donderdag 23 maart 2023

Mess Of Everything. Local Drags

Glorious powerpop returns to WoNoBlog in the form of Springfield, Illinois' Local Drags. Somehow I associated the band name in the past with punk (rock) but that is only a, very one-sided, part of the story. Local Drags combines the best of a few decades of powerpop from the U.S. in its songs. Ten new ones see the light of day on Mess Of Everything. Ten songs that explore everything what is possible in this niche of the music scene.

Mess Of Everything is Local Drags' third album. I've missed the first, lauded the second, 'Keep It Glued', and now am listening to a glorious third. Glorious because the band truly hits a high here. Not afraid of infusing come country into its rock, 'Call You A Baby' comes out as perfect pop. A pedal steel wines through the song as if Local Drags is a country rock band of old, playing a kind of rock that still needed inventing in the mid-70s.

It is the pop feel that is hitting on those highs. Each song is of the instantly sing-a-long kind. What Mess Of Everything is not is a commercial sell out. With references to Big Star, Weezer, The Romantics and an obscure favourite of mine from the 90s The Caulfields, to name a few, Local Drags emulates the best of bands that at best scored a hit single by accident, if at all like Big Star and The Caulfields. Unfortunately perfection does not always bring huge success.

At a minimum this albums deserves serious attention of fans of poprock, powerpop and punkrockers. They will not be disappointed. Local Drags truly brings the best of many worlds together in a successful way. This mix works. To think there's only 700 copies available, on vinyl and cd combined, so you'd better be fast. Better, order far beyond that 700 and make this album an instant success. Lanny Durbin, he has played most of the music and is Local Drags, deserves it.

What I'll concede, is that Mess Of Everything is not an original album where the music it contains is concerned. But, please tell me if any of the originals has made a better album than this recently. I haven't heard it in any case. Local Drags is on a roll and surfs the waves only top songs produce. The variation on the album does the rest.

I have only one question left. If Lanny Durbin made a mess of everything on his new record, what will he share with us when he hits perfection? Will it be too much to bear musically?

Wout de Natris

You can listen to and order Mess Of Everything here:

woensdag 22 maart 2023

10 Albums (It's albums catch up day)

There are more good albums released these days than fit this blog. Usually it is tough luck, as I only have time on average to review four albums each week. In addition there's a singles section since a few years, highlighting 10 recent singles per week. So why not do the same for some albums that really deserve attention? So, I decided to do a catch up of  some albums from the past few weeks and late last year. Agreed, they are not so well and intensely listened to as usual. It will have to do.

Epocha. Abrasive Trees

On Epocha Abrasive Trees or Matthew Roachford brings together the songs he has released in the past few years of which some have made it to this blog. Expect, on average, songs lasting for five minutes. Dark and brooding, they slowly take you through the dark ages to come out vindicated on the other side. My musical reference is the postpunk of the 1980s. Think The Cure, Killing Joke, The Cult, but all without the big drums and huge guitars. Epocha is more about creating a mood than showing muscles and comes out well. The mood is set by electronic sounds or dark, distorted guitars mixed into the background and some muffled percussion. A guitar (or two) is always present, playing a slow, clear riff. Roachford's singing is just as dark. The contrast  with a female voice, like on 'Now You are Not Here' (Jo-Beth Young) is welcome and well done. Epocha fits well in the mid 20s and is a trip down the 80s memory lane in one.

You Radiate. Jimmy Diamond

The first notes I heard of You Radiate were from a song called 'Chase The Moon'. Nice but not special. It's good I paid attention for a bit longer, as the song slowly but surely keeps growing. Jimmy Diamond is a Dutch trio that started its musical life as the European tour band of Strand of Oaks, a band I still do not really know what to think of. Timothy Showalter made up the band's name on tour and during the pandemic the trio started working together on making their own music. This resulted in an album that definitely has the United States written over it where the music is concerned. Hints at Americana, the pop rock of The War on Drugs and Strand of Oaks, where ballads and rock easily mixes. Jim Zwinselman, Ruud Gielen and Floris Poessé catch a great mood in their music. There's no need to hurry anything. Even when they rock, like in 'In The Dark', they take their time to do so. Yes, there's a link with Excelsior label mates Moss in sound, not in the urgency. As a final comment, I'll mention the dreamy atmosphere of Jimmy Diamond, Like a long summernight the band takes its time for every single note. The sun is still out, yet going under ever so slowly (and then I saw the album's cover).

A Room Of One's Own. Rosemary & Garlic

Another album taking its time. Slow piano notes fill my ears. An intro to an album taking its time. Anne van den Hoogen is not in a hurry to let her voice be heard. When she does though, her point is made fast. Dreamily she sings over the music that unfolds slowly as well. All rest and play here. “If you put on the music, I would hope that it would stop you somewhere in your tracks for just a second, just to feel some comfort and some kind of beauty,” she says in the bio. Mission accomplished, Anne. Rosemary & Garlic is now a solo effort, with former part of the duo Dolf Smolenaers now present as co-producer. A Room Of One's Own is Rosemary & Garlic's second album. Filled with singer-songwriter and folk songs with a modern take on British folk of old, the album also offers space. Every instrument has its own place and time in the songs. They all come across beautifully and warm, spaciously mixed, giving them each their own spot on the record. Beauty caught on record.

Different Game. The Zombies

In the past months two singles already came by and made me very, very curious for the whole album. The Zombies today are men beyond men of a certain age. They are elderly gentlemen still going at what they do best, recording songs and playing them live. The Zombies never received the commercial acclaim when first active as a band. The real breakthrough came after they disbanded and 'Time Of The Season' became a hit in 1969 anyway. With Different Game the band releases a new album and it binds all of the sixties in it and add a modern studio sound to it. The title and opening song could have been by Procol Harum as far as the organ goes. The typical The Zombies organ comes in with 'Dropped Reeling & Stupid'. One of the singles. Colin Blunstone's voice is not what it was 50 years ago. It can't be. He does really well though, just like Rod Argent has come up with the songs that make for a good, if dated, album. There's nothing sentimental about Different Game though. This album totally deserves to be heard.

Mist. Vreemde Kostgangers

Another album by a band of veterans. The oldest is alive and kicking and doing the interviews. Henny Vrienten died almost a year ago and George Kooymans is terminally ill with ALS. They had started their third album during the pandemic after the tour had to stop, like everyone else's. Mist is an album filled with melancholy songs about life, ageing and death. The album had to be finished and released Vrienten had said to the other two and they did, a little against the odds. It's impossible to listen to Mist without realising what happened after the tour had to stop in March 2020. (I was one of the lucky ones on 5 March in Haarlem.) It is possible though to listen to the album and hear the quality of these three Dutch musicians of star quality. The troubadour, Boudewijn de Groot, the pop star who became a lot more, Henny Vrienten and a rock god, George Kooijmans, bring their different sides to Vreemde Kostgangers and show how good they are. This album is filled with beautiful songs showing so many different sides to them.

Hello. Continentals

Dropkick Murphys' founding guitarist Rick Barton finds himself in Quincy, Massachusetts painting houses when not playing with his band Continentals. Listening to the quality of his band's album Hello, I can't help but muse what's wrong with the world these days if a band with the quality of Continentals can't sustain its members by playing music. A song like 'State O' Maine' is a HIT, in capitals, yes. Perfect rock and roll, perfect harmonies, perfect changes in the vocal melody and chords. Should I have left anything of brilliance out of this summery, I deeply apologise. On Hello decades of rock and roll come together in a blend that's almost too much fun. From The Rolling Stones into the 80s U.S. rock bands to Dropkick Murphies barring the Irish influences and anything resembling powerpop and punkrock in between, with a little americana on the side. It's all there in the nine songs on Hello. Granite City in the name Quincy gave itself. This music is just as hard rock(ing).

