I really had no idea that Amsterdam could churn out such dreamy, jangly-guitar beauty as that found on Summer with Monica‘s “The Art of Losing.” Then again, I really had no idea what it is that Amsterdam would churn out since I’m completely unfamiliar with the Dutch music scene! Thankfully, Julien Staartjes, the mind behind Summer with Monica and the guitarist for Dutch synth-rockers The Vagary, has changed all this.

After hearing Staartjes with The Vagary, you can appreciate his need to branch off and do his own thing. Whereas The Vagary shares the same sonic landscape as The Killers and, dare I say, Oasis, Summer with Monica is straight-up lo-fi pop. I would not be surprised if Staartjes didn’t stumble upon some Matador artists like Yo La Tengo and Arab Strap or 90s Manchester groups like The Stone Roses while digging through Amsterdam’s record shops as a kid. On “The Art of Losing,” Staartjes actually wears one particular influence on his sleeve during the first verse: “well I was lost, but now I know I’m found / flat on my back on this velvet underground.” I definitely hear some Lou reed breaking through in the lyrics, and on that Brill-Building-Esque piano heard at the end of the track.

What I like most about Summer of Monica’s debut is how effortless it comes off. The feedback starts us off in that typical 90s indie-pop fashion, and soon the guitars and vocal are jaunting along as one does on those pretty, carefree summer days. You can almost feel the sun’s rays coming down to kiss you as you listen to Staartjes’ words of reassurance: “and it’s OK if you wanna see for yourself, I know a dream that will take you. And all those people leaning on your mind, I can make them all fall through.”
Can’t wait to hear more from this solo artist, and I’m officially curious as to what else the quirky Netherlands indie scene has to offer.