Some beautiful Saturday morning folk is what makes a Saturday morning (or noon or afternoon, depends on when you get up) so wonderful. Today my Saturday soundtrack to get you through the day is the amazing 2009 full length debut Kvöldvaka by Icelander acoustic folk singer-songwriter Svavar Knutur. Kvöldvaka “is Icelandic for “Evening wake”. It means a night of stories, songs, singalongs and contemplation.” As I first read this translation for Kvöldvaka I knew that this is the music I’m looking for and to which CFM is dedicated to – and of course this assumption was right and so I’m happy to present to you this wonderful folk record you mustn’t miss to check out.
Normally I don’t like music where I can’t understand the vocals because of language barriers – but in this case I’m toatlly fine with it because the songs are so fascinating and full of feelings that you don’t have to understand word for word to understand what the song is about. Even though not all tracks are written in Icelandic, 5 tracks are (out of 11) and I consider this is worth mentioning because it shapes the overall character of the music (at least if you’re not speaking Icelandic). I actually think that Dansa is my absolute highlight from the album and even though I don’t understand one single word, I’m totally fascinated by the nocturnal acoustic guitar melodies, the slightly melancholic timbre of Svavar’s voice and the wonderful backing vocals that are supported by a smooth, deep and slow bassline. And that’s just one example of the great music you can find. Another one is the opener, an interpretation of the well known traditional Clementine (maybe you remember the interpretation by Daniel, Fred & Julie from their self-titled 2009 debut – if you do, you should compare both versions and see how different and how good they both are). Very good opener that shows the talent not just to repeat a song but to mold and forge it into something own and unique.
The mood of Kvöldvaka is not always dark and somber, sometimes a hopeful shimmer blinks through and dreams of a somehow softer and calmer world – this is what adds a little indie folk feeling to the record that suits it very well (e.g. in Yfir Hóla Og Yfir Hæðir). What’s not so good, in fact terible, is the brake at the end of the album with the 11th track being some sort of a lightly sarcastic, unnecessarily comedic and in comparison disappointing bonus track called Leipzig. I totally miss the honest atmosphere, the true and authentic sound and the reference to the previous tracks. But I don’t want to overstress this point, because it’s the last track and maybe just meant as a bonus (and some sort of inside joke) and not as a worthy track of the regular full length.
Besides this blemish there is absolutely nothing that should obtain you from giving an ear to this astonishing music. The sound is real, the music comes from the heart and if you are a fan of acoustic folk, this is one album for you to celebrate the beauty of our favorite musical genre. I think Svavar Knutur impressively showed that he got enormous talent and that you should be curious about the following releases (CFM will keep you updated). To get your physical or MP3 copy of the album, head over to Svavar’sbandcamp site and buy the music there. Additional information can be found on Svavar’sMySpace.
I hope you are ready for some of the best acoustic folk I listened to in a long time. Lindsay Clark’s album Thistle The Maker, which was released back in April 2009, is the cause for rejoicing. The songstress from Portland is dedicated to the purest form of acoustic folk and doesn’t need anything else than her beautiful voice and her guitar to record an album full of emotions and slowed down tunes, sorrowful, sad, but still with a little hope left. Her voice has a very wide range and the melodies she sings make strong use of this fact – the alteration between loud and high tones and nearly whistled deep tones delivers the necessary variety to keep the album entertaining while being as reduced as it is. And it shows one more time that the often read statement that a girl/guy with just a guitar is something boring or something that lacks deepness and reflection – to the contrary – these girls and guys have a even harder job to create good music, because there is just a narrow range of stylistic posibilities. All the more amazing it is to hear such fresh and honest and just wonderful music that’s so full of heart.
Listening to Thistle The Maker I had to spontaneously think of acts like Joanne Robertson, Laura Gibson or Lotte Kestner. They all play a very chilled and laid-back folk even though their music isn’t comparebal in all aspects (naturally). But if you like one of the above mentioned artists, you surely will love Lindsay Clark. And I have a very strong feeling that she has the makings to play her way into the first division of folk. And while I’m typing this, every single note I currently hear proves that – Daybreak, the last track of the album, is playing right now and the interplay between slow and sleepy guitar melodies and more clearly audible guitar play and louder and stretched tones in her voice is just oh so wonderful.
I have a hard time to name what track on the album could be the best one, for I think all tracks are top notch and nothing than the result of outstanding singer-songwriter qualities. The little variations that can be found throughout the whole record bring out the main points and set outstanding highlights. I’m talking about some back ground vocals here (Sweet Clover or Waxwings), some strings there (also Sweet Clover or The Symbol) and great ammounts of silence, which rightfully is used as an instrument (Blackbirds). In Children you even find some decent, sparsely used drums and percussions.
There is not much to add, Lindsay’sThistle The Maker is just the right record if you’re really into singer-songwriter music and acoustic folk. This isn’t a record most of your friends will like (for you are reading CFM you should have experienced that already) but it’s downright not a record you should listen to together with a crowd of others. This music is like an intimate moment for you alone, maybe together with some good like-minded folks. This music needs the quiet – as much as you need it and as much as you love it (at least sometimes). This music is fragile and it should be treated like that. You know what I mean, but I wanted to point that out, because Thistle The Maker is that exqusite fare you have to search for very long, very hard and often very unsuccessful. To get a copy of this piece of folk art, head over to cdbaby.com and buy yours there. For more information, visit Lindsay Clark’sMySpace. And be prepared to hear some new material of Lindsay in the future, for she’s searching for recording locations and musicians right now. I’ll keep you informed.
Have you heard about the Melodica Festival yet? If not, I will tell you something about it. The Melodica Festival was designed by Melbourne musician Pete Uhlenbruch in 2007 as a platform to unite musicians from the local music scene and to share and celebrate acoustic music. The festival got positive feedback and soon grew. The result of this growing process is remarkable: meanwhile the festival operates in Melbourne and Sydney (Australia), Hamburg (Germany), Reykjavik (Iceland) and Brighton (UK). This is quite a spanning network dedicated to acoustic music from around the world if you ask me – even though I think the US and Canada, as well as Sweden have to join the list of festival sites yet. If you play acoustic (folk) music, I highly recommend getting in touch with the good folks of Melodica (via their MySpace site) – maybe the next time you (and your band) will be on stage too.
Before I got in contact with Torben Stock (featured on the compilation), I didn’t know about the festival, although the (well known) Hasenschaukel in Hamburg kept featuring artists over the last years. But better late than never – and so Torben sent me a copy of the first Melodica Compilation which features 13 artists from all around the world. The CD was released back in 2009, but is quite fresh and I think it introduces a lot of new and still unknown bands to the listener. The music is mostly acoustic in nature – what a surprise – but you’ll find very different styles and I wouldn’t consider everything being folk music at all – not even all tracks are acoustic all the time. But this isn’t bad, for the idea of bringing music, musicians and listeners together in such a laudable way is really great and deserves huge respects.
Let’s get to the music and to the different styles I spoke of. On the MySpace site you find the term “coffeehouse folk” and if you focus more on coffeehouse than on folk this could be a very good impression of how the compilation sounds, because I really can imagine sipping some strong black coffee in a cozy coffeehouse while listening to this music – maybe the perfect soundtrack for lazy coffeehouse Saturday afternoons. To give you a feeling for the variety, there are contemporary folk songs with mostly acoustic guitar and vocals as played by Owls Of The Swamp or Torben Stock or Athebustop, the latter with some hints of indie folk. And indie folk is also the genre most of the songs can be described as, such as tracks from Ivar or Kid Decker. Some of them are a bit harder like Astrid’s Farm’s song Full Metal Jacket that drifts a little bit more to the folk rock side. Other bands combine pop and folk to some pop (chamber) folk mix, such as Mysterious Marta’s track The Question. And even some dream pop can be heard by listening to Myrra Rós’ mixture of folk and electronic elements.
As you see, there is a lot of different music, but still the compilation is well compiled and the creators had a good feeling for choosing and arranging the tracks. But because of the wide range of genres some tracks can fascinate more than others – not everything is quite my taste, but this is a problem every compilation has to face. The CD works well as promotion for the festival and otherwise the festival seems to be represented in a good way by the CD. For every interested and a bit open minded folk fan, this could be a nice item to add to one’s collection. Just think of it as mostly acoustic coffeehouse (folk) music. To get a copy of the compilation, write a message to the mail address mentioned on the Melodica Compilation MySpace site. I will let you know as soon as another issue of the compilation is available.
What do you expect from a band that describes its own style as melancholic acoustic folk, bombastic rock/pop and steamtrain thrash-blues grunge? Well…at least something memorable. I’m honest, I never heard of the Scottish band Y’all Is Fantasy Island and I don’t know one of their outputs. But as far as I can tell, they released 3 full length recordings in 2008 and currently work on a new record that would be number six in their catalog. Not bad and a lot of music to discover. I started listening to them just yesterday as I accidently found their free two track single Play On The Weekend’s Sunny Days – and what can I tell you – it’s folk at its finest.
Track one, the title track, is a great piece of atmospheric guitar melody driven folk with indie like vocals and some nice background melodies. Exactly the right track you want to play on a gloomy afternoon. The sad voice really don’t encourage you to play this on a weekends sunny day – certainly not. It’s more of a soundtrack to accompany you while having melancholic feelings. Even though I called the track a folk song it isn’t just guitars and vocals, there are additional drums and cello? (maybe it’s a synthesizer). Nevertheless, great folksy atmosphere and a track you really should check out.
The digital b-side of the single draws a completely different picture, not in mood, but in motive. And I can’t get the description from the label’s page out of my head: Woman Of The House Thought As Much “is creepy like a walk up an icy path with zero visability.” Even though I can’t really find any icy atmosphere, I surely say, that this track would have been a great track for slow alternative gods Low. Over nine minutes the song slowly leads you straight into nowhere. And if you have a crush on Low and slow alternative music, you will love this track as much as I do, what means you will just adore it. What can one say, minimalistic guitars melodies and fragments with some percussion sounds and the hell of a great feeling for the right tone of voice. I wish I’d discovered this single back when it was released at the end of 2009 – would have made my recommendations list for sure.
