Each time I sit and listen to Van Houten, I just lose my mind in those lazy trippy jangling but very pleasantly gently jarring guitars, and the calming slow steady breathy vocals. Fans of gentle lounge wear shoegaze will be right at home here. Y’know I think Van Houten could cover George Formby’s 1936 horror When I’m Cleaning Windows and it would still sound dreamy and perfect.
In a musical catalogue of pretty perfect, new EP Home Alone totally hits the spot for Van Houten. If I were to torture myself with needles under my finger nails to persuade me to gasp out a favourite track, I think I’d plumb for the slightly higher pace of You and Me. There’s a gentle guitar start, a languid heartbeat of a beat and a dreamy tune which slowly, ever so slowly builds up into a gentle puff. The song lyrics are suitably real and profound and it’s about a love which erodes and fades, as it descends on that sliding journey from fascination to slow irritation, slight contempt and onward to worse.
Opener Not Me is a deceptive critter as it is probably one of the more grander, almost orchestral tunes in Van Houten’s catalogue with quite a 70’s prog rock vibe (I have thoughts of Caravan in my head; now that’s a band name that hasn’t graced many music review references in a decade or four). The track gives a great bit of variation to the EP and it’s a class act.
If Nick Drake was 20 in 2020, he might sound a bit like Van Houten. Closing track Second Thoughts is one of those songs you stop breathing for; it is that delicate. Just imagine a moment if you inspired someone to write a song like this.
Previously released What I Need makes up the perfect quartet in this EP. The lyrics on this song are delicious; about how hard and scary life is, how there are always insecurities but how facing it with a loved one can make it easier. I know I like to think I’m solidly independent but I’d truly be in dire straits without my love, so this song really speaks both to and for me.
Listening to Van Houten is like a sunny afternoon lazing down the Dordogne River in a canoe, glass of some something you fancy in hand, while being mesmerized by the sheer beauty and majesty of the Kingfishers darting across the water surface, and spotting the odd French chateau amongst the trees on the horizon. Can’t recommend it high enough.
* Images taken from Van Houten’s social media