After four years and three albums, the Belgian indie-pop band strike back with a brand new record, Fever, released on Play It Again Sam.
Image Credit: Thomas Nolf
Following their 2013 third album, Thin Walls, the five-piece band took a self-imposed hiatus. In this time, frontmen and writing partners, Jinte Deprez and Maarten Devoldere embarked on solo projects to delve into their different interests, both personal and creative.
When reuniting, the band had no idea on what direction they were going to take with the “comeback album” - all they knew was that they wanted to better Balthazar. The songwriting naturally fell into a laid-back, loose and fun visual, Devoldere explained, “Some songs felt like classic Balthazar pop songs, others a little chipper, but it wasn’t until we had ‘Fever’ that we had the foundation for the rest of the album.”
‘Fever’, the title track and opener of the album welcomes you with open arms into the new world of Balthazar. It is clear that the 5-piece have changed, with a rolling relaxed bass riff, ‘Fever’ is a Cali sunset, a metaphor for the laissez-faire life. This immediate impression carries on throughout the album. With an honest and care-free aesthetic, Fever perfectly exhibits how their solo projects have influenced their most cohesive album yet.
The hiatus saw Deprez stay at home; working in his studio in Ghent, reigniting his lost love of old school R&B and in turn, releasing music under the name J. Bernardt. In another world was Delvodere, who found himself at a retreat in Kyrgyzstan where he released two lavish, moody art-jazz albums under the pseudonym Warhaus.
These two separate adventures freed them of the limitations that they had put on themselves with Balthazar. Because of this time apart to create music that allowed them to indulge their interests without jeopardising the band, two songwriters were able to re-join forces and create a stellar album as Balthazar.
‘Entertain’ possesses an anthemic vibe. With a cocktail of unidentifiable instruments and confident vocals, this track shouts jazz and blues unobtrusively; the orchestration of the revisited violin, brass and a bluesy electric guitar is so perfectly crafted to create an illusion of a spontaneous “jam session”.
The single, ‘I’m Never Gonna Let You Down’, sees Deprez on lead vocals with contagious bridges and vocal arrangements that complement each other. The track conveys an almost Tame Impala-esque virtue with the bassline and the vocal pitch. It represents a real combination of influences from indie, pop and R&B.
The record certainly maintains the same Balthazar aesthetic and it is clear who they are; yet there is just something different. There’s more to their sound, they have ditched the melancholic tone that was present in their previous work, each track on Fever has a funky beat, a contagious rhythm to the vocals and one hell of a bass line.
Album closer, ‘You’re So Real’ slows down Fever with what could easily be the comedown to an intense action movie. Once again, this track infuses jazz tones with low smooth saxophone appearances and again, a rolling bass riff that cements that sultry Balthazar sound.