Image © Epic Records 2004
More K's Choice | Sarah Bettens:
Sarah Bettens Shine (2008)
(20 March 2008) Formed in Belgium during the 1990s, K's Choice has built a solid following for themselves among alternative rock fans and toured from their Antwerp headquarters until 2006. With four studio albums that have reached gold and platinum during their ten year run, they have also appeared in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Their touring schedule brought them on stage alongside artists such as The Indigo Girls, Morphine, and The Proclaimers, and their recorded work brought them to work with Pixies producer Gil Norton.
The band's core members are siblings Sarah Bettens (lead vocals, guitar) and Gert Bettens (guitar, keyboard, vocals), joined by Eric Grossman (bass), Jan van Sichem Jr. (guitar) and Koen Liekens (drums). K's choice Ten (Sony/Epic (Belgium) CD EPC 512718-2, DVD EPC 202079-9, 2004), available as both a tribute DVD and CD, offers an overview of ten years of the band's musical activity, since their early days in Belgium, to their final studio album, released in 2000, and the live concerts that followed.
K's Choice acclaims a special sound that is all their own, creating a cohesive texture of gentle alternative rock, with folk and pop influences such as of Simon & Garfunkel. They stand out, combining smoky soft vocals, performing widely melodic tunes stretching over American rock guitars and energetic alternative rhythm work. Lead vocalist Sarah Bettens' unique velvety voice, integrates perfectly with Brother, Gert Bettens' soft, mostly, backing vocals and create astounding harmonies together. Sarah and Gert are skilled singer songwriters, expressing their life experiences and world perspectives in ways that are honest, personal, lyrical and comical at times.
Ten is not only a great introduction to the band for those that missed their original releases but also the perfect present for the K's Choice fan. It includes most of the bands greatest hits from all four albums, with additional tracks that are singles which were never released, such as the intense rock opening song "Losing you," and the beautiful ballads "Virgin State of Mind" and "Until I'm Fine." The album's booklet is accompanied with Gert's and Sarah's notes on each song, including their impression of each song from a ten-year-point of view. To the new listener, it is a beautiful and rich compilation that gives a reflective bite in the varied layers that compose K's Choice's music, and leaves the listener longing for more.
"Not An Addict," with its famous mysterious two note vocal intro, and its restrained bass line, is the song which made it all, turning the Belgian band internationally famous almost over night. From there, it moves straight away to the energetic "Believe," a song which Sarah defines as "a song of hope", and indeed it is; its comforting lyrics accompanied by a vigorous guitar line that is the band's unique mark, bright vocals and lively drumming, wrapped in a perfectly measured production that reflects the accurate and clean sound of the bands third album "Cocoon Crash", (produced and mixed by Pixies producer Gil Norton). "Almost Happy" is a mature melancholy soft pop-rock song that reflects the sound of the band fourth album-carrying the same title. This song, along with "Another Year," are good samples of an album which characterizes in warm melodic stroking sound, and creates an atmosphere that is mellow and contemplative. Recorded during a live show, "My Heart" is a small and moving song about a theme that occupies Gert's poetry quite a lot--the fear of losing the people you love the most.
From this bare emotion of arcane fear the album continues to a "prehistoric" time of K's Choice--The Great Subconscious Club (1993)--represented in this compilation with two tracks, "The Ballad of Lea and Paul," and "I smoke A Lot." As with every band's first album, this one is far more naive in sound then their later work and perhaps best reflects the Bettens siblings' biggest musical influences such as The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel, in forms of melodies, vocal arrangements and even titles and names. Gert confessed that he was looking for a long album title that would be a certain homage to one of his favorite albums of all times Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Even so, "The Ballad of Lea and Paul" is a song that contains that K's Choice DNA and serves as a great preview to this pair's amazing talent! "I Smoke A Lot" is a great comic relieve that comes out as a much more relevant smokers' hymn today, than it must have been ten years ago, when smoking in public places was more forgivable, thus, making that self-ironic musical declaration rather timeless!
"Little Man" reminds us that this is a family band, describing Sarah's experience following the birth of her nephew-Gert's son. More than a musical achievement, it is nice to share this family atmosphere, this great friendship that must exist between the two, and enabled this musical connection to happen and last. The album continues to swing from up-tempo rock hit "Mr. Freeze" of "Cocoon Crash" to the personal piano ballad "Dad", defined by Sarah as "the most direct and personal song she's ever written". "Winners" is a beautiful and chilling love song, which was inspired by the love story of a feature called Heavenly Creatures. While being squeezed to the end, thus barely noticeable in the rock album Cocoon Crash, here this intense, moving song gets its rightful spot. "If You're not Scared" is a rhythmic cheerful acoustic folk song with a unique Indian-like guitar line that is beautifully used as the background music of the menu on the band's Ten DVD.
"Everything For Free" is one of the bands most important songs. Like "Not An Addict", this gorgeous song has become an international hit, perhaps thanks to its outstanding originality that is expressed in every aspect of the song: a poetic text, transmitted in long complicated lyrical melodic lines, that are still catchy and communicative, accompanied by sophisticated harmonic changes, mysterious and bewitching, arranged and produced to perfection, "Everything For Free" is definitely one of the band's achievements both commercially and artistically.
"Busy" gives a good notion of the hectic life of road tours might become and makes it a perfect one to portray the experience of ten years of activity. The album closes with a rather philosophic song "God In My Bed", perhaps an homage to a K's Choice great influence, Simon & Garfunkel, reminding the lyrics of the pair's famous "Sounds of Silence." The album provides a diverse variety of the band from alternative rock to, soft ballads, from folk rock and pop, to sophisticated postmodern singer-songwriting songs. Ten gracefully
reflects the interesting musical partnership that is K's Choice uniqueness. Yael Akron of Manga in Tel Aviv, Israel and Russ Elliot in New York