Trier based band Vandermeer took their name from their vocalist and keyboard player Harmke Van Der Meer, who is joined by three guys on guitar, bass and drums. Their first album Polygraph was released in 2013, followed two years later by the EP Can’t Wait. A few line-up changes happened before the band stabilised to come back with their second longplayer Panique Automatique.
Comparing the two albums, one easily notices the logical evolution of a band that has gained maturity. Vandermeer deliberately don’t want to be categorised, and that’s part of their charm. Indie rock from the Nineties has left the biggest traces (Pixies, Sonic Youth), but there are also shoegaze elements that may at times recall My Bloody Valentine. Harmke as a clear and melodic voice that adds a certain pop dimension, which gives the band’s sound even more variety and excitement.
The opener Only Two Hearts is a wonderful pop entry into the album, with a melody that invites you to sing along and makes you feel twenty-five years younger. On the following Inhuman, the synthesizers take a more important role, and the chorus comes with a wall of sound that we usually only get from post rock bands. Even though the band’s typical sound varies between indie and post rock, they are often good for surprises. Time Was Up is exceptionally hard with a definite noise rock flair. The concluding Nine Hits is not only an incredibly happy song that could also have come from The Polyphonic Spree, but also summarises quite well the contents from Panique Automatique, which indeed also has two less spectacular tracks. Porte ouverte and We Are just lack the necessary power and stamina to keep up with the remaining material on the album.
9 out of 11 is still a very good score. You can call the final product indie rock, shoegaze, dream pop or whatever, fact is that Vandermeer have created an incredibly mature and varied record. Panique Automatique has all it takes to be named among the most important indie releases of the year.