If you didn’t download the single already, just click here and get your 13 minutes of daily excitement. And if you want, visit the band on MySpace (and listen to some tracks of a very different shade). I can’t wait for the full length to present to you.
Another facet of folk music for today – we take the trip to metal influenced “acoustic landscapes” from the Netherlands. But metal influenced doesn’t mean hard guitar riffing, heavy drums or deep growls here – it’s more a small reminder that both band members (Jasper Strik and Mark Kwint) have their roots in this genre of music. The song structure, so they write, is one indicator for this and I think the drum play, especially the work on the cymbals, is another one. You’re maybe thinking now, that this is some sort of folk metal in the vein of well known bands like Fintroll, Korpiklaani or Moonsorrow, but, as I wrote above, Faelwa’s music creates acoustic landscapes and is not the folk used in the genre term folk metal (if you want a reference to metal at all, I think the sound draws from early black metal music which often features elements of ambient songwriting).
So, I hope there are no prejudices against the music anymore. Farewell Sun is the name of the EP and it was released back in September of 2009. The songs are piano driven with present but not intrusive drums, modest bass play and, of course, acoustic guitar. The opener, The Heron, features additional whispered vocals and shows the combination of metal and folk the best because the genres melt together. But still I like the majestic melodies of the title track even better – nearly eight minutes of acoustic music with lots of variations and breaks (not in the real sense of the word because the whole song is very relaxed) and lots of moody feelings in them – a very nice attempt to create “a portal to introvert landscapes” (in their own words).
But most of all I really dig Orphan Lullaby because it covers my newly discovered interest in neo-classical music the best. The piano melodies are just heavenly and the acoustic guitar adds up such a folksy feeling to the tune that you can close your eyes and you will easily see wonderful picture of nature in front of you – so let’s pretend we’re all nature’s orphans for a few minutes and dream away. What a great track full of emotions and colors.
If you’re still awake and don’t fell asleep over those fine melodies, I will come to an end for now. Faelwa’s EP Farewell Sun leaves me with a very good feeling and I really can see lots of talent in writing melodies and transcendent nature into music. Not long ago I wrote about Richard Skelton’s LP Landings which combined folk and neo-classical music to reach the same goal – but he did it his way and Faelwa do it their way. And both ways work even though they have different directions (not opposite ones!). Where Richard Skelton tries to show us nature reflected in music in its deserted beauty, I think Faelwa tries to combine the reflection of nature in sound with sad human emotions to create a web of melancholic reciprocity between nature and man.
Visit the bands MySpace and personal homepage and order Farewell Sun directly by clicking here (for a physical copy) or via cdbaby.com or iTunes (for the mp3s).
It took Richard Skelton 4 years of recording, to finish his newest ambient folk output Landings. 70 minutes full of musical awesomness and mastership. I never heard a record that could transform nature into music in such an amazingly breathtaking way. You can feel the wind blowing, the river running, you can feel the distance between hilltop and the foot of the hill, you feel fog and clouds – you simply feel the landscape and all it’s beauty and mystery that lies within.
Richard went out to travel all over North England to find the right places to record his music and this journey brought him to an old farm house, moores, rivers and woods – every place that seemed just right was used to record his outstanding tracks, which reflect both the atmosphere and the uniqueness of the places they were recorded. To do so Richard not only integrated natural sound, such as the running water in Greens Within Brook or the birdsong in Pariah, but also accomplished to arrange different layers of instruments to a complex sounding whole, that gives you a feeling of having a fore-, middle and background. This illusion is created by using different volume levels and different tone pitches paired with the specific sound of the instruments used, leading to many moments where I thought: Oh my god, is this possible to create such a depth in sound, that the surroundings of the recordings lay straight before your eyes? And the answer is yes, because Richard Skelton did just that.
The pallet reaches from violin and upright bass or cello via acoustic guitar through to harp. I don’t know what instruments were played exactly, but, as a matter of fact, they seem just to be the perfect choice to create an overwhemling record. I never heard such music and several sources say that Richard created his own niche within neo-classical music that goes without comparison. And having heard Landings, I’m willing to believe this in its entirety. Maybe you remember, that I wrote in the Redhooker review, that it would be my wish that folk music and neo-classical music would come closer together – and what should I say, Landings proves, that this combination works out perfectly. Sure, I can imagine more and other ways of combining these two genres, but this ambient folk, as I want to call it, is just one way of melting both music styles together.
Even though I’m taken aback by the music itself, I have to warn you, because this record takes some time. It’s not your first choice if you want to listen to some soft music while doing other things. Landings needs your attention and it will give back to you wonderful images of sound, but to see and hear them, you have to take your time and listen carefully. For my part, I just have to say that Richard Skelton is now officially one of CFM’s new favorites. Thanks for the music!
To buy records of the artist you have to be quick, because they are sold out in rather short time. But I found a place that still carries the CD version of Landings (but without the book), click here to check it out. And if you want to buy the limited vinyl edition of the previous release, Marking Time, you should contact Richard directly via his MySpace site and ask for a copy.
