Live Footage: Palace Winter’s Tennis Court Session–“1996”

The Copenhagen, Denmark-based pop duo and JOVM mainstays  Palace Winter — Australian-born, Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter Carl Coleman and Danish-born, Copenhagen-based producer and classically trained pianist Caspar Hesselager — built upon a rapidly growing profile regionally and internationally, with the release of their sophomore album 2018’s Nowadays

Nowadays found the Danish pop duo firmly cementing their sound — carefully crafted, melodic and hook-driven, 70s AM radio rock-inspired pop paired with deep thematic concerns. Thematically, the Danish act’s sophomore album touched upon the loss of innocence and adulthood; the freedom and power that comes as one takes control of their life and destiny; and the the sobering life lessons that come about as one gets older.

Palace Winter’s third album . . . Keep Dreaming Buddy was released earlier this year through the band’s longtime label home Tambourhinoceros Records. Unlike their previously released material, the album was written through a long distance correspondence, as the band’s Carl Coleman was residing in an empty, retro hotel in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. Coleman’s lyrics were inspired by Tenerife’s unique landscape while drawing metaphorical parallels between Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano, which is also one of Spain’s tallest peaks, and the looming fear of a relationship about to disintegrate.

“I was walking around this weird volcano island. The retro hotel was like a forgotten paradise resort. The whole thing felt like a Lynchian alternate reality,” Palace Winter’s Carl Coleman recalls. “Caspar was sending me these synth hooks and drum loops from Denmark, so I started coming up with melodies and lyrical ideas to record into my phone.” And as a result, the album is figuratively and literally a tale of two cities and two completely different — yet oddly related — emotional states.

Over the past handful of months, I’ve written about four of the album’s released singles: 

  • Top of the Hill,” was a great example of the album’s overall tale of two cities and two completely different emotional states. Featuring shimmering and icy synths, thumping beats and an enormous, arena rock friendly hook paired with Coleman’s volcanic imagery-based lyrics, the song captures the bubbling dissatisfaction, boredom, frustration and distrust of a relationship about to boil over and explode. 
  • Won’t Be Long,” . . . .Keep Dreaming Buddy‘s second single was an expansive song that featured elements of arena rock, glam rock and synth pop, complete with a rousingly anthemic hook, a crunchy power chord-driven riff, shimmering synth arpeggios and strummed guitar. But interestingly enough, the song is actually deceptively and ironically upbeat as it tackles the anxiety of anticipatory grief, as it focuses on a narrator, who is preparing for the inevitable loss of a dear, loved one. Loss and despair are always around the corner, indeed. 
  • Deeper End,” the album’s third single was a decidedly genre-defying affair that found the duo pushing their sound in a new direction without changing the essentially elements of the sound that has won them attention internationally. Featuring an infectious hook, shimmering synth arpeggios and strummed guitar, the breezy song is one part synth pop. one part 70s AM rock, one part country — but while centered around an unusual juxtaposition: the song as the band’s Carl Coleman explains is “a story about a bad trip at a weird house party I went to with my sister.” Granddaddy’Jason Lytle contributes a guest verse to the song, a verse in which his character dispenses harsh yet very trippy truths to the song’s hallucinating and anxious narrator.
  • Richard (Says Yes),” a playful, thematic left turn that finds the duo writing a big, upbeat party them — but while pushing their sound in a new direction. Centered around their unerring knack for crafting an anthemic hook, “Richard (Says Yes)” is a remarkably proggy take on their sound. 

Earlier this year, the duo, along with their backing band filmed a live session from the tennis court of Copenhagen hotel, practically abandoned as a result of the pandemic. So in some way, the live session finds the band returning to the sort of surrealistic hotel scenes, which informed the album’s material. The sessions included live versions of two of my favorite songs off the album — the aforementioned “Won’t Be Long” and “Top of the Hill.”

The last Tennis Session features . . . Keep Dreaming Buddy‘s latest single , the slow-burning “1996.” Featuring a shimmering synth arpeggios, stuttering drumming, strummed acoustic guitar and a bluesy electric guitar solo paired with Coleman’s plaintive vocals, “1996” describes a romantic relationship at a major crossroads in which both parties don’t quite know if it’s worth fighting for or not. Sonically, the song — to my ears at least — manages to bring The CarsDrive” to mind, as it possesses a similar longing to get it right one way or the other.

Unlike the previous videos, this particular session eventually pans into the empty hotel. which gives the entire proceedings a dream-like feel.