The sheer beauty of great songwriting: One More For Luck

Sometimes it seems so simple to make terrific art, great films, astonishing poetry or kick-ass music. Sometimes everything seems so in place one isn’t aware of the great deal of work that made it come true. Sometimes it’s just two boys from Holland, a guitar and a piano. And sometimes, one simply thinks it necessary to write a word or two about something in desperate need of being discovered. As some of you might have guessed already, I’m talking about One More For Luck, who have just released (albeit on-line) their nameless début demo –  a stunning example of simply great song-writing.

The two boys I’ve been talking about are called Wander Theunis (vocals and piano) and Tim Kroon (guitar and backing vocals). Both members of the successful Heerhugowaardian funk band Blue-Screen – further comprised of Ruben Addie and Daniël Doorman – they are not strangers to the world of independent music and live performances. Somewhere in the summer of 2009, they listened to their inner callings to further develop a small-scale singer-songwriter project they had been sporadically working on apart from their duty at Blue-Screen. They wrote and pre-recorded some songs and tried to find their own indie sound, inspired by the likes of John Mayer, Eddie Vedder, Fleet Foxes, and José Gonzalez. (I’m not making this stuff up – just check their Last.FM account.)

Tim Kroon and Wander Theunis at the "Hoosh presents..." event, November 28th, 2009.

It was somewhere during the Fall of 2009 that I, yours truly, asked them to score my short film No Longer Evening (or Nooit meer avond in its original Dutch title). Well, “to score” is not very impressive when I say the film actually hadn’t any music in it… But the OMFL boys, then still called Theunis & Kroon (similar to another favorite Dutch singer-songwriter couple), wrote and performed the film’s end credit song Evening Again. During the film’s première in November 2009, it turned out their song became the public’s favorite part of the film (well, it became my favorite part at the very least…). No Longer Evening got its first screening at the so-called Hoosh presents… event, which included One More For Luck’s first ever live performance! The boys got rave reviews following their 30-minute mini-concert, and this was the flying start they needed to professionalize their music.

My music video to accompany One More For Luck‘s song “Take”:

This resulted in this month’s début album One More For Luck, a neatly designed collection of seven pieces of honest indie song-writing. You should definitely listen for yourselves, but let me so bold to give you my two cents on every song.

1. Freedom Of Not Speaking

Tim Kroon’s almost organic affinity with his guitar is perfectly expressed by this opening song. Freedom Of Not Speaking is one of two instrumentals on the demo, and serves as a terrific prelude to the rest of the album. The one-minute song is definitely way too short (if I were to say it, I would let it go on for about a quarter of an hour at least!), but truly enchanting. From the first plucked accords on, it feels like you’re watching landscapes passing you by. (And I do not only say this because I used the song in one of my latest videos).

2. The Why

I have to admit: at first, I did not particularly like this song. It’s more heavy-handed than the rest of the songs that are part of this album. But, after a while, The Why manages to grow on you. Though the first minute or so reminds us a little bit too heavily of some parts of the emo-rock music culture, it suddenly builds up to an unexpected musical bridge that reveals a welcome taste for experimenting. It serves as proof of their musical control and knowledge that the two boys never let The Why go astray.

3. Running Like Woody

Running Like Woody is, simply put, my favorite song of this album. It is a loving and warm homage to the greatest of now-living film directors, Woody Allen, and the complex love situations of his all-time masterpiece Manhattan (1979). I’ve previously quoted this song’s refrain somewhere here at my blog, but the song’s full of great lyrics (“I’ve been lying, counting sheep/Fell in love and not asleep”) and terrific musical riffs. The use of bass is subtle but provides the song with a good deal of volume and depth. Wander Theunis’s voice has seldom been better as he smoothly delivers the brilliantly written lyrics. Running Like Woody is a musical version of a Woody Allen film: sharp, witty, light-hearted and funny, yet, at the same time, with a very emotional and honest core and an intelligent insight into everyday life. (And, I have to add, I am very proud of the fact that this song has been, at one point, dedicated to me… :D)

4. Strawberry Swing

Of course, we all know the inimitable Coldplay song by the same name. Strawberry Swing is one of Coldplay’s best-written songs, a beautiful symbiosis of challenging music and terrific lyrics. It is extremely daring of the One More For Luck boys to have chosen this difficult and multi-layered song to cover for their début album. Luckily for them (and for us, naturally), it all turns out really well. They have wisely decided to translate the Coldplay masterpiece into their own indie vocabulary. Strawberry Swing features some great guitar-plucking by Tim Kroon, who transforms the original song’s rather deviant musical structure into an easy-going, and actually quite beautiful riff, supported by mix master Jim Kreeftenberg‘s hammond organ. Wander Theunis pours his heart and soul into the song (a Coldplay lover, ay?) and does so with grand results. Of course, his voice is not Chris Martin’s, but he never tries to match him – instead, he gives his own spin to the song and delivers the message really well.

5. Introductions

While the fifth song on this album had some difficulties being performed live at the Hoosh presents… event last year, it is a smoothly flowing piece in its studio-recorded version. Although I am not very fond of the way this song has been recorded (a bit shallow and flat, without the body the song has when being performed live), the song-writing is good enough to let us forget any technical weakness. It is, again, a difficult song to perform, but it has a terrific and terrifically fierce soul and core. Wander Theunis’s performance is very strong and heartfelt, making us wonder what kind of situation made him write the lyrics (“I’ll just have to wait and see/whether your character matches your face!”). Tim Kroon’s guitar contribution is nothing short of dazzling, playing the instrument in perfect unison with Wander’s piano. A great song that deserves a better recording, with more emphasis on the bass, the backing vocals and the double guitars.

6. Evening Again

This is actually the song the One More For Luck boys have written for my short film’s end credits. No Longer Evening would not have had the same emotional impact without this terrific instrumental song. It is a perfectly controlled and performed song, a fluent teamwork of a guitar and a piano. It hits you on a core level without having to be any bigger than it is. Its sheer simpleness is enough to deliver the message. Even without the brilliant film that it was written for (ahum), it is a terrific accomplishment.

7. Liberator

This song will be the future Hit Single at 3FM, a Dutch radio station. It is so vivid, so joyous, so exciting and so frivolous that it sticks in your mind for days, or even weeks, to come. Although it is a (way too) short song, it manages to combine Bob Dylan, Pete Yorn, John Mayer and other hip indie artists without ever being unoriginal or pretentious. Liberator is just a fun song, full of catchy tunes and well-thought lyrics. A true gem to end a terrific album!

I think I have said enough. Just enjoy One More For Luck (see below) and let me know what you think!

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