Almost Bangor [Pop]

RELEASE: 20.03.2009




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We first hear about Joost Zweegers in 1996 when his band Novastar takes part in Humo's Rock Rally, the most prestigious and influential Belgian rock contest for beginning artists. Joost writes all the songs, sings, plays guitar and wins the Rally easily as his talent is undeniable and overwhelming. One song he plays that night is called 'Wrong', a haunting, picturesque anthem like pop gem, and one of the most beautiful songs ever written about lost love on the beach of Miami, or anywhere else in the world.

Joost is a perfectionist and it takes another four long years for the song to be officially released as part of Novastar's self titled debut album, it turns out to be pure gold! 'Novastar' wins the TMF Best Album Award, contains the singles 'The Best Is Yet to Come', 'Caramia', 'Lost and Blown Away' and of course 'Wrong' (which are still all over Belgian airwaves eight years onwards), and makes Joost a household name not only in Belgium.

Neil Young gets to hear 'Novastar', is impressed like all the rest, and invites Joost and his band to open up for Neil Young & Crazy Horse for several European shows. "Neil Young has always been a huge influence", says Joost. "He's able to move from the intimacy of his solo guitar to the power of Crazy Horse - I love the way he overcomes this dual challenge with such ease. Opening for him was like a dream come true. He gave me a lot of encouragement".

After a well deserved break and a small detour in New York (where he works with other songwriters) Joost delivers his second album in 2004: the very broad sounding melancholic masterpiece that is 'Another Lonely Soul'. This is the sound of an artist who, in battling with his demons, rediscovers what he is all about. 'Another Lonely Soul' is the sound of a man willing to fight for his right to enjoy singing, playing and composing. "Make no mistake," Joost adds, "this is a break up and a farewell album. It's very personal but there's enough mystery and enough left unsaid for the listener to be involved and touched by what I'm singing. When I play music I always go for that twist in my stomach. I'm hooked to the sensation of hearing a certain sound in combination with a new found melody, that moment where everything is crystal clear and I know: this is it".
'Never Back Down', 'When the Lights Go Down on the Broken Hearted' and 'Rome' become hits, and the album, just like it's predecessor is voted Best Album at the annual TMF Awards. At the Zamu Awards - the prestigious Belgian award show for which only music industry people and fellow artist can vote - Joost is celebrated as Best Singer. And he is, really.

Just as Joost gets ready to record his first full blown masterpiece tragedy strikes. During a show in the biggest concert hall of Brussels - Vorst Nationaal, the singer stumbles off stage and crushes his heelbone. The band, not having a clue what has happened, is still playing as Joost is already on his way to the hospital. The doctor's verdict hits him like a ton of bricks: total rehabilitation will take two years at least!

Halfway through his mental and physical ordeal, Joost decides to say goodbye to the four walls closing in on him and travels to the remote island of Siberut in Indonesia where, for several weeks he lives amongst the Mentawai, one of the oldest, most primitive yet still independent tribes in the world. Trying to get through the day and surviving in these harshest of circumstances with little more than the clothes on his back, turns out to be the mental reset he needs to reorganize his life and get his musical career back on the tracks once more.

In the last dying months of 2007 Joost takes his old compadre and keyboard player Jeroen Swinnen along to Bangor, Belle 'Île en mer', a small picturesque village near the coast of Brittany, France and starts writing songs. Back home he calls Wim De Wilde, a well known Belgian soundtrack composer and someone who knew Joost when he was still playing in the streets of Belgium's main cities for a buck and some joy and asks him to produce the new Novastar album. Joost tells De Wilde he needs him because he wants to go back to his roots. De Wilde says yes.

They book some time in Brussels top notch recording studio ICP and send out invitations to friends they think might be able to help out. International help comes from Kevin Killen (renown for his work with Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, U2, Bryan Ferry and Kate Bush, to name but a few), who records the piano gem 'Sundance' at Looking Glass Studio in New York, percussionist Luis Jardim (The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bowie, Björk, Grace Jones etc.), bassist Laurent Vernerey, pianist Claude Salmieri and many others. On the astonishingly beautiful piano ballad 'Miles' Joost even gets to work with another one of his all time heroes: Mike Scott from the Waterboys, who makes a lyrical contribution.

The resulting album is called 'Almost Bangor'. Not 'Bangor' because Joost feels he hasn't arrived yet. "It took me a long time to recover from my injuries," Joost says, "musically as well as physically. I know I'll never be able to walk again without a slight dart of pain in my right foot, but at least I found my musical voice again. I had to go back to my roots, to my days as a street musician when I would just play for fun, without any expectations whatsoever. And slowly but undeniably I started feeling that twist in my stomach again. I wrote a bunch of melodies and songs of which I knew: this is it".
Don't be mistaken: 'Almost Bangor' is not an acoustic affair. It's an electric and eclectic tour de force of a pop album, with an unplugged heart at the centre, beating all by itself. Could it be a classic? Time will tell, but time is definitely on its side. Listen to 'Miles' and realise you're dealing with timelessness. Listen to the royally arranged 'Because' and acknowledge that revisiting ones old moods and sounds doesn't necessarily imply taking a step back. Or take 'Weller Weakness', a wild motherfucker of a rock song in which Wim De Wilde demonstrates how a piano sometimes deserves a severe beating.

What else is there to say?
Listening to the ten songs on 'Almost Bangor' will only take a little more than thirty minutes of your time, but they last a lifetime. This is it.

(Quelle: Novastar, 2009)


  1. Mars Needs Woman 3:32
  2. Weller Weakness 4:49
  3. Making Waves 3:14
  4. Tunnelvision 3:42
  5. Because 3:39
  6. Bangor 3:39
  7. Sundance 3:11
  8. Wings On Me 3:17
  9. Miles 4:31
  10. All Day Long 2:42


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