Tag Archive: Netherlands


So that’s it, then. 2010 is over. We’re well into 2011 now, so I suppose it’s time to start looking into the coming months to see what’s headed our way. I mean, 2010 felt like an endless streak of one economic or natural disaster after another and, if you’re Dave Barry, the worst year ever.

But still, it wasn’t all bad, was it?—not for music, at least. With several solid releases from old favourite along with a surge of exciting newcomers, I’d say it was a pretty good year if I’m honest. And if you’ve been anywhere NPR or Time Out New York recently, you may have read something about the exciting rebirth of classical music in the form of “alt-classical” or “indie classical” or whichever ridiculous moniker you prefer. (Never mind the fact that I’ve been going on about this since day one of this blog, it’s nice to see that some ‘real’ publications are catching on.) I mean, honestly, who thought, 12 months ago, that a tiny Brooklyn label like New Amsterdam would be the most celebrated thing in the world of art music?

So, with that said, you shouldn’t consider what follows to be my definitive list of predictions regarding who will be huge by the end of 2011. There’s a chance some of these projects will be released in obscurity and continue to languish there. Some may not make it off the ground in the next calendar year, while others may never see the light of day to begin with. What this is is an assortment of things to look forward to—the things that have me the most excited for—in 2011.

Parlours (Des Moines, Iowa)

I first mentioned Parlours to you way back in the summer of 2009. At the time, Parlours, was just Dana Halferty in her bedroom with a guitar and a bunch of loops and layers. They’ve expanded since then into a full-fledged five-piece and recorded an EP to be released later this month. The music has grown more melodic and the surrealism dialed back a notch or twelve since I first fell in love with ‘Bobby on Repeat’, but I’ve been anticipating a concrete release from Parlours for a year and a half now, and I for one am excited. I don’t know if ‘Bobby’ will be included on the EP (I haven’t received my copy yet), but one can only hope. For now, you can still hear it on MySpace (that is, if you can still tolerate MySpace).

The Black Atlantic (Groningen, Netherlands)

Here’s another band The Indie Handbook has been supporting for a while. God only knows how many bazillions of people have downloaded their last album, Reverence for Fallen Trees. But can you blame them? It’s free and it’s gorgeous. What more do you need? More recently, however, the band have been back in the studio working on a new album. Though I don’t know of any firm release date yet, I have it on good authority that singer Geert van der Velde has been listening to a fair amount of Arvo Pärt and medieval lute music lately, which is always promising. Then there’s the simple fact that these guys tour relentlessly. Having made at least three separate trips to the US in 2010, including appearances at SXSW and CMJ, the band long ago confirmed their return to SXSW in March followed by several dates in China later in the spring.

The Vaccines (London, UK)

They’ve generated so much buzz in recent months, that it almost feels like cheating to list The Vaccines here (not bad for a band that’s been together for just about a year). My own experience with the band is limited to the performance of a couple of songs on the Bonfire Night edition Jools Holland a couple of months back. But I was thoroughly impressed by their uptempo lo-fi guitar pop and—well—any band who can dethrone enfants terribles Kings of Leon (who performed on the same show) gets my vote any day.

Cults (NYC)

Just like The Vaccines, perhaps even more so, Cults are a band that have hotly tipped in the past year. For several months, the tracks from their debut 7” were available on Bandcamp as a free download, but, having recently signed with a major label that is, of course, no longer the case. The signing, at least in theory, bodes well for Cults who, if they are able to retain some semblance of creative control, could do some wonderful things with some decent label backing. And if they don’t, well, there’s still that first 7” floating around out there. I suggest you grab one. Here’s to 60s-drenched lo-fi melodic homophony.

Photo by Roelien (roelien.com)

So, I have one tiny, insignificant piece of news (if you can even call it news) to get out before we get down to business tonight. It’s not even important, really, but I figure if I make it public, people will be more likely to make sure I actually go through with it. Ready? I have decided to start a record label. (Oh, the irony…) And it’s just me on this one. Kristin has a life and stuff, but I don’t…no friends, no girlfriend, or much of anything cool like that. All I’ve got is time. So, for those of you who actually like the music we talk about here, well, I am going to do what I can to make it at least a bit more easily accessible. And if you’re an artist with some recordings you might be interested in releasing as a limited run EP on CDR, well, we’ll see…

Now, for music:

I have to say, I think Holland may be the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I wasn’t sure about that until this morning. Sure, In A Cabin With, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and my friend Deborah are pretty amazing, but for some reason, I wasn’t convinced. But today, I had email from Matthijs van der Ven, who heads up a project called Onder Invloed (it’s bloody brilliant, and sometime in January, I will explain why). Anyway, as I was exploring Onder Invloed, I came across The Secret Love Parade. And I fell in love.