One More Drink. The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs

Another band with members that go back a few decades already and decided to come back together after 20 years and go for it once again. The music is as old-fashioned punkrock as it is good. It is that the voices betray their age, the playing is so forceful and energetic that it belies the musician's age by a decade or three and a half. How many more good songs can be written using these basic rock and roll chords?, I often muse. Loads it seems, as The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs have a whole album filled with them. Yes, you'll have heard it all before but who cares when it's this good? With Frank Meyer the band has a great singer, who really leads the band as a driving force. The surprise sax solos of Geoff Yeaton are a huge surprise, as it isn't the kind of instrument to expect in a band like this. He matches the guitar riffs with ease. If I have to compare this band, it would be to Social Distortion at its best. The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs come really, really close. One More Drink comes as a deluxe edition with bonus tracks for those who jump the gun. Better go over to Rum Bar's Bandcamp page fast.

De Belevenis van Niels Hendrix. Niels Hendrix

Rocksongs gezongen in het Nederlands met een Vlaams accent. Dat is de eenvoudige omschrijving. Dit is al een iets ouder album, dat er tussendoor glipte door diverse oorzaken, die mij enige tijd weerhielden om veel tijd aan het blog te besteden. Tijd om het goed te maken, want De Belevenis Van Niels Hendrix is een heel fijn album. Hendrix heeft een mooie mix van luisterliedjes en rocksongs gemaakt, binnen één song en niet apart. Met zijn akoestische gitaar speelt hij het liedje en met zijn stem en geregeld binnenvliegende elektrische gitaar wordt de rockkant van zijn muziek belicht. Het album is uitgebracht op Fons Records. Als ik kijk hoeveel platen van dit underground label uit Hasselt hun weg hebben gevonden naar dit blog, dan kan alleen maar geconcludeerd worden dat het niveau hoog ligt. De Belevenis Van Niels Hendrix is hier geen utizondering op. Rock in het Nederlands/Vlaams is al een uitzondering. Goede rock in die taal al helemaal. De Belevenis Van Niels Hendrix levert dit op overtuigende wijze. Dan kan een popsong als 'Nooit' makkelijk vergeven worden. Wat resteert, is van topklasse.

Horizon. The Inspector Cluzo

French farmers and rock duo touring the world The Inspector Cluzo returns to this blog. Again, they rock out in a decidedly unfrench way. The duo makes a lot of noise for a duo. Impossible to recreate together on stage. On record, who cares? Not me. Horizon is a fine album on which modern blues rock is mixed with solid rock. Altogether it is all about excitement but not without interesting songs. In between all that farming and as soon as the chickens have gone to roost, the guitars and drums come out sounding out over the French fields. Successful enough to hire Vance Powell as producer and have Iggy Pop, his album 'Every Loser' is still fantastic, contributing to 'Rockphobia'. You have to be patient though before you hear him. Singer (and guitarist) Laurent is a great singer in his own right. He has different voices to share with us, making listening to Horizon even more interesting. The Inspector Cluzo knows how to rock but what it is doing as support act to EELS (7 April AFAS), I can only muse at. Doesn't sound like the best match to me. Just listen the duo go down on 'The Armchair Activist' and you can't but agree with me. '9 Billion Solutions' would fit though, so I may be wrong.

Nuts. Mich

What happened to Niels Hendrix, happened to Mich also. An album I had already set apart never got off the list of blog potentials. Until today. Mich is, better was, a project and not a real band. Over the years this seems to have changed, as the band fairly regularly releases new records. Nuts is, once again, an album that has 1980s written all over it. More specifically, it has The Cure written all over it. Mich manages to combine the upbeat side of The Cure's music with the darkness surrounding the upbeat sound. A high sounding guitar, synths and a firm rhythm section are supporting dreamy singing. The pop element wins on Nuts, more so than before. In fact, the songs are better than on the band's previous two efforts. To my ears, the songs are better. They stick better somehow and my take is this has all to do with the pop element that has been infused into the 80s music. At a time when the world does seem to be about to fall on our head, Mich comes with a blue sky, thus providing the blue hats we all will wear when a blue sky falls. Nuts it may be, the music is not. Nuts is Mich's best effort so far.

Wout de Natris

dinsdag 21 maart 2023

To Heal Her Too. Haley Harkin

De Amerikaanse muzikante Haley Harkin bracht vorig jaar het album To Heal Her uit, dat deze week gezelschap krijgt van ‘companion album’ To Heal Her Too, dat nog een stuk mooier en indrukwekkender is.

To Heal Her Too is het derde album van Haley Harkin uit Austin, Texas, en het is wat mij betreft haar beste album tot dusver. Het is over het algemeen een vrij ingetogen folkalbum, maar door de bijdragen van met name strijkers kan de muziek van Haley Harkin ook een stuk voller klinken. De instrumentatie op To Heal Her Too is relatief sober, maar zeer smaakvol en de Amerikaanse muzikante schrijft mooie songs die een ontspannende uitwerking hebben. Het mooist vind ik echter de stem van Haley Harkin die haar persoonlijke songs met veel gevoel en expressie vertolkt. To Heal Her Too is ook nog eens een album dat steeds beter wordt. Absoluut het ontdekken waard.

Tussen de eerste releases van 2023 kwam ik To Heal Her Too van de voor mij tot voor kort onbekende Haley Harkin tegen. Het is het derde album van de singer-songwriter uit Austin, Texas, en de opvolger van het precies een jaar geleden verschenen To Heal Her. Dat deze twee albums iets met elkaar te maken hebben zal duidelijk zijn. Op To Heal Her keek Haley Harkin vorig jaar volgens haar bandcamp pagina van buiten naar binnen, terwijl op To Heal Her Too de blik van binnen naar buiten domineert.

De omschrijvingen op de bandcamp pagina van de Amerikaanse muzikante zijn wat aan de zweverige kant en ook de muziek van Haley Harkin doet, zeker bij eerste beluistering, misschien wat zweverig aan, maar To Heal Her Too is ook een erg mooi rootsalbum, dat de muzikante die opgroeide in Fort Collins, Colorado, wat mij betreft schaart onder de vele beloften in het genre.

Too Heal Her Too bevat elf songs, die samen goed zijn voor zo’n drie kwartier muziek. De songs van Haley Harkin zijn te typeren als folksongs en het zijn folksongs die redelijk spaarzaam en grotendeels akoestisch zijn ingekleurd. Haley Harkin vertrouwt voor een belangrijk deel op haar akoestische gitaar en haar stem, maar ze voegt zelf ook nog wat elektrische gitaar, banjo, mondharmonica en percussie toe aan haar mooi en verzorgd klinkende geluid. Dit geluid wordt verder op subtiele wijze verrijkt met bijdragen van bas, viool en cello.

De Amerikaanse muzikante combineert de ingetogen maar zeer sfeervolle en smaakvolle klanken met een mooie en karakteristieke stem, die af en toe in meerdere lagen is opgenomen. Het is een stem vol gevoel, waardoor de songs van Haley Harkin direct impact hebben. Het is een stem die gemaakt lijkt voor het vertolken van Appalachen folk, maar ook in de moderner klinkende songs overtuigt Haley Harkin makkelijk met haar stem.

Too Heal Her Too is in muzikaal en tekstueel opzicht hier en daar zoals gezegd aan de zweverige kant, maar dit zorgt er wel voor dat het album zich als een warme en ontspannende deken om je heen slaat. Zeker tijdens de donkere winteravonden van het moment klinkt de muziek van Haley Harkin bijzonder aangenaam en op de afgelopen Blue Monday verdreef het album met speels gemak alle donkere wolken.

Haley Harkin klinkt vaak folky, maar To Heal Her Too schuurt hier en daar voorzichtig tegen de singer-songwriter pop aan en heel af en toe herinnert ze me zelfs aan de dreampop van Harriet Wheeler van The Sundays. Uiteindelijk is To Heal Her Too echter vooral een rootsalbum.

Natuurlijk zijn er heel veel vrouwelijke singer-songwriters die folky songs maken als die van Haley Harkin, maar wat mij betreft beschikt de muzikante uit Austin over voldoende onderscheidend vermogen. In muzikaal opzicht kiest de Amerikaanse muzikante voor net wat meer rust en ontspanning dan de meeste van haar soortgenoten en door de subtiele toevoegingen vind ik haar geluid ook origineler dan de meeste andere folky albums van het moment.

De bijzondere stem van Haley Harkin springt er voor mij nog wat meer uit. Ze vertolkt haar songs met veel emotie en expressie, waardoor, ondanks de vaak sobere klanken, geen sprake is van een album dat maar wat voortkabbelt. Haley Harkin houdt je niet alleen bij de les met haar muziek, maar maakt ook indruk met een aantal songs die stevig bezweren.

Ik heb natuurlijk ook het precies een jaar geleden To Heal Her er bij gepakt en ondanks de andere invalshoek is dit album vergelijkbaar met het deze week verschenen album, al vind ik zowel de instrumentatie en de zang als de songs op het nieuwe album nog net wat aansprekender, al spraken de blazers op To Heal Her me ook wel aan. Mooie ontdekking deze Haley Harkin.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt To Heal Her Too hier luisteren en bestellen:

maandag 20 maart 2023

Unknown Affairs. The Vices

The Vices from Groningen released its new album this week. With Looking For Faces, the band got a good reception on this blog in 2021 There was a small aside mentioning that the band covered a lot of genres, leaving the question who or what The Vices wanted to be. Has this question been answered over the past two years?

No, not really. The Vices still covers a lot of ground. What has not changed, is the sure-fire certainty with which it finds the golden notes in each song. This band has a golden pop quality. Whether playing rock, indie rock, more pop oriented and anything in between songs, always, at a minimum, there's a hint of gold dust and most of the time the real thing. To think that the band only started in 2019. Already it has two albums to its name, with that "difficult" second nowhere in sight.

In Floris van Luijtelaar the band has a lead singer and songwriter who is on a roll. He is able to write great songs and has several voices to match the genres, making it interesting to listen to him as a singer. The band behind him matches him with ease. Jonathan Kruizenga (organ/guitar), Simon Bleeker (bass) and Mathijs Louwsma (drums) lay down a great sound together, managing all the changes, surprises and genres.

Taking in Unknown Affairs slowly but surely, I get the impression that it is more consistent than its predecessor. If you think an average The Beatles album is consistent that is. No, I do not call Unknown Affairs that good. Fact is, The Vices are at least as ambitious as the Fab 4 were. Take 'Fooled Again'. Strings, an acoustic guitar, a band that is not directly within earshot. Already The Vices do not restrain themselves to the band format. A song gets what it needs. So, yes, there is a Beatlesesque element to The Vices' new album in more than one sense.

Promo photo
In general the clock strikes rock though. Things start with a drum beat over which alternative rock licks and chords are played. It's the rhythms where the playfulness of the band comes through. 'I Had A Name' is not your average rock song, despite the two lead guitar parts rock out, there is a hint towards ska as well. It results in a hybrid song that works, just like some of the better songs from the Madchester time did. With 'For My Mind' the band goes the extra mile. It now has a huge rock anthem to its name as well, dreamy and direct. With 'Tomorrow I'll Be' there's the ballad and finally surf is added to the repertoire as well. The many faces of The Vices? Stop looking, mission completed.

Unknown Affairs is the ideal step any band would love to make in its career. The Vices already had a nice debut album to its name. It has a good second album out this week that may grow to be great. It's to early to tell but it is on its way is my guess today. Impressive progression, this sums it up.

