Looking for something a little different to listen to? Or maybe the rock, hip hop, or electronic bands previously featured just are not to your taste. Well, how about something a bit more classic? Not classical, per se. What about some music from the Roaring 1920s and 1930s with a modern twist? Think of it now. Carefully fixed hair, bow ties expertly tied, and pocket squares standing at attention as they peek out from pockets. If your curiosity has been piqued then please allow me to introduce to you Max Raabe and Palast Orchester.
Not unlike their German language music colleagues Rammstein, language does not limit the appeal of Die Toten Hosen. In the German-speaking world, they are major rock stars and they are pretty well known in the rest of the world, too. For nearly 40 years the quintet from Düsseldorf has won rock and punk fans over with their catchy tunes. Their lyrics range from the socially and politically aware to the mundane observations on everyday life. This month, let’s rock out and learn the German language with the music of Die Toten Hosen!
In recent years, Austrian rockers have become all the rage outside of their native country. But long before the likes of Bilderbuch, Wanda or Voodoo Jürgens, der Nino aus Wien was making quite the impact with his German music with a touch of his Viennese dialect (Wienerlied). With his knack for carefully crafting songs and his straightforward delivery, Nino’s music is the kind you turn on and put on repeat. At times it is somber, others it is fun and catchy. Part of his appeal is his casual, everyman approach. Half the time, he appears seemingly bored on stage while performing. But then he opens his mouth or strums his guitar. But it is always worth hearing. So this month, get to know der Nino aus Wien and learn German with music.
With a flashy stage show and intentionally provoking lyrics, Rammstein is famous the world over with their hard rock and metal music. The leather-wearing, fire-spitting performances are nearly as notable as their lyrics, which are often dark and violent. Despite that, Rammstein thrill fans with hard-hitting guitar riffs and equally hard-hitting rhythms. So this month, let’s learn German with the heavy metal music of Rammstein!
Most rock fans will best know Till Lindemann as the leather-wearing, shock provoking, letter “R” rolling frontman of German metal band Rammstein. But under the guise of Lindemann, Till joins forces with Swedish death metal’s Peter Tägtgren (of the bands Hypocrisy and Pain). With his side project, Till wears leather, provokes for shock effect, and rolls his Rs. Some habits are hard to break.
In late November 2019, Lindemann (the band) will release its sophomore full-length. But unlike the band’s 2015 debut, this one features lyrics in the German language. So this month, let’s raise those devil horns high and learn German with the music of metal duo Lindemann.
When Vienna, Austria’s Wanda burst onto the music scene in 2014 it was seemingly out of nowhere. But before the end of that year, the band had a huge hit on their hands with the infectious single “Bologna.” Today, the band has four albums under their belt — all of which went to the top of the charts in their home country and most broke into the top five in Germany. So this month, let’s tune up our German skills and learn German with the music of Wanda!
While every month I highlight a different musical act that performs in the German language, I can’t say that I’m always a big fan of each month’s artist. This month is a little different. Einstürzende Neubauten is, without a doubt, the first German band that I ever really discovered and have been my favorite band, regardless of language, for many years now. While it’s often easy to label musicians as “rock” or “pop,” it’s a little more difficult for Neubauten. At times their music can be noisy and bordering on performance art while other tracks can be decidedly mainstream. But it’s always on their own terms. That means, among other things, unconventional instruments. This month, let’s learn German with the music of Einstürzende Neubauten!
Perhaps there’s no more consistent musician than MC Fitti. With his baseball cap, sunglasses, and a bushy beard, the rapper is instantly recognizable. It’s a hip hop uniform of sorts. Much like his image, Fitti’s music is similarly constant: easy going and laid back party anthems matched with colorful music videos that are graphic and silly. He isn’t pondering any deep or serious philosophical issues with his music. But, as the saying goes, he’s laughing all the way to the bank. This month, let’s learn German with the music of rapper MC Fitti!
Ordinarily, you do not associate adjectives such as visual, colorful, and physical with music. Or, at least, not initially. But the women of Berlin pop group Laing are as much a visual performance as they are a musical group for your ears. The group’s videos are humorous, tongue-in-cheek, and carefully crafted. Their music, meanwhile, is just as thoughtfully created with a light and easygoing feel but it is no laughing matter! So this month let’s learning German with the music of pop group Laing!
