BandBus Records – 2014
Jasper Slaghuis previously played with the band Yukka. Afterwards he chose to step down from the limelight of music life. Recently, working with other musicians and joining Arthur Adam’s Twents Songwriters Guild, he took advantage of the xenogamy of musical influences and expressions in the region. His passion for making music returned and after recording an EP with the Guild he took on the quest of recording a full-length album by himself.
On November 12, 2014, Slaghuis proudly presented his record at the Concordia Theatre in Enschede. And rightly so, because “Bend” is a beautifully crafted singer/songwriter album, containing songs of integrity and passion.
The album opens with the gorgeous title song Bend. Slowly the song increases in intensity and along the way the vocals fill up the holes and it unfolds into a sensitive opener to the album.
Let It Go starts off bold with tons of character and down the stretch it evolves into a relaxed guitar-driven pop tune in the vein of early John Mayer songs. Not a traditional catchy pop tune but it has a certain signature that sticks with you. And in certain vocal expressions Slaghuis reminds me of Adam Duritz in the way that he is able to end words and lines with an emotional touch that keeps resonating.
To my taste the echoing on Better, a piano ballad, is a little over the top. This doesn’t take anything away from the song itself though as it is beautifully composed with emotion seeping through its pores. It’s a classic style pop song of the kind you don’t hear much anymore. It is filled with metaphors symbolizing pain and struggles that are part of love and life itself.
Jasper Slaghuis has proven to be able to strike a sensitive chord. He continues to do this on In Your Sky which may be one of the most impressive songs on the album. Its lyrics are strong and honest and the passionate performance brings out the best. While some may end up criticizing the vocal performance in this song I do believe it is exactly those slight imperfections that create authenticity and achieve the right amount of fragility to make this song shine.
The album continues with a potential radio single, Let Go. It has a nice flow to it and invites the listener to really get into it and even sing along. While it is a strong song that you can’t easily get out of your head, to me personally, it misses that extra dimension I am able to find on some of the other songs.
The next song features a well known metaphor of losing things in the fire. While this metaphor is used in many songs, Slaghuis manages to keep Things We Lost on the right side of the tension balance to keep the song interesting and the slightly folksy undertone aids the narrative which raises this song from good to special.
The next few songs are well-written but might not be the standout songs on the album. Not to me at least. Inside and Here & Now have solid lyrics and clever arrangements but miss those hard to describe elements that leave you with a sense of wonder. A Breeze Like You, however, is another well-composed piano ballad with a calm lead in. After the lead in, the vocals come in and produce a fine teamwork with the warm sound of the keys. As the intensity of the song increases, so does the complexity and the song effortlessly evolves into an anthem, picking up strength. Part of the piano arrangement have a slight Queenesque tone to them which is a nice little feature that adds to the song.
4-11-2008 (Chicago Lady) suggests a song of a personal nature which is reflected in the tone of the song. It’s a fine song by itself but I feel the song doesn’t quite reach its maximum potential. If only it would come out of its shell a little more it could make quite the difference. To some of you the introvert nature of the track may actually be what draws you to it, so this obviously is a personal observation. You Will Always Play That Part tends to come out of its shell a little more. In a way that reminds me of Cary Brothers, Slaghuis is able to emphasize the vocals during “…how am I suppose to make a stop / when I cannot let you go and / why do you always play that part / is it just ‘cause I love you so…” which strengthens the song immensely.
And that’s where we reach the end of the album. Three is a fitting song to finish off “Bend”. It is a quiet piano tune not unlike other songs on the album. This creates a certain continuity and cohesion to the musical aspects of the record.
“Bend” is an impressive debut that should fill Jasper Slaghuis with pride. Generally the record is clean and polished off which is a strength in itself. Personally, though, I like it when sometimes songs touch boundaries, or even cross them. Those songs that are a little bolder and more expressive are the standout songs in my opinion (Bend, Let It Go, Your Sky, Things We Lost, You Will Always Play This Part). “Bend” is a promise that we can expect even greater things in the future from this man. But for now we have the pleasure to get to know Jasper Slaghuis through his debut album: “Bend”.