maandag 23 april 2018

Record Store Day, Saturday 21 April 2018

All over the world, record stores are celebrating their day: Record Store Day. A day filled with live music in a place where people traditionally come to buy the passive form of music: lps, cds, dvds and the like. On record store day artists come to local stores to play their music live. Having found out that Johan and Tim Knol played in Velvet in Amsterdam, was enough incentive to get up up earlier and take the train to Amsterdam.

The combination of acts was somewhat familiar. The first time I saw Tim Knol live was as support act of Johan, so that must have been in 2009. Now Johan is back at the front after a hiatus of 9 years, while Tim Knol has become a staple musician in The Netherlands who is at a point in his career that he seems able to do what he pleases.

Record Store Day by now is a phenomenon with record companies releasing rarities or extra (expensive) editions of old(er) records, aimed at collectors. Now that are the people who probably were at record stores regularly anyway. Also in the hard years of the 00s. It must be there to draw the people they have lost back to stores. In my surroundings they are not succeeding. Something has changed in the past years. A new generation seems to have discovered record stores, often to buy second records, usually LPs, they must have heard at home when they were a bit younger. I see kids of around twenty looking for The Doors albums and I am a bit jealous of what they are about to find out. That thought is incorrect, I know, because everything is available online nowadays. I never listen to an album anymore in the store to find out whether I want it. I have made that selection at home, often weeks before. For these young adults it will be much the same. Still, I can't help that feeling of them discovering something I have discovered about 40 years ago, when I came home with my The Doors copies.

Photo: Wo.
So my girlfriend and I went to Amsterdam to the Velvet store there and saw Johan setting up its gear. The personnel were youngsters, the audience were mostly between 40 and 60 something. My first Johan show was in 1996 in LVC Leiden and since I have seen at least one show of each tour. The new album, 'Pull Up', is darker but contains such strong songs (read on here:, so we were really looking forward to hearing them live, in such a small, in store, environment.

From the get go with single and album opener 'About Time' Johan convinced. In the new setting with guitarist Robin Berlijn on guitar and Jan Teertstra, of Sunday Sun, on keyboards and both on background vocals, Jacob, Jan and Diets have found a great replacement for the two who did not come back. Both the brighter as the darker songs came by and showed the depth Johan has reached in its new music. If something showed also, it was the pleasure the five men had at playing these songs together. Giving it their all in a clear drive to succeed and reclaim the title of best Dutch indie-pop-rock band. Ever, with Bettie Serveert, the other band with a right claim to that title.

I got home with my, already two week old copy of the LP, signed by all members. A small extra that a day like this can provide.

Some sad news also. I found out talking to Jan Teertstra that Sunday Sun is on indefinite hiatus. Now I'll admit here that I did not like the band's third album, so you did not find a review on these pages. I was sure though that the fourth might have been a good one. Come on, gentlemen, shall we say a new album in 2020? I'm sure it will be a very nice one.

Photo: Wo.
Tim Knol took the stage early, playing "his only acoustic show of the year", and just was his charming self. Conversing with the audience, telling relevant and irrelevant stories, playing a few great songs of his latest album 'Cut The Wire' (read my review here: In an acoustic version they sound different of course, yet very familiar. This setting made clear to me what a fine folk guitarist Knol is. All these little melody bass runs while the rhythm just keeps going. Yes, I was a bit in awe.

'Cut The Wire' is only three months old, yet Tim Knol is already looking ahead and working on a blue grass album and gave us the pleasure of playing a few of the songs he's already written for that album. Something to look out for it seems. As I wrote Knol is in a place that he makes his own choices and not really plans a career (any more). He started out with ravings about the Dutch Neil Young, thank you Matthijs van Nieuwkerk. Tim Knol does seem to like the sort of career Dinosaur Sr. has. Record what you feel like today and take it from there.

Be sure to find me somewhere during the fall tour he announced on stage. I sure like to hear some of the new songs in a band setting. When asking for a request, of course I'd say, 'Sam' was called for, with a direct "no" said loudly behind me from one of the ladies present. No matter what an artist, even one still fairly early on in his career, releases, people always want to hear one or two songs. I am simply stuck for titles these days. They just don't stick, so I never can shout the one I would want to hear.

RSD18 was a success. For a few reasons. Velvet sold several Johan units for sure. People were buying stuff. Hey, even my girlfriend bought a cd for the first time in something like 15 years. More in general I saw people walking with the special RSD18 bag in town, at the train station, in Leiden later that day. Having artist in store is a good asset to the day. Something more attractive to me personally than the special releases, which I do not really care for. I came home with several second hand copies of albums I did not have from the late 60s and early 70s and the new Jack White that was priced very nicely for the day. Watch out for that review soon.


Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

zondag 22 april 2018

Purgatory. Tyler Childers

Tyler Childers werd geboren in de Appalachen en kreeg de traditionele Amerikaanse folk- en countrymuziek met de paplepel ingegoten.
Vorig jaar werd de muzikant uit Kentucky in de Verenigde Staten geschaard onder de meest veelbelovende nieuwkomers en in 2018 moet Tyler Childers ook Europa aan zijn zegekar gaan binden.
Purgatory, het in de zomer van 2017 verschenen debuut van Tyler Childers, kreeg in januari een Nederlandse release en ik begrijp nu waarom ik de plaat in zoveel Amerikaanse jaarlijstjes tegen kwam.
Purgatory werd geproduceerd door niemand minder dan Sturgill Simpson en met Sturgill Simpson hebben we direct ook relevant vergelijkingsmateriaal in handen. Ook Tyler Childers laat zich nadrukkelijk beïnvloeden door de Amerikaanse Outlaw countrymuziek uit de jaren 70, maar ook de traditionele folk en country die hij tijdens zijn jeugd leerde waarderen heeft een plekje gekregen in de muziek van de Amerikaan.
Purgatory laat een wat traditioneel aandoend countrygeluid horen en het is een geluid waarin met name de viool de hoofdrol opeist. De combinatie van deze viool met gitaren, banjo, mandoline en pedal steel levert een vol maar ook ruimtelijk geluid op. Het is een geluid waarin ruimte is voor muzikaal vuurwerk, maar het is ook een geluid dat uiteindelijk in dienst staat van de stem van Tyler Childers, die is voorzien van een aangenaam rauwe strot.
Om van Purgatory te kunnen genieten moet je bestand zijn tegen een flinke dosis traditionele Amerikaanse country, maar als je dit bent is het debuut van Tyler Childers een plaat die snel naar grote hoogten groeit.
Net als de songs van de al eerder genoemde Sturgill Simpson en de songs van tijdgenoten als Chris Stapleton, Colter Wall, Brent Cobb, Corb Lund en in iets mindere mate Jason Isbell, klinken de songs van Tyler Childers volstrekt tijdloos. Purgatory had met enige fantasie ook 45 jaar geleden gemaakt kunnen worden, maar desondanks klinkt het debuut van de muzikant uit Lexington, Kentucky, geen moment gedateerd.
Vergeleken met platen uit de jaren 70 verwerkt Tyler Childers overigens wel meer invloeden in zijn muziek, want naast invloeden uit de country en de folk, laat Purgatory ook invloeden uit onder andere de rock ’n roll en de western Swing horen.
Het meest verslavend aan Purgatory vind ik persoonlijk de aangename flow die de plaat heeft. Laat Purgatory uit de speakers komen en je wordt bijna 40 minuten vastgehouden door de bijzondere songs van de jonge Amerikaan, die aan de hand van Sturgill Simpson en een aantal geweldige muzikanten ook nog eens een fantastisch klinkende plaat heeft gemaakt en een plaat die vol staat met prachtige verhalen over het leven op het Amerikaanse platteland.
In de Verenigde Staten zoals gezegd vorig jaar al een jaarlijstjesplaat, voor mij een van de eerste sensaties van het prille muziekjaar 2018.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt Purgatory hier beluisteren en kopen:

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

zaterdag 21 april 2018

Air Traffic live. Tivoli, Utrecht, Dinsdag 17 april 2018

Foto: HsreD
Waar een vakantieliefde al niet goed voor kan zijn. Stomverbaasd was ze, de Vlaamse schone, dat ik als zelfverklaard indierockliefhebber nog nooit van de band Air Traffic had gehoord. Terwijl ik haar tijdens de twee weken safari in Zuid Afrika bijkans de ipod uit de oren rukte om steeds maar weer het nummer Shooting Star te horen. De heren van Air Traffic waren in 2012 in Vlaanderen al jaren erg groot, onder andere als gevolg van een invalbeurt op Rock Werchter, waar ze overigens later dit jaar weer spelen.
Een van de mooiste muziekverhalen van het moment. In augustus 2010 kondigt Air Traffic aan dat het voor onbepaalde tijd pauzeert. In oktober 2017 laten de Britten via social media weten dat ze de 10de verjaardag van hun enige album ‘Fractured Life’ (2007) willen vieren met een kleine tournee. De vier zijn intussen uit de muziek gestapt en hebben kantoorjobs. Tot verrassing van velen verkoopt Air Traffic drie keer Het Depot in Leuven uit. De herinnering aan de makers van hits als ‘Charlotte’ en ‘Shooting Star’ was dus zeer warm gebleven. De groep stamt uit Bournemouth - waar ze naast het vliegveld repeteerden - en bracht/brengt indiepop met een hoofdrol voor de piano. Bassist Jim Maddock liet na de Leuvense triple weten dat hij graag nog eens op Rock Werchter wou spelen. Zoals in 2007 en 2008. Dat tweede jaar speelden ze trouwens een tweede keer als vervanger van Babyshambles. Welkom in de droomfabriek, gentlemen!” (bron: 

Foto: HareD
Hun roem is in Nederland nooit zo hoog gestegen. Een paar maanden geleden speelden ze in Paradiso Noord en de afsluitende gig van hun korte Europese tour bracht ze naar een lang niet geheel gevulde Pandora in TivoliVredenburg. Toch een overgang na onder andere twee uitverkochte concerten in het roemruchte Brusselse Ancienne Belgique.

Dat mocht de pret echter niet drukken voor de aanwezigen in Utrecht. Aangezien hun enige CD Fractured Life (2007) maar uit 11, niet al te lange, nummers bestaat, werd er ook flink uitgepakt met covers om een concert van krap anderhalf uur te kunnen geven. Voor mij waren dat onbekende nummers, maar ze pasten goed bij hun bestaande werk. En dat werk brachten ze met vuur, maar toch ook ontspannen. Zanger/pianist/gitarist Chris Wall maakte tussen de nummers door grapjes met het publiek, en ook de anderen leken zich goed te vermaken. De setlist werkte langzaam maar zeker toe naar wat mij betreft het hoogtepunt, namelijk afsluiter Shooting Star. Wat een wereldnummer is dat, ook live.

Hoewel het voorprogramma, The Visual, echt volledig ruk was, was het dus een fijn muziekfeest daar in Utrecht. Hopelijk komt Air Traffic nog veel vaker terug van hun muzikanten-vakantie.


vrijdag 20 april 2018

Fake. Die Nerven

It is less than a year ago Die Nerven first featured on this blog, with an album that was out for some time when I discovered it. On 'Out' a lot of things came together and they appeared to be all working. (Read on here if you like: So here's the band's new record. Again with an English name, where the band sings in German the whole of the way.

The album starts strong. An electric guitar and bass that sound the like the devil is on their tail. The drums kick in to give the song even more pace. It is Die Nerven alright. A song called 'Neue Wellen'. Now I remember 'Die Neue Welle' around 1980 and not liking by far most of it. This 'Neue Wellen' is a rock song of the mysterious kind. The band kicks up a storm here and there, yet in the way the guitar is played, there's this nano second of space giving the song a very distinct rhythm. Oh, and yes, there's decay and corpses. It all starts with a lie though. Fake! Falsche Fragen. It is all around these days and Die Nerven is angry. That much is clear.

The 80s are all over the opening song, but with an attack that was seldom heard at the time of post new wave. The weed has been taken out of the music. Now in 2018 there is a lot to be worried about, even angry about. Die Nerven have found a way to voice these feelings and emotions. Singer Julian Knoth has a few voices going for him. The angry, the detached, the dreamy. He can put it all in his voice. Listen e.g. to 'Niemals'. The song takes you from a postpunk ride right through The Strokes like sequences, giving away a lot Knoth can do for you.

Promo photo: Ralv Milberg
The first two songs already show so much differences in approach without dropping an inch of quality and self-confidence that it would be a huge surprise of the rest if the album would turn out to be a disappointment.

The fun continues in exactly the right way. There's no need for Die Nerven to make every song an angry punk shout competition. In 'Roter Sand' the band finds an in between form. The tempo is lower, the anger comes and goes. The tension is released allowing for a dreamy, soft ending to the song. The way it began.

'Alles Falsch' or is it "Alles richtig"? Make up your mind! A song that shows how superb Die Nerven is able to work with dynamics within a song. This approach is what really labels Fake. The band plays with their songs, with the expectations of its listeners. The quietest moments can truly explode into an orgy of sound, to move back into complete innocence without effort and a loss of conviction. Die Nerven plays tricks with you while delivering truly exciting music. Live this ought lead to total eruptions within audiences. Something I hope to see fairly soon.

Die Nerven has delivered another record that moves far beyond the (post)punk-indierock it is usually associated with. The band has acquired a depth that ought to bring in many other sort of rock fans who enjoyed rock music since the second half of the 70s. Die Nerven are able to make its music not only exciting for the body but also for the mind. Just listen how the band plays with a song like 'Explosionen'. (And that is only the moment when the anthem 'Kann's Nicht Gestern Sein' starts. A song for all your yesterdays and tomorrows.) It has it all and Die Nerven deliver it in a perfect way.


You can listen to and buy Fake here:

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

donderdag 19 april 2018

Motorpsycho Live. Victorie, Alkmaar, Wednesday 18 April 2018

Photo: Wo.
Ever since hearing 'The Tower', Motorpsycho's latest album, I have been looking forward to going to this show. It has been a long while since I saw the band last. Probably 2001-02. Nighttown in Rotterdam was still a venue to play for bands this seize. In coming up close to two decades since then we have all, band and a considerable part of the audience, become men of a certain age. Not old, but certainly no longer young. What is not stopping us from rocking out.

And that is a very funny thing I noticed straight away. There are distinct differences in how certain parts of the audience moves. I was under the impression that it gave away from what angle of musical favourites these people come, where their preferences lie. Why? Motorpsycho plays a hybrid of music. Equal parts metal/grunge, prog and melodic westcoast pop and rock, although the latter is snowed under more during a live show. Despite the at times nearly unrelenting loudness, the band never forgets the melodies. So it is that why, in my opinion, one part of the audience is moving their heads forwards and backwards and another part is swaying sideways, partially dancing. Including yours truly.

