Dutch singer Wouter Hamel recorded a perfect set of cleverly crafted pop songs on his 2009 album “Nobody’s Tune” and subsequently released four more highly enjoyable sets. With “Little Torch”, which came out last November, he has come up with his most intimate and satisfying album to date. He’s the most tender and gentle on the 13 tracks, mostly written by himself and producer Lilian Hak. The songs circle around love lost and found and all sound so authentic and vulnerable like nothing he recorded before. The title track comes across as a mystical plea of leading his lover to him, and the opening piece “Never Been In Love Before” is even more haunting, underlined by a rarely heard theremin, played by Lilian.
“Close Range” sounds like a track from a Tarantino movie, with lyrics still staying in a melancholic mood: “I faded you out, you’re still coming in hot/You’re like a melody I thought I forgot”. Sometimes a trumpet is added on this extremely subdued set, like on the brilliant “Giant Dream”, which really sounds like a timeless piece. Wouter is back to his brilliant pop songwriting on the slightly more uptempo “The Spell”, one of those tantalizing hooks included and great backing vocals too. And he gets autobiographical and very personal again on “Games We Play” when he sings “there used to be nights when I couldn’t find the heart to sing, oh all I longed for was to sing – it is everything”. Conveyed as a bittersweet jazz ballad with trumpet again by Ruud Breuls, Wouter’s voice sounds pretty adept and sophisticated, especially in the lower registers.
Side two (yes we’re talking vinyl here) opens with yet another brutally honest piece called “Chasing Beauty”, one of the highlights of the set with Wouter meandering over a slightly swinging groove singing about his lover’s straying through the night: “Do you ever think about me when you’re in his arms? You’re out chasing beauty while I spend another night alone/I don’t mind it – I got my guitar”. Sounds so familiar to me spending whole nights out in Kreuzberg while someone was waiting at home…Wouter’s extremely strong and persuading voice can be witnessed on “Dolphin Boy”, another great ballad and just when you ask yourself if this is all too much to bear after another jazzy and slow “Belvedere”, he comes up with the happy-go-lucky “Lucky Streak”, a beautiful, optimistic little ditty where he shares vocals with Lilian. And he returns to his melancholic and forlorn best on the dramatic album closer “Till April”: I’ll wait for you till April/While you are far away/I’ll wait for you all winter/if you write me everyday”.
“Little Torch” is out on blue vinyl and Wouter tours the Netherlands extensively from March 17th to May 21st.Follow: