Album Review: Anouk – “Trails of Fails”

Dutch singer Anouk has just released her 13th studio-album (and 14th album in total) , “Trails of Fails“.
2 and a half years have passed since her 12th album “Wen d’r maar aan” was released. It was her first album in the Dutch language.

Who is Anouk?

Anouk is one of the most famous and successful Dutch singers.
Her music spanned between different music genres like: Rock, pop, soul, R&B, alternative and more.
She has been active in the music industry since 1996.
In 2013, she was internally selected to represent The Netherlands at Eurovision 2013.
She performed the emotional ballad “Birds” and ended in the 9th place in the final.

It was the first time The Netherlands qualified for the final, after 8 years of non-qualifying.

She was one of the mentors in “The Voice of Holland“, before the shoe was suspended by the broadcaster.
Anouk is also a proud mother to 6 children!

Trails of Fails

The mini-album was released yesterday (Friday, 22nd of April 2022). It includes 7 songs.
I would like to review them and tell the story behind them:

#1. I Must Walk Away

It’s an intimate R&B – soul with the influence of jazz.
The song starts with a dynamic piano playing. The first verse is calm and slow, there’s an atmosphere of dark night at the bar.
Towards the end of the first verse, we get her recognized beautiful soul trills.
The chorus is more raw. Piano is the main element in the melody, and from time to time we can hear string elements. She sings it more powerfully, with an electronic guitar in the background.
The second verse comes right after, the lines are longer. We can hear a little bit of raspiness in her magnificent voice. A combination of Hammond Organ and guitar leads us to the peak of the chorus.
On the bridge, she reaches another level of powerful voice. The production is raw, and the focus is on her voice. Drum beat appears in the second half of the bridge. At this point, the song limits in the soul-rock region, until it slowly decays to the keyboard playing.
The song tells the story of a broken heart. The spokesperson wonders how to get over him.
She realizes that she must walk away in order to forget about him. It is crystal clear that this relationship was a lesson for her, and she has also learned things about herself.

#2. Something Better

It’s a mid-tempo soul ballad.
The song starts with an instrumental part composed of keyboards and acoustic guitar.
Anouk opens the first verse with a mid-low voice. She lengthens the first half of each line. Towards the end of the first verse, she sings it with a higher voice.
The chorus is catchy. It is based on keyboards and guitar playing. Her voice is powerful and she delivers the message perfectly.
After the first chorus, we get a short instrumental part that gives a melancholic flavour to the song. It is based on piano playing. The second verse starts with soft sound effects. We can hear her pure voice alongside the melody.
As the second chorus begins, her sharp voice wraps the listeners ears.
We can hear a sound similar to a xylophone playing from time to time.
The song ends with the same instrumental part as in the middle of it.
The song talks about how life changes us as we get older and more mature.
We learn to look at things in a more balanced way. Therefore, we are hoping to get something better. When we were younger, anything could have made a drama, but now nothing can hurt us.
It is time to leave the storm in our life, as Anouk suggests.

#3. Behind Your Words

It’s a high quality ballad that continues the line of Anouk’s recent albums.
The song starts with an instrumental part composed of piano playing and plenty of gentle sound effects. The first verse has a simple but impactful melody. It relies on a cyclic piano melody. Anouk sings it with a mid-low voice. The atmosphere is like a Disney dreamy ballad.
The chorus is faster. In the first half, she sings with her angelic voice and some manners. The second half of the chorus is a little bit calmer, and may suggest a process of acceptance.
A short instrumental part leads us to the second verse.
The second verse sounds romantic and with the influence of waltz.
The chorus arrives again, this time it is even more exciting. She uses her unbelievable vocal abilities and takes us deep within the story.
She ends the song by humming.
The song tells the story of a complicated relationship. The spokesperson loves her partner, but sometimes he can use some harmful words towards her.
She chose to ignore it and believes things will settle down.
Behind these words, she knows that he loves her back.
The wise approach is to see it as a temporary conflict, and not as a bigger problem.

#4. Spring On A Winter’s Day

This is a new version of a song that Anouk has released in Dutch in her previous album.
The original version is “Lente” (Eng: Spring)

Now back to the brand new song “Spring On A Winter’s Day“.
This is a romantic ballad.
It is probably the most optimistic song in the line-up.
The song starts with a piano playing and her fragile voice.
The piano melody is bold and creates one life experience.
The chorus starts with soft but impactful singing. Thereafter, we can hear the cello playing which gives the song a classic point of view. She sings a part of this in a very high voice and finalizes it by humming and combining her voice with the accords.
The second verse continues the line of the first one. Her voice shines like a diamond on this emotional song.
The chorus carried a straightforward message – “Please just take these troubles off my mind
The piano playing is combined with a simple production.
Towards the end, we can hear guitar and bass playing, alongside a soft drum beat.
The song ends with a raw feeling.
Anouk reminds us of her infinite emotional intelligence that comes hand in hand with one of the most beautiful voices in the music industry.
The message of the song is that we can find the light in each dark day. Spring will always be there for us, even in the cold Winter.

#5. Going For The Kill

It is a country pop song.
The melody is based on guitar playing.
The song starts with humming. The simple guitar playing accompanies the harmful story.
Anouk serves us the story with a pleasant voice and simplicity, and that’s what makes the message even stronger.
She tells the story of a woman that has been through tough years that left scars on her, both physically and mentally. After 7 harmful yeard of merriage, she decides that it is time to put an end to the story.
What is the end point? Will it be the end of the relationship or will she kill him? It is still unknown at this point.
The chorus is still based on guitar playing, but this time the musical boxes are shorter. Maybe it can explain the speed of her actions – packing his belongings and making him get out of the house.
After all these years, she realizes that she doesn’t really love him.
In the second verse, the melody feels more airer.
When they split, she couldn’t prevent herself from saying that he must change his approach. He can’t use the fragile soul of a woman just to stroke his ego.
On the bridge, she can’t control her anger. At this point, the melody changes a bit and we can hear some beautiful bowed string elements. Her singing is more intense, just like the lyrics.
She wants to take revenge over him and make him suffer.
The song ends with a melody composed by the bowed string elements.
It is a song with a very important message and a voice that should be raised loudly.
The spokesperson for the song is a woman who wants to take revenge after experiencing years of violence against her.

#6. Great for Us

It’s is a classic ballad that developed into a soft rock song.
The song starts with a dreamy piano playing. She sings the first verse, accompanied by the piano and drum beat. In the chorus, we can hear guitar playing. The chorus is slower and more emotional.
After the chorus, we can hear the instrumental fairytale style part that was at the beginning.
The second verse continues the line of the first verse.
The chorus once again arrives, and this time it is richer.
The bridge takes it to a rock ballad region, and that’s where Anouk gives us another dimension of her as an artist. At this point, she does some appreciated vocal improvisations.
Thereafter, she takes us back to the lullaby side of the song.
It’s probably one of the only songs on the album that doesn’t put love in the center.
The song talks about how we can better people by giving more and taking less.
Even when it looks like we have done enough, we can try and stretch the limits.
There’s no right place or the right time for this, we should always do so.

#7. Don’t Change

The song has been dedicated to her partner in recent years – Dominique.
It is a fragile ballad.
The song starts with a piano playing. A short instrumental part transfers us to the verse.
She sings it with a stable and convincing voice, but with not much effort. And it isn’t surprising as we have in front of us an experienced artist.
The first verse slowly decays into the melody that develops into a classic and modern direction.
The second verse continues in the same direction. The string elements make the progress of the song to be a non-linear one.
The chorus reminds me of the sound that Anouk suggested in her previous albums (“Queen for A Day“). It is a more personal and exciting piece. She sings it with more elements and emotions.
The third verse is based on orchestra instruments. Her fragile voice converts the song to be more meaningful.
The song ends with another chorus, this time based on the piano playing.
It is a romantic song where the spokesperson shows her love to her partner, even if they have some tough days.

The producer of the album is Jim Abbiss.
He has worked with big names in the industry like Adele, Arctic Monkeys and more.
Anouk is a vocal engineer.
The composers and writers are Anouk and Martin Gjerstad.

For me it is a personal album that anyone can find their own path of solidarity in.
Anouk proves that she can take us on a different journey in each album she releases.
That’s why her magic is still working.
This mini-album is more classic oriented, but also brings important subjects to the table: the story of  violence against women, alongside the story of broken heart.
The 7 songs have something in common: They serve a high level of music with simplicity that we get from a talented and experienced artist.

Doron Lahav is 30-year-old, who lives in Israel. Doron has been watching the Eurovision Song Contest since early 2000s. Doron works as a Data Scientist and shows interest in singing and writing.

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