I’m glad I found the perfect band to post about after yesterday’s article on Slow Six’ new album. Why is that so? Simply because Bird cuts the electronic influences and the post rock but keeps the string arrangements and the orchestral character and adds some folksy atmosphere to them. Bird are Bardt, Jak and Janne from Eindhoven, Netherlands and they started making music back in 2008. Since then they self-released their debut, a 10’’ with the name Before We Go, and later in 2009 their second output, left untitled. But to simplify things they call this collection of home recordings #2. Reading sentences like the following, makes clear, that they are just the right band you want to discover today (from their bio): “Bird follows its own musical ambitions; Making records DIY style and playing at places where the music, in its most basic acoustic and storytelling form, still is appreciated.” That’s the spirit.
I just name the instruments and you know, you’ll like the music: violin, acoustic guitar, cello and bass. Voilà, the perfect mix. I would say their sound can be described as a mixture of Brown Bird and South China (the band…). Folk elements are delivered by acoustic guitar and very listenable tones of voices combined with a melancholy mood inherit in all songs, and South China elements through the very present strings – and believe me, the strings are gorgeous and you will fall in love with them. Anyhow, it is a funny business that acoustic guitar, cello and violin harmonize in such a great way and I’m not only speaking about this release now. I think contemporary acoustic folk is defined by the combination of those instruments (well, I see that this is too generic, but if you listen to lots of folk music you’ll get this feeling too, I think). But this was more of a randome note here…
Another feature that #2 has in common with South China’s debut Washingtons is a subjective one. I’m speaking of the instrumental track The Fixer. I wrote about Washingtons’ instrumentals that they are the best tracks on the album for they carry nothing but pure feeling in them. And I will say this again about the instrumentals you find on #2, especially concerning The Fixer. It is quite an outstanding track and shows all the finess the band has to offer when it comes to perfect songwriting. This tune really catched me. The other tracks do as well, I just want to point this out, but The Fixer is so damn beautiful and full of emotions…I don’t know what to say, just listen to it for yourself.
In the end there is really nothing one could say against this little album of collected home recordings. The recording quality is fine, the sound is clear and all of the tracks show, that this band got massive potential to put in forthcoming releases. Alone the fact, that they managed to record tracks that range from sad instrumentals (The Fixer and SSC) over more forward orientated folk ballads (About) to folk songs focusing rather on acoustic guitar and vocals (Softly Moaning World) shows the enthusiasm they laid into their music. And this should be highly regarded by every lover of honest acoustic folk music.
If the songs and my words made you crazy about possessing the records, you just have to send some lines directly to the band to order them. You can do so by visiting Bird’s MySpace site and writing them a personal message or using the e-mail adress postet on the left side of the profile. Let’s hope that Bird’s wings are strong enough to fly right into your hearts.
As we all like good music for free and we all like some good acoustic folk, I’m sure everyone will like Rohr, a free two disc compilation offered by net label Peppermill Records. Indeed the word compilation does not really describe the nature of the release for it combines snapshots of two days full of music, wandering, enjoying nature and having some good times. The label writes:
“On the weekend of August the 21st, 2009, we hiked up to Rohr Lake for our second annual Peppermill Music Festival, for a week of mountains, meadows and music. Here we present you with some of the highlights heard round the campfire during those two nights…“
“Highlights heard round the campfire”, that would be a suitable subtitle for the whole collection of acoustic folk songs, small talking, story telling and laughing. I think it was a masterstroke to not only include the bare songs but rather all of the noises and the talking surrounding them. This creates a very, very intimate atmosphere and the whole compilation really delivers the feeling of one self being present all the time – a feature only the best folk records and artist archieve.
Musically you can find everything from happy sing alongs to somber instrumental pieces played by accordion and violin. The quality of the recordings is very good and is far away from just beeing lumbering sound squeak – even the crackling camp fire and the thunder is wonderfully recorded and adds an incomparable naturalness to the songs. The envoirment is just perfect for this kind of music and you totally get the feeling of what folk is all about: friendship, a place to share ones thoughts and emotions, nature and the proof that the real music only exists in peoples’ hearts far way from mainstream and major labels. I’m getting sentimental and idealistic here, but you know what I mean and if you listen to this compilation you will feel it too.
To receive the present Peppermill Records offers you, just visit their label site and download this great two disc set of music for free. You won’t be disappointed – only one thing would have been even cooler: if this would exist as a 2xLP version. But anyways, don’t miss it!
01. Kele Goodwin – Kite Strings
02. Sarah Winchester – Northeast Kingdom
03. Michael Elias – Halfway There
04. Nicholas A. Marshall – Into the Night
05. Maymay – The Fall
06. Rauelsson – Liebre
07. Town Rill – My Park Bench
08. Galveston – Never Ask Why
09. Heather Woods Broderick – Behind Doors
Listen while reading:
Kele Goodwin – Kite Strings (from Portland Stories)
Michael Elias – HalfwayThere (from Portland Stories)
I think every record collector knows the pleasurable feeling of having bought a very rare or very special record. The happiness of actually having it in the own collection is something that can last for years if not forever – it’s like owning a personal little Mona Lisa in audio format with all the pleasures included like touching it, looking at it, (why not) smelling it and most important listening to it whenever one feels the need to do so. And Heather Woods Broderick’s (the sister of Peter Broderick) compilation Portland Stories is nothing but such a record you desire with all your heart if you love acoustic folk music.
