With Warhaus, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Maarten Devoldere, co-lead vocalist and one-half of core songwriting duo behind acclaimed Belgian indie rock outfit Balthazar, cemented a reputation for crating urbane, hyper literature art rock with an accessible, pop-leaning sensibility.
Devoldere’s Warhaus debut, 2016’s We Fucked A Flame Into Being derived its title from a line in DH Lawrence’s seminal, erotic novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Thematically, We Fucked A Flame Into Being touched upon lust, desire, the inscrutability of random encounters, bittersweet and regret with the deeply confessional nature of someone baring the deepest recesses of their soul.
Devoldere’s sophomore Warhus effort, 2017’s self-titled album saw the acclaimed Belgian artist thematically moving away from decadence, lust and sin towards earnest, hard-fought and harder-won love — with much of the material being informed by his relationship with vocalist Sylvie Kreusch. The recording sessions were much more spontaneous and heavily influenced by Dr. John‘s Night Tripper period with the album’s material featuring voodoo rhythms and New Orleans jazz-styled playing, despite the fact that his backing band wasn’t known for being jazz musicians.
The Belgian songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s third Warhaus album, Ha Ha Heartbreak officially dropped today. The album’s material was written during a three-week stay in Palermo. All Devoldere needed was the solitude of a hotel room, a guitar, a microphone and a recently broken heart. The sorrow was too difficult to handle, so he went to Sicily to escape. But as it always turns out, those who try to outrun life and heartache quickly run into themselves.
The album sees Devoldere wrapping his sorrow into razor sharp hooks, instant sing-a-long choruses and irresistible melodies. Sonically, the material is ethereal yet lush, featuring strings, sensual vocal deliveries, horns and even some playful piano parts. The album manages to be a deep and moving emotional exploration of grief, loss and heartbreak — but while being musically very rich.
In the lead-up to th album’s release, I’ve written about three of the album’s singles:
So far I’ve written about two of the album’s singles:
- Album opening track and first single “Open Window,” which marked the first bit of new Warhaus material in five years. Centered around Devoldere’s brooding baritone, strummed acoustic guitar, a Quiet Storm-like groove, twinkling piano and a gorgeous, cinematic string arrangement, making it the sort of song that you can gently sway along to with eyes closed while drifting off into your own nostalgia-induced dreams or delusions. Interestingly, the song is rooted in a painful, heartbroken delusional — that the now-former lover has just temporarily lost their minds and will be coming back to you. And yet deep down, you’re aware that it’s all vapor and blind, foolish, prideful denial.
- “Desire,” Ha Ha Heartbreak‘s second single is a lush and sultry bop centered around mournful horns, soaring strings, an infectious, two-step inducing groove and twinkling keys paired with Devoldere’s breathy baritone. The song’s narrator desperately addresses just about every god he can imagine for answers, but as he says in the song, “No matter what I turn to/it’s failing me.”
- Ha Ha Heartbreak’s third and latest single “Time Bomb” continues a remarkable run of slow-burning lush and sultry material, that features subtle elements of jazz, film scores, Quiet Storm soul and art pop. Much like its predecessors, “Time Bomb” sees its narrator dealing with the devastation of a breakup and its aftershock on both parties. But with the new single, its heartbroken narrator is left to wonder “but why” without any answers or closure.
Ha Ha Heartbreak‘s fourth and latest single “When I Am With You” is a blue-eyed soul take on classic Sade-like Quiet Storm soul centered around strummed and looping acoustic guitar, a sultry two-step inducing groove, a shimmering string arrangement and razor sharp hooks paired with Develdere’s hushed delivery, which manages to evoke longing and vulnerability.
“’When I Am With You’ is a love song about growing up by holding the immaturity of the male condition against the light,” Devoldere explains. “It’s the reversed odyssey of the manchild towards the nipple. Let me be your baby.”
Directed by Pieter De Cnudde, the accompanying video for “When I Am With You,” features Devoldre jamming out and singing the song in front of or near a yellow spotlight, which mimics the moon.