Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a lot about Belgian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Maarten Devoldere, best known for being the frontman of two critically applauded, internationally recognized JOVM mainstays Balthazar and Warhaus. Interestingly, Devoldere’s work with Warhaus managed to recall The Church, The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun era Sting, Edith Piaf, and Leonard Cohen.
While Devoldere was busy with Warhaus, at one point writing much of the project’s sophomore album in a remote retreat in Kyrgyzstan, his longtime friend, songwriting partner and Balthazar bandmate Jinte Deprez remained in Ghent, focusing on his old school R&B inspired solo project J. Bernardt. During Balthazar’s hiatus, the band’s songwriting duo enjoyed the ability to indulge their individual whims and creative muses, crafting commercially successful and critically applauded work — and Deprez and Devoldere found it liberating. Interestingly enough, the duo found that the time apart created an undeniable urge to work together again, propelled by a much broader artistic horizon and an even greater mutual respect for each other’s individual work.
When the members of Balthazar reconvened to work on last year’s Fever, they did so without any particular plan beyond just desiring to improve upon their previously released work and to further the band’s story. And as they were beginning to write material, Deprez and Devoldere mutually agreed that the album’s material should have a less serious, less melancholy feel — and while being looser and more playful at points, it retains the hook-driven quality and craftsmanship that has helped the band win national and international attention.
Last year saw the band on a relentless touring schedule to support Fever that included — as you may recall — a stop at Baby’s All Right in May. During that tour, the band wrote their latest single “Halfway.” Possibly deriving its title because it falls between the release of Fever and its highly anticipated follow-up, the song finds the band continuing the flexible songwriting of its immediate predecessor: co-written by Devoldere and Deprez, the song features Deprez taking on vocal duties, which give the song a sultry, old-school R&B feel centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive percussion, some gorgeous harmonizing and an infectious hook. Interestingly, the track finds the band continuing in the vein of Fever while expanding upon it, revealing an adventurous and ambitious band pushing their sound and approach in a new direction with a pop-leaning accessibility.