Heather had had the idea of creating a compilation of Portland based music to have all the music she loved at hand whenever she was away from home. And so she decided to ride her bike and her portable four-track recorder to the artists she knew and liked and asked them to play a track for her. They had to meet the following criteria: every artist shall select a song he wants to record, but mustn’t use more than the 4 tracks and one microphone. And so Heather wrote her bike to different places and recorded and collected musical instant moments – just like Polaroid photos in sound. “The idea was to have incredible simple recordings of the songs, so that they sounded just like you might hear them performed live,” it runs in the CD insert.
Heather Woods Broderick
With the encouragement of her brother she finished recording and on a trip to Berlin Nils Frahm (who also did the mixing and mastering for the record) introduced her to Monique Recknagel, proprietress of the Sonic Pieces label. Monique fell in love with the songs and the compilation and decided to release it via Sonic Pieces in a wonderful handmade and hand-numbered edition of 369 copies back in December of 2009.
The compilation starts off with Kele Goodwin and his wonderful sing-along song of contemporary folk music Kite Strings. An easy melody played on acoustic guitar and his soft but a bit sad sounding voice in combination with the melancholic timbre of the song make a wonderful opener for the compilation. It’s one of those tracks that stay in your head long after you listened to them. Goodwin is followed by Sarah Winchester and the title track from her Northeast Kingdom Demos which she had also released in 2009. The version on Portland Stories comes with rough guitar sound, lots of edges and a very nice contrast between the hushed vocals and the cool sound of the instrument. Doubled voice layers create an airy feeling and the song feels a good bit like floating through clouds. Great folk track with authentic atmosphere. And speaking of authentic atmosphere, Michael Elias on third position kicks in with Halfway There, an awesome country folk ballad at its best. The man got so much feeling in every note that the music alone would be able to tell the story without words – an absolute highlight that reminded me a bit of Jonathan Byrd sometimes. Judging from the sound of Sarah Winchester’s track and the country feeling of Michael Elias, I would say that Nicholas A. Marshall’s quiet and sad folk song Into The Night is the middle ground between the two artists before him. The vocals are very calm and quiet, but the lullaby like tune bears strong country influences without being as much country as Halfway There. I think it can be easily recognized that the order of the tracks is not random at all and it is justified to speak of a composition of the single tracks to an elaborate whole.
Artists featured on Portland Stories (from l. to r.)
Next candidate in line is Maymay (Laurel Simmons with real name who occasionally plays together with Heather Woods Broderick, Raúl Pastor Medall and Nicholas Archibald Marshall) and she presents a typical modern folk song with finger picked acoustic guitar melodies and soft but present vocals. The name of the song is The Fall and the gloomy atmosphere is supported by some nice piano and string arrangements (which may be synthesizer sounds after all, I don’t know). Really nice track that transforms Into The Night’s sleepiness into some cozy afternoon mood with cold windy weather ouside. Rauelsson (real name Raúl Pastor Medall) is a Spanish “but self-considered adopted Oregonian” Spanish singing musician with very smooth played acoustic guitar melodies and a warm voice. Liebre perfectly completes the mentioned afternoon mood of The Fall and got some of the lullaby sound from Into The Night. Very good track even though I don’t understand about what he’s singing (seems that Liebre means hare in English). Break. Track seven is unexpected and you might call it the moment of final suspense for Town Rill sings to us a strong and honest blues song with a strong and rough voice that sounds old and harassed. My Park Bench is certainly different in style than the rest of the compilation, but nevertheless it fits in very well and rounds down the overall picture of the CD. Nice surprise. After this little trip to the bluesy boarders of folk music we go one step back and arrive at Galveston’s song Never Ask Why. With My Park Bench it has in common, that the voice of Christopher Ashby sounds familiar to that of Birger Olsen, the man behind Town Rill. But the guitar work is very different and more folk orientated like the other tracks before. And the fact that Galveston’s track is such a nice addition to Town Rill shows again the dexterity of compiling the loose parts to a great musical experience. The single guitar sounds at the end of the track open the door to the last track of our musical journey through Portland. Heather Woods Broderick herself contributed a track of her own that’s called Behind Doors. Her vocal style is similar to Sarah Winchester’s, but her guitar play reminds me of Lotte Kestner. All together a very nice walkout for the compilation with lots of emotion in it that completes the circle perfectly to the tracks beforehand.
As I said at the beginning of the post, if you like acoustic folk music, Portland Stories is a record you want to get your hands one because it not only catches some serious folk tunes but it catches the authenticity of folk music and all the honesty and intimacy that lies within this beautiful, beautiful music. To get a copy of the record head directly to this site and purchase your CD version there. If you want to take another listen first, stream the whole record on soundcloud.com. Do yourself a favor and be quick to get one of the last copies – CFM awesomeness guarantee!
Brought to my attention by the non-stop bloggin’ folk blogger Tunesmith over at Call It Folk, I found Matthew Solberg and his debut EP from 2009 I Am A Fool that’s given away for free on his website. After the melancholic and wintery piano sounds of Nils Frahm it’s high time for some down to earth folk music and the lovely pairing of just acoustic guitar and voice. Matthew hails from Nashville/Tennessee and is currently recording his first full length release that is due to 2010 as it says on his website.
