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Posts Tagged ‘netherlands’

South of Heaven – ..a beautiful winter..
December 28, 2010

This relatively unknown band from Arnhem in the Netherlands recently released a new album called “..a beautiful winter..” The band describes the CD as a collection of songs influenced by different styles in rock, blues, soul and punk. And that’s only the start of it.

First of all the songs are all written very well and the band is able to change in tempo, in loudness and by that they manage to keep the songs to sound fresh and exciting. Together with a slick production, the album doesn’t fall together like one big blur, but all the songs get a chance to stand out. From the more paced down opener Room In Your Life to the pointy Internet Pornography, the alternative rock song Love and the radio-friendly Blue Dress to the beautiful melodic closer Amsterdam, every song is convincing and impressive.

The vocals are very present throughout the album and on every song they are of the highest quality. Vocalist Richard Huijzer (ex-Fedchenka) is able to change in pitch and intensity seemingly without ease and Chris Gerretsen’s (also ex-Fedchenka) guitar work is outstanding. Together with a perfectly balanced rhythm section this collective of musicians has the talent and experience to figure out what they want and execute it in a way that deserves recognition and applause.

“..a beautiful winter..” is a very good album and begs the question how long it will take for this band to break through. Cause that just has to be a matter of time. The quality and talent is there, the album’s produced well, the musicians have performance experience and many of the songs are fit for radio. All I see is pluses. Audiences of the world, listen up, South of Heaven is ready to rock your eardrums.

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John Hill – John Hill [EP]
October 25, 2010

Meet John Hill, an acoustic folk/rock act from the Netherlands. If you have never heard of him until now, there’s a good reason for it. The “John Hill” EP is his first release. The feel of his music has been compared to masters like Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens for example.

Inner Ear Media was approached to shine its light over this debut EP. And after a good number of listens I came to the conclusion that this is very solid singer/songwriter material. I wouldn’t go as far as to compare it to Dylan or Stevens right off the bat, but I do admit there’s a genuinity to the music that reminds you of forgotten musical eras. Hilgenkamp’s vocals are pure and honest and they envoke emotion, not only in himself and his music, but also in the imagination of the listener.

This is quite an accomplishment, because for singer/songwriters it is essential to make that personal connection with the listener, one way or another. Hannes Hilgenkamp, under the John Hill moniker does this in its purest, most honest way and, in a way, he invites the listener to accompany him in his music.

On the opener Does It Still Hurt the empathic vocals reach across, right into your heart. The storytelling presentation of the song gives the song even more credit. The more uptempo Sailin Home is a track that is pleasant to listen to and would have a decent chance on the regional and smaller radio stations in the country. Easy Prey is a little edgier and is just an extremely well-executed song. The final two songs, Hidin From Me and Decency are also of a very high quality. Especially the closer (Decency) is very subtle and comes across very personal. Additions from Florien Hilgenkamp (classical vocals) and Serge Bredewold (former bass player for Twarres and 16Down) shows he selects musical partners that can meet the high standard he set with his tracks.

Hilgenkamp proves to be not only a very accomplished songwriter as his songs are musically and lyrically relevant and accessible. He doesn’t dabble into easily available rhymes and shameless variations on melodies that have been used a million times, no he truly writes songs that don’t just sound fresh and original, they actually are fresh and original. He also proves he’s a true balladeer in the way he personalizes the song and enables the listener to do exactly the same. He brings across the story and makes an actual connection to those who open their hearts to these songs. It may only be a debut EP but it sounds like this man has been writing and performing songs for decades. He surely knows his stuff.

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Kids Never Lie – 1618 [EP]
May 2010

With this 4-track EP, Dutch electropop band Kids Never Lie tries to debut with an impact. Something they partially succeed at. Immediate parallels will be made with Das Pop, though Kids Never Lie is obviously not that far yet.

This young band is effective with their tracks though. The beats are jumpy and there’s plenty of enthusiasm on this EP. Opening track Framework is a little bit messy though and after several listens you really want to listen to something else, but it has the potential to be a good party track when played live with all the bells and whistles it deserves.

