Dutch musician and composer Stephen Emmer has enjoyed a successful career for over 50 years. His eclectic body of works spans a multitude of genres and professional incarnations; from working as a new wave artist in the 80s with the electronic/art band Minny Pops, to working on soundtracks for Dutch television companies. His last album Recitement featured spoken word pieces from the likes of Lou Reed, Sylvia Kristel, and others, set to his music. His latest project, the album International Blue, is a tribute to the late Billy Mackenzie of The Associates, and features the vocals of Glenn Gregory.
International Blue is a collection of ten dramatic and masculine torch ballads. This elegant and string-filled record is heavy with wounded sounds of lost love and a 60s pop sensibility. It suffers a little bit from being quite samey throughout, but gets away with it due to the succinct length of the album. With immaculate production from Tony Visconti, most of the songs unfold as theatrical stories that ebb and flow with a maturity rarely heard from male musicians these days. A massive standout is the track ‘Untouchable’, perfectly combining intense string sections, affecting piano, and heavy drums.
Proper pop crooning, especially from gentlemen, is an art that’s fairly lost in the current days of urban or EDM flavoured pop music. This makes International Blue a bit of a rare treat for fans of a good torch ballad. Despite Emmer’s connection with the retro music industry, International Blue, is in fact a very current sounding album, only strengthened by Emmer’s knowledge of old-school pop/rock roots.
Standout Tracks: ‘Untouchable’ / ‘Let the Silence Hold You’
[Greg White - 12-07-2014]