventies', giving the album more diversity and strength.

Not all is good on this album. I have no patience for the rhythm of 'Song about a whole bunch of stuff', no matter how intriguing the title. It reminds me faintly of the two hits of Rupert Holmes, not necessarily something I have a strong urge for being reminded of. One other small comment is that live the duo harmonies between Van Poelgeest and Lucas Meijers are more pronounced than on record. Van Poelgeest double tracks his own voice more on record. Having said that, there are enough strong points on Great waste of time that have won me over, including the multi-layered harmonies.

Great waste of time goes out in style with the intricate 'Don't yell'. A feast of voices that sing the slightly happy, somewhat melancholy chorus, bouncing of each other creating something that I just love to listen to, inviting me to start with 'Agatha Christie' all over again.

So, another Dutch band that caught my attention lately, deserving that attention too. Villeneuf mixes a few influences to an intriguing sound, creating its own voice along the way. Perhaps not fully unique, but done extremely well, putting Villeneuf at the top of their game.

An interview with Villeneuf's Michiel van Poelgeest will be on the blog in a few weeks.


vrijdag 22 februari 2013

Push the sky away. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

You can listen to 'We no who U R' here.

Nick Cave? I had no place for him so far. Having heard his first album somewhere in the mid-80s, I had heard enough sort of forever. I did listen to the first Grinderman album a few times. Why, I don't know, but I'm listening to Push the sky away and I won't stop doing so for a while. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds have made an impressive album that indented an impression in my brain that will be showing for quite some time.

The difference can't only be that now both Bad Seeds' guitarists have left the band. Push the sky away holds cerebral music, deeply emotional, hinting at depths fathoms below the surface, where in the dark foreboding things lurk we may not see but surely sense. And hear, in a dark sound mixed somewhere completely in the background, just audible while at the same time light male and female voices sing something resembling a chorus. 'Finishing Jubilee Street' is such an impressive song. Not so much because there is a lot going on, it just seems to envelope the world. This is the surprising thing about this album, it seems very standard, but is full of these details, that make it very special.

Textually Cave takes the listener on a trip to Geneva, where he sees Robert Johnson and Lucifer, he puts God on the same level as a mermaid, as he believes in both. Praises Wikipedia, sings about Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus in Africa and having had sex with her. Not that the songs make logical stories, a lot is going on in them, a lot to listen to. All sung with his deep voice, in a resigned, dignified and calm way. Perhaps what Jim Morrison would have sounded like a 69. Again the contrast between Nick Cave's voice and the background vocals is worth mentioning, as it creates a beautiful contrast in the sound.

As there are not a lot of guitars on Push the sky away there's room for strings, keyboards, soundscapes. 'We no who u r' has this beautiful mechanised rhythm and flute sound. The background noise of 'Push the sky away' reminds me of the sounds in 'Achterboeg' by De Kift. (A piece of wood screeching in the Arctic wind.) Most songs have a signifying sound that make it stand out among its brethren. In the hands of anyone else this album would have become easy listening, with Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds it is anything but easy listening. On the other hand, if Scott Walker had wanted to make a traditional album, 'Bish Bosch' would have sounded something like Push the sky away is my guess. Listen to 'Water's edge' and you will know what I mean. Although Leonard Cohen may want to cover this song. The ending is perfect for him: "It's the will of love, it's the thrill of love, it's the chill of love".

So it is 2013 and I'm enjoying my first Nick Cave album ever. I promise to reach back and see if I did miss something in the past 30 odd years. You never know. For now I am listening to one of the first albums of this new year that really made an impression.

Listening to Push the sky away again before publishing, I notice something that may explain my attraction to this The Bad Seeds album. It reminds me faintly of Lou Reed, but sorry Mr. Reed, this album is so much more impressionable and inspriring than anything you've released since 1992's 'Magic and loss'.

Let me end with sounding praise for 'Jubilee Street'. This song is so beautiful, that there is only one thing left to write: just go and listen to it!