The EP contains 7 songs of finger picked guitar folk and also features two instrumentals (Desirae & Dolores and Liquid Blanket) resulting in a great combination if you like solo acoustic guitar but love some good vocals too. Okay, that’s nothing too special, but there are not many releases out there that have some good instrumentals along with the regular tracks – and if Matthew retains the concept for his upcoming album, I think this will add some extra awesomeness to it. But we’ll see. For now we stay with the EP.
If you like categorizing things (and it seems that I like that a lot) you could call I Am A Fool a country influenced singer-songwriter outlet with some portions of indie flavor. And I think this is also the right place to explain what I mean with the term indie flavor. Okay, it’s not literally an explanation but I think an easy example should do for that. Imagine listening to early J. Tillman recordings, say Long May You Run, J. Tillman. I would not call this indie flavored folk although I would call it down to earth, maybe more down to earth than anything else. And now listen to Benjamin Gibbard & Andrew Kenny’sHome EP. Again, I would call the whole thing down to earth, but now with a great indie flavor to it. Reasons could be the strumming guitar play or the singing style with the melodic and upbeat intonation. Or something like that. And this brings me back to Matthew Solberg who doesn’t play a strumming guitar style but who got the menioned indie like characteristics in his voice which are responsible for me calling the EP indie flavored. Short story long…
What’s conspicuous about the release is its conformity – and I don’t mean the absence of other instruments, I’m talking about the mood of the single songs. Sure, they all got different melodies and they are no rip offs of each other, but even the instrumentals express the same mood: a somehow friendly, “sun is shining after the rain” mood but without the uber intensive “look at this little cute bug, isn’t it cuuuuute” attitude. And there is nothing bad with this, but for I’m more the type that likes the darker, deeper side of emotions in music, it is a bit too shimmering for me at some points. But I don’t want to hold that against the release, maybe it’s not quite the right season of the year right now. Another feature of the tracks, that I really like, are the different tempos of the guitar play. Rainy Nights is one of the slower candidates, whereas the above mentioned Desirae & Dolores or Nothing To Say races from note to note without taking a breath. Me likes that.
To spend an ear on this record, you are in the comfortable situation to download the entire EP for free from Matthew Solberg’s personal homepage (wooohooo!). Physical copies are out of print and not available right know. To gather further impressions, don’t hesitate and visit his MySpace page too. (And remember: you’ll read about Matthew’s debut here on CFM as soon as it hits the road.)
Just yesterday I found some really nice music I wasn’t aware of yet. The story runs as following: I was browsing the web for some folk releases and I got lucky: Portland Stories – the new compilation compiled by Heather Woods Broderick that I knew existed but which I had forgotten (you will read about it soon on CFM). And as I checked the label that released the compilation (Sonic Pieces) I found their previous release was from 2009 and I got interested. So I searched for some streaming possibilities and was fascinated after first listening – and that was the point as I ordered my copies of Heather Woods Broderick’s compilation and Nils Frahm’sWintermusik.
Frahm (hailing from Berlin/Germany) created a wonderful record that was originally intended to be a christmas present for his family. He plays solo and the instruments featured are piano, celesta and reed organ. It’s no wonder that Sonic Pieces realized the beauty of the music and made it available in a first edition of 333 copies (which is now sold out) and in a second one of 500 copies. The record consists of only three tracks but has a total running time of circa 30 minutes.
The opener is a little 3 minutes piece that features some gentle melodies and that mediates a feeling of bright snowflakes falling down right before your window. You can feel the cold coming through the pane a little bit, but you yourself are inside, in the warmth, relaxing and watching. As you watch you sink into some deep reasoning and the winter creeps in with the vanitas motive right on his back in form of track 2, Tristana. Now you are all alone with your thoughts, the falling snow is just like some white noise you’re staring in. Seventeen minutes of thinking, a melancholy feeling takes over your body but you stay calm and you try to sort your thoughts. Sometimes there are moments you think will end in a breakdown, but then you are again the master of the situation. Your head gets colder. You realize your situation and you go back to the fire to warm yourself (that’s track three). You sit down and everything seems to be alright – but one thought stuck in your mind and you can’t let it go. You start to think again and now everything has changed, you can’t get rid of it and so it slowly takes over all your reasoning and you feel some sort of deep resignation and depression take over your body and your thoughts become a whirlwind without an eye. Everything seems to fall down and collapse. But then the 30 minutes are over – how does the story end? That’s your part of the story.
Wintermusik is a great record even though its character is mainly a melancholic one and you won’t get a happy feeling listening to this music (that is besides the happy feeling you get because the music is so good). I highly recommend to spend an ear on this one and to buy a copy as long as supplies last. To do so, click here for a physical copy and don’t forget to visit Nils Frahm’s MySpace.
