So it turns out the Dutch are good for more than just a notch on the belt of youthful experience (see drug culture), absurdly long names (Jan Johannes Vennegoor of Hesselink), and melk (or milk). Now they can add their name to the worldwide indie scene as well, thanks in large part to Amsterdonians, Alamo Race Track.
A quartet made up from the ashes of former band, Redivider, ART put out an album back in '03 with some moderate success in the Netherlands and France and have played a few shows Stateside. The big waves, however, came with the onset of this thing called "YouTube." During the recording of their latest album, Black Cat John Brown, they were taped performing a semi-acoustic rendition of the title track at an Excelsior Records (their current label) anniversary party. The video was posted and racked up nearly 200,000 views within the first two weeks, sparking Dutch media to finally take notice of their homegrown boys. The buzz is warranted.
I haven't heard 03's Birds At Home, but I can say that Black Cat John Brown, is definitely worth taking notice of. It's a calm and cool pop album with just enough tendency to rock that you'll never quite grow bored. It starts off with the title track, named after the pesky cat that rubbed on lead singer Ralph Mulder's leg throughout the writing of the album. Its quick slide riff and electric keyboard samples mix in a sultry feline fashion to create a song about riding fence-lines under the moonlight, searching dark alleys and windowsills with enthusiastic curiosity. If there were a song to kick-start a flurry of buzz, this would be it.
The next highlight, and indeed the second single, is probably "Northern Territory," a song so catchy, you probably won't listen to the lyrics. Even if you do, they might not make sense, but one thing is for sure - they rhyme. "Go out yonder/Down by the water/Fight for glory/I'm in the Northern Territory." At least I think that's what he says. In the end it doesn't really matter because the melody is really damn catchy. Popping back and forth, plucking notes, it's going to be hard not to start singing along. Plus, the Dutch accent that tinges the edge of Mulder's voice is addictive. Other highlights - "My Heart" and "Lee J. Cobb Is Screaming A Lot."
To describe the sound... I've read comparisons to R.E.M., The Strokes and Radiohead, but I don't really hear that at all, if anything, maybe The Strokes. I don't like adding that sense of placement to a band unless necessary, but if you're looking for one I'd say imagine if instead of writing the last two Modest Mouse albums, Isaac Brock joined Peter, Bjorn & John. To me there are similarities with Brock's vocal styling and PB&J's reverb-folk-pop. Comparisons aside though, Alamo Race Track have got a good album on their hands, and with the right amount of love they should do quite well.