They’re two girls (Aino Vehmasto and Janna Coomans). They’re from Amsterdam. So far, so perfect. And they write “postmodern romantic pop” with synths and organs and guitars, blips and beeps and beats, charming melodies, perfectly executed Camera Obscura-ed vocals, and Philip Glass-y arpeggios. And as for the listening experience, I have to agree with the Onder Invloed analysis: “you’ll instantly feel better than you were before. Worries fade away, no more thoughts on all the things you still have to do before the end of the week….It’s the complete combination of the dreamy songs, instruments and voices which will get you careless in less than fifteen minutes”. I really couldn’t have put it any better. I’ve listened through their MySpace four times now, and I am ridiculously giddy.

Check out “My Secret Love Parade”, “Free at Last”, and “Always You”, then the other two tracks, then buy their album. (Don’t fight it. You know you want to. I want to. I also want to be their friend, but I am reasonably convinced that I will never be cool enough.) So maybe my affinity for this band isn’t so secret. But why should it be? I think we could all do with a little Love Parade every now and again.

Here’s a live video from the Amsterdam Songwriters Guild:

And here they are covering Midlake’s “Roscoe” as part of the Onder Invloed project.

Reverence for Fallen Trees

The best part about Dutch Week, for me anyway, was the discovery of the In A Cabin With International Recording Project, and I now anxiously await every new album. I vow to become a part of it catching on in the States. You’ve already heard me go on and on about how wonderful the project is; now I’ll go on and on about the latest–IN A CABIN WITH The Black Atlantic!

The Black Atlantic is Geert van der Velde, Marcel Wolthof, and Kim Janssen of the Netherlands with Brooklyn-based Leo Maymind (Spanish Prisoners) and Peter Silberman (The Antlers). While recording Reverence for Fallen Trees, our musician friends lived in a cozy little cabin in the Adirondacks, surrounded by snow and mountains and isolated beauty, a landscape reflected flawlessly in the ebb and flow of the album.

Much of the album is quite stark and minimalistic, with subtly changing piano lines or guitar chords, unique percussive sounds, and soft background vocals, layered with introspective, melancholic lyrics.  And while I would say that it is all lovely and ethereal, there is still movement, picking up with “Old Dim Light” or “Dandelion,” and ‘slowing’ (not so much in tempo as in feel) with “Walked-on Wood” or “Reverence for Fallen Trees.”  The end result is an album with incredible flow, no choppy inconsistencies that one might expect to hear from a musicians who don’t all normally play together, who have spent only a week writing and recording.  The listening experience is cathartic, akin to that of Sigur Ros or Phillip Glass, and the listener would be better to hear the album as a whole, rather than pulling only a few songs.

What I really love about In A Cabin With is the ability to pick up on the recording environment and community through the sound and atmosphere of the music.  In Reverence for Fallen Trees and perhaps especially (in my opinion) in the songs “Fragile Meadow,” “Walked-on Wood,” and naturally “Reverence for Fallen Trees,” you can feel the warmth of the cozy cabin, and you can feel the quiet of the snow outside.  These artists have done an incredible work in reflecting their surroundings in their musical experience.

You know what else is great?  The album is free for downloading on the In A Cabin With site.  Check it out!!

You can check out this video that I can’t embed too :) http://www.inacabinwith.com/blog/theblackatlantic/Movie.html

Well everyone, as sad as we are to say it, Dutch Week is over.  I don’t think we knew what exactly we were getting ourselves into (= a lot of good music) because now we wish we had more time!  A Dutch Decade, perhaps.  However, we had but a week, and now we have many other countries to explore (including our own)!

Before we say goodbye to the lovely Netherlands, we’d like to leave you with some more music that we discovered and didn’t have the time to review.

Kristin’s picks:

The Subhuman.  The Subhuman is from Utrecht, Netherlands and is on the Snowstar record label.  He’s a star.  His music is chill–you can hear some Sufjan influence, minus a lot of the experimenting–and I like his use of the good ole casio, and the layers he creates with vocals.  He also reminds me of this guy Niall Quinn who I saw perform at a pub in London, which will probably mean nothing to you, but he was pretty good, anyway.  Bonus: he looks like he’d be into Dostoevsky.  That’s pretty irrelevant, but whatever.  Check it yo: www.myspace.com/thesubhuman