Eight p.m. sharp the band walked on stage. Almost a bit uncertain, as if the audience may not recognise them. With the dj still playing his tracks as if he was the main show. A soft hello, a right arm raised and the band kicked off a storm that was to last for over two and a half hours. Somewhere during the first hour, with songs going to 10 minutes or effortless moving into the next one without a stop, I asked myself is this music good? Or beautiful? I came to a bit strange answer for myself. These questions were totally beside the point. Motorpsycho live is a near total body experience. Whether a song is super melodic or is based on an (extremely) uncomfortable riff, that is the moment the band starts to take off on explorations of the inner structure of the song perhaps for the inner soul of the musicians showing their true selves through the notes and tempo changes that result from it. The guest guitarist and keyboard player, I did not catch his name but it may have been Kristopher, looked for cues at some points in songs, compositions may be a better word in some cases, to catch the moments that defined them. The result being that almost all songs show their beauty no matter what.

Each song is built up from small parts. I was listening in awe to see how the individual musicians were trying to stretch those confinements or to experiment with how many notes or fills could be squeezed into these little segments, never failing to come out at the exactly right moment. In other words, these restraints did not seem to exist for them.

The other moments I was in awe, is how well this band manages the dynamics within songs/jams. It never fails to impress and send shivers down my spine to hear a song be taken down into a very melodic part, with yet another effect on the guitar and/or keyboard, changing the whole world basically. Truly impressive how this band works together towards a total experience.

Spot the guitar tech!
Drummer Tomas Järmyr, only on board for two years, really showed what he was worth. At times every individual hit he made on a skin or cymbal could be heard in the mix so clearly. When he thought to make the bassdrum the driving rhythm in one of the songs, instead of the hi-hat, he may have been over-confident. Yet it looked like it took no effort at all to keep that rhythm going with his foot and leg. Fact is it gave the song a total different feel from all the other songs (in general as well). It looked gruelling having to keep this pace.

There was one downside to the show, it was at times too loud. It interfered with my hearing properly and resulted in a permanent high note in my ears that I am sure the band was not producing. It also prevents the lyrics from being heard, which, I suppose, is an important part of the package Motorpsycho is producing for us. So why prevent us from truly hearing them?

For the rest, what a show. An impressive two and a half hours of great music, in a venue I hadn't been to before. De Victorie is a fine venue I must say and totally new it seems. If the train connections worked just this bit better, it might be perfect. I already found a solution to that (not being a car). In other words, you may see me again sometime soon.

Was it me or did Bent joke at the end, introducing him and Snah the other way around? That gives his "my best friend" quite a different angle as well! Communication other than through music is not Motorpsycho's aim nor forte. The best one was Bent introducing: "This is about", fall silent, never finishing his intended comment. The music compensates and tells all.

(All photo's by) Wo.

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

A New Hiding Place. Geri van Essen

Geri van Essen groeide op in Nederland, maar woont inmiddels al een aantal jaren in Oost Londen.

Als kind zong ze vooral voor de lol in een kinderkoor, maar toen ze eenmaal de folk uit de jaren 70 had ontdekt in de platenkast van haar ouders wist ze dat ze haar eigen muziek wilde maken en waar kan dat als folkie beter dan in Londen?

Geri van Essen is inmiddels een aantal jaren een graag geziene gast op de vele Londense folkpodia, maar met A New Hiding Place heeft de Nederlandse singer-songwriter nu ook haar eerste plaat uitgebracht.

Het debuut van Geri van Essen bevat acht songs en duurt 23 minuten, waardoor A New Hiding Place als een mini-album moet worden gezien. Vanwege het enorme aanbod van het moment laat ik mini-albums meestal liggen, maar het debuut van Geri van Essen is wat mij betreft een mooie en bijzondere plaat, die ik zelf niet graag had willen missen.

Op haar debuut vertolkt Geri van Essen drie traditionals uit de archieven van de Amerikaanse folk en gospel en laat ze vijf eigen songs horen. Na het beluisteren van A New Hiding Place begrijp ik wel waarom de Britse folkliefhebbers zo enthousiast zijn over de muziek van Geri van Essen.

Bij folk denk ik in eerste instantie aan een stem die iets met je doet en Geri van Essen beschikt over zo’n stem. Net als de grootheden uit de historie van het genre, die met enige regelmaat opduiken als associatie, heeft de stem van Geri van Essen maar een paar noten nodig om je te raken en hierna speelt de vanuit Londen opererende Nederlandse singer-songwriter een gewonnen wedstrijd. Het een stem die intiem en fluisterzacht kan klinken, maar iedere noot is raak en komt aan.

De mooie, heldere en emotievolle stem van Geri van Essen staat centraal op A New Hiding Place, maar ook de instrumentatie op de plaat maakt indruk. In deze instrumentatie staat de akoestische gitaar uiteraard centraal en de vaak repeterende akkoorden zorgen voor een fraaie en warm klinkende basis.

Hier laat Geri van Essen het niet bij, want met de bijzondere bijdragen van een vervormde piano, een scheurende gitaar en vooral de meerdere malen opduikende trompet kleurt Geri van Essen hier en daar bijzonder fraai buiten de lijntjes van de traditionele Britse en Amerikaanse folk, waardoor A New Hiding Place zich makkelijk kan onderscheiden van al die andere traditionele folkplaten van het moment.

Geri van Essen maakt in de 23 minuten die A New Hiding Place duurt indruk met bijzondere accenten in de instrumentatie en doet hetzelfde in de vocalen door eenmaal een donkere mannenstem en eenmaal een pastoraal klinkende vrouwenstem toe te voegen, waardoor de schoonheid van haar eigen stem nog nadrukkelijker aan de oppervlakte komt.

Omdat ook de songs van Geri van Essen wonderschoon zijn en haar vertolking van traditionals nergens overbodig klinkt, durf ik Geri van Essen bij deze wel uit te roepen tot één van de grote beloften van de Nederlandse en de Britse folk. Het is een belofte die met A New Hiding Place een ijzersterk en  bijzonder mooi visitekaartje aflevert.


A New Hiding Place kan hier worden beluisterd en gekocht:

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

woensdag 18 april 2018

Twentytwo In Blue. Sunflower Bean

Listening to Twentytwo In Blue I all of a sudden ask myself a question. What sort of music would female singers singers like The Ronettes or Nancy Sinatra be singing if they were 22 today instead of in 1960 or something. Most likely they'd be doing R&B or doing a female vocal in one of those endless DJ collaborations that are all over the charts these days (and saves me time for not having to listen). Artists like the ones I mentioned above did not have have anything or certainly not much to say about what they recorded. They were concerted hit factories until they were no more. Nancy was lucky to run into Lee Hazlewood and scored some more hits into her mid 20s, making her really famous forever.

The reason is that one of the songs on Twentytwo In Blue brought 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' to mind. I know the song was written in 1958 by Phil Spector, what I did not know that is wasn't The Ronettes, but The Teddy Bears, that scored the #1 hitsingle and that Spector was a member of the vocal group at the time. So there goes a part of my theory. (I know the Nancy version because the a late aunt has single 'Like I Do' a long time a go. 'To Know Him ...' was the B-side.)