You can order Push the sky away here

or here

donderdag 21 februari 2013

Dark Black. Kristina Train

Je kunt hier naar 'Dark black' luisteren,

Wat is Spotify toch een mooie uitvinding. Na zomaar wat doelloos rondklikken kwam ik terecht bij Dark Black van de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter Kristina Train en dat is een plaat die ik zonder het beetje hulp van Spotify nooit zou hebben ontdekt. Dat zou doodzonde zou zijn geweest, want wat is dit een mooie en veelzijdige plaat. Dat Kristina Train nog volslagen onbekend is, is me overigens een groot raadsel, want Dark Black staat werkelijk bol van de potentie. Kristina Train werd geboren in New York, groeide op in Savannah, Georgia, en opereert inmiddels al weer een aantal jaren vanuit Londen. Dat hoor je allemaal terug in haar muziek. Dark Black heeft het lef en de branie van New York, de soul van het Zuiden van de Verenigde Staten en het gevoel voor aanstekelijke soulpop van de Britse hoofdstad. Op haar debuut werkte Kristina Train nog samen met singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt en de mensen achter Adele, maar desondanks brak Spilt Milk geen potten. Op Dark Black is alleen Ed Harcourt overgebleven, waardoor Dark Black wat minder gepolijst klinkt dan zijn voorganger. Het is de kwaliteit van de muziek van Kristina Train absoluut ten goede gekomen. Dark Black is een plaat die de soul en gospel die Kristina Train in Georgia met de paplepel kreeg ingegoten verbindt met de Britse blue-eyed soul uit de jaren 60 en 70. Dark Black klinkt hierdoor niet alleen als de perfecte mix van Dusty Springfield en Aretha Franklin, maar ook als een uitstekend alternatief voor de al eerder genoemde Adele en haar inmiddels al weer bijna vergeten collega Duffy. Dark Black heeft hiernaast wel iets van de jazzy pop van Norah Jones, is niet zo heel ver verwijderd van de retro soulpop van Rumer en heeft tenslotte het onderkoelde van Lana Del Rey en het warmbloedige van Sade. Het zijn stuk voor stuk namen die de kassa laten rinkelen, waardoor de grote doorbraak van Kristina Train alleen maar een kwestie van tijd kan zijn. Kristina Train beschikt over een heerlijke stem en heeft een goed gevoel voor lekker in het gehoor liggende popmuziek, maar ze durft op Dark Black ook risico’s te nemen en dat siert haar. Dark Black bevat een wat meer theatrale track die zo van de hand van Jacques Brel had kunnen zijn, maar ook een aantal tracks met een wat meer roots georiënteerd geluid; een geluid dat overigens prachtig kleurt bij de warme stem van Kristina Train. Hiernaast zouden een aantal tracks op Dark Black niet misstaan op een soundtrack bij een film of tv serie van David Lynch en ook in deze tracks valt op hoe mooi de stem van de Amerikaanse is. Een vleugje 60s (inclusief een Phil Spector achtige productie) en geweldig gitaarwerk maken het helemaal af. Dark Black is inmiddels al flink wat keren voorbij gekomen en de plaat begint me steeds dierbaarder te worden en wint bovendien nog steeds aan kracht. Kristina Train combineert op Dark Black de toegankelijkheid en verleidingskracht van de succesvolle popzangeressen met de kwaliteit en het avontuur van de betere singer-songwriters. Het is niet alleen een zeldzame combinatie, maar het is ook een combinatie die geweldig uitpakt. Ik kan Dark Black van Kristina Train daarom alleen maar zeer warm aanbevelen. Voor winter, lente, zomer en herfst. En voor de kerst.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Dark black her bestellen

of hier

woensdag 20 februari 2013

An awesome wave. Alt-J

You can listen to 'Tessalate' here.

This album was considered to be the best album of 2013 according to Muziekkrant Oor. I had listened to it once and discarded it as irrelevant somewhere in the passed year. Had I missed anything? Let's say I must have been in a totally wrong mood or accidentally clicked on the wrong album on my iPod. It must have been either of these.

Admittedly, An awesome wave is not an easy album to digest. For that too many "strange" things happen on the album. The listener is taken on an aural trip in which pretty much anything can happen. The songs on the album are beyond a normal structure. By far not as avant garde as on Scott Walkers' last album 'Bish Bosch', but also on An awesome wave cut up techniques in the music seem to have been used. Whole parts seem to have disappeared in a musical black hole. The song that appears to be the most straight forward, 'Fitzpleasure', will still take more concentration to listen to than most people are willing to invest in a piece of music.

Of what I recently heard Alt-J comes closest to Django Django and the Wankelmut remix of 'One day (reckoning song)'. 'Something good' comes very close to this mega hit. Singer Joe Newman does not have an average voice, though not as far out as Asaf Avidan. There are some trip hop influences in the soft beats and vibe in the music. There's Talking Heads in there without the loud, on edge rhythms. In the harmonies Alt-J reminds me of Villeneuf. But most of all, Alt-J is into its own universe. The mix of traditional, there are lots of acoustic guitar sounds on the album, and modern in the form of electronic drums, rhythms and sounds make it a 21st century sort of pop. Almost Gregorian singing mixed with modern rhythms gives some of the songs an almost exalted quality, 'MS' for example.

The album itself is cut up into a few sections through the atmospheric interludes. Starting with 'Intro' and 'Interlude 1' the album only really starts with 'Tessalate' and the listener is already on an aural adventure of some proportions. Most songs are full of surprises and nearly all have a very intense impact as not listening is not an option, if your intention is to get yourself familiar with An awesome wave that is.

The album has definitely grown on me ever since December 2012, but my belated introduction does not change my end list for that year. An awesome wave is an awesome album, inspiring, interesting, but hard to warm to. One song may be for 'Matilda', it is hard to imagine someone being really happy with this tribute. So aloof and under cooled. Listening to the album gave me an experience, not a favourite album. More a piece of art than of music, with a beautiful cover.


You can order An awesome wave here

or here

dinsdag 19 februari 2013

The Pogues in Paris: The 30th anniversary concert at the Olympia. The Pogues

You can listen to 'Fiesta' here.

