The best music of the week is from the Dutch indie king and a Norwegian cult band with self-deprecation

Personal Trainer

Hello Robert. What are you guessing this week?

‘It’s a happy day for Dutch pop music: the Amsterdam band Personal Trainer has released its first album. Big Love blanket (★★★★★, 10 tracks) is a delicious, exciting indie record. Explosive, but also very beautiful in the quiet songs. Intelligent, good lyrics, great hooks, smart guitar parts. And every song is lifted by frontman Willem Smit, who recites his lyrics beautifully. Personal Trainer is one of those bands that is going to do well outside of borders, and we don’t have that very often. They are already playing in England this week.

‘The band, which consists of six members in addition to the lead singer, revolves around Smit. In any case, he is a bit of a spider in the web in Amsterdam’s indie scene. His girlfriend is Pip Blom, lead singer in the band of the same name, so the two are truly the royal couple of indie.

‘You usually mention all kinds of bands they look like. The beautiful slow song milk sounds a bit like Paul McCartney, further on I also hear a bit of The Kinks, but also LCD Soundsystem. And you really hear the rich pop history that is inside Big blanket of love processed, but the band still has its own sound, they don’t copy anything.

“And even without all those associations from the past, the songs jump out of the speakers. The laser for example, a song you just want to dance to in a club has a nice bouncy guitar groove. And Personal Trainer keeps your attention on each song until the end, as reviewer Pablo Cabenda also writes.

‘Because it’s primarily a live band, they have relatively few listeners on the streaming platforms for the time being, of course they couldn’t play much in recent years. But: they present their album next Sunday at Concerto in Amsterdam, are the support act for De Staat and are also at the Le Guess Who festival in Utrecht. The big crowd will definitely come, especially with this album.’

So on to Norway with Darkthrone.

‘The first thing I noticed about the new Darkthrone was the album cover. The covers of this band were always very morbid and satanic in the nineties, but on the new record Astral Fortress (★★★★☆, 7 songs) you see an old metalhead skating on a Norwegian lake. It immediately indicates the direction of this record, that bit of self-deprecation.

‘Black metal was a rather nihilistic, evil movement in the nineties, but today it is the most innovative movement in heavy music. Darkthrone is with the world record A flame in the northern sky from 1992 one of the founders of the genre. on Astral Fortress they absolutely love the old idiom: it seems like they are now showing the beauty of music in an accessible way. And that beauty lies in the sadness and smallness of the long booming guitar chords, which are recorded very nicely on this record, with a very analog sound.

‘I have Astral Fortress I’ve heard it about thirty times now, I think. The numbers just grow on you. Darkthrone never became a big band, they never performed. But it is a legendary cult band. This album is also fun for new black metal listeners: it’s not a lot of noise, but actually a very accessible record.’

Also worth listening to this week:

The 98-year-old (!) alto saxophonist Marshall Allen has kept the legacy of jazz composer Sun Ra alive for thirty years in the Sun Ra Arkestra. He does that on the new album Living sky (★★★★☆, 7 songs) powerful and at times disturbing, supported by the wonderful melodies of the nineteen musicians who play along.

Peter van Rooijen excels as a clever songwriter and has focused on his new album Love, Death & Bob Ross (★★★★☆, 13 songs) devoted himself thoroughly to the arrangements, writes Joris Henquet. Expect musical nods to Brel and Doe Maar, on an album that is anything but bourgeois.

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