maandag 30 januari 2023

It's All Downhill From Here. Solomon

There are albums that go like comets into my ear and albums that creep up on me. It's All Downhill From Here falls into the latter category. Listening to the MP3s did not tell its story properly. This changed when the cd was delivered to me. The full sound on the stereo started to tell a different story. It's All Downhill From Here presented itself as a wide sounding album with a huge sound spanning decades of music somewhere between rock, symphonic, ballads and things Belgian in rock.

Solomon is a Dutch band, from the almost as far south as possible and bordering on the Belgian part of Limburg and certainly our biggest city in the south: Maastricht. This is its first album. Active since 2019 the band was able to play shows before the venues closed. This did not deter it to continue to hone its songs and chops.

The result is an album filled with long-lingering guitar sounds. Every note takes sort of forever before its fades away with a lot of delay and echo in the sound. The result is an album that sounds extremely melancholy and longing for whatever to happen. (I do not know Solomon's dreams but a successful album and shows will be two of them.)

Promo photo: Mitchell Giebels
Koen de Witte sings as if he's Eddie Vedder's younger brother. He has that same dark edge to his voice, making it very characteristic but also less flexible. What you hear is what you get, the whole album. It works quite well in the context of Solomon's music. He floats on top of the music, whether the band is holding back of going full out.

What is also quite clear, Solomon did not nibble on its budget. It hired the well-known experts to make sure the sound and production are as huge as possible. Chris Elms as co-producer and mixer and Tim Debney as engineer. As the band has already played in Belgium and Germany, both very close to Maastricht, the album will have an international release from the start. The ambition shows. It's All Downhill From Here ought to prove itself totally wrong from 20 January, the release date, onwards and fast. Solomon is delivering on the expectations it set for itself.

Wout de Natris

zondag 29 januari 2023

2023 Week 4, 10 singles

Moving into the end of January we present another ten singles this week. One of them is of a veterans + band who return with a truly excellent single, younger veterans can be found and veterans of this blog. Not all is nostalgia based though, as you will find more than enough new names to get acquainted with. Enjoy!

Velvet Beings. Elenne May

One year ago Amsterdam band Elenne May started a five singles song cycle, announcing its theatre show Velvet Beings. The title song is the final song in the cycle that showed the growth of the band over the past years and the successful collaboration with Tessa Rose Jackson as co-producer enhancing a little pop and (electronic) mystery in what already was present in Elenne May's music. Velvet Beings is so soft and delicate, looking back on a journey that has reached its conclusion. Experience and knowledge have been gained, allowing for the fairytale elements to return full force to Elenne May's music. Through the purification process of Velvet Beings, as in the show, the singer seems able to return to a state of innocence, dreaming of the future, fully reflected in the soft music and beautiful harmonies between Elenne and bassist Evelien Ypma. They are singing at their best here. From this point onwards the future lays open for the stage Elenne and for the band as such.

There's a final chance to see the show Velvet Beings. 12 March in Theater De Roode Bioscoop in Amsterdam. And, to hear the songs that are not to be recorded. For more info: 

Dropped, Reeling & Stupid. The Zombies

Only a few weeks ago I added a song of The Zombies from 1968 in this weekly overview to compare it to a cover version. Totally unaware that a new single of the band was to be released in January. It is surprisingly strong. The song is far tougher than the old hits and bordering on a mix of classic rock and Steely Dan. Colin Blunstone has to strain his voice a bit to keep up with the power of the band. There's not much left of the high voice of old here. It has obviously lived for close to 80 years. The song starts totally jazzy with a nice Fender piano sound. It doesn't take long for the band to gather steam. Grandads can rock that much is certain these days. They can also write, produce and play a strong new song and Rod Argent, as songwriter, leads the pack here, together with Iggy Pop in 2023. Dropped, Reeling & Stupid is a great single. Age in pop does not matter, that much is certain nowadays.

