Belgian queer superstar Oscar and the Wolf’s stunning dreamscape ‘The Shimmer’ deserves your stateside attention

Jon Ali is In The Know’s music contributor. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram for more.

It’s about time the U.S. got properly acquainted with Oscar and the Wolf.

The Belgian alt-pop talent is already a household name in his native country and beyond. He’s been selling out major venues and headlining festivals across the pond for years now, jump-started by the critical acclaim of his European-released debut Entity in 2014. 

Since then, the openly queer singer-songwriter — born Max Colombie — has not-so-quietly transitioned from indie blogger favorite to certified superstar in his own right, all aided by the success of lush and anthemic singles like “Breathing,” which has over 33 million streams on Spotify, “On Fire” and “Fever” from his various projects over the years.

To put it in a few words: Colombie’s world is a uniquely dazzling and shimmering fusion of contemporary soul with a European electro-pop edge, uniting shivery melodies, euphoric production and raw vocals cemented in earnest vulnerability, sensuality and yearning. In his music, Colombie hears “a twilight zone where it doesn’t sound dark nor happy. It’s like the name Oscar and the Wolf; it’s a balance between light and dark, this perfect combination between the sun and the moon. It’s beautiful and scary at the same time.”

With his upcoming album, The Shimmer, due out on Oct. 22, Colombie is expanding his musical sights with a fresh, new perspective in hopes of igniting reactions way beyond his current territories.

And that brings us to “James,” Colombie’s lead single from the LP released back in April — a cosmic call to arms for, well, real deep connection. The song came to him fully formed in a dream. “I woke up and had the whole thing in my head, from the vocal line to the drums to the chords to the whole arrangement,” Colombie said. The song’s title is in honor of the birth of his baby nephew, who was born on the same day that Colombie went into the studio to record the song.

It’s ethereal, personal and transformative, like all of his best work, but it’s really only a glimpse into what The Shimmer offers from start to finish.

The Shimmer is about me guiding you through the soundtrack of my past two years,” Colombie told In The Know in a statement. “I’m taking you through the four different seasons, where everything is allowed to transform and develop from winter into summer. A flower into ice.”

“I’m really happy with The Shimmer because I hear a more mature version of myself,” Colombie continued. “I always want things to grow, and I’m proud that I allowed myself to not follow people’s expectations and reproduce what had been successful before. There are no four-to-the-floor clubby pop songs this time.”

Instead, The Shimmer more accurately reflects Colombie’s personality.

“My emotions run from super happy to super melancholic in a split second,” he said. “To me, The Shimmer feels like the soundtrack to a blockbuster, with many types of tracks and themes. It’s always changing.”

Case in point, “Livestream,” the third single from the project, shows a more relaxed and confident Colombie than we’ve heard before. The Belgian superstar serves us the perfect summertime soundtrack, all while longing for the love of his most cherished. “I’m your die-hard crazy, I’m your nightlife superstar,” he declares compellingly before the infectious chorus comes swaggering into the speakers. “But you can watch me on your livestream/ Let me be your ice cream, honey/ And now I’m caught up in a daydream/ Got me feeling hazy…”

Speaking to those of us who were apart from loved ones during the pandemic, “Livestream” deals with the struggle of having no control over being apart from that special someone. “I’m several months away on tour and away from my love,” Colombie said in a statement. “Waiting to be rejoined, longing to live together, past the city, by the river and over the mountain. I only remember him from times before the wilderness. He can always remember me by watching me on livestreams. Knowing he’s behind that computer screen is when I feel him right next to me.” 

The accompanying music video acts as a mini film sequel to “James,” portraying the same characters in the same dreamlike alluring summer setting. It’s just as he intended: “I hope fans will enjoy this very personal work of mine and really feel it as a story or a movie rather than just a listening album.”

Not too surprisingly, the songs and the visuals we’ve seen from The Shimmer so far feel just as personal as they should from an artist bursting at the seams to tell their own story.

Quality music and storytelling from a fellow member of the queer community is always a thrill, and Oscar and the Wolf surely is, without a doubt, no exception. Stateside, it’s time to pay attention!

The Shimmer will be released on Oct. 22, 2021, on deluxe 2LP colored vinyl, standard 1LP black vinyl, CD and digital platforms. Pre-order/pre-save here!

If you enjoyed this article, check out Jon Ali’s spotlight on another artist you should know — Jake Wesley Rogers!

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