Hooverphonic: The Night Before

Hooverphonic return with an album of experienced ambient pop, with a surprisingly pleasant-sounding new voice on board.


The Night Before

Label: PIAS
US Release Date: 2013-06-04
UK Release Date: 2010-12-09
Label Webiste
Artist Website

The Night Before marks Hooverphonic coming off a decade of well-regarded releases by adding a singer with no previous musical experience. Opening cut "Anger Never Dies" shows newcomer Noémie Wolfs to have a reasonably skilled voice. It's somewhere between the riot-girl stomp of Shirley Manson and the lilting, plaintive tones of Dolores O'Riordan.

She takes that combination and manages to make it a fine accompaniment to tracks that cover a wide range of styles. Opening "AngerNeverDies" paints a ballad-drenched-in-epic-swells picture, including some "Fool On The Hill" referentialism peppering the track. It's a fine little nod that manages to come off as appreciative rather than derivative. Later on with "Heartbroken" Wolfs affects a respectable rendition of the classic angst-ridden torch singer motif. Really, you can just about see her in the sequin-adorned red dress singing on top of the piano to an enraptured audience. It ends a bit abruptly, but nothing a live rendition with a little tweaking couldn't fix.

The sonics sound a bit too like Garbage on the gently thumping weeper "More", even if one could call it Garbage-sounding, yet de-fanged. Once again they seem too focused on not letting any song overstay its welcome, as this track too feels like it comes to an abrupt end, where a more gradual coda would have made it more satisfying overall. "Georges Cafe" takes a dive into spacey ambient textures that paint an evocative picture, where once again the sequined-dress-clad singer comes to mind, singing at a supper club in an era long gone by. The music itself is equal parts upbeat strings and horns, layered atop a synth line perfectly dreamy to match the rest of the production. The songs-ending-abruptly trap comes again in the gently strolling "Identical Twin", which takes them back to more straightforward shoegazer-pop territory. Not a bad place to go, but it sets up a lush musical experience that ends too quickly, much the same as other similarly short tracks on this album do.

The closing three-piece of this disc solves that minor slip-up with tracks like the plaintive "How Can You Sleep". It's yet another moment where Wolfs teeters on the edge of sounding too much like Garbage, but manages the balancing act well enough to not fall into that trap. It doesn't hurt that the song itself plays like a cozy lullaby, albeit a cozy lullaby with pained, anguished lyrics. Strings are once again employed -- and here they create an almost funereal vibe -- and they are perfect for a track lamenting a relationship in turmoil, really. Final track "Danger Zone" easily puts itself out there as a would-be Bond movie theme and a fine way to wrap the album up.

What sets this album apart is the vulnerability. Some might call that a strange compliment, but in an age of vocalists both female and male who are Auto-tuned within an inch of their life or spiffed up with double tracking and over-use of effects, it is refreshing to hear a band sound like Hooverphonic does here. The vocals are accomplished but bearing the ragged edges of a newcomer -- ragged edges that give it character -- and the music shows the chops they've honed over years of playing together. All this makes for a release that is not a timeless classic, but worthwhile in its own right.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.