It’s difficult to write about an artist (of any kind: from the performing arts to music and everything in between) without making comparisons. But for Berlin rapper Prinz Pi, it is not so straightforward. Sure, every artist has their own style but it seems a little more difficult to put Prinz Pi in a stylistic box. It is likely better that you listen to his music and make the decision for yourself. So this month I am highlighting Prinz Pi for learning German with music!
There is nothing the music industry and its audience love more than a singer who goes by a single name. Cher! Madonna! Prince! German singer Lary fits into that category but she does it on her own terms, just likes those other veritable one name juggernauts. Labeling Lary a “popstar” seems accurate but probably gives the wrong impression. This is not your run of the mill bubblegum pop music. Lary is dark and sultry, strong and gritty. Are you intrigued yet to find out and hear more? This month, let’s practice German with the music of pop R&B singer Lary.
In 2013, Vienna, Austria’s Bilderbuch burst onto the music scene with their instantly catchy, remarkably memorable track “Maschin.” It was the band‘s performance of that very track on German television that first caught my attention and helped make them one of my favorite bands (German language or otherwise). But the band aren’t new; in fact, the four-piece released their debut album (Nelken & Schillinge) a decade ago in 2009. For anyone looking to learn German with music, Bilderbuch is a great choice. Their music is fun, infectious, and smart. This month, let’s learn German with the music of Bilderbuch!
Get to Know Austrian Band Bilderbuch
Bilderbuch dates to 2005, when Maurice Ernst (vocals, guitar), Peter Horazdovsky (bass), Andreas Födinger (drums), and Klemens Kranawetter (guitar) formed the band as teenagers. Kranawetter and then Födinger later left the band. Guitarist extraordinaire Michael Krammer, with his Keith Richards-like swagger, joined Ernst and Horazdovsky in 2008 while four years later drummer Philipp “Pille” Scheibl came on board.
Bilderbuch are most simply described as a rock band, but that’s an oversimplification. The band’s earliest records — 2009’s Nelken & Schillinge and 2011’s Die Pest im Piemont — are largely indie rock records. Singles like “Calypso” and, in particular, “Kopf ab” are speeding rock tracks while “Ein Boot für uns” captures attention with its disjointed rhythm and chanting chorus.
By 2013, now older and with the addition of Pille, the band began going in a slightly different direction. That year the band released the EP Feinste Seide as a sort of teaser. The six-track recording shows the band branching out. The title track sees Ernst, confident and full of bravado, essentially rapping. But it was “Maschin,” and its music video, that really shot Bilderbuch onto the German language music scene. A mix of electronics and guitars, the track is unforgettable with its catchy chorus.
By this point, guitar-led indie rock was no longer the right description for Bilderbuch. Now the band is experimental, adventurous, and intentionally artsy. They’re here to party, but there is a focus and a goal, too.
Using the momentum from their Feinste Seide EP, Bilderbuch’s next release was the album Schick Shock from 2015. The album went to number one in their native Austria and broke the top 15 in Germany. It saw the return of favorites like “Maschin” as well as somewhat new tracks pushing the limits like “OM” and “Willkommen im Dschungel.” Two years later, the band followed it up with the album Magic Life. The recording picks up where Schick Shock left off. It’s fun, sometimes exaggerated but never taking itself too seriously. Ernst himself exudes the confidence, spirit, and energy of Bowie, Falco, and Prince.
No one could ever accuse Bilderbuch of being unambitious. And with the release of two albums, only months apart in late 2018 and early 2019, Bilderbuch has made it clear they’re here to stay. In December the group put out mea culpa while in February they released the psychedelic-leaning Vernissage My Heart. Bilderbuch is still progressing with their sound but at their core, they’re still the same band. Singles like “LED go” are sure to get stuck in your head while the music video, which brings a group of billiard balls to life, has the humorous take you’d expect from the band. Elsewhere Bilderbuch continues to challenge fans and push themselves with tracks like the memorable falsetto of “Frisbee.”
And never shy about making a thought-provoking statement, the band recently embarked on Europa 22, a website allowing fans to create a virtual EU passport for “a life without borders.” Encouraging fans to share their passport on social media, the campaign was a huge success seeing not just young fans but also politicians participating.
With six albums under their belts, countless singles, and music videos, there’s never been a better time to familiarize yourself with Bilderbuch. And why not learn German, too, while you’re at it?
Looking for another Ohrwurm to help you learn German? Check out previously featured musicians and bands!
Photo by Hendrik-Schneider. This post contains affiliate links.