CD Review of Dear Independence by The Blue Van

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Dear Independence
starstarstarstarhalf star Label: TVT
Released: 2006
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Last year, I compared the Blue Van’s first effort, The Art of Rolling, to the Kings of Leon debut, Youth and Young Manhood, saying it was “chock full of good songs with no overt radio-friendly single to be found.” A year later, and The Blue Van’s second album, Dear Independence, has hit the shelves, and it’s eerily similar to KOL’s Aha Shake Heartbreak, not so much in style, but in substance. The Blue Van took a healthy step forward creatively, but the band will still live in relative obscurity until one of its songs shoehorns its way into the mainstream.

For the uninitiated, the Blue Van hails from Denmark, and the band’s sound is heavily influenced by ‘60s blues-rock (think Doors, Kinks and Stones). But it would be a mistake to discard the band as another White Stripes wannabe. The group has the innate ability to infuse each of their songs with at least one gorgeous hook, whether it’s the lovely piano melody buried in the chorus of “Don’t Leave Me Blue” or the subtle strumming of an acoustic guitar in the opening of “Momentarily Sane.”

In fact, all 12 songs on the album are solid, and to point out highlights would imply that there are lowlights, and there really aren’t any. “The Odyssey,” with its groovy bass line and dueling vocals, gets the album off to an energetic start, while “The Time Is Right” features some terrific drumming from Per M. Jorgensen. The album closer – “White Dominos” – is a slow, soulful rocker that uses the organ to help frontman Steffen Westmark convey the feelings surrounding a loved one’s death.

Despite the somber finish, the album is still a rollicking good time. It’s not often that an up and coming band follows up a strong debut by exceeding the expectations of their sophomore effort, but with Dear Independence, the Blue Van have done exactly that.

~John Paulsen