What most of these girl vocalists, had they been young now, probably would not be doing is playing in a band like Sunflower Bean. Somehow that is irony as singer/bass player Julia Cumming could have featured on any of the records referred to above.

Sunflower Bean is a trio from Brooklyn and this is its second LP. In its music all of pop and rock of the past 60 years comes by. From the innocent voices replacing the first wave of raw rock and roll, to the beat of The Beatles and the darker sides of New York City with The Velvet Underground rhythms overladen with sweet sounding guitars and the new wave/punkpop of Blondie or the mellowness of Josh Rouse. Be ready for it all to be there.

Somewhere under that sweet-voiced Ms. Cumming there can be hints of danger in the music. By making the guitars sound just a little bit more dangerous and the drums pounded just a little harder. The second surprise is that the band has two lead vocalists. Nick Kivlen joins Julia Cumming regularly for a duet or take the lead himself, changing the sound of the band and making it more versatile.

Sunflower Bean fits in a long list of bands with a female lead vocalist releasing records in this idiom over the past 10 years. With Twentytwo In Blue it has secured a position for itself in this list, without being special or outstanding. It is the only band reminding me this much of songs from a time long gone though.


Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

dinsdag 17 april 2018

Seeing Things. Eb & Sparrow

And another record from down under reaches this tiny part of the northern hemisphere. Thanks to a news letter by Flying Nun Records from New Zealand it is easy to keep up with what would otherwise most likely have remained hidden. Add to that global connectors like Spotify and it is no trouble at all to keep up with these far off releases.

So Eb & Sparrow is from New Zealand. The centre piece is Ebony Lamb, who is the voice and the guitarist of Eb & Sparrow. Her songs hold elements of country to which all sorts of things are added, making the music have little to do with the country & western I abhorred when I was young.

If one word has to describe the music on Seeing Things, it has to be atmosphere. The mood on this album is like a cloudy day in summer. No sun in sight really, yet warm. No wind, but that could be a matter of moments, just like the sun could break through unexpectedly, yet in all its glory. There's no way of telling where the weather is going to go. Just like that type of weather the music on Seeing Things is laden with suspense. Through the spacious mix, the effects on the voice and the guitars. Everything is downcast, without minding it for one moment. It is here that the beauty of Eb & Sparrow's music derives from. As beauty it is and this album's is filled to the brim with it.

The album opens with a topic setting the scene with only one word: 'Death'. A part of life nobody really wants to be reminded of. Ignoring its inevitability is probably one of the best character traits humans have developed. Dark, muted sounds weave themselves into my ears, before Ebony Lamb joins it. A trumpet, a violin all have a part in this dirge.

Luckily it doesn't remain this bleak. The clear sounding guitars in 'To The West' give the song a 60s flavour. Like the melancholy songs of The Shangri-Las, with only one singer. And not a teenage drama in sight.

So Cat Power comes to mind, but also Belgian band TMGS as soon as the clear trumpets enter 'Settle'. Its 'Rivers And Coastlines: The Ride' is full of these trumpets and modern country music. Another Belgian band Vaya Con Dios comes by in the way Ebony Lamb sings in 'Working'. At the end of this song the thunder finally breaks loose. All of a sudden nothing is held back any longer, leading to an explosion of sound and energy.

As a contrast a little Lana del Rey enters the album in 'Prodigal'. Not so much as a copy of the U.S. singer, no for that 'Prodigal' has its own uniqueness. Ebony Lamb's voice can handle all sort of styles successfully and make it her own I find. It leads to one of the most beautiful songs on Seeing Things. All the sounds coming in over the soft drumming and bass. Long held notes on an organ and clear, twangy notes on the lead guitar. An absolute highlight this song is. "I'm dying, sweet Lord I'm dying" are the final words of the song. Luckily I do not have to take this literally. The album ends with the most traditional one on this album, a country-noir song called 'My Old House', with a 'Twin Peaks' twang on the lead guitar.


Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

maandag 16 april 2018

I'll Be Your Girl. The Decemberists

Listening to I'll Be Your Girl for the first time my impression during the first two songs was: this sounds too familiar to me. The typical voice of Colin Meloy probably makes this conclusion inescapable. The very first impression was that The Decemberists had outdone itself where hideousness of the cover was concerned. It simply hurts my eyes.

From the third song onwards I started to noticed that it seems the band has tried to put in some other sounds into its music. It seems a harder rock, even a glam drums and rhythm edge has blended into the folkish groundwork and the female backing and co-vocals are far more present. In short, my impression started to turn towards a more favourable inclination in the first 15-20 minutes of the album. Yes, this deserves more in-depth study to complete this review.

Some weeks have past and I've bought the record in the meantime, yet my moodswings with the album remain. Just like during that very first Spotify listen session. So let's go back a little in time. The first song I really liked by The Decemberists was '16 Military Wives', still one of my favourites. The album that brought me into its camp was the rock opera of 2009 'The Hazards Of Love'. After that things went up and down with the band for me, but always favourable enough. And in the end that is what happens with I'll Be Your girl.

'Once In My Life' opens the album and listening to it once again I notice that the sound so familiar is interspersed with something very unfamiliar for the band: 80s synths. The 'Wishful Thinking' sound of China Crisis is a part of this song. Those synths enter 'Cutting Stone' as well. It definitely gives the music of The Decemberists something new and refreshing. The drums have a same sort of synthetic sound. My conclusion for now is that his approach works here. The melodies have the folkrock twist this band excels in, the more modern sound gives it a new pace.

When an electric guitar meets the electronics in song 3, 'Severed', the mood gets much darker. Underscoring the lyrics. In 'Tripping Along' the band returns to a more conventional band sound. The kind of song that could have been on 'The Hazard Of Love'. This is totally okay and a silent highlight with its tight, almost mechanic sounding guitar playing. The mix creates a lot of atmosphere in the sound, making the sound almost eerie. A nice step up to 'Your Ghost'?, an up tempo rocker, with some keyboard soloing. With its rolling drums and accent on a tambourine the song is propelled forward ever further. No time to be afraid of ghosts here as we are moving too fast to get scared.

Slowly the album moves into more familiar The Decemberists territory. So on the one hand the album falls into two halves, on the other there is balance. It would not have worked the other way around or through mixing the songs differently, more varied. 'Everything Is Awful'. Well that may be, but not here, not now on I'll Be Your Girl. 'Everything Is Awful' is one of the highlights of the album. Great pace, great harmony singing, great guitar playing and a fine. all enveloping arrangement. The Decemberists at its best.

'Sucker's Prayer' is Dylan all the way. 'I Shall Be Released'. It's Levon Helm who gets into my head though. All three have a typical voice, haven't they? Again I can't help liking the song. The next song is a total failure, well the title. We all sort of missed out as we are still around. "Hope to die before I get old"? Only Keith Moon managed that and at that only in hindsight now I'm so much older, just like The Decemberists. Noting the glamboogie in the song, my mind goes back to Marc Bolan. The drums is more Gary Glitter though and isn't he in jail for something pretty horrible? I don't like the song really either. It's far from the best on I'll Be Your Girl. A band that is around for 17 years no longer has young members, not even relatively. Just ask my (step)children.

The album finishes with another ballad, 'Rusalka, Rusalka/The Wild Rushes'. Slow, dragging its tail over the floor. What a fine song this is again. The use of dynamics is meticulous in the moments before the second part is played, where the arrangement has room for some surprises again. The title song ends it all. A nice song, but that is about all there is to say about it.

It seems all doubts have been set aside. No, this is not a 100% album, but more than good enough and well worth the buy.


Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

zondag 15 april 2018

Go Farther In Lightness. Gang of Youths

Go Farther In Lightness van de Australische band Gang Of Youths heeft in Nederland vooralsnog niet veel aandacht gekregen en dat is gek, want het is een bijzondere plaat.
In vroegere tijden duurde het altijd even voordat muziek uit het verre Australië in Europa doorsijpelde, maar wanneer het gaat om muziek doen geografische afstanden er momenteel nauwelijks meer toe, dus daar kan het niet aan liggen.
De band uit Sydney heeft een plaat gemaakt die je verafschuwt of waar je intens van houdt, dus aandacht voor de tweede plaat van Gang Of Youths is zeker op zijn plaats.
Zelf had ik Go Farther In Lightness overigens ook helemaal gemist, maar gelukkig krijg ik de mooiste tips van lezers, waardoor ik inmiddels intens kan houden van deze plaat uit Australië.
Voor ik vertel waarom ik zo onder de indruk ben van Go Farther In Lightness van Gang Of Youths, geef ik eerst maar wat redenen om deze plaat te verafschuwen. De Australische band komt op haar tweede plaat met maar liefst 16 songs en 80 minuten muziek en het is muziek die vooral groots en meeslepend klinkt. Denk hierbij in eerste instantie aan Bruce Springsteen en zijn E-Street Band (luister maar eens naar de openingstrack), maar vervolgens direct aan stadion bands als U2 en Editors. Voeg nog wat grootsheid van onder andere The National, Arcade Fire en The War on Drugs toe en je hebt de basis van de muziek van de Australische band wel te pakken.
Het bovenstaande is waarschijnlijk genoeg om een deel van de muziekliefhebbers af te schrikken en er volgt waarschijnlijk nog een deel wanneer ik vertel dat Gang Of Youths na een stevige rockstart de strijkers stevig omarmt, wat de muziek van de band van nog wat meer bombast voorziet en bovendien zorgt voor een aantal ballads die door menigeen als zoet zullen worden bestempeld. Go Farther In Lightness neemt na een zeer meeslepende start gelukkig af en toe gas terug, maar komt in het grootste deel van de 80 minuten als een stoomwals over je heen. Het is een stoomwals die niet vies is van bombast en dramatiek en ook een randje kitsch niet schuwt.
Wat de een afschrikt trekt de ander aan en al het bovenstaande is precies waarom ik zo onder de indruk ben van Go Farther In Lightness van Gang Of Youths. De band uit Sydney grossiert op haar tweede plaat in songs die je een paar keer horen niet meer wilt vergeten en het zijn songs die domineren door de tomeloze energie en passie die er uit spreekt.
Natuurlijk overdrijft Gang Of Youths het draaien aan de knoppen van grootsheid en meeslependheid wat en slaat het af en toe flink door met de strijkers, maar wat zijn de songs van de band goed en wat zitten ze vol met geweldige melodieën, aanstekelijke refreinen en muziek die garant staat voor een goed gevoel. En wat vertolkt de Australische band haar songs met veel passie en energie.

Hier en daar liggen de invloeden er net wat te dik bovenop, maar wanneer je meerdere grote namen nodig hebt om de muziek van de band te beschrijven kan van epigonisme geen sprake zijn. Gang Of Youths klinkt op Go Farther In Lightness als een omgevallen platenkast, maar de band slaagt er ook in om in 80 minuten een geluid neer te zetten dat anders klinkt dan alles dat er al is, bijvoorbeeld door het klassieke randje dat hier en daar wordt toegevoegd.
Natuurlijk is 80 minuten muziek die over het algemeen intens en overweldigend is (ook als de band gas terug neemt) wat veel van het goede, maar op een of andere manier verslapt de plaat niet en valt er steeds meer op zijn plek wanneer je je wel bijna anderhalf uur overgeeft aan de muziek van de Australiërs. Het is muziek die op de grote zomerfestivals moeiteloos een groot publiek aan zich zal binden, maar ook op de plaat doet Gang Of Youths er absoluut toe, zeker wanneer de gitaren los mogen gaan of de zanger van de band de vocalen uit zijn tenen mag laten komen.
Ik moet eerlijk toegeven dat ik beluistering van Go Farther In Lightness in eerste instantie een vermoeiende bezigheid vond, maar nu ik niet meer hoef te zoeken naar vergelijkingsmateriaal en alleen maar hoef te genieten, ga ik steeds meer van deze bijzondere plaat houden en groeien de songs op de plaat stuk voor stuk naar grote hoogten. Indrukwekkende plaat.

Erwin Zijleman

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

zaterdag 14 april 2018

Keep Smiling. Patrick McCallion

Listening to the second song of Keep Smiling, 'D.O.G.', my whole wall full of cds, LPs and 45s seems to have tipped over, with Patrick McCallion somewhere in the middle of the ravages diving in and taking out the best of the past 50 years of rock music. Mick Ronson's rhythm guitar for Bowie's breakthrough records of the early 70s, Britpop of the 90s and 00s, modern pop rock like Robbie Williams can rock out, alternative Arctic Monkeys moments combined with a Booker T. rhythm and some T Rex boogie for good measure. It leads to a lively mix of pop and rock.

The mini album kicks of with the song that attracted me in the first place. Titled after a stimulant I never use: 'Coffee'. In the song McCallion proves himself to be an "opgewonden standje", as we call it over here. His enthusiasm is all over the place. Which can be extremely irritating. In this case 'Coffee' is just fine. I'm reminded instantly of that great EP by Gordon Harrow reviewed last year on these pages: Like Harrow McCallion goes full out and is not afraid to show a lot of influences within a minute or 15, without losing what he wants to say himself from sight for a single second. And those moments are abundant on Keep Smiling.

In fact it is easy to do so for the whole length of the EP. Patrick McCallion rocks out and then rocks on some more by the time he reaches his fourth song 'Bedlam (It's A Hell Of A Town)'. The electric guitars and percussion are only laid aside for the final song 'The Death Of Coney Island'. About to crumble into the sea, which makes a change from the house of the old director sinking into the earth in Joseph Heller's book, was it, 'Closing Time'? Not a song I would have expected hearing after hearing the first four songs, but there's nothing's wrong with this acoustic outing except for the surprise of it being there.

Going back to 'Coffee'. It starts with an acoustic guitar as well. Played faster and louder and McCallion singing much intenser and wilder, an edge to his voice. In the second verse a muted electric guitar and a rolling drums enter. After the second verse: "let's go" and the EP is really off. Slowly more brakes come off and the guitars really can go and let it rip. In a style that many U.S. country rocking artists use, without that heavy rocking guitar sound that is.

In 'Murky Waters' I find the elements of Booker T. with the Arctic Moments, even in pronouncing the word "something", including a veneer like Dave Davies 80s lead guitar sound and playing style. Another great song by the way. It holds more elements of recognition than any one song ought to contain, normally, so the song is chock full of surprises of the pleasant kind. Patrick McCallion has no shame to let it all hang out, grand style.

I'm not surprised that in 'Bedlam' a little Van Halen, ACDC and Metallica are let into the mix and all without losing the pop element once again. This song goes full out and scores, like a football team going all out against a better squad and comes out victorious through sheer dedication.

Patrick McCallion is from the U.K. and this doesn't surprise me at all. As eclectic as his music is, I'd say he fits in nicely in that tradition that was started in 1962 by The Beatles carried on by Oasis and who knows it may be just about McCallion time. The kind of music that sort of holds it all. Too early to write real conclusions here though and extremely big shoes to fill. The intention seems to be in place.

Patrick McCallion is not afraid to show the world what he likes musically and comes up with his own mix of all his favourite music. Keep Smiling may be severely lacking in originality, but who cares when the fun is a big as it is here. Seldom an album's title underscored the content in a better and all encompassing way. Keep smiling indeed.


Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

vrijdag 13 april 2018

The Stream live, with Out Of Skin and Sunday At Eight. Scheltema, Leiden Thursday 12 April 2018

What my impression is of Sweet Sally Sad Departure by The Stream, those interested have been able to read on in my blogpost of a few days ago. Should you have missed it, feel free to continue here: An album full of ambition, setting the bar several notches higher for Jan Stroomer and his band members. Thursday 12 April was the official launch of the album and all the musicians were on stage and a dancer. Just to underscore the level of ambition this project is about.

The audience in Scheltema was looking at a black, see through curtain. Vaguely the set up of instruments could be seen in the dark behind it. There was enough music to go around, only not coming out of the PA system, but from the room behind ours where another band was playing disco and funk at another, gala party. Culture anno 2018. Making money on the one end and presenting culture in the other. It made me fear for the quality of the show as support act Out Of Skin was all but drowned out in its most intimate moments.

Culture we received, as the curtain was the backdrop for the visuals made by De Beeldjutters, behind which The Stream played 'Sally's Overture'. The show is a total experience, with Rosa Allessie, the dancer on the cover art of 'Sweet Sally Sad Departure' having the larger part of the stage available for her expressive dancing, with the musicians and singers in an L shape behind her.

The album was played integrally. I have said all I can possibly say about it as is. Live it became an experience. All the details came out so fine, with compliments for the sound mixer as the sound was superb and not too loud. (The disco had totally disappeared, at least for me.) Compared to the record the accents were more defined. A just louder hit on the snare, a clearer cut stop-starts, made the music more emotional. Like a live show can, perhaps should, be. The variety in genres came across even more vividly, simply by seeing it live.

The show being a theatrical experience, the defining moment in the lost relationship between the storyteller and Sally was played out beautifully. While Sally is at her most alluring, the "I don't care" in 'Sally' is excruciatingly painful and clear cut. When, in the end, the answer proved not to lie at the bottom of a bottle, it was time for all of us to show our appreciation of a fine show and above all the truly beautiful music.

This was most likely a one off as having twelve musicians and a dancer on stage is unsustainable. What a shame it is. This show ought to go into the theatres across the country as it will attract and be appreciated by lots of people of a certain age, like me and my friends.

And then to think that there's no guitar (except for a bass) within earshot on this album.

There was a support and an after act on the stage. When we came in Out Of Skin was playing. A trio playing guitar, violin and harp. A combination that was new to me. The soft and very high voice of Wouter Mol reminded me instantly of Jeff Buckley, in his neutral vocal style that is. The music was just as soft, but had rhythmic elements built in. And small surprises like a few notes on xylophone or the use of a floor tom with the harp. What a huge instrument it is, in such a small trio setting. I truly liked what I was hearing and if the EP the band has released, although it seems to have been released as a solo album by Mol, agrees with me as well, you'll be reading about it next month. The presentation, with some confrontational walking into the audience while playing moments and walking off the stage at the right vocal line, was well thought out in its details, catching the eye.

The evening ended, for me, with Sunday At Eight. I already had the idea that I saw familiar faces during the The Stream show, but couldn't place them. Once on stage I concluded that this is the new name of Fort Da, the band who played at the Jammer Festival with us two years ago and last year under a new name I'd forgotten: Sunday At Eight.

The eclectic musical mix hadn't changed one bit. They have only become two years better. Billy Joel like piano songs, slightly jazzy piano based songs, not unlike The Stream's (and they played a cover by that band), a ska song with saxophone and The Beatles from 1964 and other 60s pop. It all came by in a song or six, all played with enthusiasm, self-confidence and fun. Sunday At Eight does what it wants to do and what it feels like doing. That may be a hinderence building a career in music. It certainly is not a problem when you keep wanting to surprise the people listening. The band also released a first EP recently, under direction of Jan Stroomer of The Stream. Who knows, more is to follow here soon.

With the beautiful vinyl version of Sweet Sally Sad Departure under my arm I went off to the station catching the train within seconds before departure. Life can be good at times and sometimes even better.

(All photo's by) Wo.

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

Pull Up. Johan

"Stilstand is achteruitgang" is a Dutch proverb meaning as much as stagnation is decline. Johan split up after the release of its fourth album '4' and the tour following it. I remember hearing Jacco de Greeuw telling it on stage in Patronaat, Haarlem, to the obvious chagrin of at least two of his band members. That was a few years before this blog started. In 2017 there were some rumours about the band getting back together or at least De Greeuw recording new songs and early spring 2018 here is the result. So back to the beginning: Is stagnation decline?

It is 22 years ago I first heard songs by Johan and saw them play live in the LVC in Leiden. A fresh new band with some fine indie rock songs. After a silence of five years 'Pergola' followed, which I think is still the band's finest album. Everything fell together. That basic idea what Johan is, was worked out best another five years later on 'THX JHN'. '4' was nice, after only three years, but a, pleasant, continuation not a highlight.

It is 2018 and here's Pull Up. It opens in the finest of Johan style with the single, appropriately titled, 'About Time'. At least if I had expected anything new by Johan, which I had not. 'About Time' is exactly what every Johan fan, having been in a barren land for too long, expecting it to last forever, would want to hear from the band. That light, almost weightless indiepoprock fills my ears, fills my brain and the world is suddenly totally balanced. It may be a musical escapism, but it just doesn't come much better as in a beautiful Johan song.

Settling into the album I hear that bittersweet quality many Johan songs have. 'What A Scene' is not a perfect nor outstanding song. It simply holds that Johan element. Part the voice of Jacco de Greeuw, part the melancholy that is an integral part of the Johan sound. 'Just Because' is even more just that. A song that is more atmosphere than a full blown song. All that is needed is there, once I'm brought into that Johan mood. A lot of keyboards instead of guitars as well.

Promo photo
Somehow this shows me that this Johan record is more mature. A new phase in our relationship. 'Make Sense' may open with a 60s sort of guitar riff and the guitars are all around once more, it is a different song than the "old" Johan. De Greeuw sounds somewhat tired, a bit resigned to things being as they are. The last bit of youthful exuberance stored in that riff.

In the lyrics there are some references to pills, no more thrills, depression, facing demons, exploding mind. Without doubt all very autobiographical. No, luckily I do not know what you are talking about. But it must be a dark, dark place listening to a song like 'Anyone Got A Clue'. I can only hope that it is a relief to be able to ball all this darkness into a song like this. Strength combined with vulnerability is what Johan serves up here. The sound is so strong, yet could somehow break at the touch. And I know that Johan has added another extremely strong song to its oeuvre.

'Dream (On My Mind)' is up next. The gas is pushed in, the mood definitely not lifted. Darkness is still all around. The song is almost scary. The first great guitar solo of the album is released. The new lead guitarist, Robin Berlijn of Fatal Flowers fame, finally can show some of his skills for real.

By then it is clear that Johan is back for sure. The question above is answered with a definite no in the case of Johan. Jacco (or Jacob) de Greeuw has brought himself out of the darkness back into the spotlights. Time will tell whether he likes it there or draws the conclusion, once again, that this is all he can achieve with Johan. It seems this is it, but who can successfully explain that to an eternal doubter of his own abilities? Let me give it a try right here and now. Mr. de Greeuw, the world is just this little bit prettier with your (new) songs around and will be forever. They are little rays of sunshine, warming us all. And I thank you for that.


You can order the record here:

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

donderdag 12 april 2018

Love In The Modern Age. Josh Rouse

It is not unfair to state that Josh Rouse's artistic best days are behind him. Personally I have not heard a better Josh Rouse album than 'Nashville', his fifth album from 2005. We are 13 years down the road and on the 13th of April Rouse releases his new solo album. Is the fact that Love In The Modern Age also does not surpass 'Nashville' a reason to ignore the artist? A three times no, as we say over here. Why?

If only, to start, because Josh Rouse makes something utterly clear in his song 'Businessman': he is no longer an artist, but a businessman. 24 Hours a day. Undoubtedly he must have seen himself differently when he started out, writing songs on an acoustic guitar and performing them for the first time in small venues. To make it in this world of Spotify and The Pirate Bay an artist has to look out after himself and make enough profit to live and create. This song makes it a lot easier for me to listen to Love In The Modern World with a more than sympathetic ear.

That does not mean that I am listening without a critical ear as well. On his new album, I admit to having missed a few it seems over the past years, Josh Rouse comes close in sound to the über smooth heroes of the late 70s. The Christopher Crosses, James Taylors and Rupert Holmess of this world. Although they had a few moments, in general they were not for me. Rouse comes dangerously close with songs that hold no danger at all. This is not new, as in his best songs Josh Rouse is as smooth as the sea on a windless day. Except that wasn't the whole story. Here it seems to be.

So looking at Love In The Modern Age from that angle the album is without fault. Josh Rouse takes the listener on a smooth trip of lightheaded pop music. There's not a dent in the road and if there's one it is of the seize of a modest pebble the wheels navigate without even noticing. It is a dent like the drumpattern changing in 'Hugs And Kisses' with more emphasis on the snare drum coming from something very synthetic sounding. Nothing shocking.

Promo photo by York Wilson
In general Love In The Modern Age -is this Rouse's comment on the changing sex industry in Japan, I wonder?- is a synthetic sounding album. Percussion may all well come from a box, like the light sounding synths. The sound of which take me back to an 80s band like China Crisis. The guitar is not (synthetic), nor is the piano that comes through every once in a while.

The last song of the album 'There Was A Time' is the best one. Finally, in the dying minute Rouse lets go and lets a guitar go off into a solo, unleashes the piano for a few bars. Everything I sourly miss on the rest of the album. It just doesn't hold any songs that stand out, like so many did and do on 'Nashville' or '1972'. What I miss in general are those moments that Rouse forced himself on me, no matter how soft his music sounded. 'Why Won't You Tell Me What', is not the best example, as it is, relatively, loud. So is it just the harmonica that is missing? No, it's more than that. It's the sad songs that makes one feel good, "the only sound now love's gone".

With 'Salton Sea' Love In The Modern Age opens in a positive way. Fairly high paced and upbeat 'Salton Sea' moves forward in the way I like Josh Rouse best. The tempo and mood goes down with 'Ordinary People, Ordinary Lives'. The album settles into a mellow, at times jazzy, mood, that makes it an album for safe circumstances, not offending anybody.

Summing up, Love In The Modern Age is an album I could have done without, yet now its here I will certainly play at those late night moments when a mellow album is called for, playing in the background. If this however stands as an example of love these days, I'm simply glad to have been around in previous days as well.


You can listen to and buy Love In The Modern Age here:

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

woensdag 11 april 2018

Sweet Sally Sad Departure. The Stream

The Stream is no newcomer to this blog. In fact this is the band's third album that is reviewed on these pages. The Leiden based band around Jan Stroomer scored positive reviews so far, so with a new cd up for release my ears are in place for a favourable reception of Sweet Sally Sad Departure.

The first impression is that of the cover art. The contrast between the clear lower arm and hand and the hazy background, with the figure of a woman. Caught dancing? Or seriously hurt, just before falling over backwards? Putting on a wedding dress while striking a serious pose? It could be a lot of things. Intriguing and slightly mysterious the cover art is. That is not all. The way the album title is positioned suggests a dichotomy between 'Sweet Sally' and 'Sad Departure'.

The album begins with an instrumental piece. Of course Jan Stroomer's piano plays the centre role in 'Sally's Overture'. It starts out with a violin before a busily played piano, in the dark note segment, joins both violins. The style of playing reminds me of that most bombastic of piano driven rocksongs: 'Worn Down Piano' by Mark & Clark Band. By adding more instruments, a rocksegment and a choir it truly becomes an overture. So is there a rock opera in the making here for me to listen to?

The answer to this question is a plain yes. The Stream tells a story about the end of a relationship and all the denial, the hurt and the anger and the mourning that comes with it. Sweet Sally Sad Departure takes the listener to all different phases. In the mean time no instrument goes untouched to underscore the mood. Just listen what comes by in the Overture. I do not think I have ever written this before, but if anything the music reminds me of Ekseption's first album. Then add some violins and female harmony singing.

Things go quiet and the piano picks up the theme, before Jan Stroomer starts singing. With a minimum of effects The Stream sets the scene and the mood. Someone is leaving, shuts a door firmly and goes off to a bed, alone. Musically I am being set back years to 'Days Of Future Past' by Moody Blues for example and symphonic rock of the 70s and 80s with hints of Randy Newman and U.S. late 70s pop like Rupert Holmes. Later on in 'Sally' I find Joe Jackson from around 1982 can be so easily mixed with Pink Floyd from 1973. "I don't care", if it is done in such a beautiful way.

That is just the beginning of the musical story of Sweet Sally Sad Departure. Songs hold some irony like 'The Goddamned Truth'. With its 50s piano playing it brings to mind all the things Queen dared to do on its (symphonic) rock albums of the 70s. The change in the song to a more dreamlike sequence shows the ambition The Stream has on its new album. And it is working to. A lot of small pieces are falling right into the place they belong. Creating something utterly new along the way.

Expect mood changes by the song. Not just another song but another beast entirely, another point of view to the story, another referencing point a song starts with. There are a million influences in the tiniest details of Sweet Sally Sad Departure to be found. What it all adds up to is an adventure in music The Stream leads the listener through. Those details can be an instrument that joins a song for a short while, the little lady harmonies that join in. Certainly a great feature of Sweet Sally Sad Departure. Each individual one is like a little light switched on to accentuate a detail of a whole for a short while.

All the changes also shows how many genres The Stream as a band is able to handle successfully. Without losing the inner coherence of the album. That again is due to those fine details already mentioned that make sure there is continuity in the whole.

In 'Sally' the circle is rounded. The tune from 'Overture' returns turning the song that is already a true hybrid into a piano rock anthem of quite some proportions. The late night jazzy outing 'This Life Is Killing Me' ends the album. "It's time for closure" indeed. Not before another fine song comes by though. A song full of resignation and grasping the truth. The beginning of something new, the storyteller can not see approaching around the corner yet. Selfpity is winning, still, but it won't be long for the first ray of sunlight to reach the late night jazz bar and life in general.

Sweet Sally Sad Departure is alight and alive with ambition. Much more so than on the previous two albums I reviewed, 'MMXV' and 'Art Nouveau'. The result is the finest album by The Stream to date. Again the band sets a step forward and is rewarded with a fine result.

On 12 April Sweet Sally Sad Departure gets its cd presentation at Scheltema's in Leiden. I am looking forward to listen and see the work performed. Stay tuned!


You can listen to and buy Sweet Sally Sad Departure here:

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

dinsdag 10 april 2018

The Secret Sisters live. Paradiso Amsterdam, Sunday 8 April 2018

The upper hall of Paradiso filled ever better for The Secret Sisters and the enthusiasm of both the duo and the audience rose ever higher. In the end it must have been like a warm bath enveloping us all. Although, I would think, everybody came for the music, we got loads of stories and some stand up comedy for free. My guess is that The Secret Sisters could play twice as many songs if the "Paul Simon" of the two, the one NOT playing the guitar, had sung a bit more and talked a bit less. At the same time, the stories and the way they are told, add to the joy of being present at a The Secret Sisters show.

Two ladies of a certain notable softness walked onto the stage. Sister Laura instantly started talking. Sister Lydia stood listening, smiling, acting surprise and providing some deadpan comments where appropriate, before the duo entered into the first song of its latest album. 'Tennessee River Runs Low' is one of the sad and depressing songs that the audience was warned it was going to hear. "Sad songs make me happy", a lady close to me replied. And they can and do. To some because they are beautiful, to others, of a more cynical inclination, because the sadness is onto others and not onto themselves.

With 'Tennessee River Runs Low' the standard of the evening was set. This song is of an extreme beauty. With just Lydia's guitar, strummed in a delicate yet relatively simple way and the two sisters' voices the room was filled to the brim. Within seconds I'd lost all notions of the missing band that's on the album. With voices like this there is no need for anything else, as the final a cappela sung song proved.

Next up was a murder ballad. 'Mississippi' is such a fine, great, fantastic song. Every band may wish to have a song like that. One that stands out on an album like this song does. (For Dutch readers, no, this is not a cover of Pussycat's number 1 hit song from 1975.) Live it totally enveloped me, cherished me and held me. For three minutes something I was in musical heaven.

And no, this was not the end of the show, for me that is. Many fine songs were played, including a few beautifully played covers and stories of meeting the artists. Graham Nash, Paul Simon, Don Everly. Through all the teasing in between I feared that a murder ballad was about to act itself out on stage, but Lydia stoically undergoes all the bantering of Laura and has her own little moments.

Another highlight came with 'Bad Habit' another fine song, with those extra fantastic harmonies. The title song of the album 'You Don't Own Me Anymore' was written not for the record company but the person 'Bad Habit' and 'He's Fine' seemed to be written for. A lifetime of inspiration to turn back to is my guess, as the present happy relationship is not working out inspirationally where new songs are concerned.

The Secret Sisters live is a joyride of different proportions rolled into one. I had a really fine evening at the Paradiso. And, yes, please do not make it that long again, if only because my girlfriend really wants to come also next time.

(All photo's by) Wo.

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about:

An Average Woman. VanWyck

Het muziekjaar 2018 is verrassend goed begonnen met een aantal hele sterke platen. Naast hele sterke platen heb je ook platen die je wereld compleet op zijn kop zetten en die zijn een stuk zeldzamer.
Toch heeft 2018 ook al zo’n plaat opgeleverd en het is nog een plaat van eigen bodem ook.
VanWyck is het alter ego van Christine Oele, die eerder al bijzondere muziek maakte met de band Nevada Drive. Waar Christine Oele in haar vorige band koos voor de vernieuwing en het experiment, heeft ze er als VanWyck voor gekozen om een volstrekt tijdloze singer-songwriter plaat te maken.
An Average Woman riep bij mij in eerste instantie associaties op met de allergrootste singer-songwriters als Leonard Cohen en Joni Mitchell en dat is vergelijkingsmateriaal waaraan je je alleen maar kunt vertillen. VanWyck vertilt zich er niet aan omdat haar debuut je direct bij eerste beluistering diep weet te raken, waardoor de behoefte tot associëren met de muziek van anderen verdwijnt.
An Average Woman valt in eerste instantie vooral op door de geweldige stem van Christine Oele, maar uiteindelijk zijn de arrangementen en de instrumentatie op de plaat minstens even belangrijk.
Voor de arrangementen leunde VanWyck zwaar op Reyer Zwart, die de songs op An Average Woman prachtig heeft ingekleurd, onder andere met wonderschone strijkersarrangementen en een wat rootsy aandoend instrumentarium. De instrumentatie op de plaat is over het algemeen akoestisch en subtiel en voorziet de songs op An Average Woman van een donkere onderlaag.
Het is een donkere onderlaag die uitstekend past bij de ook wat melancholisch en donker klinkende stem van Christine Oele, die hier en daar prachtig wordt gecontrasteerd door de stem van Marjolein van der Klauw, een andere Nederlandse topzangeres.
De combinatie van donkere en stemmige klanken en de mooie en indringende vocalen geven An Average Woman een bijzondere lading. Het is een lading die slechts eenmaal explodeert, wat het geweldige Europa Escapes oplevert, wat mij betreft de meest fascinerende track op de plaat. De songs op An Average Woman hadden van mij best wat vaker mogen ontsporen, maar aan de andere kant zijn de meer ingetogen songs van VanWyck van een bijzondere schoonheid en intimiteit.
Christine Oele heeft haar jeugd doorgebracht in Nieuw Zeeland en klinkt mede hierdoor geen moment Nederlands, wat An Average Woman voorziet van internationale allure. Het is ongelooflijk knap hoe VanWyck weet te ontroeren met haar over het algemeen ingetogen songs en hoe de subtiele verschillen in de instrumentatie er voor zorgen dat iedere song je weer bij de strot grijpt.
De stem van Christine Oele is al uitvoerig bejubeld, maar nog niet vergeleken met die van anderen. Dat is ook niet zo makkelijk. Hier en daar hoor ik wat van Natalie Merchant, maar ook Suzanne Vega, Gillian Welch, Tanita Tikaram en zeker ook Rachael Yamagata klinken door in de stem van Christine Oele, die ook nog eens herinnert aan de groten van weleer. In muzikaal opzicht hoor ik raakvlakken met Cowboy Junkies, maar iedere vergelijking die ik opwerp gaat maar even mee.

Direct bij eerste beluistering was ik ongelooflijk onder de indruk van het debuut van VanWyck, maar An Average Woman is ook nog eens een plaat die alleen maar mooier en indrukwekkender wordt.
Ik moet nog van alles ontdekken in het prachtdebuut van VanWyck, maar een ding weet ik al zeker. An Average Woman is deze Nederlandse singer-songwriter niet. Integendeel. Het debuut van VanWyck is een grootse en meeslepende plaat vol bezwering en toverkracht en kan zomaar behoren tot het beste dat dit jaar verschijnt.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt het album hier beluisteren en kopen:

Here's the link to our Spotify Playlist to find out what we are writing about: