Album Review: Van Houten – Van Houten

A guide to relaxation: Forget chamomile tea, sod off ASMR, no thanks guided breathing, discard those fluffy blankets and squishy pillows. Instead, sit back, wrap your ears around Van Houten’s debut album and prepare to float away into the ether.

Recorded over just three days (wow!), Van Houten have released their beautiful self-titled debut album and it has proven to be a melodic masterpiece as well as a lyrical triumph. The quintet hail from Leeds (REPRESENT), comprised of Louis Sadler, Megan Lama, Frank Fairweather, Jake Ribton and Henry Beaumont. Their ethereal, dreamy sound is combined with deep, emotional lyrics which turn a critical eye on subjects such as mental health and relationships. The tracks are highly meditative, not just lyrically, but sonically as well.

Two songs were pre-released, the first of which (also the first track on the album) ‘Moon’ is a lovely place to begin. I really liked the rhythm section on this track; its bounce really compliments the flavours of the woozy guitar. Before even looking into the inspiration behind the song, I could taste a heartbreaking mournfulness. Confirmed by Sadler, the track “explores the fleeting qualities of love and the desperation of wanting to give somebody anything and everything. The line ‘You always leave so soon’ describes how a crush or loved one always seems to leave before the one chasing has chance to show the full potential of their affection.” Beautiful and moving, ‘Moon’ kicks off the album with a sense of emotional release.

Side note: something that cannot go unacknowledged is the hula-hooping skillz showcased in the music video – 10/10.

The next track, ‘Now That You’re Sitting Comfortably’ confirms this air of release. The title itself reinforces the warmth of this instrumental as well as demonstrating a playfulness from the band (another example being the final track ‘Thanks For Stopping By’). ‘Two Halves (Don’t Make a Whole)’ and ‘Questions I Forgot to Ask’ continue the languid sensibilities of lo-fi indie rock, lulling listeners into an eyes closed, slow sway (looks really good in public, trust me). ‘Running Scared’, the second pre-released track, introduces a change of pace with a quicker beat and more densely packed lyrics. This track kinda gave me ‘Junk Of The Heart’ vibez with its bubbly melodies and brooding lyrics.

Now, I could write an essay and why I love ‘Ever Changing Light’. The gentle intro is soon interrupted with this velvety drum/guitar combo which instantly blew me away. That melody by itself is a highlight of the album for me, soooo smooth and creamy. Twinkling keys meander alongside layered vocals, the enchanting chorus with its delightfully unexpected key change is the cherry on top. Following this is ‘Dearest Friends’ which drips with vibrato and distortion, Sadler’s crooning voice accentuates the lullaby quality of this track. Listening through my headphones, I actually think my feet lifted off the ground at the instrumental section three quarters of the way in. The album closes with ‘Thanks For Stopping By’, an angelic instrumental that closes with a round of applause – to which I unashamedly joined in.

Genres are becoming increasingly meaningless in the categorisation of music. Van Houten seem to showcase this through their kaleidoscopic sound which pulls inspiration from a variety of genres and moods. Their debut album has flavours of indie, lo-fi, jizz jazz (I see you Mac fans), neo-psychedelic, bedroom pop among many others. Van Houten are such a joy to listen to, their music is guaranteed to lower your blood pressure. GET FAMILIAR!

The verdict: Mashed potato. Comforting, creamy, oozing with butter, maybe the odd lump here and there to make you think. Sink into the fluffy potato clouds, aaaaaaaaaaaah   ~(^-^)~

Listen for yourself:

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