Posts Tagged ‘ Anouk ’

Album of the Week 48-2014: Anouk – Paradise And Back Again

Internationally, Anouk is probably known for last year’s Eurovision entry ‘Birds’, but the Dutch music scene explodes whenever she releases something new. There’s a good reason for that: Anouk is Holland’s best (and best selling) female Rock singer and she understands the power of scarcity. Granted, she doesn’t play live much simply because she doesn’t want to, but it does keep her in demand. ‘Paradise And Back Again’ is her ninth studio record and though it isn’t on par with the underrated diamond ‘Graduated Fool’, it’s another strong album with mainly her Soul, Blues and Pop influences at the forefront. The album’s live feel is part of its charm as well.

Let’s get some criticism out of the way first. ‘Paradise And Back Again’ is a front-loaded album. This is especially true when you have the limited edition that closes with three electronically oriented tracks that have Anouk performing well, but because of the sudden stylistic shift, they rather stand out like a sore thumb. But also without those bonus tracks, the album doesn’t exactly close on a high note. Having said that, the album does contain a large number of fantastic grooves. Many Dutch reviewers have pointed out that the album is conceptually weaker than its predecessor, but I do think the songwriting is better.

Not so long ago, a lengthy interview with Anouk in the TV show College Tour was aired and she closed it off with excellent performances of ‘Looking For Love’ and opening track ‘Cold Blackhearted Golddiggers’. Those performances made me very hungry for this album and the two songs are definitely among the album’s highlights. Especially the former, with its overwhelming vocal work and monstrous groove, but the latter is a fantastic, darkly brooding Blues track that serves as the perfect introduction for ‘Paradise And Back Again’.

For me, ‘Don’t Wipe Us Out’ is the highlight of the album. The song is built upon one of the most awesome bass lines I’ve heard this year, while the climaxes of the song are reached by adding or removing layers of instruments. That killer bass stays though. ‘She Is Beautiful’ is a well-crafted Pop song with a Daptone vibe in its intro, ‘Daddy’ contains one of Anouk’s most spirited performances of the album, not to mention some of the best lyrics and ‘Last Goodbye’ is a short, genre-defying Pop song. ‘Wigger’ has more depth than its title may suggest and I somehow really like the creeping vibe of ‘Some Of Us’.

Okay, so there’s no classic like ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Everything’ on this record, but give it some time and the album will grow on you. This is mainly due to its more subdued nature; the songs have a way of revealing their secrets slowly rather than punching you in the face with them. That is what characterizes ‘Paradise And Back Again’ and it is also its redeeming quality, no matter what you might think upon first listen. What the first listen will reveal, though, is that Anouk has a fantastic voice and a knack for writing good hooks. That should keep us satisfied until she wants to play live again. And admit it: that album cover is awesome!

Recommended tracks: ‘Don’t Wipe Us Out’, ‘Looking For Love’, ‘Cold Blackhearted Golddiggers’

My douze points for 2013

Though generally not a very beloved show for people who consider themselves serious music fans, I always love to watch the Eurovision Song Contest. There’s always a couple of extremely well written songs and a bunch of very talented singers and musicians… And the rest is for laughing value.

For me, 2013 was a bit more interesting than other years because of Anouk representing my country. I’ve been a fan of hers since her fantastic debut single ‘Nobody’s Wife’ and her ‘Jerusalem’ is one of the best songs ever to come from Holland. Of equal importance: she’s from The Hague, like myself. Also, Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi wrote the music to one of the songs this year.

This year’s winner, ‘Only Teardrops’ from Denmark’s Emmelie de Forest, had been predicted by the bookmakers for months. And though it’s nowhere near as godawfully annoying as last years winner (‘Euphoria’ by Loreen), the only thing I thought after hearing and seeing it was: “is this it?” A decent song by a good singer, but nothing special at all.

So I’ve decided to share with you the songs that should have made up the top 5 in my opinion. I could have – in the spirit of the contest – went for the most beautiful woman (Norway’s astonishing Margaret Berger, though I hated the song) or the most outrageous act (easily Romania’s Cezar, downright hilarious), but I do consider myself a serious music fan. These are the songs I would definitely find myself listening to again.

France: Amandine Bourgeois – L’enfer Et Moi

‘Hell And Me’ does sound like something that would please Kevy Metal, now wouldn’t it? Regardless, France’s entry this year took me completely by surprise. I had heard recordings of the song throughout the advent of the contest, but Bourgeois’ spirited performance of the track, including a rough edge to her vocals notably absent from the recordings, made it an early favorite of mine. I knew it wouldn’t win, because the performance was rather sober and Bourgeois is a little too plain looking to win over the extravaganza craving of the Eurovision audience, but I’d love to hear this voice rock out some more.

Iceland: Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson – Ég á Líf

Easily one of the more traditional Eurovision entries this year, Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson sung a beautiful ballad in his native language, which would have definitely ended up in the top 5, had it been 1985 or something. ‘Ég á Líf’ (‘I’m Alive’) has this sense of hopeful melancholia that is present in quite a lot of Icelandic music. Gunnlaugsson has the voice to carry this song by both setting the melancholic mood and lifting your spirit within the song. Apparently, he has joined Progrock band Todmobile. Dutch presentor Jan Smit caused something of a stir among my social circle, by saying that Gunnlaugsson looked weird. I seriously don’t see it.

Armenia: Dorians – Lonely Planet

No, not the traveller’s guide. Dorians’ Gor Sujyan is by far – seriously, he probably can’t even see the rest, that’s how far ahead he is – the best singer of this year’s contest. An enormous range, through which he races with enviable ease, hitting every note with just the right amount of power… This is exactly how I like singers to sound. The song, which reminds me of Prince’s fantastic ‘Gold’ at times, is pretty good too, though somewhat of a typical eighties Hardrock ballad. It’s been written by Tony Iommi. You won’t ever hear Black Sabbath doing something like this, but then again: you won’t ever hear Ozzy Osbourne singing this great either, right?

Greece: Koza Mostra and Agathonas Iakovidis – Alcohol Is Free

Amazing! Though being a teetotaller, this song appealed to me immediately. It’s folky Ska sounds reminded me of Gogol Bordello a bit and even though my mom hates the contest, she liked this song, saying it sounded like Madness. I personally love the downright outrageous party atmosphere of the song. With the title being the only English in the entire track, I don’t really know what the rest of the song means, but it sounds good. Energetic and spirited, both in composition and performance. Just look at the performance: these guys know how to start a party. I love the raw vocals of Elias Kozas.

The Netherlands: Anouk – Birds

Okay, I may be a bit biased here. But that has nothing to do with Anouk’s home country or even home town. ‘Birds’ is just a beautiful song, done by Holland’s premiere female Rock singer. The song itself is a bit of a departure from her former work though, sounding more like a James Bond soundtrack than an actual Rock song. I personally love it. The lush strings give the song a dreamy atmosphere and Anouk’s vocals have never sounded so warm. If it was really just about the song, this would have won. As for Anouk herself: being our nation’s number one Rock bitch, I’m sure she doesn’t care that she hasn’t won and has enjoyed the free publicity her new album ‘Sad Singalong Songs’ has gotten. Now go out and buy it.