There is something so honest about a musician who wears his influences on his sleeve. Maybe that is what makes them an artist. It takes a truly creative individual to take those influences and create something that is completely new. Drangsal is one of those artists. His love of ’80s synth-pop can be heard plainly in his music. But it never leaves his listeners feeling like they are in a time warp with rehashed sounds and ideas. His music still feels fresh and modern.
So this month, let’s learn German with music and get to know Drangsal better. His melodic alt-pop songs will surely win over many language learners!
Get to Know Drangsal
Drangsal is the stage name of Max Gruber. He was born on August 4, 1993, in Kandel, Germany, near the French border. The family, including an older sister, lived in Herxheim.
Music became an early pursuit of Gruber’s. At eight years of age, he began playing the drums. He then taught himself to play further instruments. And music would turn out to be his calling. He dropped out of school and ended his English and American studies. Gruber then moved first to Berlin and then to Leipzig.
It was during this period that Drangsal was born. In the fall of 2013, Gruber, as Drangsal, posted some demos on Soundcloud. And the rest, as they say, is history.
In addition to making music, Drangsal has a few other creative irons in the fire. He co-hosts the podcast Mit Verachtung with popular musician Casper where they talk music and culture. And given his songwriting, it should not be too much of a surprise that in the March of 2022, he published his debut book. Doch is a mix of short stories and autobiography.
The Music of Drangsal
Drangsal’s debut album Harieschaim was released in 2016. The record is based on those initial Soundcloud demos. The album is rich in 1980s post-punk, synth-pop, and goth inspiration. But, unfortunately for us German language learners, the album is notably lacking in German-language songs.
With his 2018 follow-up, Zores, Drangsal focused primarily on German-language songs. (I say “primarily” because listeners will find that the album’s final third is in English.) The album’s influences continue to shine brightly through, especially Morrissey (back when the British singer was known first and foremost for being the singer of The Smiths). You can really hear his roots on tracks like the single “Magst Du Mich (Oder Magst Du Bloss Noch Dein Altes Bild Von Mir),” with its sing-song style vocals and bright melodic chorus.
On his 2021 album Exit Strategy, Drangsal looks forward with his music instead of back. Where his prior albums sounded strongly of his 1980s influences, his third album features a large number of tempo alternative pop rock songs with driving choruses. You can still hear his influences, such as on “Mädchen Sind Die Schönsten Jungs” or the softness of “Ich Bin Nicht So Schön Wie Du.”
But elsewhere on Exit Strategy, he leans into an almost futuristic sound. You can hear it on the title track with its racing melody and on “Karussell,” a sort of new-age orchestral-choral piece. It is almost like he is trying the new sound on for size to see how it fits him. Before long, he returns to his comfort zone with “Urlaub von mir.” (It is also worth noting for German language learners that Exit Strategy is entirely in German.)
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Photo by Max vom Hofe, courtesy of KKT. This post contains affiliate links.