Posts Tagged ‘3fm’

Bertolf – Snakes  & Ladders
April 23, 2010

Debuting with “For Life”, Bertolf instantly became a success in the Netherlands. The melodic guitar pop & roll was pleasant to listen to and perfectly crafted to do well on the radio. But without becoming a cliché. Therefore, expectations for Bertolf’s sophomore release were high. A respected songsmith and balladeer, Bertolf had his work cut out for him.

With “Snakes & Ladders” he delivers and meets the expectations. His success may very well have longevity to it as he proves on a very solid second release. Catchy songs like Two In A Million and Fortune Changes Overnight are bound to become solid radio hits in the upcoming year.

Overall the sound of the album has become a little less mainstream. Bertolf uses more influences from roots and blues music and doesn’t get into the breezy, folky side of his genre very much. In my opinion this is a good decision as it makes the album cohesive and collective. The tracks fit together well.

As a songwriter, Bertolf definitely belongs at the top. His lyrics are accessible but not cliché and the musical arrangements are not the prefab, formulaic kind you see way too often these days. He knows when to keep it simple and when to add something to the songs and while “Snakes & Ladders” may not be the most surprising album of the year, but it is rock solid.


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Arthur Adam – Awake
April 16, 2010

We know Arthur Adam as a strong songwriter and unique vocalist. His songs were moody singer/songwriter with a good tension build up and very personal delivery. On this new album “Awake”, however, we hear a fuller and rounder sound, much more typical for a band than a singer/songwriter.

Because the nature of the album is so different from his previous work it is not quite fair to make simple comparisons to it. But while this album is different it also has a lot of things in common with Arthur Adam’s previous work. The songwriting is still key. It’s the basis on which the music is built. Sometimes you stumble upon band-versions of singer/songwriter, and in many aspects, Arthur Adam fits that bill.

Take a song like Dividing A Spider, which, in its melodic songwriting very much has a singer/songwriter basis, but because of the cohesive and convincing performance of the song it gets a much richer and fuller sound that makes the song not only exciting but also adds to the potential of the song. The pointy and catchy She’s A Mystery is a pure powerpop song that just makes you want to move along. And then on a song like We Feel Sad, there are traces of the moody singer/songwriter again and then as it builds up more and more intensity is added to the song and it becomes almost anthemic. For me it would have been the ideal closer, even though the 60s-esque First Impressions is an excellent song.

There is such a wide variety of qualitatively strong songs on this album that this album is bound to get a lot of positive feedback. It also has a more approachable and accessible sound than you would expect if you know Arthur Adam’s previous work. It’s a good mix between a more mainstream sound and a more indie sound. Built on excellent songwriting, “Awake” is an album that convinces from the first note to the last and is going to draw in fans and music critics alike.

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Elske DeWall – Balloon Over Paris
February 26, 2010

Hailing from the Frysian province of the Netherlands is singer/songwriter talent Elske DeWall. While she’s been quite popular in her native area, she is now breaking through all over the Netherlands. Her strengths are her excellent vocals, well-written lyrics and personal delivery of the songs. If you take all these things into account it should not come as a surprise that her debut album “Balloon Over Paris” is doing really well in the charts.

While maintaining a singer/songwriter image and sound, DeWall doesn’t constrain herself too much musically. She easily varies between a very current sound (Come See The End In Me, Sunny Day) and a more classic singer/songwriter sound (The Remedy, Too Much To Sing For). Sometimes she kicks it up a notch and you can hear a little uptempo americana/rock & roll influences come through, which makes Promise, for example, one of the best tracks on the album.

In the past few years many female singer/songwriters have surfaced, many of them very talented, but there are a few who can bring something extra to the plate. Elske DeWall falls in that category and ranks among top singer/songwriters like Stevie Ann, Ilse DeLange & Laura Jansen.

With “Balloon Over Paris” she announces her talent to the rest of the country and with the quality she brings to the table I have no doubts that Elske DeWall is here to stay. Her songwriting will likely grow even stronger as time passes and she already is a passionate performer, so it seems the future smiles upon Elske DeWall. Check out her strong debut at her website!

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Sandy Dane – Beautiful & Ugly
April 16, 2010

Sandy Dane has been mentioned on our blog quite a few times lately. Recently her new single One Way Ticket was released and her official debut album “Beautiful & Ugly” was released last friday. And while the release show was a success, let us take a closer look at the actual album.

The sweet, dreamy pop songs we hear on “Beautiful & Ugly” have enormous radio potential. You can immediately hear that Dane’s vocals are the focal point on this CD. While the songs don’t have the intensity they have in a live rendition, the round, poppy melodies and clear vocals still give you a summer feel.

Radio singles Beautiful & Ugly and One Way Ticket are well chosen and stick in your head pretty much right away. Other songs that can potentially become radio hits are Better Than Before which has a strong chorus, Sunday Sunshine which has a very recognizable guitar riff, the Sara Bareilles-esque Waiting For Love and Mr. Pianoman, which is an instant sing along.

The album also features her breakthrough songs Peace, Love & Icecream and Lay Down which still rank among the album’s strongest songs. You can see I already mentioned half the album as possible radio singles. This is the main reason why I believe this album could be a great success for Sandy Dane. The songs are very mainstream and commercially attractive, but they are still real songs. Sometimes you lean more towards pop artist, sometimes more towards singer/songwriter, so the conclusion is that Dane found a very good balance between the two and this style fits her very well.

“Beautiful & Ugly” might be one of this year’s ultimate feel good albums. It’s a bit sweet and bubbly, but hey, if it sounds good and it makes you feel good, why would that be a bad thing? Songs to check out would be This Heart of Mine, One Way Ticket, Peace Love & Icecream and Mr. Pianoman, though if you like 1 or 2 of the songs on the album, you will like the rest of it too. All in all the album is pretty strong. Sometimes the song choices may be a little safe and I would be interested in hearing Sandy Dane be a little more diverse and incorporate more from other styles like soul, blues, jazz or even a little rock & roll. Sometimes you can somewhat hear a little bit of an influences from such a direction but with her powerful vocals I would think she could go there more without losing her pop potential. Having said that, starting out with a solid record of songs that fit you as an artist is a smart choice and the result is something Dane can be proud of!

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Cary Brothers – Under Control
April 6, 2010

With his first full-length, “Who You Are”, Cary Brothers already showed he’s more than just another talented singer-songwriter. He is creative in his songwriting and isn’t afraid to try out things.

On “Under Control” he continues this approach, yet the album is more organic and has a more direct feel to it. The songs feel very personal at times and Brothers’ strong vocal performance is the centerpiece of this new album.

Combine this with his interesting songwriting and overall convincing delivery and you have an album that deserves a lot of attention. And just like before, I’m sure it will be getting many positive reviews and critical acclaim among music professionals and musicians. But this time I think the album has a good shot at crossing over to draw in a more mainstream audience.

Brothers is very active in online promotion and reaching out to fans personally. And with this tenacity and personal approach he ensures that the fans he is gaining are true fans, and most likely fans for life. And a group of loyal fans is worth something.

But to get back to the music. Cary Brothers brings us intriguing, personal and sometimes even a little mysterious songs that should be heard. Songs like the lead single Ghost Town, Break Off The Bough and Over & Out are very catchy and have tremendous radio potential. Melodically the songs are absolutely among the top tracks in the alternative singer-songwriter genre of the moment. And because Brothers delivers the songs with a lot of power and vocal control, there is nothing that should stop this album from reaching out to many new fans. More sentimental songs like After The Fall, Belong and album closer Can’t Take My Eyes Off You are very strong also and show a more gentle side of this talented musician.

I would probably point out Break Off The Bough, Over & Out, Alien and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You as the album’s key tracks but I find myself listening to this album straight through. And often I find out something new about a song when I listen to it again. In many aspects that may be the strongest feature of the album. The songs stay fresh and exciting. It doesn’t seem to get old fast. The songs are strong, the order on the album is very much in balance and the album stays interesting to listen to.

I will be seeing mr. Brothers play live in the near future and I am quite excited to hear live renditions of these new songs. Because not only do these songs have a strong sense of connection, and not only are they fit to seep into the mainstream airwaves, they also hold potential to be excellent live songs. Hats off to you, mr. Brothers!

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Sandy Dane @ Bitterzoet
April 16, 2010 – Amsterdam

Imagine a beautiful spring day in the middle of April. The sun is out, you’re enjoying a drink and listening to some sweet, melodic pop music and you feel good. That in itself could be a review for yesterday’s events. It all fit perfectly together. But lets get into a little more detail.

A few years ago, Sandy Dane suddenly had a radio hit with Peace, Love & Icecream, a cool, bubbly pop song that fit right in with the summery weather. It was a long wait for her official debut “Beautiful And Ugly” but the day has come and on this friday night in April, Sandy Dane is presenting her new album to 300+ people in a well-filled Bitterzoet in Amsterdam.

There were a lot of familiar faces and the response to the new songs was very good. I talked to a good number of people, many of them, in some way, involved in the music industry, be it as radio professional, freelance journalist or in the business side of it all. And without exception they all seemed to think that Sandy Dane’s debut album has a lot of potential. I am absolutely agreeing with that opinion. But I’ll get more into that when I review the album.

So lets talk performance. The show started a little late (sign of a real musician?) and despite a few technical difficulties (not sure but I think one of the amps was a little funky at the start) the music did all the talking. From Beautiful & Ugly to One Way Ticket, Sandy Dane showed off her impressive vocal strength and the musicians that accompanied her on stage knew exactly how to bring out the best assets of the songs. I haven’t quite memorized the setlist, but Sandy basically played her whole (or at least most of) new album.

Some of the songs that stood out to me were the single One Way Ticket, which is an absolutely perfect choice for the radio, with the catchy sing-along chorus. Also, This Heart of Mine & Lay Down were played and sung perfectly. I like how these songs show a little more emotion and give Sandy Dane a little more singer/songwriter feel than just your regular pop singer. It adds to her musicality and to her personality, which is an important factor for a live musician. The two songs that stuck with me most though were Mr. Painoman & Sunday Sunshine. Both songs could easily be released as radio singles (especially the latter one) and suited Sandy’s vocals very well.

Of course it was an official album release show, so the album had to be presented to Sandy. One of the rising stars in radio land, Domien Verschuuren of Dutch radio 3FM came out to present the album and congratulate her on a job well done. The two knew eachother for some time and this led to some funny banter on stage that put a little bit of a comic note on the evening. After that she played Lay Down & One Way Ticket as an encore.

All in all it was a very pleasant night with a very friendly atmosphere and excellent musicianship. Both musically and in presentation of the music, Sandy & her band showcased talent and potential. Of course this is only the beginning of the journey but they already figured out how to go about it. If anything, they will only continue to learn and grow along the way and I imagine sooner rather than later, Sandy Dane may very well become a star, not only in her native Netherlands but also across the borders. The style and general sound of her music lends itself very well to be popular in countries like UK, Sweden, Austria, Spain, Australia, Canada and even the US. And who knows what happens then. But for now, Sandy Dane should just be proud to have released a solid debut album with a lot of (radio) potential and enjoy the success it is going to bring her. Because with her enthusiasm and tenacity, and a kind, personal approach to her fans, she is bound to find success very rapidly.

The album release in Bitterzoet was a great start and a very entertaining event. I enjoyed it very much, as did many others. So thank you Sandy Dane, and thank you to your band. And I’ll see you again at another show. Enjoy what’s coming and good luck!

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Diane Birch @ Bitterzoet, Amsterdam
March 4, 2010

Bitterzoet Logo

My day was already pretty good when I got to Amsterdam. Tried to see if I could get into Bitterzoet early (it was still between 6pm and 7pm) to see if I could talk to the musicians themselves, maybe persuade them into setting up an e-mail interview, but the door was very, very closed. So I decided to come back later and see if I have time afterwards. Made my way to my favorite Irish Pub in Amsterdam to kill some time with Kilkenny’s (no pun intended).

So then I made my way back, door was still very closed, but more people were waiting. As time went by we were wondering if they were ever gonna open the doors, haha, but they did. So everyone got in, found a spot and waited for the show to start. It was supposed to start at 8:30PM but it ended up starting around 9:20PM instead. The stage was really low, so it was hard to see sometimes, but Diane and her band put on a very splendid show. It was done in about 45 minutes and then another 10 minutes for encore. Which wasn’t such a bad thing for me, since I had to make my train to get back home. So unfortunately there was not much time for talking to anyone, but I had a good time.

Diane and her band played most of the songs off “Bible Belt” (an album I would highly recommend to all of you!). For me the highlights were Rewind and Ariel. She also did songs like Fire Escape, Fools, Valentino (crowd favorite), Magic View, Forgiveness and several others. And another absolute highlight was her cover of Haddaway’s What Is Love?. A very, very solid performance by this gifted young lady and her excellent band.

I was very impressed and somewhat surprised by how comfortable she was on stage and the ease with which she connected to her audience. This girl has stage presence and killer vocals. If she’s playing a show near you, you might want to check your calendar, cause it really is worth it. I went in just appreciating her music, but I came home a fan.

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