Wout de Natris

You can listen to and order Unknown Affairs here:

zondag 19 maart 2023

2023 Week 11, 10 singles

This week we span three continents and multiple musical genres. Alternative rock and beautiful ballads reign this week though. We end with two of them but not before some good old rock comes by first, with in between the necessary variety. Enjoy!

Lucky. Mood Bored

Lucky is the third single by Mood Bored. "It shows another side" of the band according to the bio and perhaps that is the reason it finds itself on this blog for the first time. I don't know to be honest. Fact is Lucky is the kind of dreamy song that allows me to file the single under the moniker dreampop. There's more to it than that. The Wolf Alice link, Mood Bored was a support act recently, is there as well. The band has a rock side to it, but you find it mixed a little into the background. Live it will be enough noise to make a difference is my guess. Myrte, Daan and Timo met at the pop academy in Tilburg and are obviously serious to make their band work. On the basis of Lucky, I should check out 'Easy Going' and 'Pour Into Me' out soon. Interesting new band. It's hard to keep count in 2023.

Wait For Me. Karamelien

More dreamy music. This ballad has all the ingredients a ballad needs. It's slow, of course, but from there Karamelien slowly builds out her song. With a piano leading the way, strings and horns come in for the dramatic effects that underscore her lead and backing vocals. In the first song by the U.K. singer on this blog, 'Ascension Heights', she sampled a song by her father with the same title. Top Topham, founding guitarist of The Yardbirds, died this January (my condolences, Léanie). The text of Wait For Me consoles everyone who has lost someone dear, and who has not after reaching a certain age?, with the thought that you perhaps can meet again. "I will never let you go", she also sings. Reincarnation or heaven (hell) or not, this song is certainly true. The ones you love live within you as long as you do. Wait For Me is sad and consoling at the same time. On top of that, every note is its right place, making it a beautiful single.

Dorothy Bay. Tiny Ruins

'Olympic Ruin' was one of Erwin Zijleman's favourite records of 2019. It did not get past my post. That's no reason not to give the New Zealand band another chance. And lo and behold, the single seems to go down quite well. There's that word again, dreamy. Not the bass though. The bass player chugs though Dorothy Bay as if he's not playing in a soft dreamy song, giving Dorothy Bay a totally different vibe, subduing even the drums behind him. Like in the first song in this post by Dutch band Mood Bored, New Zealand's Tiny Ruins have a loud lead guitar mixed into the background. Even the solo is lurking there, giving the song a totally different atmosphere, a little spooky even. It is the acoustic rhythm guitar that is at the front, with the bass, as said. Over it all singer Hollie Fullbrook sings with a dreamy voice, not straining herself in any way. What went wrong with the previous album and me, I can't tell anymore. Dorothy Bay makes me interested in what's to come for sure.

Darcie. Soft Plastics

One more single before 'Saturn Return' is released on 31 March. New Zealand indie rockers Soft Plastics found the distortion pedals alright while  recording Darcie. The song has some great dynamics but it is the full out, rhythmically great, moments that totally grab my attention. If the two singles I've heard are anything to go at, Soft Plastics' debut album is going to be an event. The Te Whanganui-a-Tara, better known globally as Wellington, trio really blows itself up to grand proportions. After the first two, wobbly seconds, a sound that returns elsewhere, the band goes for it. It would have made a great opening statement on 'Saturn Return'. It isn't though. Is the best is saved for later? or is 'My World/Your Girl' even better? Only two weeks to go.

Literary Mind. Sprints

More alternative rock, moving toward punk. Now from Dublin in Ireland. Half a world away from Wellington. Although a more straightforward rock song, the power and energy are certainly catchy here as well. Because the band signed with City Slang, the single gets a re-release, complete with a live version on the b-side and video filmed at Whelan's, one of the Dublin venues an aspiring musician in Dublin must have played at to become part of the music guild. The new attention to the song is totally deserved. Literary Mind mixes early U2 with The Cult and its own enthusiasm and writing skills. The fun of playing this song simply jumps out of my speakers. "And I tell her", Karla Chubb sings. Let me rephrase this a little. Let me tell everyone out there, this is one of the most exciting singles I've heard for quite some time. Literary Mind, Sprints, check it out!