Vox Von Braun.  Don’t judge, but we’re back at Subroutine for this one.  Vox Von Braun reminds me a of a less folky Blitzen Trapper in their sound (until the guitar riffs)–they’ve got that unidentifiable perfect balance, where everything just works.  I’m picky about sound, and they’ve found the spot where the music moves (it’s going somewhere, thank goodness), it isn’t too heavy or too dark, and it isn’t poppy twee, it’s just good freaking rock’n’roll.  Way to go, guys, I’ll jam to you in my car anytime.  If I can get your album, that is.  www.myspace.com/voxvonbraun

Johan.  Johan is on Excelsior and I like them.  I kind of feel bad for liking them because they make me think of music I listened to when I was in early high school, but they’ve got a pretty solid sound, and so why not share them?  www.myspace.com/johan

We Love People in Bearsuits.  I told you it was coming, didn’t I?  And Bearsuits is one word.  How to describe them?  I don’t know, what would you expect from a band with such a name?  Probably that’s what you’ll get.  They’re from Utrecht, Netherlands and they’re on the Badmintone record label but I’m pretty sure they’re singing/growling/yelling in German.  To be quite honest, I probably wouldn’t listen to this music, you know, every day, but it’s still fun electronic indie-pop that I would dance around to.  As they describe themselves, “in a deep forest somewhere in germany, three boys in bearsuits are playing music for the animals that live there, sometimes they come out of the forest to play their music for humans.”  Um, will you play for me, boys?  Check out their myspace: www.myspace.com/welovepeopleinbearsuits

Eric’s Picks (some of them, at least)

The Sugarettes. This is another one from the Very Sexuals family. I have been loving this music all week, but have avoided talking about it because I didn’t want Dutch Week to turn into some kind of Partridge Family orgy. But we may as well go out with one incestuous bang. Their debut Love and Other Perversities was the sexiest album of the year according to Incendiary Magazine and I am not going to argue with them. Filled with boy-girl vocals (which you know I love), hand claps, youthful exuberance, and maybe a prostitute and a porn star or two, this is one album that is immediately addicting. http://www.myspace.com/thesugarettes

NEONBELLE. We’ve been slipping it into the conversation all week, so I won’t say much about it here.This is even more from Pien Feith of, you guessed it, the Very Sexuals. Originally conceived as part of the In A Cabin With project, the trio found their sessions to be so fruitful that they will continue to work together as NEONBELLE in the future. Picture something like Feist meets Regina Spektor with Emilie Simon’s propensity for electronics and found sounds and a dash of John Adams (the composer, not the president) thrown in for good measure. Download the album at www.inacabinwith.com if you haven’t already. http://www.myspace.com/weareneonbelle

Hit Me TV. Singer Jaap, of Hit Me TV probably could have fronted any number of hair bands back in the 80s, were he more than 10 years old at the time (which I am fairly certain he wasn’t). Think the drive of the Killers’ Hot Fuss with less synth, more funky guitar work, and freaking powerful vocals. Maybe something of a cross between early Killers and Scissor Sisters, with more than a dash of danceable 80s power pop. If you’re a freak like me, may even be able to hear a bit of the Rumble Strips here and there. (I am seriously weird, though.) I freaking love this. http://www.myspace.com/hitmetv

Hospital Bombers. The name sounds ominous, I know, but I have it on good authority that Hospital Bombers are the best band in the Netherlands at the moment. Since I live way over here in Not the Netherlands, I will have to take his word for it. The quality of the music would seem to support his opinion. They have a seriously tight sound often reminiscent of the garage rock of the late 60s complete with Hammond B3, or like the Doors but faster and sober and with a girl. I like girls. I also like Hospital Bombers (five words you should never utter at an airport). Check out “The Devil’s Music” and “Neighbourhood”. http://www.myspace.com/hospitalbombersatmyspace

Skipper. Still more from Subroutine (can you tell we really, really, REALLY like them?) It’s very Phil Spector (without the crazy wigs and, presumably, murder conviction) with, yet again that vintage 60s aesthetic, at times reminiscent of the Beach Boys, see “Wasted”. Overall, there is a pervading and not at all unwelcome sweetness running through the five tracks posted on Myspace. It’s kind of trippy and really cool. http://www.myspace.com/skippermuzik

As I am sure you have probably deduced, for each band listed in this entry, there are about a dozen we have been forced to leave off the list. We would love to tell you about them, really, we would, but we have already passed 1,000 and if you haven’t stopped reading yet, you are probably at least ready to curl up and take a nice long nap. We will just have to get to these bands and more in greater detail in future posts. We hope that this last Dutch Week post will enrich your beautiful lives with some more beautiful music!  And, we hope it will equip you, as it has us, to live every week like it’s Dutch Week.

A bonus Dutch Week post

We’ve both been too busy to put together our Dutch Week wrap-up today, so, lucky you, you get one more regular Dutch Week post. This time it’s a two-piece, one of those guitar and drum combos that people like so much.

Looking at Appie Kim, the initial comparisons are obvious: (boy + girl) x (guitar + drums) = White Stripes/Blood Red Shoes. To think of something like an inversion of the White Stripes would begin to move you in the right direction since the bulk of the vocal duties are filled by Natasha van Waardenburg (formerly of De Nieuwe Vrolijkheid). Yes, it is true the track “Yes or No” has traces of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” scattered throughout, but there is much more to this band than that. Unfortunately, I get the impression that the five lo-fi, apparently live recordings, available for download at www.appiekim.com do not really convey what these two are able to do with such limited instrumentation.

Some of the live recordings, like “Typewriter”, sport all the reverb of the creepiest of 80s recordings, yet still continue to grow on you in the unsettling and disturbing way of classics like the indefatigable “Rock Me Amadeus”. This is Appie Kim at their garagiest and probably where the Kills comparisons come from. But I think it is in the studio recordings, posted on MySpace, that the real character of the band shines through. Granted, there are only two tracks available, but they have a more polished sound (actual production will do that to a recording) that I actually like better. It is something like a weightier, stripped down version of the Cardigans circa Long Gone Before Daylight. Think all the fragility of “Live and Learn” but darker and heavier.

Of course, you really ought to go check this out for yourself. And if you don’t like my review, just go to the website and build your own (no, I’m not kidding).

So here’s the thing: I was going to post about Pien Feith tonight, but Kristin beat me to it. I thought about taking on NEONBELLE instead, a band that has really won me over in the past ten days, but they’ve had two mentions already this week (make that three). I have decided instead to break away from the Pien Feith/Very Sexuals bloodline (so no Sugarettes either, though I do quite like them). But don’t worry too much, we are still keeping it in the family with another band from Subroutine Records (I can’t help that they are a good label with a taste similar to mine. So back off.)

I like music that is campy and over-the-top and ridiculously indulgent, probably more than most people. There is definitely a place for the flamboyant in this industry and it is a place where I often spend hours bathed in the lush pageantry of artists like Rufus Wainwright. I think AC Berkheimer saw a movie about it once, because, in their music, you can definitely detect an awareness of it’s existence. But there is nothing flashy or self-indulgent about this music, and that is what is so attention grabbing. The vocal is so simple, so straightforward, that it is brilliant and you begin to wonder why more people don’t do it. Then you realize that most people would sound like idiots with no chance of winning American Idol or X Factor or whatever they call it where you live. Check out “For He’s Not There” (probably my favorite track available on MySpace). It is this kind of relaxed, matter of fact singing-that-almost-feels-like-speaking (like Piney Gir or the Poems) that makes AC Berkheimer such a joy to listen to.

They are a band that is hard to pin down. Comparisons have been drawn to My Bloody Valentine or The Organ and the band acknowledges influences like the Smiths, the Pixies, and the Cure. They are not afraid of an extended instrumental break, though said breaks tend more toward the meditation side of things rather than in the jam session direction, see “Isah”. Perhaps deliberate is a good word for it–a good word for the music of AC Berkheimer in general. More than anything, they seem a band with one eye on the aethereal at all times.

Their MySpace page sums it up best, however: “…who knows what might have been the biggest influence, we just like playing music and this is what it sounds like when we do…so listen to it and make up your own mind”. That is the sort of thing that we at The Indie Handbook like to hear. And I have listened. And I have made up my mind about one thing.

I like it.

One last thing: contrary to what their Last.fm profile says, this is not available at my local record store, not that I could afford it anyway.

Dutch Week, Part the Third: Ember

Today, Kristin and I heard from one kind reader offering to answer any questions we may have about the Dutch. Admittedly, my knowledge of the Netherlands is limited by the fact that: a) I am not Dutch and b) I have never been there. I would like to invite any of you Dutch folks reading this (and I know there are some of you) to share with us anything you think we ought to know, though I can’t think of any specific questions at the moment. For now, here is a short list of a few things I do know about the Dutch:

1) They are tall.

2) They speak better English than most Americans I know.

3) They are, consistently and without exception, among the most excruciatingly beautiful people in the world.

4) Tulips.

5) They have a killer football team with a relentless and potent attack style offense and an luminous orange kit that can surely be scene from the moon who, ultimately, did not live up to my expectations in the last European Cup.

6) Yes, Kristin, Dutch is a language.

7) The music scene is, apparently, perfect.