Child Of Sin. Kovacs feat. Till Lindemann

Becoming better known is a game of chance in many ways. For Dutch singer Kovacs being able to get Rammstein singer Till Lindemann on board for one of her songs of the same titled album is a major scoop. There's no other word for it, as it will get her global attention. Which is great of course for her but does the song match the hype? Yes, it does. The song is an interesting mix of a Shirley Bassey style ballad and what could be a Rammstein rocker with ease if the Teutonic, loud style of playing of Rammstein was laid out over Child Of Sin. The result meets in the middle. Lindemann is forced to sing, which does not seem easy for him. Kovacs' voice is not your average either. The music is what makes the song. It has an inner tension, while also having a relaxed element in the piano, that is played in a soft and delicate way, telling the world is alright after all. Child Of Sin holds a great scoop but capitalises on value it adds.

True Love. Amber Arcades

With True Love Amber Arcades releases another song ahead of the upcoming album. True Love is another dreamy song. "Dreaming along" is a part of the lyrics. Behind is a kind of dance beat but almost hidden out of earshot, muffled. The music is built up out of atmospheric sounds, with the melody almost fully in the vocal melody. To my surprise I have an associations with Bettie Serveert, besides the obvious references to dreampop and a band like Warpaint. It is what makes True Love a totally hybrid song. Dreamy with a dance element and an alternative rock reference. And all from under that blanket that is muffling the music. The chorus though is among the strongest Annelotte de Graaf has written until today. Three singles into 'Barefoot On Diamond Road', it is proving to become an album to be on the look out for.

Stop The Clock. Blanko

Blanko is a Dutch singer-songwriter who operated in the background as session and live guitarist. Since 2019 he works solo under the name Blanko and entered my musical universe recently. Most likely because I heard him on the radio. Jan de Witte, as his real name is, played in the 3Js and now sings in English with a good pop feel, hinting marginally at the later Britpop of Oasis and with that to many a band from the U.K. in the decades before and after the biggest U.K. band of the 90s. Stop The Clock (an Oasis title as well, right?!) is well produced. The sound is allowed to expand beyond the guitar-bass-drums idiom and a whole string section comes in to support the singer. Blanko has not made an earth shattering appearance but certainly a very nice single. The b-side is a surprise, a version of 'Psycho Killer' in the 'Stop Making Sense' version. And then I found a picture with 'Stop Making Sense' all over it with Blanko in the middle of it.

The Mono Kids EP. The Mono Kids

A new punkrock duo from the city of light in The Netherlands. Although Philips has left the light bulbs behind for years now, the city Eindhoven still has that name. The Mono Kids is a new duo consisting of two men of a certain age still having the fire burning deep within them. The result is three songs that could have started with one, two, three, four, counted off very fast and go. Don't expect a lot of subtlety, just playing and singing 'Die, Motherfucker, Die' and it being all over within 1.45 minutes. That kind of energy discharge. Roelof and Michel don't let the grass over it, as we say over here. Distorted guitars and drums mixed in a way that every hole in the mix is plugged, creating a huge sound. The only piece of rest for the wicked is in the intro to opening song 'Shooting Star' when some feedback is slowly built up. The rest is Personal Trainer on steroids. Excitement is for all ages, folks!

Seed. M. Byrd

Less excitement, more thoughtful contemplation with some enthusiasm to go. Seed is the lead song on a three song single. The song combines pop with alternative rock with a little folk hidden underneath the light rock elements. Just come in yourself with all the possible references here. Fact is that Seed is a delightful, albeit very short, single. Where M. Byrd, a solo singer-songwriter from Germany, excels in in Seed is sounding very dreamy in combination with making his points in the music. From an acoustic beginning a whole band joins and builds up the song. And all in 1.45 minutes. M. Byrd released his first EP, 'Orion', in 2021. This is a new single on route to more to come. If it's this good, lay it on me, please.

Can't Unfriend Yourself. Filibuster

Fons Records releases Filibuster's new single and celebrates it with a video as well. The first seconds go by in a musical anarchy of guitars players and drummer just do what they feel like, no structure, no focus, no nothing. The contrast with the actual song can't be much larger. Filibuster plays a tight song in Can't Unfriend Yourself but on the edge of being out of tune with the actual chord progression. In short, just like all modern post punk bands do. Filibuster adds rock to the mix. it sounds louder than most Dutch post punk bands of the 20s. The lyrics are totally 20s as well. Unfriend, cancelling, it has all become normal words on a large scale and a disaster for those who are unfriended and care deeply about such things. The angst comes across in the music that shouts out in anguish. "I don't really know what to do" singer Karl Stroobant. Well, I do, wait in quite anticipation for album 'Quiet Part Out Loud'.

