vrijdag 10 oktober 2014

The best of our years. SimpleSongs

'As soon as it's over' is the last song on The best of our years. Appropriately titled this song, because each time I've listened to this album it was over before I knew it. 12 Songs and still gone in a flash. At least, that's how it feels and a good sign it is. The best of our years is a beautiful album, slightly melancholy and kept extremely small and modest. In this modest way it asks to be played once more 'As soon as it's over'.

SimpleSongs is another band on the Antwerp based I have a tiger records lable and not just any band. Ken Veerman is the label manager and the driving force behind SimpleSongs. In fact he is the band. After the debut 'SimpleSongs' in 2010 and the EP 'The end of things you wished would last forever' (2011) this is the third release of SimpleSongs, but my first. Although nearly a year old at this point in time, the album deserves a review on this blog. The best of our years was made with the help of Tim Coenen (guitar, ukulele), Alain Rylant (drums) and Joes Brands (bass). Backing vocals are by An Pierlé.

One of the most defining qualities of The best of our years is that it sounds as if things that are not there are part of the sound. Emptiness or the studio itself seems to be a part of the mix. I can't describe it in a better way than this. It is as if there are empty spaces in the mix from which sounds pop up and disappear again, that in the meantime remain an integral part of the song. This lends an extra layer to the songs of SimpleSongs, slightly mysterious, but also somewhat exciting as I never know what will come up next or what could have been there but isn't.

Musically things are not so exciting. SimpleSongs keeps it sound sparse. The songs are fleshed out only to a minimum effect and with just the right extras. This can be some sparse piano notes or a guitar that just plays an arpeggiated chord. The tempo is mid tempo to slow. What matters is that most songs have exactly what they take. Even the extremely slow and sparsely arranged 'Everybody knows' is decorated in the right way with perhaps not more than six or eight different notes on the guitar and less on the piano.

Ken Veerman's singing reminds me of Dutch Singer-songwriter Rogier Pelgrim. The same intonation and the mood, and English accent. That is where the comparison stops. 'Ordinary speech' comes closest, but Veerman's approach to music and songs is clearly different. All songs have a band setting and are set up as such. The best of our years is not at the core a man with guitar album. It is a voice with the accompaniment it needs to bring a song across. Beautiful background vocals e.g. in 'Hardcore', where An Pierlé chips in and lifts the song to another level.

Finally what I truly like in this album is that the quality is constant no matter what the approach to a song is. The more up tempo 'There's no future (there's only today)' works just as well as the extremely slow and empty 'Everybody knows'. Ken Veerman does not need to force anything. His soft voice brings his messages across, while the music does the rest. Almost every song on The best of our years has an aspect that makes it stand out and that is no mean feat.

The short version: Another great and interesting release by I have a tiger records. Check it out below!


You can listen to and buy the album on SimpleSongs' Bandcamp site:


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