Having had Dropkick Murphys on the blog post earlier this year, let's have a look at "the fathers" of the Boston lads. The Pogues have been sort of with me for just short of 30 years from its second album 'Rum, sodomy & lash' and in the party sense with 'Fiesta', one of the absolute best party songs ever. Highlight of many a feast in the late 80s and early 90s. Not much later Shane MacGowan left the band, or was made to leave and more or less took the ghost of the band with him, drinking himself into oblivion. I must say that I was surprised running into this 30 year anniversary album, with Shane MacGowan on board, or what's left of him. What we can hear here, is total rock and roll annihilation. But, despite the fact that it's almost impossible for him to communicate legibly, in the songs it hardly matters. The foundation and experience of the band holds him up and supports him to finish as he should, building a party up the whole time for the length of a double album.

Many a Irish folkpunk classic comes by, showing how good The Pogues really are. To own up to history, I have to admit that this music sits better with me than 30 years ago. Of course, and close readers of this blog will know I'm no fan of 80s music in general, 'Rum, sodomy & lash', is one of the major exception to this decade, this music was not my favourite form of music. Dropkick Murphys changed that in the 00s. Now I can listen to '... in Paris' all the way and can't sit still nor refrain from singing along.

The Pogues offer an inlook into a culture of ages, but do so with late 20th century gusto, impossible without the influence of late 70s punk. The mix works well with its own songs as with covers of songs of old. The Pogues have become one of those bands that seem to be able to tour forever, without any new music as they have made a lasting impression with the few albums they made in the 80s, songs that people around the globe wish to hear time and again. On their own accord and nothing to do with golden oldies nostalgia parties that some artists make a decent living on.

My favorite The Pogues song is not on this album. Too slow probably for a party. 'And the band played Waltzing Matilda' is my absolute number one. 'Fiesta' comes close, as do 'Dirty old town' and 'A pair of brown eyes'. They are all here, 'Fiesta' closing off the album and I suppose the show. Looking at this mix of songs, it makes clear that The Pogues are capable of moving to tears as well as build a party. The longing, hurt and smart of a whole people are put into its songs. Even when the band makes them dance, the hurt is never far away. The individual hurt and longing for a lost past and health that is portrayed in Eric Bogle's '... Waltzing Matilda' reflects the pain of a whole generation. Total, spine chilling beauty.

That leaves me to reflect on the streams of whiskey and beer. MacGowan studied these streams from up close as we can hear. Perhaps at first it helped him to focus on what we now know as the output of The Pogues, I'm more inclined to reflect on what we have missed because of it. Of course it is impossible to know, but anyone able to write songs and interpret songs of this class should have been capable of coming up with more like it. If they were, they have been dissolved in streams of whiskey, quite appropriately the start of this album.

The album is released as a cd and a dvd. I'm sure going to check the latter out as well. For now, let's party once more on 'Fiesta'. As the mobile phone video, see the link provided above, attests to, a The Pogues show may put pure energy and enthusiasm above absolute quality and technical skills (hence there may be an overdub here and there on the cd), energy is offered abundantly. And that is worth something in this day and age.


You can order The Pogues in Paris here

or here

maandag 18 februari 2013

The danger of light. Sophie Hunger (2)

You can listen to 'Can you see me' here.

And again I'm influenced by Erwin Zijleman. Some time back he tipped Sophie Hunger is his contribution to this blog (click here) and I noticed I started playing Sophie's record more and more. Sophie Hunger is from Switzerland. I can't say that a lot of music reaches me from that country. She'll turn 30 six weeks from now. The danger of light is her fifth studio album under her pseudonym since 2006.

The danger of light is a special album for several reasons. Several songs are very playful, convincing and differently arranged than most other albums. Hunger does not let herself be pushed into one corner. English is the main language on the album, but two of Switzerland's official languages also turn up. Some songs have a cabaratesque flavour to them. 'Das neue' could be a song in the middle of a comedy solo performance, reflecting on changes in the world around us, including a new Sophie Hunger (pronounce in German here, please). What also sticks out, is her voice which is a mix with two extremes in it: fragility and toughness.

'Can you see me' is one of my favourites on this album. Part of the song is atmosphere, over which Hunger sings with a beautiful, clear voice. Electronic sounds and a rhythmic pounding make up the basis, a piano drifts in, drums, an electric guitar, only to disappear again and all the time the song has a great melody. In general this is her approach on The danger of light. Sophie Hunger is not afraid of silences in her songs. This allows for great dynamics as the instruments are faded into and out of the mix. The element of surprise is huge as the listener never knows what will happen next and even after several turns at listening surprises keep turning up. Which makes this album so much fun to listen to. In 'Heharun' almost all instruments that make up the song fade out, to make room for a trumpet to finish the song in a clear sound.

In the rhythms there is a slight hint to hip hop, but the closest comparison is The xx. Sophie Hunger is musically much more developed than her London based colleagues and the possibilities her education offer her shine through the whole of The danger of light. This makes her album more varied, at least as tense and certainly as good as 'Coexist'. (If you're interested in my review of Coexist, click here.)