The single, Kids, is the best track on the album. It’s in German, which, perhaps,  reminds one of Das Pop even more. It also has the tendency to become slightly repetitive, but the band experiments well and the slightly melancholic beat and constant drive of the song give it enough character to stand out.

The Race For Space Supremity is a rather pretentious title for a song that doesn’t quite cut it. KNL gets an A for effort, but on this track they show they are a young band that only just starts out. It’s okay to start with, but if they really want to get into the spotlight, they’ll need to grow and mature more. Literary Planetary, while a little repetitive, is actually quite a step up from the last track as it has more balls and comes off more convincingly.

“1618” is a nice debut for Kids Never Lie. The band is young and still figuring out what to do with their music. There’s definitely something there but it is also clear there is a lot of work yet to be done. The single and the final track on the EP are glimpses into what could be a bright future for this electropop band, but for now, the glory remains in the future. Promising: yes, excellent: not quite yet.

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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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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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Sandy Dane’s ‘One Way Ticket’ out on iTunes!

One of the most promising pop acts in the Netherlands is a young lady by the name of Sandy Dane. She has a few releases under her belt and her previous pop singles (Peace, Love & Icecream in particular) have been well-received.

Currently she is about to release her official debut ‘Beautiful & Ugly’ and as of today her new single One Way Ticket is out and ready for you to purchase. For the moment it is only on iTunes NL but if you don’t mind going outside of iTunes, Play.com also makes the song available for international purchase.

Be sure to check out this excellent new song. It’s bound to be a spring radio hit with its bubbly sound and is perfect to enjoy on a nice warm spring night with a good glass of wine. Now, if that doesn’t convince you, go listen to the song and I assure you that you’ll like it.

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Cloudmachine – Back On Land
16 april, 2009

Cloudmachine - Back on Land

Cloudmachine may not be the best known band hailing from the Netherlands but they certainly are one of most underrated Dutch bands. On their previous albums they were able to build on impressive songwriting, Ruud Houweling’s distinctive vocal sound and a very professional performance of the emotionally layered songs.

Their breakthrough happened in 2006 with the excellent album “Hum of Life” and last year they released the follow up “Back On Land”. Once again, the album is filled with slightly melancholical, well-written and inspiring songs building on a sound that holds the middle between indie pop and alternative rock. Some people compare Cloudmachine to Novastar or Johan, and I’ve even read references to Radiohead. And while I have to admit that there are similarities in the general sound I don’t feel much like comparing Cloudmachine to any of these bands. The distinctive vocal sound and the personality of the music puts it in its own category for me. Not that the other bands aren’t as good, I just think there are definitely subtle difference in style and sound between all these bands.

But let me get back to the album. “Back On Land”, released in 2009, starts out strong with Things Are Going To Change and doesn’t let go of that high quality anywhere on the album. All the songs have a characteristic sound and are passionately delivered. Themes of life, love, hope, despair, well, the things we all know and relate to, are present in the songs and are described in colorful yet accessible lyrics. The music is inspiring, challenging even but it doesn’t push you off the edge. Sometimes bands put so much effort in creating complex songs that in the end the essence of the music is lacking. Cloudmachine doesn’t forget that at the end of the day they are still making pop songs, which you can hear in the pleasant Safe Haven and the excellent indie pop gem Fading Picture which ends in a supreme finale.

Sadly I didn’t discover this album until early 2010, otherwise it would have no doubt made the top25 albums of 2009. It’s an album that holds excellent music, interesting lyrics, contains emotional depth and sticks to the essence of pop/rock music. It’s smooth, it’s intriguing and most of all the music is simply beautiful. It strikes a chord. Key tracks of the album are Pirouettes On New Legs (somewhat filmesque, but very pretty), Fading Picture (great pop song with a very impressive anthemic build up and epic finale), Spit Me Out (a little more melancholic, sentimental even, but oh so beautiful) and album closer Sanctuary (a musical journey that holds your attention from the first note to the last).

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