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