Stark Raving Mad. Grande Royale

Sweden's Grande Royale rock like it's decades ago. As when Guns 'N' Roses was still a fresh, new band and not a bunch of late 50, early 60 somethings touring the world on the basis of hits from over 30 years ago. Stark Raving Mad has that freshness that makes this song a joy to the ears. Not that this is a band full with youngsters. No, Grande Royale's members have lived some already. This does not stop them from rocking as if they're in their early 20s. The whole song just bounces on the fun of playing and the riffs and solos the tandem guitarists has come up with. The vocal melody does the rest. Watch out for the album 'Welcome To Grime Town' later this month.

Heard About It. Local Drags

Some more alternative rock but so obviously from the U.S. The combination of a poppy vocal melody with some tough playing is of the kind that comes from our friends from the other side of the pond. Let's say since the second half of the 70s. Starting with The Ramones, Blondie and The Knack, in 2023 I certainly do not mind adding Local Drags. That kind of pop-rock that does not need more than two minutes and a little to have said it all. A golden riff that sprays itself like paint all over the coachwork of Heard About It. If this song is anything, it is the much better version of Gin Blossoms. A band that never fulfilled its promise as far as I'm concerned or better simply did not stick as it wasn't that good. This song is though. With two top singles what will 'Mess Of Everything' bring? You can already order it, folks.

Bath County. Wednesday

Some more rock music from the U.S. Bath County is more of the shoegazing sort. A huge wall of guitar noise leaves my speakers. The singer is audible but also somewhat distorted like everything else. Karly Hartzman is on top of things but only barely. The nearer Bath Country gets to its finale, the harder guitars, bass and drums go for it. She rightly stops singing there. There's no glory left to be gotten (as a singer). Wednesday does real well here as a whole. Sparks fly and set the world ablaze for a short while. Bath County is built up nicely as well. It starts out in a relatively friendly way, containing everything and everyone. But wait for that second half of the first chorus. There's not a single instrument that wants to go back into its cage. The gentle-music lovers do get a short respite but after that there's only room for the wicked. Exciting is a word I could use here. Would I manage to get through a whole album? I can't tell yet, but according to Pitchfork 'Rat Saw God', 7 April, is one of the important releases of this year. We'll see.

Alyosha. Susanne Sundfør

Time to unwind and Alyosha provides this opportunity. Susanna Sundfør sings a song to her new born daughter and sounds truly inspired. Exquisitely arranged, Alyosha meanders like a brook through a forest. Drops of water falling from a leaf into the brook become piano notes that adorn this single in a beautiful way. In the lyrics Sundfør shows how her world changed from the moment her daughter was born. All the troubles and darkness surrounding every day's life seems to have disappeared in the love for a new life. "It's you, it's you, it's you". Clearer the message can not be. Susanne Sundfør has captured this feeling into a beautiful ballad. The emotions are all in here. Simply beautiful.

A Little Bit Longer. Isbells

We end this week with another ballad. Isbells is a Belgian band around Gaëtan Vandewoude that also holds (or held, I have no information) Chantal Acda, the Dutch-Belgian singer that has come buy in several incarnations on this blog. A Little Bit Longer is a ballad with small hints at Americana but not more than that. The way the piano sounds is totally in sync with the previous single, 'Alyosha'. VandeWoude slowly sings himself through the song, with enough effect on his voice to sound like singing from a well-tiled bathroom. "Almost ready for the night", he sings but only after a very pleasant evening it seems, so I hope, as it sounds totally satisfied in many ways. Totally at ease with each other and the world. The band has caught this satisfaction in music in a totally convincing way. Again, simply beautiful.

Wout de Natris