Album review: J. Bernardt ‘Contigo’

J.Bernardt – aka Jinte Depres (Balthazar) presents his second studio album Contigo, released in May via Play It Again Sam. The entire album is a dramatic and compelling work filled with vibrant melodies and brought to life with rich, sumptuous themes.

Contigo explores all the phases of a break-up: shock, sadness, anger, denial, hurt, acceptance… and nails ‘viciously romantic’ in the process. “I know a break-up record is a cliché,” says Deprez. “But I’m growing to love cliches! I wasn’t afraid to go all the way. Forgetting about the break-up by singing about it is like self-sabotage, but I’m having fun with it too”. Each track has been orchestrally scored by Deprez himself, and takes the listener on an orchestral journey filled with re-occurring themes, varying textures, and rhythmical bass. The opening overture flawlessly sets the tone for the album. A rich array of strings, played in a cinematic style, establishes a recurring theme that weaves through the entire work. 

Taxi begins with a foundation of funky, thick bass, enhanced by the cinematic strings.  These elements are paired with humming vocals and a female choir, creating a groovy yet almost operatic vibe that will get your feet tapping. Depres says on the song “Taxi is a song taking place in the midst of confusion and early contemplation, directed at a taxi driver who once picked up the singer. It is a literal trip (“can you please drive me to a point of no return”) as an escape to process the news of a breakup.”

The strings and female choir return in Last Waltz. With a Bond-esque opening and a thrumming bass that continues throughout, this slower tempo track has a true romantic ballad feel. Deprez’s vocals sounds heartbroken and bittersweet, as he surrenders to the reality of post-breakup life. Distorted guitars, drums, and strings close out the track – leading the album into the title track.

Contigo introduces the Spanish guitar atop of the choral elements and tireless strings. The song has a less uncertain feel, continuously modulating between major and minor keys. “The word ‘contigo’ says so much: that we have a connection – or had,” says Deprez. “The whole album, I’m struggling with the fact we’re not a team anymore. I chose Contigo as the title because I needed another language to express the overall feeling of the music, and the meaning ‘with you’ is fitting for my message, as it’s the last time I’m going to talk about that person and the time we had together.”

The album’s first single, “Mayday Call,” showcases a full-band experience enhanced by a complete orchestra, with a particular addition of chaotic horns to the mix. The distorted vocals almost seem to be screaming, turning less frantic mid song with the main lyrics ‘Won’t you please get back to me, this is a mayday, mayday call.’ 

Closing out the album, “Free” takes us through a crescendo of strings before diminishing to a final, poignant sentence. The vocals alone encapsulate the breakup theme of the album, asking, “Are we lonely, or are we finally free?” Contigo is a true avantgarde indie masterpiece, and we can’t wait to hear what comes next for J.Berndart. 

Deprez is best known as one half of the singer-songwriter duo of Balthazar, one of Belgium’s most beloved and respected alt rock bands for over two decades. As a group, they have performed at numerous prestigious events and venues such as All Points East, British Summer Time, Electric Ballroom, Village Underground, Scala, as well as selling over 600,000 albums worldwide. Running Days has been streamed over 40 million times globally, and counting.

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