A lot of effort has gone into making The danger of light sound special. 'The fallen' has elements of songs that female singers like Katie Melua may present in a song, but Hunger dives into different rhythms, arrangements and makes 'The fallen' everything Melua does not offer. Jazzy influences in the horns glow like wild animals on a leash. Under control, but with a hint of danger. The late night night club atmosphere of 'Perpatrator' is underscored by the muted horn, but set off by the muffled guitar in some parts, making 'Perpatrator' a very special and under cooled, but exciting song. It's in elements like this that The danger of light totally convinces and is special. By the time a Bob Dylan like harmonica kicks in the final minutes of the album, I was already totally won over.

In the music meant to listen to seriously segment The danger of light is an album that begs to be listened to. Sophie Hunger deserves to become better known in this part of the world and any other come to that. This is a free tip from


You can order The danger of darkness here

or here

zondag 17 februari 2013

Clockwork angels. Rush

Je kunt hier naar 'Headlong flight' luisteren.

Er is een tijd geweest dat ik compleet verslingerd was aan de muziek van het Canadese trio Rush, maar dat is inmiddels toch wel een jaar of 30 geleden denk ik. Een tijdje geleden liet ik op Spotify mijn favoriete Rush plaat van destijds (Hemispheres uit 1978) weer eens voorbij komen en viel het me op dat de muziek van de Canadezen de tand des tijd veel beter had doorstaan dan ik had verwacht. Tegenwoordig kun me niet meer wakker maken voor muziek met 1001 tempowisselingen (per minuut), een stortvloed aan muzikale hoogstandjes, tracks van 20 minuten of meer en volop invloeden uit de symfonische rock, maar Hemispheres (volgens de kenners overigens een van de mindere platen van de band) komt desondanks weer met enige regelmaat voorbij en ik vind het, in tegenstelling tot andere persoonlijke favorieten uit deze periode, nog steeds een goede plaat. Toen onlangs bij toeval de nieuwe plaat van Rush (als ik het goed heb geteld de twintigste studioplaat van de in 1968 opgerichte band) op de mat viel, kon ik mijn nieuwsgierigheid niet bedwingen en daar heb ik zeker geen spijt van gekregen. Opener Caravan laat horen dat de muziek van Rush de afgelopen decennia niet eens zo heel veel is veranderd, al is de band wel degelijk met zijn tijd mee gegaan waardoor Clockwork Angels veel moderner klinkt dan bijvoorbeeld het genoemde Hemispheres. In muzikaal opzicht is de muziek van de Canadezen nog altijd onnavolgbaar. Het gitaarwerk spettert de speakers uit en de keyboard laag vult de hele kamer, maar persoonlijk vind ik het virtuoze bas- en drumwerk het meest indrukwekkend. Rush is nog altijd niet vies van een tempowisseling hier en daar en zet je daarom steeds weer op het verkeerde been. Waar de band dit vroeger moeiteloos een lp lang vol hield, biedt Clockwork Angels veel meer variatie. Behoorlijk stevige rocksongs worden afgewisseld met meer ingetogen songs en zeer complexe songs worden afgewisseld met meer rechttoe rechtaan werk. Ondanks het feit dat ik het werk van de band sinds het eind van de jaren 80 volledig heb gemist, was Clockwork Angels direct een warm bad. Vergeleken met de platen uit een inmiddels heel ver verleden is bassist Geddy Lee wat minder hoog gaan zingen, maar dat vind ik persoonlijk geen ramp. Verder is de muziek wat steviger en rauwer dan vroeger, maar ook dat is eerder een voordeel dan een nadeel. Clockwork Angels is een plaat waarop verschrikkelijk veel te ontdekken valt, maar inmiddels durf ik het toch wel een van de betere rockplaten van het jaar te noemen. Dat is voor een band die volgend jaar 45 jaar bestaat een prestatie van ongekend formaat. Clockwork Angels zal niet door iedere lezer van deze BLOG worden gewaardeerd, maar iedereen die niet vies is van een stevige portie complexe rockmuziek hoort het momenteel niet beter dan dit.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Clockwork angels hier bestellen

en hier

zaterdag 16 februari 2013

Sky on Fire. Handsome Poets

You can listen to 'Sky on fire' here.

Handsome Poets broke big this fall with the first single of its second album Sky on fire. All thanks to national tv that picked out the song with the same name as the signature song for the London olympics. Early in 2011 the band was heard first on the radio with 'Dance (the war is over)'. Later that year I saw the band in Amsterdam, just before Christmas putting down a very enjoyable show. (Read then 10 year old Hein's review here.)

Handsome Poets betray a love for 80s synth pop, not my cup of tea the Nick Kershaws, Howard Joneses. Kajagoogoos and such. While Handsome Poets are quite alright, even fun. Not that I will play Sky on fire everyday, but regularly, yes, I do. The band has this optimist sound and joins that with a great pop feel. In fact, a superior form of pop. 'Sky on fire' may be the big top 5 hit for the band, it's not the best song of the album Sky on fire by far. Handsome Poets delve deeper, touch on Tears for Fears along the way and evoke different emotions.

