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?
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Photo by Hendrik-Schneider. This post contains affiliate links.