Maximilian Hecker: I'll Be a Virgin, I'll Be a Mountain
V2 Records

Though I first thought that positioning “Snow White” as I'll Be A Virgin, I'll Be A Mountain's opener might be Max Hecker's way of bidding stylistic adieu to his last album Lady Sleep (which used Snow White as a thematic springboard), I quickly discovered that the new album, like its predecessor, flows from one lilting romantic ballad to another (the penultimate song, “Feel Like Children,” not only sounds like an escapee from Lady Sleep but references Snow White yet again). And, yes, the 29-year-old Berliner's hushed sigh remains just as lovely and as forlorn on his fourth album as before, even if the material's more pretty than poignant this time around.

Hecker does change things up in one regard by altering his fragile vocal style on a couple of songs: in place of his normal whispered croon, “Velvet Son” and “Messed-up Girl” feature a more full-bodied, robust vocal delivery which possesses a vague countrified flavour that's, not surprisingly, less distinctive. And Hecker's songs are more fully-orchestrated this time out, with the piano- and acoustic guitar-based material supplemented by well-placed touches of French horn, strings, woodwinds, and glockenspiel; a Band-like Hammond organ even shimmers through the lament “Your Stammering Kisses.” Lyrically, the songs range between naked vulnerability (the title song's “My dreams have ended / And my soul is stranded”), tragic grandiosity (“The Saviour”), and the baroque (“A Magic bullet against your drought / Were sumptuous rainfalls” in “Wilted Flower”). The nadir comes with “Silly Lily, Funny Bunny” whose whimsical sound is slightly more tolerable than its title (and barely-digestible lyrics like “As you're silly, Lily / I keep on knocking at your door with my head / As you're funny, bunny/ I'm craving for your leftover kiss”). Ultimately, by album's end, one can't escape the nagging feeling that Hecker's painting himself into a corner—an admittedly pretty corner, mind you—prompting one to wonder just how many variations he can still spin on the ‘hushed-voice-and-piano ballads' genre at which he excels so marvelously.

April 2007