‘Slagroom‘, Dutch for “whipped cream” is the second full-length offering by New York (genre names fail to fully describe the entire spectrum of what is at play here)-pop septet all boy/all girl. Featuring a vocalist, vocalist/ukulele player, guitarist, violist, cellist, double bassist and drummer, one might expect their music to be sonically dense, these seven musicians competing for the limelight all at once. Fortunately, this is not the case at all, instead they seem to aim for the writing of top-tier musical sections, often with only three or four voiced at a time, each giving one another space to showcase their full glory.
What might jump out to listeners at first (apart from the tragedy and disaster hiding out just below the patina of almost bubblegum shimmering pop radiance) are the vocals, their delivery, and how they stand out clearly in the mix. They carry poetic, somewhat purposefully ambiguous and occasionally very bleak lyrics, harmonised mostly in glorious parallel, but often flowing through to beautiful counterpoint, doing much musically with only two voices.
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The percussion should also be noted as considerably more technical, diverse and dynamic than of many other groups in this vein of music. It sounds wonderfully bright, but more importantly keeps the driving tempo in most of the songs. Subtle string-instrument chord shifts allow for the underlying emotions to permeate the joyful nature of the music, for a moment or two, showing us its seriousness. With the interplay of the changing chords and the other musical voices, ‘Slagroom’ breathes with ever-changing emotions that swell and warp, comparable to the narrative of everyday reality. Perhaps this is one of the reasons this album seems so genuine.
Production-wise, the aesthetic is distinctly more pop than of its predecessor, 2013’s ‘Tiny Iglesia‘, with less of a folky sound without ditching the instrumentation they do so well with, and with the strings sounding less typically orchestral in timbre.
It might be easy enough to write this off as just another cheery-sounding pop album with folk influences, thinking that surely this has all been done before. But this collection of songs can and should get under one’s skin in one listen, beckoning their audience back (and already it seems so familiar) to further explore the considerable depths lying beneath the surface. This album is dynamic, with ‘Threnody’ offering a change in pace to that kept by the driving percussion and songs such as ‘Pigeon’ standing out for different reasons:
“There is blood all over me,
I lay him down with my sorrow
And dig a hole with my car key,
A shallow grave for my friend and me.“