Tag Archives: folk

Léanie Kaleido : How to Weigh a Whale Without a Scale, LP released March 2021

Singer/songwriter Léanie Kaleido released her debut album ‘Karamelien’ in 2005, ‘Quicksands and Shadows’ in 2014 and now this enigmatically titled new collection.

Her songs exist in a timeless flow of voices and waterfall piano, seeming to sound simultaneously intimate and broad in scope. Opener ‘All The Things I’m Made Of’ illustrates this perfectly as the dual vocal threads its magic through the echoing instrumentation, before returning to the impressionistic piano figure.

The pensive waltz of ‘Nobody’s Hero’ is a poetic character description with a spiralling chorus, then Léanie’s gentle voice reveals the mystery of the title track ‘…..do you really need to analyse…love is love it has no size…its like trying to weigh a whale without a scale…’. Four minutes of musings and meanderings interweave with the cyclical chord arrangement and harp sound to produce an effective and addictively gorgeous track.

I like the pastoral indie-folk sounds of ‘Mr Dragonfly’ along with the retro-fun of ‘Hat Thief’ where the acoustic guitar is to the fore. The emotional core of the album is probably the final two tracks, the heartbreak recollection and assertion of ‘Teapot Girl’ over stately layers of keyboards, followed by the clever melody, lyrical allusions and soaring chorus of ‘Kite String Mantra’.

Like a dense and rich forest it is an album of mystery and romance to completely lose yourself in.

Léanie Kaleido – The world in the back of a spoon (leanie.com)

Natasha Nicole : Alright In The End, single released 26 March 2021

Singer/songwriter Natasha Nicole from Wolverhampton UK has put everything into this debut single, creating five minutes of welcoming meditations.

Beginning with a folk-inspired waltzing acoustic guitar and an immediate, inviting lyric ‘….go home…kick back….cut yourself some slack….you don’t need to carry this load alone…’, Natasha’s pure voice sets the tone. Additional instruments join in and the vocal becomes more ethereal as the music evolves into more dream-pop territory. The listener is eventually immersed in the big, reassuring chorus, ‘…it will be alright in the end…’ which though sounding comforting still has a slight undercurrent of doubt.

The track flies by; at the end a brass solo adds to the polish on the sheen of the production and immediately you want to hear this gorgeous and timeless track again….

Natasha Nicole | Facebook

Grrrlgroannn | Facebook

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Katy Kirby : Cool Dry Place, LP released 19 Feb 2021

The new LP from Texas-based singer/songwriter Katy Kirby is refreshing, lyrically challenging and hints of summers to come in its music.

The short and sparse ‘Eyelids’ sets the dreamlike tone for the collection; acoustic guitar and piano complementing the beguiling vocal. With music and words that seem not quite aligned but very much in a good way ‘Juniper’ has one of those chord sequences that sounds like it is constantly catching up with itself and instantly lodges in your brain. A relaxed voice effortlessly flows above the uncluttered backing, sometimes giving way to just a lone guitar. The imagery of the lyrics ‘…you don’t need a gardener to know…which way the blossoms going to float….’ meshes seamlessly with the instrumentation, with extra nuances through the two and a half minutes running time. According to Katy “This is a song about motherhood, mostly...’.

The jumpier rhythm and hesitations of ‘Peppermint’ is followed by the delicate and playfully addictive ‘Traffic!’. Previously released as a single this gorgeous dancing melody is a winner, with a hook to immerse yourself in. A guitar solo, heavenly choir and electronic voice treatments all add to the mix.

The LP is packed full of treats, including the quiet piano ballad of ‘Portals’ and probably best of all the leisurely musings, big chorus and grand finale of title track ‘Cool Dry Place’ followed by the enigmatic low-key bookend of ‘Fireman’.

At the intersection of indie pop, lo-fi folk and perfectly crafted song writing this is a gorgeous debut album.

Katy Kirby (kirbykaty.com)

Keeled Scales

CARRON : Borrowed Life, released November 2020

There are two versions of this song from CARRON. The original track released last month is a mellow and soothing electropop track full of rippling arpeggios weaved through ethereal vocals from multi-instrumentalist sisters Méabh & Mella Carron. The keyboards have a significant but not dominant presence, especially when dancing around the bass pedalled notes during the chorus and the key lines ‘…..if I borrowed a life would I question myself….would it change what I felt…’ . There is even a bit of gentle synth soloing before the multi-layer harmonies bring the song to a close.

Now CARRON have re-interpreted their own song for a ‘Live in Lockdown’ alternative. Beginning with a repeated figure like autumnal birdsong the unadorned folk-based combination of violin and piano carries the backing with the subtlest of electric guitar enhancement. The sisters draw true beauty from the melody when singing solo, in unison or with harmonies.

The stripped-back and slowed down mix emphasises the wintery cadences of the arrangement, performed in a candlelit setting it is a gorgeous combination of voices and music.

https://www.carronmusic.com/

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Order Of The Toad : Re-order Of The Toad, LP released 2nd Oct 2020

A track by track review of ‘Re-Order Of The Toad’,  the new album from Glasgow esoteric indie-psych trio Order Of The Toad.

1. Ladys Mantle  Previously released, read about it in detail here

2. Just Because  Mellow pop built around rhythm guitar, a driving middle-eight and the spooky chorus that stays in your head.

3. Rabbets  The tale of Mary Toft, who claimed to be giving birth to rabbits in 1726. The bizarre story, baritone vocal and counterpoint musical complexities make this a great listen.

4. Brintons Marrakech  Possibly a song about a carpet or a Moroccan city or who knows? I like the way the vocals are linked and underpinned by the unrelenting bass and guitar figure.

5. Fabulator  The band draw on that 60s hinterland between prog rock, folk and psychedelia on this album to great effect and this is another track that splices pop into that heady brew too.

6. Slow Ballad 44  Moody and sombre, with unexpected chord changes to keep the listener guessing. Maybe this would be an unpredictable live set opener, pulling the audience into the world of this unique band..

7. Do It With Feeling  Loose, laidback retro type hit with spiky instrumental passages. Sounding simultaneously timeless and modern, it could be nicely covered by fellow psychsters King Gizzard…

8. Lindow Woman  Another historical theme and detailed lyric, this time the narrator inhabits the remains of a body from Roman times found in a peat bog in 1983. Listen, learn and enjoy…

9. Toads Theme  A strange epic duel of character-filled vocals and abrupt, urgent instrumentation. An incomprehensible delight.

10. Mend It  A hippy reverie with a comfortable psychedelic melody and structure, in the middle it breaks up nicely into distorted guitar solos.

11. A Pittance  Like a medieval tale of legendary battle, the marching drums and bass play along under a fine storytelling vocal from Gemma Fleet.

12. Cruise Control  This final track combines many other elements from the album to make a fresh, sparkling punch of pop.

https://www.facebook.com/orderofthetoad

https://recklessyes.com/

http://www.gringorecords.com/

The Magpies : Tidings, LP released June 2020

A track by track review of ‘Tidings’, the debut LP from contemporary folk quartet The Magpies. Formed in York in 2017, with four vocalists and many different stringed instruments they have drawn together influences and styles to create a rich and rewarding sound.

1. Two Magicians. A traditional song with a lyric describing the sensual shape-shifting antics of the lady and the blacksmith. Mandolin and fiddle weave sinuously around the warm vocal.

2. Catharsis. The instrumental dexterity of the first track goes straight into this gorgeous fast-paced workout. Great production and mix, the band sound like they are in your front room.

3. Run River Run. A considered meditation on the flowing of the river and the passing of time as a resolution for problems. The mid-song instrumental break is sublime.

4. Rock of Ages. A cover of Gillian Welch’s spiritual anthem, showing how the band blend aspects of americana into their sound. Hypnotic and stunningly effective.

5. Foss Island. The violin double-stopping of the introduction gives way to an instrumental that is lighter than air and makes the island of the title sound like the perfect place to be (although it seems to be an inland area near York?). The theme inverts into variations with intricate structures as the track continues.

6. No More Tears.
The expression of emotion is beautifully concise here as the banjo, guitar, violin and cello gently contribute, dusted with harmony vocals and infused with the fragile atmosphere of a forgotten Woody Guthrie song.

7. Shuffle Set.
It is a nicely structured collection, just when you are haunted by the previous track there is instant uplift from the synchronised playing and sparkling solos on this traditional whole band showcase.

8. Galway Shawl.
The longest track on the album, it is nearly seven minutes to develop the languid and mellow feeling of this song, well known in the folk world. It is a tale of a chance meeting filled with poetic details including naming of other songs within the narrative and the repeating motif of the title garment; the descriptions are brought to life by a super vocal performance and complex layering of the instruments. Entrancing and beguiling.

9. Golden Girl. An air of mystery pervades this track, a ghostly story with of course a sad end. The violin shares the counter melody over the brooding chord sequence in this dark but affecting track.

10. Balls To The Wall. An exotic and unpredictable instrumental spectacular, with bouzouki patterns, speed changes and handclaps interweaved with folk dance tempos. An explosive finale to this excellent album.

https://www.themagpiesmusic.com/
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Sunflower Thieves : Hide And Seek, single released 29 May 2020

‘Hide and Seek’, is the excellent new song from Leeds Indie folk duo Sunflower Thieves.

Debut single ‘Two Halves’ was a mellow introduction to their work, with a meditative verse giving way to the catchy chorus featuring their spot-on harmony vocals. Follow-up ‘Heavy Weight’ had a distinct melancholy threading through the descending chord sequence and carefully crafted melody and meditative lyrics ‘….what would you do if all the streetlights burned out?…’ resolving into ‘….restlessly waiting for a train….to take away your heavy weight…’.

The band perform live with just acoustic guitar and their luminous vocals but this new track allows other instruments and extra voices to drift in and out, adding subtle multi-layers to the mix. The overall effect is laid back, atmospheric and as summery a sound as you could want. It is a warm and comfortable lyric, evoking reminiscence of younger, less complicated days ‘…..falling asleep in the back of your car… hoping you’ll carry me up to my room…’ , feelings so good that ‘….I don’t want this to end…’.
It is definitely a track to fully immerse yourself in.

This is their third single and you can find other high-quality tracks on YouTube and various radio shows too if you do some searching…

 

https://www.facebook.com/sunflowerthieves/

sunflower theives hide and seek artwork

Kirsty Merryn : Our Bright Night, LP released April 2020

A track by track review of the new LP from singer/songwriter/pianist Kirsty Merryn, an ambient-folk concept album of snapshots and musings from dusk till dawn.

1. Twilight. A distant piano, freed of time constraints drifts and sustains as a bookend to the songs. When the voice and other acoustic instruments arrive the scene is set.

2. The Banks of the Sweet Primroses (feat Phil Beer). Straight into this traditional tune, Kirsty’s pure voice tells a tale of a dark ambiguous encounter, nicely tempered by a subtle violin.

3. Constantine (feat Alex Alex). The piano is back at the forefront for this gentle and unhurried duet of love and longing ‘…hold me in your arms…only you can keep me safe…’

4. Mary. Stepping the tempo up, Kirsty delivers a winning vocal with variations on ‘…Mary…say you’ll come walking with me…’ in this concisely structured folkpop track.

5. Our Bright Night.
Over an atmospheric drone from a shruti box, the vocal takes on an extra sparkling clarity in this timeless reflection.

6. The Deep | The Wild | The Torrent. Probably my favourite track on the collection, one to lose yourself in like some island landscape. The graceful waltzing chord sequence is laced through with many instrumental contributions that embrace the voice and lyric to perfection.

7. Outlandish Knight. A version of another traditional tale, steamy and sinister with mysterious and mythical overtones, augmented by the tension in the music.

8. Little Fox. Sparse and concise, a sweet melody with an undercurrent of the dark woods.

9. Shanklin Chine (feat Sam Kelly). The tree-lined gorge in the Isle of Wight is the evocative backdrop to the duo’s contrasting vocals and some neat twists in the melody. The sombre story doesn’t end well ‘….at Shanklin Chine the jagged rocks would be her only marriage bed…’

10. Thieves of Whitehall. A contemporary comment set to a melody and backing that could be from an older tradition.

11. The Wake. A return to the purity of simple piano and voice, this is another favourite track for me, packed with poetic imagery ‘….or the freezing air should take a hold in June…….and the grass that grows will remind me of our parting…and the grass grows long…’ Gorgeous.