Spill. Selk

Only recently I wrote about a single from last year, I forgot all about at the time and here's Selk already again with a newer single called Spill. Spill is what I call a small song. Basically a guitar and a voice, soft and modest. Later on strings enter the song. The atmosphere is not changed. So Spill may be small, the effect it creates is no less because of it. Anna Jordan's voice comes in in a very direct way, her guitar playing fully in support of the vocal performance. "You shout out to anyone with an open ear" she sings. There's no need, she's entering mine without having to do any shouting at all. Spill is the kind of song that is simply there. Call it folk, for sure, but without any traditional folk instruments, thus elements. Because of the addition of a violin and cello it becomes almost chamber music. Selk/Anna Jordan presents beauty without going for the obvious effects in music. This song is pure.

Easy Now. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

Right, don't expect anything new here but if you like Noel Gallagher's music my guess you will not be disappointed by his new single. The urgency of the early Oasis hits is all gone. It is all about songsmithing now (and for some time already of course) and that is something well put into the safe hands of Noel. He knows how to write a nice and sympathetic song. Easy Now obviously is such a song. Why does this song, that is not overly exciting, new nor exceptionally good, work? A good question, that is hard to answer. It just does. The melody is nice to start with and Noel adds the right sort of licks and instruments in the right places. Add his voice, which is certainly good enough as lead singer and a melodic guitar solo. Finally, The Beatles elements woven through the song do the rest. Easy Now is simply a really nice song. The video does have a surprising ending though.

Wout de Natris

zaterdag 28 januari 2023

Gentlewoman. M. Lucky

Liefhebbers van tijdloze singer-songwriter pop hadden het afgelopen jaar al niets te klagen, maar met Gentlewoman van M. Lucky krijgen ze er nog een sensationeel goed album van eigen bodem bij.

De naam Marcia Savelkoul heb ik de afgelopen jaren wel eens voorbij horen komen, maar haar alter ego M. Lucky kende ik nog niet. Als M. Lucky heeft de Amsterdamse muzikante in de laatste weken van 2022 met Gentlewoman nog een jaarlijstjesalbum afgeleverd. Het is een album dat vol staat met tijdloze songs met vaak een jaren 70 vibe. Het zijn weelderig ingekleurde songs waarin organische en elektronische klanken fraai in balans zijn. Het past allemaal prachtig bij de mooie en krachtige stem van de Amsterdamse muzikante, die met haar debuutalbum minstens net zoveel indruk maakt als een aantal Amerikaanse muzikanten van naam en faam in dit genre. Prachtdebuut.

Ik legde de laatste hand aan mijn jaarlijstje over 2022 en had in de tweede week van december eerlijk gezegd geen album meer verwacht dat dit lijstje nog serieus kon opschudden. Dat gebeurde wel, want Gentlewoman van M. Lucky is een sensationeel goed album, dat zich op de valreep tussen een aantal van mijn persoonlijke favorieten van het afgelopen jaar in wrong.

Het is een album dat in de OOR het mooiste album van eigen bodem in 2022 wordt genoemd. Dat is nogal een uitspraak, maar er valt wat mij betreft weinig of eigenlijk helemaal niets op af te dingen. Het debuutalbum van M. Lucky komt voor mij compleet uit de lucht vallen en dat geldt waarschijnlijk niet alleen voor mij. In de stukjes die ik op het Internet over het album kan vinden, wordt vooral het wat mij betreft niet al te veel zeggende persbericht vrijwel letterlijk geciteerd, waardoor ik maar heel weinig weet over het eerste album van M. Lucky.

Ik weet inmiddels wel dat M. Lucky het alter ego is van de Amsterdamse muzikante Marcia Savelkoul, die een paar jaar geleden nog deel uit maakte van de band Bells Of Youth. Als M. Lucky zet Marcia Savelkoul een aantal reuzenstappen. Gentlewoman van M. Lucky doet me meer dan eens denken aan And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow van Weyes Blood, en dat is een album dat ik schaar onder de allerbeste albums van het afgelopen jaar.

Net als Weyes Blood maakt ook M. Lucky hele goede en volstrekt tijdloze popliedjes en het zijn popliedjes die uitblinken door prachtige volle klanken en zeer aansprekende zang. Marcia Savelkoul laat op het debuutalbum van M. Lucky horen dat ze een geweldige zangeres is. De Amsterdamse muzikante beschikt over een krachtig en expressief stemgeluid en slaagt er bovendien in om te variëren met haar zang.

De krachtige zang en de persoonlijke teksten van Marcia Savelkoul voorzien de songs op het debuutalbum van M. Lucky van urgentie en zorgen er bovendien voor dat Gentlewoman zich makkelijk weet te onderscheiden van al die andere albums van vrouwelijke singer-songwriters. Ook de songs van de Amsterdamse muzikante vallen op door een verrassend hoog niveau. Het zijn songs die vaak een aangename jaren 70 vibe hebben, maar die ook absoluut eigentijds klinken.

Gentlewoman valt niet alleen op door sterke zang en songs die zowel aangenaam vermaken als de fantasie prikkelen. Het album is ook nog eens bijzonder mooi ingekleurd en maakt indruk met rijke arrangementen die echt niet onder doen voor de arrangementen op het laatste album van de al eerder genoemde Weyes Blood. Gentlewoman heeft deels een aards geluid, zeker wanneer de piano centraal staat, maar het album kan ook aangenaam zweverig klinken wanneer flink wat elektronica wordt ingezet.

M. Lucky heeft een debuutalbum uitgebracht vol met songs die je makkelijk verleiden en betoveren, maar het zijn ook songs die nog heel lang mooier en interessanter worden. Gentlewoman is me daarom inmiddels nog een flink stuk dierbaarder dan bij de wat mij betreft sensationele eerste kennismaking. Er zijn in 2022 meer van dit soort rijk ingekleurde maar vooral tijdloze singer-songwriter albums verschenen, maar zo goed als op Gentlewoman van M. Lucky heb ik het echt niet zo vaak gehoord.

Erwin Zijleman


vrijdag 27 januari 2023

De Toegift. De Toegift

Ja, wat kan ik nu nog schrijven? De Toegift heeft afgelopen week al zoveel lof toegezwaaid gekregen. Beste band van Eurosonic/Noorderslag 2023 en nog veel meer. Ik was er niet bij, dus kan het alleen maar aannemen.

In de afgelopen maanden is De Toegift op deze pagina's al vaak voorbij gekomen in de wekelijkse singlesoverzichten. Veel nieuwe nummers zullen de mensen die de band hebben gevolgd in het afgelopen jaar niet horen op 'De Toegift'. Wel zullen zij eindelijk de onderlinge samenhang horen en daar zeker niet in teleurgesteld raken. 'De Toegift' is een prachtig album, waarop de band zijn melancholie en hang naar het verleden in een breed geluid uitmeten. Als luisteraar ben je onmiddelijk deel van dit gevoel. Warm en inclusief.

Tot mijn verbazing is 'De Toegift' niet het echte debuut van de band. Niet lang geleden speelden de leden samen onder een andere naam, Little Symphonies, en zongen in het Engels op 'We used To Be Immortal'. Ik las ook dat label- en provinciegenoot Broeder Dieleman zanger Maxim Ventulé inspireerde om in het Nederlands te gaan schrijven. Ze tekenden (ook) bij Snowstar Records en de rest is, voor nu, geschiedenis, want met 'De Toegift' ligt de toekomst open, waarin nog heel veel geschiedenis geschreven kan worden.