In the songs on Sky on fire Handsome Poets manages to go beyond the party songs and comes up with several more serious songs like 'Scheveningen' and 'Sing for you'. On the other end there is the fantastic song 'Follow me', one of the best songs of the band to date. Up tempo, up beat, great synth sounds everywhere and this melody I look forward singing to very loud coming May in Amsterdam. The sound is very familiar, as in 80s synth, but the up beat mood makes all the difference. Handsome Poets is not a 80s doom and gloom influenced band, the bomb being no longer a real threat. This shines through. (Will this change if the crisis deepens over the coming years?) 'Sky on fire' also attests to this. The march like rhythm of the verses, the guitar outbursts and the general mood of we, Handsome Poets, are taking on the world. The band may just be doing this with Sky on fire.

That the band looks further than its primary influences proves 'Alright'. This song goes all sorts of ways, bounces of walls and borders, as in Queens hayday, without any copying. The mood and tempo changes are numerous and it works (some Mika?, Robbie Williams?, why not). If anything, this shows the prowess of song writing skills the band possesses and is able to execute as well. A great ending to a fun album.

Without departing from the style the band chose to work in, Handsome Poets shows progress in this second album. No difficult second album sentiments here. The band does what its good at and just seems to have done it a lot better than before. Perhaps Handsome Poets are the cleanest boys on the block, but Sky on fire gives them their part of the block and quite rightly so. More in May, when we go and see the band live.


You can order Sky on fire here

or here

vrijdag 15 februari 2013

The year of DK. Dennis Kolen

You can listen to 'Take me down' here.

Dennis Kolen is a Dutch singer-songwriter from Rotterdam I've encountered a few times playing solo or with Shane Alexander and in the trio The Greater Good, which you can find more on elsewhere on this blog. Time to put the spotlight on Dennis Kolen himself, as he has made a beautiful solo album, The year of DK or decay. A dark album in all appearances. Inside is the cover booklet is even a whole black page reading 1979-2012 in white letters with his name above it. As if I wasn't talking to the man, when I read that page!? Dennis Kolen shares a hard time in his life with us; a life of heartaches, depression and breakup. O.k., perhaps not the most compelling invitation to listen to The year of DK, but bear with me here.

Dennis Kolen started off in the band Wyatt, after which he started a solo career. As he writes on his website, this album is a "memory of the past two years". That makes it a highly personal record, but also recognisable for everyone who has ever loved and lost. "I see right through you" tells it all: "Same old shit flying though the air". A song Ryan Adams would not have minded writing and recording, I'm sure. A beautiful example that americana can be made successfully anywhere in the world. Even in a former polder in the city of Rotterdam.

Musically there is a lot to enjoy on The year of DK. From the very bare and naked 'Here to stay' where Kolen presents himself as singer-songwriter only, to fully fleshed out songs with guitars, piano, harmonica, mandolins and rhythm section. All is done in great taste to get the best effect into a song. Kolen succeeds in triumph. This album is at the top of the Americana game and should be heard by fans of this music all over the world. The lyrics tell stories of love and loss, but are poetic as well, evoking strong visions and images. The girlfriend that is all over someone else; listening to 'Bird' you will find out how good Kolen is in calling up visions. A song about wanting to hold on, but having to let go, whatever the consequences; another year, finally, over. Fireworks in the background.

If it is true that an artist has to suffer to be able to perform at his best, then Dennis Kolen suffered. With The year of DK he has written his best album to date. The songs are heart felt, lived through and this mood is delivered to the listener. There is no escaping for him or her. We as listeners have to travel the whole length as well. Including the beautiful 'I almost died' as we near the end. Here Kolen lets it rip in a long electric guitar solo which tells more than any lyric. Luckily we are sort of let off the hook, when the album finishes with 'Good getting better'. Not that this song is set in major chords, there's still some reminiscing on the past, some melancholy, but Kolen is "Good, getting better, thank you very much". Again a great song and a fantastic ending to this album. It takes some tenacity to sit through the album, as it is not all just plain good old fun, but rewarding to do so. The year of DK is a beautiful album.


You can order The year of DK here

or here

donderdag 14 februari 2013

Long slow dance. The Fresh & Onlys

You can listen to 'Presence of mind' here.

Lush pop is what The Fresh & Onlys offers its listeners. With music that is a mix of 60s and 80s pop served with a dash of country and folk. Hearing Long slow dance for the first time it reminded me of The Smiths without the jangly guitars of Johnny Marr and more importantly the look-at-me- I've- got-the-world-on-my-shoulder whine of Morrissey. Meaning, I got behind song three or four on this album. And I'm glad I did.

The Fresh & Onlys is a San Francisco band that is around since 2008. In just over four years the band has produced four albums and two EPs. That's a good output compared to non-indie bands in this day and age. The band is pushed into the label garage rock, but on Long slow dance there is not even a hint of garage, unless the band practices in one. My label guess is pop, dream pop even in the way Tim Cohen sings to us. Newer romantics with better music and no weird dressing? It sounds very much like it.

If anything Long slow dance is aimed at songs. Not just any song, the perfect pop song, with light sounding acoustic and electric guitars. In the sound spectrum they are all around. In the 'Executioner's song' at least two acoustic strummers and two electric embellishing the sound, one with a twang and one high end played notes in a very clean sound. Add some pleasant, modest horns and the atmosphere is set for a pleasant song, with intricate melody lines by the different instruments, all set to slightly morbid lyrics that takes the listener from the desert to the undertow of the ocean in two sentences; metaphors for a woman playing the executioner's drum.

The pleasure of Long slow dance lies just in this. The Fresh & Onlys seem to have a wish to play a song as delicate and refined as possible. The first and second idea are not enough. The possibilities of a song are researched in-depth and explored. Leading to intricate arrangements that are pure ear candy.

In 'Euphoria' the band lets it rip. In a The Stooges/Iggy Pop way. Tim Cohen does not sing as deep, but does his version. What makes the song stand out, is that in the back ground The Moody Blues seem to be doing their thing. Just like in that pre-sympho band's rock songs loads of violins come into the sound, giving 'Euphoria' a dreamlike quality. Another, more contemporary, band that is close to The Fresh & Onlys is The Shins. 'Foolish person' attests to that most.

Long slow dance is an album that I like more each time I play it. From o.k. it has grown into one of my personal favorites that I've listened to over the pas weeks. It is a great pop album with loads of interesting twists and bends. Like 'Foolish person' that leaves The Shins influence to totally rock out and finally moving into the garage rock realm in a superb way. The Fresh & Onlys may have mellowed down, but only to prove what superb songs the band is able to write and the diverse, melodic way in which it is able to perform them. Indie pop lovers, fans of Big Star, let's drop that name here also, be warned and check Long slow dance out.


You can order Long slow dance here

and here

woensdag 13 februari 2013

The complaint choir of Helsinki

In the winter of 2007 I spent a midweek in the vicinity of Ghent and Brueges in Belgium. Part of the day in Ghent we spent in S.M.A.K., the museum of modern art. One room was filled with four screens on the four walls, loud speakers and leather seats. A video was playing with people in a pub making awful music or not even that, attempting to make music, but not coming even close. I was about to pack it in when the screen went black and another to the right of me lit up. "Complaint choir Helsinki" it read. I turned around on the seats and became mesmerised within a few seconds. A huge choir assembled in what looks like a neo-classical train station. A piano started this beautiful melody and the choir chimed in, singing its complaints in complex harmonies. Big world spanning ones, small private ones, ones to laugh out loud with. So much humour. There were two more choirs, from St. Petersburg and Hamburg, but one stood out, because of the music, the singing, the humour, the approach.

The complaint choir is a project by two Finnish artists, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, who let people complain in writing, but only allow the complaint if they are willing to come and sing it. And thus art was born. By now there appear to be complaint choirs all over the world. I just would like to share this one with you, as it is very special.

You can listen to the Helsinki Complaint Choir here.

dinsdag 12 februari 2013

Lights out. Graveyard

You can listen to 'Goliath' here.

Graveyard is a Swedish hardrock band formed in Gothenborg in 2006. To date the band has three albums to its name, Graveyard (2007), Hisingen blues (2011) and Lights out (2012). Fans of hardrock can gorge on this album as influences from all around are incorporated into Lights out.

Joakim Nilsson's voice is where the sound of Graveyard starts off with. His rough sounding voice has this hardrock pitch that is needed to excel in this genre. It's at its best in the ballads, in the more up-tempo songs Nilsson sounds strained at times, but let's face it: that is not exactly unusual in rock. His voice reminds me of David Coverdale, without the screams, as well as Ian Cook. And from this voice the influences in the music go all out.

There's pure classic rock as played by Black Sabbath and Deep Purple in the early 70s.'The suits, the law & the uniforms' is classic rock. Double tracked vocals, layered guitars, loud riffing and a rhythm that just begs for heads to move up and down with it. "Simple", effective and to the point, with some guitar outings towards the end. This is one side to Graveyard.

What surprised me is how close 'Endless night' comes to Bent, Oregon's pride Larry and his Flask. Despite the total difference in approach in instrument use, 'Endless night' could have been a song on 'All that we know'. It's rough and has a country/folk punk flavour.

Graveyard rises to the occasion in the more ballady 'Hard time lovin''. Nilsson's voice travels towards the Jim Morrison side of  his range. An organ is added to the sound, enriching Lights out as a whole. Led Zeppelin is not very far away in this song as is underscored by the lead guitar lines. A pretty good song it is too.

The diversity of Lights out makes it a very attractive album in its genre. As does the focus in the songs. Not much time is wasted on drawing songs out beyond necessary steps. This is a band playing and not a collection of musicians competing for the most attention. Guitar solo and breaks in 'Goliath' are there, but to the point and adding to the song as a whole, not to the ego of the individual player, something that turns me off from Cream, Led Zep or Deep Purple, particularly when they went all out live.

Lights out ends with 'Fool in the end' and '20/20'. Two more examples of how good this band is. The melodic rock of the former and the bluesy latter stand out. Despite the fact that guitars and drums are the basis, you will find a fine piano tucked away within 20/20. Sparingly Graveyard adds to the picture to make its songs more special. Swedish hard rock? Yes, and very worthwhile listening to too.


You can order Lights out here

or here

maandag 11 februari 2013

Villeneuf Live in LVC Leiden

You can listen to and order 'Great waste of time' here.

It's always hard to be a support act. Except some friends and parents no one is there for you and usually the sound mixer is not interested in making sure the sound is even sub optimal. Villeneuf was lucky in that last account. The sound was softer than Moke's but good and made it possible for the audience to get a good idea what Villeneuf is about and follow the lyrics.

Villeneuf is a band based in Amsterdam and Leiden and around since 2010. Michiel van Poelgeest started gathering people around himself to play music beyond his lap top. This led to the second album under the name Villeneuf, but the first as a band, named 'Great waste of time'. Single 'Home' made it to national radio, as I had heard the song before without knowing who was behind it.

Foto from website Villeneuf
There are two things that jump out listening to the band for the first time. There's no drummer. Bas Ernst plays an electronic device and sits on a box that produces drumlike sounds. The harmonies between Van Poelgeest and acoustic guitarist Ronnie Verton are impeccable. (The third was that there was no bass player on stage, but the band had "left him at home".)

Music wise the genre Villeneuf excels in go from soft pop like Coldplay without drums and the U2 antics, towards bands like Midlake, a dreamlike pop that floats towards the audience. There is no bright flashing flame here, more like the pilot flame always at a constant. It all starts from the singing of Michiel van Poelgeest. His timbre is just right for his music and he is able to convey a layer of emotion in his singing that lends the songs character and honesty. On the other hand there's a need to present with a little more confidence in between songs. A question of getting the story right.

I was pleasantly surprised by Villeneuf. The band has a good mix between the electronic and organic part of its music, with a keen ear for melody and harmony. So, expect some more on them in the coming weeks on this site when I review 'Great waste of time'. In the meantime, and here's some sound advice, listen to Villeneuf's album yourself!


zondag 10 februari 2013

Carolina. JJ Schultz

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Carolina' here.

Het is pas een paar dagen geleden dat ik werd verrast met een envelop uit de Verenigde Staten op de deurmat. Desondanks ben ik nu al zeer gehecht aan de cd die ik in deze envelop aantrof en beschouw ik de cd als een must voor iedere liefhebber van Amerikaanse rootsmuziek. Carolina van JJ Schultz is een rootsplaat waarop op het eerste gehoor geen hele opzienbarende dingen gebeuren, maar op een of andere manier heeft de plaat een enorme impact en deze impact neemt bij herhaalde beluistering alleen maar toe. De naam JJ Schultz zei me persoonlijk helemaal niets, maar Carolina blijkt al de vierde plaat van de man die werd geboren in Wisconsin, maar inmiddels al flink wat jaren vanuit San Francisco opereert. In muzikaal opzicht zit Carolina ergens tussen Wisconsin en San Francisco in. De plaat ademt de sfeer van de grote leegte van het midden van de Verenigde Staten en doet me in meerdere opzichten denken aan Nebraska van Bruce Springsteen. De vergelijking met één van de klassiekers uit het oeuvre van Springsteen gaat het best op voor de wat meer ingetogen songs op de plaat. Deze songs moeten het doen met een akoestische gitaar, een aansprekende stem en mooie en indringende verhalen. Dit soort songs worden nog altijd door duizenden muzikanten geschreven en vertolkt, maar die van JJ Schultz blijven je direct bij. Mede hiervoor verantwoordelijk zijn de spaarzame maar buitengewoon fraaie en trefzekere accenten van onder andere een vlammend of driegend Hammond orgel en een mooie vrouwenstem, maar ook de bijna desolate ondertoon van de muziek van JJ Schultz draagt bij aan het effect dat Carolina op de luisteraar heeft. Hoewel ik de wat meer ingetogen songs op de plaat het mooist en indrukwekkend vind, blijven ook de wat stevigere songs, die met een band worden uitgevoerd, moeiteloos overeind. Carolina bevat 8 tracks die in totaal iets meer dan een half uur duren. Het is een half uur van een imponerende schoonheid. JJ Schultz vertolkt zijn toch al zo indringende songs met hart en ziel en weet je met zijn persoonlijke verhalen keer op keer diep te raken. Ik vind het niet eens zo makkelijk om precies uit te leggen wat ik nu zo mooi en indrukwekkend vind aan Carolina van JJ Schultz, maar de mokerslag die de plaat keer op keer uitdeelt wordt alleen maar harder en raker. JJ Schultz keert in zijn muziek terug naar de rauwe energie van Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, maar de eenvoud van zijn muziek en de trefzekerheid van zijn vocalen doen me ook wel wat denken aan Townes van Zandt. Er zijn niet veel relatief onbekende muzikanten die de eer van de vergelijking met grootheden als Bruce Springsteen en Townes van Zandt opstrijken, maar in het geval van JJ Schultz valt er helemaal niets op af te dingen. Carolina is een plaat van een bijna onwerkelijke schoonheid die zo snel mogelijk breed moet worden opgepikt.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Carolina hier bestellen

vrijdag 8 februari 2013



Live: Moke in LVC Leiden

You can listen to 'Lessons to learn' live here.

After a somewhat hesitating begin Moke left the LVC behind smoking. Which I didn't expect any more halfway through the show. Moke presented itself as a decent, tight band with a a fairly strange mix of influences tossed in, which I'll come back to later. The transformation to a great rock outfit took place somewhere in the final quarter of the show.

Singer Felix Maginn presents himself like Bryan Ferry's younger brother. Very, very stylish in a tight suit and tie. His fellow band members clearly know what they're wearing also. I saw Maginn (and drummer Rob Klerkx) for the first time as singer of the band Supersub in the same LVC as support for Dodgy. Supersub was on equal footing in Britpop prowess to Dodgy easily, but never broke. Moke did and it was about time to check it out now the band played LVC.

I'm glad that I did. Although I was surprised a few times at what I heard. The keyboard sounds sometimes come straight out of the 80s, there were one or two songs that could have been sung by 70s camp icons Guys and Dolls, so mellow and poppy. What saved almost each and every song in that direction was Phil Tilly's guitar licks, hooks and fills. Whether a dark bass note progression, a high accent or rhythmic noise, nearly every song has a signature Tilly guitar moment, lending Moke a little extra over other bands.

The brunt of Moke's music how ever is pure pop or Britpop if you like with a melodic rock angle in there. In a few songs the band actually nears perfection and is able to produce that on stage also. Felix Maginn's singing is very good and, listening from my angle, effortless. The harmonies provided by keyboard player Eddy Steeneken are just as good. In other songs, like 'Here comes the weekend' the slightly uncomfortable verses seem almost at odds with the great power pop of the chorus. Just what makes a song interesting when done the right way, like Moke does here.

What makes Moke stand out also, is that the band is not afraid of silence in its music. Phil Tilly sometimes seems to lean on his guitar as if its a counter. Only bass, played very assuredly by Marcin Felis, and drums pumping or just a keyboard with or without guitar. It impresses as there are loads of dynamics in the different songs, it makes songs stand out and formidable. Add to that that Moke is not afraid to play a silent song like 'Almost home', despite the fact that half the audience was talking and shouting to each other, and it's clear I'm revealing highlights of the show to you here.

The band led us into a grand finale, including a beautiful cover of David Bowie's latest hit single 'Where are we now'. By then Moke had captured the audience although they had to work hard to do so. Well deserved captivation it was. Moke is a band that is worth watching live!


You can order ´Collider´ here

donderdag 7 februari 2013

Don't panic. All Time Low

You can listen to 'For Baltimore' here.

How many of these band operating between punk rock and emo are there? Loads and loads is my guess and every once in a while one crosses my path. This time it's All Time Low, a band stemming from Towson, Maryland in the US of A. Don't panic is its fifth studio album and the first I've noticed. If anything stands out on Don't panic, it's the slickness of the production. Fine tuned to rock radio. At the basis a song like 'Backseat serenade' could have been recorded by 80s hair bands, but also by someone the likes of Bruno Mars. Some minor adjustments in the production would have taken care of the necessary differences. So do I like this album?

I have my doubts, but I have to say that I like the drumming for a start. Rian Dawson is all over the place, with a strategic silence followed by a fill before the rhythm is pounded out again. This is a hard hitter, but with inventiveness and all the right accents. So at the basis this album is alright. And I've noticed a big difference. I like the album on the sound system and I do not care a lot for it on the head phone.

Most songs are very conservative. All Time low does not take any chances musically. The rather smooth, almost juvenile voice of Alex Gaskarth tops this all off. This is what I hold against Don't panic most. Despite the fact that the band comes close to music other bands in their genre play, it's too mellow. Like The Jacksons almost in it's 'Blame it on the boogie' phase. That does not mean that the songs are not good enough. Far from it. There is just not much setting them apart from the fold. Titles like 'The irony of choking on a lifesaver' or 'So long and thanks for all the booze' suggest originality, the songs do not. Although the former song is one that is apart from the supple flowing punkrock songs that come before it and the latter has a few great singing melodies and harmonies in it.

All Time Low knows how to write a song. Most songs on Don't panic prove just this, what attracted me hearing the album in the background in the first place. Listening up close a few times, I conclude that it's the production that stopped me from truly liking the album. Don't panic does not offer enough variation that really makes it stick. The potential is there, but there is more to music than just a smooth flowing wall of guitars and slick singing in a slightly pained and groping voice. The few times the band starts out with a clearly different intro, I prick up my ears, but all intros are just an excuse to run back to where it left off in the previous song. My conclusion is that there's more to All Time Low than it lets us listen to. So how knows what the future brings?


You can order Don't panic here

or here

P.S. This is WoNoVice's reference in the comment section: