Thursdays With J.R. – Vincent Coomans

Thursdays with J.R. is our new weekly column from lifelong musician and lifelong-er music fan J.R. McIntire, drummer of Arctic Char and multi-instrumentalist on more projects than we have bandwidth to list.

I usually don’t look for this type of music, but it often hits my plate whether I seek it or destroy it.  I couldn’t have been happier this week when “Must I Always” by Vincent Coomans hit the submission box.  Coomans hails from Belgium and is often compared to Sufjan Stevens.  I am not one for comparisons but the warm coronet lacking highs and washing over you as the song starts doesn’t hurt as it sounds straight off Illinois by the said Stevens.  Coomans’ music tends to have themes of distance, grief and desire as his bio proclaims, bringing him closer in the musical ether to such musicians as Elliot Smith, Bill Ryder or even Damien Jurado.  Coomans sets himself apart I would say with his own “sound” only pulling slightly from said influences.  I knew within seconds I wanted to review this as the ambient sound alone takes you to somewhere that you aren’t quite sure of, even as the tune dissipates upon completion.  The warm brass floods you with what sounds to be a ride cymbal slowly being washed across with mallets.  I could be way off but that’s what I hear.  It almost washes into a low note resembling a far away alert or warning siren.  Droning a far-away familiarity only lending to the alien environment.  Hopeful piano starts to fall from the fingers as Vincent’s voice trickles out ever slightly but with weight.  The vocal part brings you into the room we’ve been in sonically the whole time the walls just felt bigger before his vocal presence.  He immediately plays with space, jumping between notes like landing on stones poking their dry heads from a creek bed, keeping our ears as dry as they can be, all the while moving progressively downstream.  His lyrics talk about ropes holding him down, fights in the car and an all-around troubled life all the while they beg for what to do while ever asking in finalization “Must I Always”?  His falsetto in what I would call the “chorus” combats the frequency the coronet occupied once more, and they ride beautifully together in their vocal canoe.  The song builds with strings again sounding like a siren blaring on a radio in a far off room down the corridor.  He begs again but slowly “at least for a little while”.  I want to be in that car, in that relationship, what happened?  Really simple yet atmosphere heavy tune.  I immediately ran out to his page and started absorbing all I could get my ears on.  His bio says he performs as a trio as well, which is always fun to see live, and I would love to do so.  I quite enjoyed this music and am glad to be back at it.  

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