Helemaal "nieuw" is de muziek op het album niet. In Nederland moet ik zeker aan Spinvis denken, maar af en toe ook aan Mark van der Holsts wijze van voordracht in zijn band The Avonden. Internationaal bestaan dit soort dromerige acts ook, maar niet veel daarvan spraken mij zo aan als deze band.

Neem 'Nollestrand'. Een prachtige saxofoon wandelt als het ware door de song heen. De band speelt en Ventulé zingt alsof zij optreden voor de nighthawks at the diner, het beroemde schilderij van Edward Hopper. Dat intieme is wel een hoofdkwaliteit van De Toegift. Veel atmosfeer, een piano die daar duidelijk aanwezig maar toch bescheiden doorheen speelt. De zang is altijd een voordracht, gezongen tussen fluister en zang, de luisteraar dwingend te luisteren.

Voordat diegenen die op basis van het bovenstaande wellicht denken dat zij op dit moment in het album al in slaap zullen zijn gevallen, wacht nog even. 'De Toegift' is voldoende gevarieerd om steeds weer te verbazen en hechten. Bijvoorbeeld door de toevoeging van een dwarsfluit in 'Alles Is Gemaakt', waar bovendien daarachter best even gefreakt mag worden in de muziek. Zelfs de geest van Boudewijn de Groot als twintiger waart door de muziek. "Het leven is ook voor u de moeite waard", krijgen we nog mee als boodschap. Gelukkig ben ik daar al geruime tijd van doordrongen. Albums als dit zijn daar bovendien een prettige herinnering aan, voor zover nodig.

De recensent van afgelopen weekend heeft het goed gehoord. Ik hoop De Toekomst over niet al te lange tijd ook een keer live te gaan zien. Dat komt vast goed. In de tussentijd is daar het album. 'De Toegift' is een zeer goed debuut van een band die heel goed weet wat het wil en dat kan overbrengen. Ik betwijfel of er een beter Nederlandstalig album uit zal komen in 2023. Luistert!, is dan ook het advies dat ik u mee geef.

Wout de Natris

Je kunt De Toegift hier luisteren en bestellen:

donderdag 26 januari 2023

Singing Inside Your Head. The Laissez Fairs

Singing in your head? Fat chance with an album like Singing In Your Head. Las Vegas' The Laissez Fairs lets it all hang down on its new album and outdid itself. This album is outstanding.

Don't expect something new, except for the songs themselves. Instead, expect something old. The Laissez Fairs recreate the music of decades ago and come up with a great album in 2023. Psychedelic rock is all around as if 1967, early 1968 never went away. Now many bands dab in this kind of music. Some sound more modern in their approach others stick closer to the source. You will find The Laissez Fairs more on the latter side of the equation. With short ventures to the other side.

Singing Inside Your Head is filled with songs that could have been released, in mono, circa 56 years ago. Shows would have been filled with hippies, smoking illegal substances or worse with fluid projections on the wall behind the band and pre-disco mirrorballs twirling.

The album is filled with a spacy Rickenbacker, a farfisa organ, distorted vocals, wildly played tambourines and dreamy, trippy songs. You will find references to many famous bands of the era. Just take my word for it. This would all be nice as a trip down memory lane but nothing more, if The Laissez Fairs had not added its own signature to the sound and this starts with the songs.

It's here the better if not best news starts. The band delivers a wide range of styles. From up tempo space rocking pop singles to sonic adventures taking the listener on a musical trip. You will find everything in between. Had this been 1966 - 1968 many a band looking for a new single could have turned to Singing In Your Head and have its pick.

The jump the band makes with its new album is phenomenal. What I had heard previously was nice, not outstanding. On Singing In Your Head several songs tip that top easily. It's a kind of album that is a must have. Agreed, the singing is not the best in the world, but that is really the only thing that I can mention here. Set that against the way John Fallon uses his voices in the stellar psychedelic pop rocker 'Pretty Penny' and there's no argument left to make.

In 2023 I can only muse about what the effect of this album would have been in 1967, the year it should have been released. An academic question and useless of course. Its impact should be just as great in 2023. A fine album is a fine album. Singing in your head? More like SHOUTING OUT LOUD.

Wout de Natris

You can listen and order Singing Inside Your Head here: