Confident second album from Dutch power-poppers Snow Coats.
Release Date: 9th September 2021
Label: Alcopop! Records
You might have come across Snow Coats, because the Dutch power-poppers are making a good number of increasingly powerful waves, just at the moment. The band’s 2020 EP, Pool Girl received rave reviews from all over the place and their constant gigging, in The Netherlands, Europe and the UK – often supporting the likes of Pinegrove, Ratboys, Future Teens and Sea Girls – is causing music lovers everywhere to sit up and take notice. And now, to hopefully take things a stage further, comes their second album, the quirkily-titled If It Wasn’t Me, I Would’ve Called It Funny.
Hailing from the town of Doetinchem, near Arnhem in the Eastern Netherlands, Snow Coats are: Anouk van der Kemp (guitar, mandolin and vocals), Daan Ebbes (guitar and vocals|), Frank Peters (bass) and Joost Ebbes – twin brother of guitarist Daan – on drums. Anouk is the band’s lyricist and, by heck, it’s a role she takes very seriously indeed. Her material, invariably inspired by real-life experiences, cover subjects like social anxiety, love and loss, the awkwardness of young adulthood and navigating changing friendships. They’re complicated, often fraught, subjects, and Anouk holds nothing back as she commits her innermost thoughts to paper and song.
The often challenging (but never humourless) lyrical content, is mainly cast into a musical framework that is punchy, poppy, tight and refreshing. It’s quite a contrast, but it works wonderfully – If It Wasn’t Me, I Would’ve Called It Funny is a pleasure. It’s fun, invigorating and a genuine breath of fresh air.
Snow Coats seem to take pleasure in giving quirky titles to their albums. The band’s 2018 debut album was christened Take the Weight off Your Shoulders and, this time around, they’ve turned the quirk-meter up to eleven! Anouk explains the incident that inspired the new album’s title: “The idea for the album title came after a night when I left a restaurant, and, as I waved and said goodbye to the people who worked there, I did, in fact, not go out through the exit door, but walked into the men’s bathroom. Very awkward for me, very awkward for the people who worked there, but if someone else had told me this story, I would’ve laughed.
The wordiness of the songs, and the punchiness of the tunes is established as a pattern from the outset. Opening track For a Moment oozes those qualities; it’s fresh and tight and just a little punky. Anouk delivers the intricate lyrics with confidence, with a voice that is light and vulnerable whilst holding an assertiveness that the listener would be advised to heed. The album’s second single, Anyway is a poppier number; less punky maybe than For a Moment, but strong and punchy nevertheless, and it’s an early album highlight. It’s one of Anouk’s social anxiety reflections and lines like “We are past serene, Make it so obscene, that it’s gonna haunt me for days” are a good example of the lyrical angst with which Anouk packs her songs.
And it’s Anouk’s challenging lyrics that are the focus of current single, Dinosaur – a love letter to indecisiveness, as Anouki calls it. As she explains: “I’ve always been very bad at making decisions. Dinosaur is about me asking people to be patient with me. And, with lines like: “Wish I could travel the world in an atlas, so I could try and avoid all interactions,” she takes that request for patience to some pretty extreme levels! And things don’t get any less intense with OK OK (Sue), a song in which Anouk seeks reassurance and attention from the song’s lead character, the mysterious Sue. Is Sue an alter-ego? I’m not sure, but, typically for this album, I found myself swaying along to the bass-rich, poppy tune whilst pondering Anouk’s emotional, slightly disconcerting lyrics.
On the third single, Chevy, Anouk’s lyrics deal with the awkwardness of conversation, by way of a call and response between guitarist Daan and Anouk, and it’s probably the most overtly punk song on the album. Perhaps my favourite in the collection is the album’s lead single, Right Fit, an instantly likeable, powerful song with lyrics that, like several others, describe efforts to resolve a difficult relationship (and they even namecheck The Smiths!) Anouk elaborates on the lyrical content: “Right Fit is about growing apart from someone. You keep trying to do the right thing but you feel like you’re just never going to be enough. You know things have run their course but you don’t want to say it out loud just yet. It’s always hard to admit that you’re growing apart from someone because you both changed. I’m really bad at having difficult conversations like that so I usually just wait until someone confronts me and I can’t avoid it anymore. Anouk’s pleading vocals are backed by jangly guitars, a soaring bassline and snaps of acoustic guitar – and it sounds wonderful!
That same mix of gentle acoustic guitar, chiming electric guitars and rumbling bass provides the foundation for Amber. Anouk delivers a delightful vocal as she sings of self-reflection and insecurity. The emotions stirred by a fractured relationship provide the subject matter for Since We Met, but, again, it’s not a gloomy song. The tune is bright, the bass is solid and Anouk’s humour – never far below the surface – is in ample evidence as she informs her erstwhile partner “I would like you to know, for what it’s worth, that I’m keeping all your shirts!”
Penultimate track, Too Good, is, perhaps, the most extraordinary track on the album. It was recorded in Anouk’s bedroom and features just her voice and acoustic guitar, with a few spacy effects added in by Joost after the event. It’s a welcome and effective counterpoint to the power pop that otherwise dominates the album.
And that brings us to the enigmatic Marie, the album’s closing track and, in many ways, its most challenging song. As in OK OK (Sue) Anouk’s lyrics concern a conversation (or, in this case, the composition of a letter that is never going to be sent) to a mysterious character – again a potential alter-ego. The mysterious Marie is asked for help, advice or guidance that will enable Anouk to become a better person than she perceives herself to be. And the tune, which builds as the song progresses, is as intense as the lyrics!
If It Wasn’t Me, I Would’ve Called It Funny is a fascinating album. The contrast between the crisp poppiness of the tunes and the intensity of the lyrics is interesting and, as I’ve already remarked, it works! Highly enjoyable!!
Listen to Right Fit – the album’s lead single – here: