dinsdag 6 september 2016

MMXV. The Stream

With MMXV Jan Stroomer and his band The Stream did not take the easy way out. All over 2015 the band released one song per month, until it had a whole album to release. The album became a musical diary for a whole year of making music, so the title is not only apt but fully deserved.

I first ran into Jan Stroomer when he did a solo show in Leiden with singer-songwriter Mieke van Veen in the fall of 2014. His piano songs had this mix of seriousness, Billy Joel and Elton John in combination with a sort of Tom Lehrer humour, if not to say laissez-faire, which happens to be the title of one of the songs that is on MMXV, the February release 'The End Of Laissez-Faire'. Not much later I was listening to the album 'Art Nouveau' and published a review early last year. And now the new album is finally here.

Again The Stream does something that most piano-based bands do not manage: get me to listen beyond the initial introduction. Usually I'm back to something with guitars after a few songs. With MMXV The Stream invites me to go deeper and get into the songs, which I do without any form of complaint. In fact I like the album more with each spin.

It all starts with the warmth of the music. With the emotions in the voice of Jan Stroomer. When he sings he feels disgrace for himself in 'Way To Go' you tend to believe his remorse, although this wasn't the first time he did it. That aside, it is the music that holds the warmth. The Stream manages to make the obvious special and puts a break in the right moment often with some great female harmonies on the side. 'Love You Anyway' plays out in a Bacharach/David kind of fashion. 'I Say A Little Prayer' comes to mind, but in an extremely pleasant, subtle way. The 60s influence is there in MMXV. Cut out the psychedelia in the 1967-1968 output of The Small Faces and you'll find the band as well.

Jas Stroomer's English pronunciation isn't flawless. Like Tim Christensen he has his own little ways, lending some authenticity to the songs. Anyone who lets this get in the way of establishing a relationship with this album and band is in for a mistake. For example because of the timbre of his voice. So pleasant to listen to, even when it goes towards falsetto.

The music on MMXV is diverse. The Stream seems to have taken on a different sort of music with each month that passed, without leaving its own identity behind. Jan Stroomer's piano playing is the mainstay of each song. From there sixties soul, a sort of calypso, Steely Dan's rock jazz can come by, just like Tom Lehrer, Randy Newman or easy listening. With the complexities in the rhythm in a song like 'She Can't Breathe' the proficiency of the band pushes itself to the frontline and comes from beyond the piano as a force of its own.

As the album continues I am more than convinced that MMXV is as good as 'Art Nouveau' is. Even more varied and more inviting to listen to. Not in the least because of the two background singers who sound so convincing. Esmé Gabeler, Frederieke Kroone and Maartje Keijzer sing so beautiful that I'm silenced each time they add their voices to the whole, lifting a song even more.

In short, The Stream has released a beautiful album, that I will most likely be playing for a long time. To date I have not been able to see the band live, but that will change one of these days. For now I can only advice you to go off and explore this band for yourself. If only because of 'Anymore' as that is the price song of this album in my ears.


You can listen to 'Sucker For Fairytales' here:


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