Take, for example, Ember, a five piece from Haarlem/Amsterdam. No pretentious, abstract descriptions are necessary to categorize Ember, and apparently the band agrees, content with a one word description. They are a rock band. That is all they are. And that is all they ever need be. It’s like Letters to Cleo as Josie and the Pussycats, slightly tousled, with a flair for the dramatic, and Dutch.

But don’t take my word for it. Please, please, please go listen for yourself (I say please because I know that most of you have still not downloaded The Very Sexuals’ Post-Apocalyptic Love like I told you to). There are three tracks up on their MySpace. I would love to describe them to you, but my internet connection has gone wonky on me and I can’t even begin to think about streaming anything. But I was really digging it this afternoon.

Coincidentally, I found these guys through a link on We Swim You Jump‘s MySpace (yes, in fact there is a bit of an incestuous streak running through The Indie Handbook). So, if you have failed to stay current on our Dutch Week festivities thus far, I suggest you get caught up. Come Saturday, you’ll wish you had.

Now that I think of it, I do have one question for you all:

Do you know my Dutch friend? She lives in Amsterdam.

Dutch Blitz!!

Welcome to post #2 of Dutch Week!  I have been learning a lot already this week, including that Dutch = from the Netherlands = the same thing as Holland.  This is helpful knowledge, especially when I continue asking Eric stupid questions, like if the Shout Out Louds, Jens Lekman, or Sondre Lerche count as Dutch music, and could I review them since I already know and love them?  No.  They do not count.  I’m an idiot sometimes.  I think I’ve said that before.

But!  As not to let you, our adoring public, down, I have explored some great music while staring at my computer at work.   Just kidding.  But I have explored some great music!  And while I have found several bands that I would like to share with you (one involving people wearing bear suits, NOT EVEN KIDDING), tonight I have chosen … We Swim You Jump!!!  Partly because they have an awesome name, and partly because they are on the same record label as The Very Sexuals (Subroutine… also have you all downloaded the free album yet?  It’s freaking free!)

We Swim You Jump is a pretty new band hailing from (let’s all say it together) the Netherlands!  They have a demo EP out and they are working on a full album to be released *hopefully* at the end of 2009.  There are only 2 songs up on their myspace (but they only have like 5 anyway, so whatever) but you should definitely listen to them because… they have a tight sound with strong folk/rock influences.  I appreciate their unexpected chord changes and rough-edged voices, and they kind of remind me of the Format (Interventions and Lullabies).  My final reason for listening to them is that one of their songs is called “Sharks,” and I’m confident that they, like us, live every week like it’s Shark Week (or Dutch Week, I guess).  Love it.

Check out their myspace:  http://www.myspace.com/weswimyoujump
Also, if you happen to speak Dutch (is that a language?  Eric will answer this question in his next post!) or just enjoy watching foreign boys speak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3BfMX9PDzU

I have heard so much good news today (e.g. new albums from Regina Spektor, Stuart Murdoch, A Camp, and the Rumble Strips) that I just want to gush about it, but I won’t because IT’S DUTCH WEEK! Wednesday is also tax day, but not in the Netherlands (I don’t think) so we will forget about that. (We’ll get to the those others later.)

To kick off Dutch Week, I suppose I’ll start off with the band that made me want to do this in the first place: The Very Sexuals from Eindhoven, Noord-Brabant. (Before I go any further, let me say that you can download this album for free in it’s entirety from the band’s website.)

With every subsequent listen, The Very Sexuals’ Post-Apocalyptic Love does more to cement itself as one of the most pleasant discoveries I have made in a very, very long time. The tracks drift effortlessly from the fuzzy quasi-synth pop of “Bowie Eyes” to the straight up indie sound of “Wrecked This Century”. It’s all very New Pornographers. But the best finds are those in-between tracks like “Can You Promise Me the Sky Won’t Fall On Us” with it’s handclaps, half-sung/half-chanted vocals, and more than a touch of the Kills’ “U.R.A. Fever”. Then there is my personal favorite, “Anti-Valentine”, where the band’s characteristic male/female vocals combine to lend the track a sort of epic sweetness while channeling shades of Harry Nillson and even The Mamas & the Papas (if you think about it long enough, you’ll get there), and is a welcome departure from just about everything I’ve been hearing lately. Like I said, download the album at theverysexuals.com.

Check out their MySpace as well. There is one extra track there, “Dennis Hopper”, from the “Carla” single, as well as links to download the single and the album it comes from. The band is beginning to get radio airplay throughout Europe and Great Britain (including BBC Radio 6), as well as a small handful of stations Stateside. This would be a good time to get in on the ground floor.

Also, I assure you, you will be hearing more from The Very Sexuals as Dutch Week progresses.

In the meantime, download Post-Apocalyptic Love.

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