This time I will be switching things around for one of the best albums of all time; Sad Singalong Songs by the Dutch rock singer Anouk. Instead of writing a track-by-track review, I will review it as a whole, but individually too. The album is one of those should-have-been concept records a la LEMONADE by Beyoncé. It is a symphonic rock LP that will remind you to the best tracks by Lana Del Rey, yet with amazing vocals that have a certain soul reminiscence like Adele’s – full of timeless anthems that would have made Led Zeppelin scrap Stairway To Heaven in a heartbeat. In one word: AMAZING!
I would like you, the reader, to experience this review in a different way, so I ask you to play the album as you read through the text. One thing that is truly satisfying about this record is that every song is linked to the next one by ambient sounds such as cars driving through a lonely, wet street, this packs tight all the tracks into a full soundtrack of an untold story! To not make things too long, I will divide the review into three 3-4 smaller reviews.
(Click play on each video before reading the paragraph below)
A train starts its journey during the first seconds of “The Rules”, setting the mood of the album, representing a change – a lover that is going away perhaps? Right when the train seems far the song kicks off with a full cinematic brass ensemble, church organ and choir. Anouk sings about the rules of love, enumerating them in a bossy rock voice whilst the thunderous drum rolls and the orchestra follow along using a simple but effective dramatic melody over and over. A heavenly chorus builds up, using a series of demands to her lover to finally reach a climax where she says that if he does so, she “will absolutely love you“.
The whole song is constantly building up until being released in the chorus, it’s an emotional roller coaster where she switches between being doubtful to loving blindly. The lyrics portray perfectly this and every melody serves to this purpose. This opening track ends in a relaxed note, where she releases all her stress, the instrumentation helps in this since she literally moves from very compressed dramatic music to smooth church bells ringing.
“Rule number one – there will be no rules
Rule number two – that’s for you, that’s for you
Rule number three – when in doubt, there’s the door
Rule number four – tell me more, tell me more, tell me more”
Some conga drums are the transition and foundation to “Pretending As Always“, a straight up soundtrack ballad where the “Nobody’s Wife” singer complains about being sad after a break-up, at some points it sounds like she is singing about her lover cheating on her after he went somewhere else. The chorus hits hard, the orchestra and choir support Anouk’s voice, sounding like a massive worldwide anthem. During the second verse the choir questions how true was her love and whether she showed it or not, and she answers back, that’s one of the highlights of the song. In the choruses she claims that “they won’t love you like I love you” further confirming the theory of the cheating lover. At this point she is pleading him to come back, to start again.
“I looked at the ground, it’s filled with lies
When you got lost, I got so lonely
Give it time, don’t move on
Let it dry, time’s passing by so slowly “
Birds kicks off right when a few birds appear, after “Pretending As Always” finishes. Here, Anouk sings about dreams shattering down or, in the context of the album’s lyrics, the relationship finally ending. They describe a rather hopeless situation – birds falling down, not being able to fly – that I interpret as dreams or hopes that used to fly freely are just precipitating. The instrumentation takes the listener to a dreamy atmosphere, the clouds, and wanders around until expanding into the chorus which instead of hitting hard, it is like a shock wave of harps and strings that make you want to fly. The bridge builds up to an even bigger and more complex final chorus where you can see flocks of birds flying across the sky in spirals.
“Birds falling down the rooftops
Out of the sky like raindrops
No air, no pride
Birds don’t fly”
PART (II) WILL BE UPLOADED SOON