12. Dawn. The final instrumental, as the excellent musical vignettes of the night fade but linger in the memory…

https://www.kirstymerryn.com/

Molly-Anne : California Calling, EP released April 2020

An EP that collects together earlier solo work by Gloucestershire based singer and songwriter Molly-Anne, predating her new band Molly & The Moon. Fusing elements of folk, country and storytelling, these well-crafted songs are uplifted even further by Molly’s top-quality vocals.

1. A San Francisco Story. Starting with just percussive guitar chords and the pure voice this opening track is described by Molly as a live favourite that tells its own story ‘….it was a quarter to eight down by the Golden Gate….I lost my heart in San Francisco…we didn’t care and we wore flowers in our hair…’ The amalgam of real or imagined imagery works a treat and the band rise to the occasion as they gradually join in.

2. Horizon.
A wistful recollection of a past relationship, the narrator looking at the horizon and still hoping in the anthemic chorus ‘…come and find me where the ocean meets the sky…’

3. California Calling. The biggest chorus on the EP is bookended by gorgeous folk stylings in the vocals of the delicate verses. A guitar solo and organ fills out the sound before the celebratory full harmonies at the end.

4. Bristol Boy. Contemplation of a summer romance inspires vivid memories ‘…we’re running over Clifton Common searching for the sun…’, with a hint of melancholy as ‘…times like those keep me reminiscing…’. The song rushes along with urgency, as unfortunately the time passes all too quickly.

5. The Lakes. Alternating between the reverie of the verses and the majestic chorus this is another thoughtful anthem with luminous lyrical reflections ‘….and now the winter’s here and you keep the frost at my door….’. The final minute and a half of instrumental and vocal build-up is a brilliant finale to the EP.

https://www.mollyandthemoon.co.uk/

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Salt House, Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge, 15 March 2020

Storey’s Field Centre in the new settlement of Eddington near Cambridge welcomed folk trio Salt House.
The clarity of the acoustics and the lofty church-like structure were an ideal setting for their haunting, celebratory music – conjuring images of stark but beautiful landscapes from the Scottish islands where they record.

Opening song ‘Turn Ye to Me’, “a tale of a baby stolen by a sea monster and replaced by a changeling whilst her mother gathered seaweed” is a new interpretation of an existing poem; immediately the music and voices on this and the following ‘Lay Your Dark Low’ set the tone for the evening. With acoustic guitars, a Gretsch hollow-body electric twelve-string, violin, viola and an indian harmonium the instruments were as lovely to look at as to listen to.

Imagine seeing hump-backed whales and orca off the coast then the northern lights in the sky, top it off by writing the gorgeous ‘Old Shoes’, with its fast guitar picking, relaxed harmonies and a lustrous violin solo and you have a perfect song to go with the ideal day.

Over the course of two sets they played many songs from their 2018 album ‘Undersong’ as well as all the tracks from their new long-player ‘Huam’ (the call of an owl), released at the end of the week. Each song was introduced and explained, drawing the audience into the rewarding layers of this rich musical genre.

The band feature the history and folklore of traditional Scandinavian and Scottish themes such as ‘The Sisters’ Revenge’; an epic seven minutes built around the recurring words ‘…the summer comes the summer goes…the grave of my father green grass grows…’. The words and music built the tension as the title characters prepared for the gory final act ‘…they hacked him into pieces small…’.

There were more contemporary reflections too; ‘All Shall be Still’ ties in the tedium of work routines with thoughts of escape and the timelessness of the natural world, also evoked in ‘Mountain Of Gold’ and ‘Staring at Stars’. Musically there was plenty to gently immerse yourself in but there was also darker, sombre moods such as the hypnotic dream of ‘The Road Not Taken’ with pulsing rhythmic guitar and soaring violin.

It was a warm, flawless and brilliant show.

http://www.salthousemusic.com
https://www.hudsonrecords.co.uk/
https://www.storeysfieldcentre.org.uk/