A THOUSAND WORDS is the sixth album for indie/electro pop artist STYROFOAM. It is also the first for Nettwerk, and Styrofoam creator Arne Van Petegem is audibly excited about his new worldwide home.
Styrofoam phase one found the project coming to international acclaim after joining the roster of Berlin-based Morr Music in 2000. Working with the label afforded the Antwerp, Belgium-based producer an active participating role in the burgeoning Berlin scene, which was then hybridizing indie rock with experimental electronics. He also cross-pollinated with collaborations with fellow Morr artists like the Notwist and Lali Puna and remixed other artists such as Jimmy Eat World (which he’s toured with), the Postal Service and Death Cab For Cutie.
Phase two eschews previous methods of what he calls “bedroom producing” in favor of a fresh approach. Breaking the mold from previous Styrofoam albums, which were self-produced, A Thousand Words enlisted the guidance of WAX LTD (Wally Gagel and Xandy Berry), a Los Angeles production team with some pretty varied credits ranging from Sebadoh and Tanya Donelly to the Eels and Folk Implosion—and even the Backstreet Boys and Jessica Simpson. That experience with both indie rock and pop was something Van Petegem found very attractive.
The album features a diverse yet cohesive array of guest vocalists, like Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins (who shines on the rose-colored “My Next Mistake”), Blake Hazard (a indie-pop singer gone digital on “Microscope”) and Josh Rouse (offering a brief memoir of otherness in “Lil White Boy”). But the star vocalist on the album is Van Petegem himself, who has grown out of the, as he puts it, “shy electronic guy afraid of singing” to return to his roots singing in indie rock bands. He sounds relaxed and joyful as he delivers bright, multi-layered harmonies and simple, thought-provoking lyrics.
“I basically wanted to make an uptempo pop album with big choruses to sing along to. I sort of figured I’d made enough sulky midtempo music for the rest of my life . . . I’m very interested in presenting all these weird sounds, bleeps etc. in a package that is quite accessible overall. But when you listen a little deeper, there is still a lot there to discover.
And every second’s worth a thousand words.