Short, but sweet, Van Houten’s debut drifts between swirling fog and radiant sunshine, layering mellow vocals upon dulcet guitar tones and soft piano, whilst infusing subtle hints of melancholy.
Picture rolling hills encased in the warm glow of the sunset, and you just about sum up the presence of the entire record. From the drowsy notes of ‘Questions I Forgot to Ask’, to the faster paced riffs of ‘Running Scared’, ‘Van Houten’ is the quintessential soundtrack to the final spells of summer – it’s hard to believe it was recorded across three cold December days.
Throughout the album, lead singer Louis Sadler reflects on personal mental health issues; projecting sincere lyricism onto a background of dreamy piano notes, subdued drums, and delicate guitar. The contrast of the seemingly upbeat melody of ‘Running Scared’, against the pensive lyrics “I’m looking for a happy ending // But it seems like everybody’s got their own” displays the juxtaposition between the darkness of one’s own struggles, and the apparently happy lives of other people.
‘Ever Changing Light’ is a standout track, intertwining breezy harmonies with a lulling melody and tender guitar riffs. With the album produced by Martin Smith, this is the track where the band began to find their ‘true sound’, “The way Martin made the track sound made us realise what could be possible for our music. It was a match made in heaven.“
In the final notes of the record, the smooth transition of ‘Dearest Friend’ into ‘Thanks For Stopping By’ offers feelings of nostalgia, reminiscent of wistful goodbyes to old friends, and leaves you wishing for more.
Van Houten’s debut album may not be lengthy in duration, but its quality and potential longevity far surpasses the records of more high-profile indie-pop artists.