Balthazar
Rats


4.0
excellent

Review

by Olivier De Clercq CONTRIBUTOR (37 Reviews)
February 9th, 2013 | 13 replies | 1,113 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist


Hailing from the small Belgian town Kortrijk, a city bursting with creative talent, Balthazar debuted a couple of years ago with the dificult to catagorize but splendid Applause, an album that's hard to pinpoint but having a level of magnificence rarely seen within the Belgian music scene. Well deserved, the album achieved small success internationally, resulting in the follow-up Rats being given an international release right from the start. Needless to say, my expectations and those of many fellow countrymen were raised to sky-level for this one.

But Rats itself guilelessly continues where Applause left off, starting with the first single 'The Oldest Of Sisters', a song containing all the recognizable characteristics of a Balthazar track - most evidently that delightful bass sound of Simon Casier. The bass guitar again acts as the sturdy spine of most of the songs on here, and that's something to be very pleased with. Yet, the groove doesn't act as the summum bonum this time around, because songs like 'The Man Who Owns The Place' and 'Lions' Mouth' (which could almost be mistaken for a Beirut hit) sound looser, are given more space to move themselves towards your ear channels and receive more room to breathe. No revolution, but instead an evolution is to be found here: Balthazar just let it hang out for a change.

At the same time, the addition of extra piano flavors and an inspiring brass section gives Rats a wider, more relaxed soundstage than Applause. A lot of songs begin on a shy note, but slowly start to open up and blossom into marvelous little pop songs. The perfect example being 'Listen Up' which starts off with some quiet, intimate guitar plucks and the lovely nagging voice of Jinte Deprez (which remains an acquired taste, sure), but ends up as an anthem of sorts for the summer festivals; though instead of the Coachellas of the world, rather think of your local park festival.

Deprez again tandems with Maarten Devoldere for vocal duties. The second voice of Balthazar comes off as even more nagging as Deprez', close to becoming neurotic, even, but those unruly vocals are at the same time one of the biggest charms of the band. The semi-parlando approach is by the way excellent support for the lyrical content. "From my pen you expected the sweet honey to drip, but my words they come out, like rats leaving a sinking ship", next to being one of the more memorable lines, also holds the explanation of the album title. The melancholy and gloominess rule once again over the instant lightheartedness, but it's more a question of acquiescence and content than drowning oneself in a black pool of depressing thoughts. "I just wanted you to taste the ink", it sounds rather apologetic, but there's really no need: Balthazar remains one of the few bands who can write beautiful poetry without starting to sound mushy.

Taken as a whole, Rats just falls short of Applause by a hair - there's no new 'Blood Like Wine' to be found here, unfortunately - but the second Balthazar is again a record to cherish. Not much has changed, but then again: never change a winning team right? Right. Rats is a lovely record to spend the fall or winter with. It has a certain warmth that's hard to find anywhere else and a sparkling sound that's very difficult to compare with other artists in the field. Heck, our very own Ponton has compared its predecessor with Gorillaz, of all people. Furthermore, the album holds a particular poetic tristesse that can affect my mood in the best possible way, the more I listen to it. Live, they have a habit to come over as rather precarious at times, but their studio work can to this date only be described as residing in a league of its own. Do yourself a favor and discover it for yourself.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
February 9th 2013



6248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'd definitely like some feedback for this one, guys.

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2013



3013 Comments


All right, since no one has done it yet, I'll give feedback:

the small Belgian town Kortrijk, a city bursting with creative talent,

I kind of feel like you should give some examples of that creative talent. I don't really know what you're talking about otherwise.

the uncatagorizable

I don't quite think this is untrue - there's basically a category for everything if you try hard enough (which isn't always a good thing, but it's true). "Difficult to categorize" might work better

Well deserved, the album achieved small success internationally,

The album achieved some well-deserved success internationally

Needless to say, my expectations and those of many fellow countrymen were raised to sky-level for this one.

You don't really have to bring yourself into the review unless you're really going to make it the focus right from the start. You haven't talked about your expectations at all before, you might as well just say "many people's expectations were high" or something.

But Rats itself guilelessly continues where Applause left off, starting with the first single 'The Oldest Of Sisters', a song containing all the recognizable characteristics of a Balthazar track - most evidently being that delightful bass sound of Simon Casier.

1. The "But" at the beginning is kinda confusing, I'd take it out.
2. "most evidently that delightful..." is better, take the "being" out

that's something to be very pleased with.

"that's a good thing" is shorter and to the point more. Because after all who is very pleased by things? Also ending sentences with prepositions is typically not a good idea.

No revolution, but instead an evolution is to be found here: Balthazar just let it hang out for a change.

Excellently placed thesis, and with a slight rewording it would be even better. I'd say something like "Rats isn't a revolution, but rather an evolution..."

The perfect example being 'Listen Up'

"is," not "being"

no Coachella though, rather think of your local park festival.

Could be phrased better, something like "not of the Coachellas of the world, but of the local park festivals instead."

close to becoming neurotic even

could use a comma after "neurotic"

More feedback on my next comment. This is an excellent review, make no mistake. The ideas are solid and well-expressed. All I'm really helping with is tidying up.

Digging: Todd Terje - It's Album Time

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2013



3013 Comments


The semi-parlando approach is by the way excellent support for the lyrical content.

Could do with a taking out of "by the way," it looks unprofessional and shoddy.

The melancholy and gloominess rule once again over the instant lightheartedness, but it's more a question of acquiescence and content than drowning oneself in a black pool of depressing thoughts.

I feel like "instant lightheartedness" is meaningless without an addition like "instant lightheartedness of the pop feel" or something, if that's what you mean.

"I just wanted you to taste the ink",

Minor nitpick: punctuation goes inside quotation marks. Also, I feel like a period would be better (or a taking out of this altogether) because otherwise it leads into a run-on sentence.

who can write out

Scratch the "out."

but then again: never change a winning team right

I'd phrase this slightly better, because otherwise it sounds unprofessional in an entirely professionally-done review. Something like "but Balthazar may be wise to not change their winning formula" would work better IMO.

that can affect my mood in the best possible way, the more I listen to it.

Again, an unnecessary bringing in of "me" - I'd say "one" or "listeners" or "people" instead.

to come over as rather precariously at times

precarious

Overall good review, have a pos. It feels like at times you're struggling with your English and make minor slip-ups in your professional demeanor that works so well for the most part. That's my main complaint, though - as I said before, your ideas are spot-on, and your organization is excellent. Nice work!

Adash
February 9th 2013



1356 Comments


For someone with an easily angering name you sure are nice with your advice

Clerq, I've gone blind from staring into Le Regle De Jeu, so I will persure this more throughly when I regain my sight. Still, your command of English is excellent. Be you Flem or Walloooon?

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2013



3013 Comments


Haha thanks I guess, I try to be helpful

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 9th 2013



23650 Comments


Be you Flem or Walloooon?


lol'd

clerc you're on a roll.

brostepguy great avatar

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
February 10th 2013



6248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Flem ;]

Wow, thanks for the advice Brostep, I'll respond in a minute!

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
February 10th 2013



6248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I kind of feel like you should give some examples of that creative talent. I don't really know what you're talking about otherwise.


I actually omitted that because it's easy to look up info and I feel it would unnecessarily lenghten my review. Some bands from Kortrijk are: Goose, SX and Amenra, who all put out albums last year.


I don't quite think this is untrue - there's basically a category for everything if you try hard enough (which isn't always a good thing, but it's true). "Difficult to categorize" might work better

Yes, I meant it that way actually. I just love exaggeration and hyperbole :] Fixed it.

The album achieved some well-deserved success internationally

Is my sentence actually wrong here? Because I feel this correction changes the sentiment I was going for here... I'll think about it how I can word it better.

You don't really have to bring yourself into the review unless you're really going to make it the focus right from the start. You haven't talked about your expectations at all before, you might as well just say "many people's expectations were high" or something.

I don't know, that's just kinda my style I'm afraid. I usually write in a descriptive, professional manner, but sometimes I'll let my voice shine through because I think it makes my reviews a bit more fun and easy to read.


1. The "But" at the beginning is kinda confusing, I'd take it out.
2. "most evidently that delightful..." is better, take the "being" out

I usually try to connect paragraphs, rather than make them seperate entities, because I think it flows better. That's why the "but" is there at the beginning. Second remark is fixed!

"that's a good thing" is shorter and to the point more. Because after all who is very pleased by things? Also ending sentences with prepositions is typically not a good idea.

I was very pleased by it. ;] This is again a difference in style between you and my, I think. You're more direct, I like more flowery sentences. I'll think about how I can change it.

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
February 10th 2013



6248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Excellently placed thesis, and with a slight rewording it would be even better. I'd say something like "Rats isn't a revolution, but rather an evolution..."

Again the flowers

"is," not "being"

Same here.

Could be phrased better, something like "not of the Coachellas of the world, but of the local park festivals instead."

Fixed!

could use a comma after "neurotic"

Fixed

I'll change some more, later. I got to go now. But thanks for the feedback man, I appreciate it.

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
February 10th 2013



6248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Could do with a taking out of "by the way," it looks unprofessional and shoddy.

I thought that was okay actually. Does it really look that bad?

I feel like "instant lightheartedness" is meaningless without an addition like "instant lightheartedness of the pop feel" or something, if that's what you mean.

I mean the content of the lyrics. The overall feel they provide. If you listen to the record and the previous one, that becomes clear. It's a sentence that I include to spark an interest in the reader to find out what I exactly mean.

Minor nitpick: punctuation goes inside quotation marks. Also, I feel like a period would be better (or a taking out of this altogether) because otherwise it leads into a run-on sentence.

Yeah, I struggled with this one, because I want the quote to connect with the following sentence. A period just breaks the flow, but the comma isn't all that either... I'm thinking about what's the best way to change the sentence.

Scratch the "out."

Fixed

I'd phrase this slightly better, because otherwise it sounds unprofessional in an entirely professionally-done review. Something like "but Balthazar may be wise to not change their winning formula" would work better IMO.

Again, I include such sentences because I think it makes my reviews more fun to read. The change you give here is indeed more professional, but it also make the review more impersonal I feel...

Again, an unnecessary bringing in of "me" - I'd say "one" or "listeners" or "people" instead.

See above.

precarious

Fixed.

Again, thanks for the input Brostep! I didn't agree with all of it, but do enjoy discussing writing style and thinking about different approaches to reviewing.

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2013



3013 Comments


Thanks a ton for responding in such depth! It really makes it worthwhile to post feedback like I do when the author of the review is willing to consider it with such effort like you just did. Cheers, and looking forward to future reviews from you

scissorlocked
February 24th 2013



3479 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

clercq reviewing rats!

just noticed that man- review is really good!

Digging: Fantastic Mr Fox - Sketches

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2013



6248 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man! :]

I actually forgot you reviewed it already, otherwise I wouldn't have submitted mine. This album still makes me proud to be from Belgium.



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