Stars on the Wall
Picture this: a warm early summer night. A golden ocean. A magnificent view. In the background, a record of modern pop songs is playing, nonchalant and elegant in equal measures, with touches of rock, dance and singer-songwriter introspection. Often, the tracks have an air of Fleetwood Mac's smooth chic, which they so unforgettably displayed on their classic Rumours album. Other songs bask in the naked, comfortable warmth of just a guitar, a voice and a microphone. Chords tumble out of a well-traveled Hammond organ, 25-year-old analog synths buzz and purr in the distance, and yet none of these songs sounds retro, not even for a split second. When Dieter Sermeus set out to write a follow-up to his 2004 The Go-Find debut, Miami, he felt he wanted to move away from solitary songwriting and recording, and involved his live band from a very early stage. Together, they crafted a collection of "good-sounding, danceable pop tunes" in a studio in his Antwerp hometown, which provided a warm and friendly environment, full of ancient keyboards and rare Moogs. The crisp electronic sounds which adorned most of the Miami tracks have all but disappeared: the new songs sound softer and often more sparse, with bass and drums painting twinkling constellations onto the night sky. With their precisely-placed rhythms and transparent sound, they feel instantly familiar, but upon repeated listening, a wealth of exquisite details and infectious melodies is gradually revealed. There's the aged synthie-transistors of "Beautiful Night" opening the album; or "Dictionary," which starts agreeably reserved, with dry drums and a pithy bass, until more ingredients are carefully added: hand claps, hook-lines, precise delays -- neon light. In "Downtown" however, moonshine softly lights up acoustic guitars and an amiable voice tells of how memories fade away. In the end, this is a record about looking back at the past, and searching for clues about how to approach the future.