„Spread the word, get this artist known,“ it said today over at Love Shack, Baby. And the artist in question is The Parade Schedule with the album Seeds To Be Planted, Trees To Be Cut. But to give proper credit – what a surprise – Slowcoustic was the one who discovered the band a month ago. And now, as I bought my digital copy of the album just today, it clearly is my turn to “spread the word” about this fantastic music, you may not be aware of yet. The man behind the moniker is Matt Kinder and he recorded a very nice, sad and deliberate folk album with singer-songwriter and country influences. Acoustic guitar, cello, glockenspiel, piano and some percussions are the ingredients for a wide range of different sounding tracks. Thousand Oceans for example is a sad ballad with lots of heart, Making A Way a nice alt country tune with more upbeat character while Orchestra is a super lo-fi recording and Fancy Cars comes as a straight forward folk song with only acoustic guitar and vocals. The result of the different styles is a varied record with a nice album structure wherefore it is far away from being boring at any point. But enough words lost, if you are into acoustic folk and folk music at all, you have to buy this album. And don’t get me wrong, this is a command, because The Record Machine offers Seeds To Be Planted, Trees To Be Cut for only 2$! What, 2$? Yes, 2$!! Go. Buy. It. NOW. And now it’s your turn to spread the word.
You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling (original by The Righteous Brothers) (Bonus track from Keepsake EP) download it! ___________________________________________________
It seems that Christopher Smith’s EP Keepsake was overlooked by most blogs – CFM included. The man from Vancouver/Canada, so it seems to me, has released one EP before (Christmas Day) but nothing else. Das Klienicum wrote about him earlier and featured Piece By Piece from the unpublished Garage Sessions, also it said there, that Christopher is going to release an EP with the name 2 Strawberries In A Jam and a full length album in February 2010 called The Beckon Call. As far as I can see, the 2 Strawberries In A Jam EP was never released or was released but now under the name Keepsake EP. However the track 2 Strawberries In A Jam will be featured on the upcoming full length. The situation is kind of weird, but ok.
What is fact is, that Smith’s second EP exists and features 5 tracks of him. The music was recorded in a bedroom and the vocals in a bathroom. This adds a nice homemade bedroom (bathroom?) atmosphere to the songs. They themselves come as folksy indie tracks; hushed and quiet sometimes with just vocals and acoustic guitar, but then they are also irascible with heavy arrangements of drums, percussions, synthesizer, vocals and electric guitar. The track White Knuckel combines all those elements in a very nice manner and I think it is a good representative for the EP.
What really knocks my socks of is the voice and its recording. I don’t know why exactly, but it gives me an airy feeling listening to the cautious but present vocals especially in the EP’s title track. It’s just wonderful in combination with the acoustic guitar melodies and so is the rest of Keepsake.
For I’m still „celebrating their entire catalog“ (ya know, the great deal offered by Suburban Home Records…) I’m still exploring masses of music that is totally new to me. And hell, even though not everything is my taste, Canadian Yesterday’s Ring latest album Diamonds In The Ditch really kicks some serious ass.
As you know, me likes some alt country from time to time and sometimes it may be a bit harder than the music that is usually featured here on CFM (remember the great State Champion debut?) The sheer endless variety of Diamonds In The Ditch surprises me every time I listen to it. The smoky voice sings its way through ballads and rockers at the same time and some choruses, banjos, occasional guitar solos and even the accordion help out to create a stunning piece of art that is as well very nice music you can drink along.
I really can’t tell you if I like the calmer moments (like in Email From Lucie or STE-CATH Family) or the faster ones better (like Moving Out (To Florida)). Every track has its own charm and everything goes hand in hand and creates an overwhelming overall atmosphere. I read in some reviews that authors called the music cow punk and many other genres I have heard of but cannot really tell you much about, because I usually don’t use them to describe the music I listen to. And so I will call this country, rock, folk, maybe punk, and whatever mix simply highly addictive alt country. The last time a similar record did this to me was Chuck Ragan’s very good Gold Country (although I did not post on it).
And now not much blabla at the end of the post: stream the whole album here and if you like the music, simply buy your copy here and visit Yesterday’s Ring’s MySpace. Nuff said.
First thing that came into my mind as I listened to Out Like Lambs was the comparison to South China (the band we wrote about here). And not because both bands make the same kind of music, but because the overall complexity of the tracks and the record. Hailing from Ocean Grove/New Jersey the still young band released their first self-titled 4-track EP way back in 2009 – so it mightn’t be the newest release I’m talking about, but I know there will be some great material from this fine collective in the future.
The four tracks are folksy in nature and one could call them some sort of lo-fi – but this isn’t the term I would use for I think lo-fi records don’t sound as clean as this EP. But it is true that a certain do it yourself charm adheres to the tracks. For a clearer picture of what I try to tell, I refer to great photography that was used as the cover artwork. Some walking-in-the-lonely-streets-under-a-grey-sky-with-all-the-dreariness-aware-but-still-everything-seems-kind-of-nice-atmosphere.
Musically you can find this particular atmosphere in every song. Accents are set by jazzy improvisations that are very suitable for coloring the ambience around the held back vocals. But I am honest with you, if you are looking for a straight forward folk record you may be a bit challenged by the combination of folk and jazz elements. But then it isn’t what you might think it is, because they avoided to push the sound to the jazz pop folk genre. This is great because this way they sound sincere all the time and the record is one you can listen to if you want a break soley with yourself and your thoughts and some rain-colored music.
Personal highlight of the four tracks is Downstream with the beautiful acoustic guitar work supported by violin (and many other instruments), decent percussions, and the jazz improvisation just before the whole track switches into some country-driven sing-along accompanied with improvised trumpet. This shows enormous creativity and the sense for musical possibilities even though it doesn’t make the record become one you can easily digest. Your stomach will hurt a bit as you listen to it the first time (maybe), but after some further servings, you will love it more and more – but, as said before, be careful, you could be allergic.
I think, if you liked South China, you will like the Out Like Lambs – and the other way ‘round. If you look for something more experimental without synthesizer melodies, you will like it too. And if you are on the scout for some melancholy feelings without resignation, Out Like Lambs deliver a very good soundtrack with lots of different moods expressed in black and white (with a hint of sepia). To get a copy of the EP, contact the band through their official website or their MySpace.
Before I can really start into the New Year, I have to write about Daniel, Fred & Julie first. Together with The Moonband it is one record I wanted to write about in 2009 but did not made it for several reasons. And so it comes that the first posts of 2010 are two posted in the ‘Maybe you missed it’ category. But I think I’m not that late, because the LP version of the album has not seen the light of day yet for it will come out 01-05-10.
Much was said about Daniel, Fred & Julie in the blogosphere and most blogs praised the release as one of the best folk records in 2009 (e.g. Herohill ranked it #2 in his Best Of Canadian LPs list) and it surely is a record that deserves all the praise and the nice words, because it is a honest album carrying the spirit of folk music in every note. The reason for this true sound (and I don’t mean the “Awwww, this is TRUE Black Metal!!!”-true) is the fact that the three of them sat down with their instruments and recorded the tracks as they played them without millions of overdubs, re-recordings or mixing. Everything is just how it is and how it would be if they would play a spontaneous private session for you – and therefore they really have earned all the golden words their debut has gathered.
And still, something is odd about the release and I’m not able to find the right words for it. It’s just a feeling you get as you listen to the record a few times. It seems that the whole thing works very well if you listen to it once, but if you play it in repeat mode, you might switch to another record. The only explanation I can give, is the above mentioned live atmosphere of the whole album. Imagine the situation in real life: Daniel, Fred and Julie play a set of songs for you and you really like the whole set; but would you like to hear the exact same set again after you listened to it once? Or would you prefer to listen to some more but different songs? I think the latter would be the case and so I think the album isn’t one you can listen to over and over. It’s more like a private session you want to enjoy from time to time. And this is the only way the record works for me – but then it works damn well and it’s wonderful every single minute (ok, except for the childs’ voices at the end of Halleluhja, I’m A Bum – but even they underline the live atmosphere, that I admit).
To buy the mp3s of the album you should head over to amazon.com, but for the CD version I advice to use this link. The LP version seems a bit harder to get, because it will only be shipped to selected retail stores (according to what Outside Distribution mailed me) and so I don’t know how to buy it from Canada or the US. But in case you are from Germany, you can order the LP version via jpc.de or you mailorder it directly from an indie music shop like flight13.de (here you have to write an e-mail to them, because they don’t have it in their regular assortment).
Records that are featured in the ‘Maybe you missed it’ category have one thing in common: they were not released in the current year. I admit that it is a bit odd to feature them in this particular category at the beginning of January, but nevertheless it has to be. And so The Moonband and their recent output Songs We Like To Listen To While Traveling Through Open Space is a candidate you may have missed in 2009. And besides that, it is one of two records I wanted to write about in 2009 but did not manage to do so (the other one is the Daniel, Fred & Julie release).
Hailing from Munich/Germany the five band members – Eugen Mondbasis (vocals, guitar, banjo, bouzouki, harp), Chris Houston (vocals, guitar, slide, percussion), Katrin Bobek (vocals, mandolin, ukulele, banjo, glockenspiel), Andy Henningsen (upright bass) and Elena Tschaffon (percussion) – celebrate the big band folk spirit like not so many other bands I know. This means that the music is no input overload for your ears and that they have the talent to feature all the mentioned instruments but to keep it chill at every moment. And so I would call this a folk, maybe alternative folk (whatever this means) album with lots of heart and lots of soul that goes by very soft-footed.
The album comes loaded with 13 tracks and very different styles (even though I call everything folk). Roll On Blues is a bit more rock orientated with some blues structures, Devil’s Got A Piece Of Us could be a nice lullaby song, The Hiker is more of an americana track with very present vocals and We Don’t Care (for me one of the outstanding tracks on the album) is a nice little folk pop thingy with wonderful melodies. As you see The Moonband delivers the whole spectrum of folk on one album. Fascinating about this is the fact, that the result is very cohesive and never sounds like one track would not fit in.
I have to give away a big Thank You to Das Klienicum for introducing them to me, because I think The Moonband is a great discovery for every lover of folk music, especially if one is searching for good folk music coming straight out of Germany. And with all this said, I really, really recommend to buy one of the superb looking CDs coming in a great digipack with great photos and booklet (‘The Moonbook’) with all the lyrics and additional notes. I can’t believe they released such a great sounding and great looking debut without having signed to a label yet. To buy your copy, you have to e-mail them directly and the e-mail address you find on their official homepage. For more music, check out The Moonband’s MySpace.
Last post for 2009 and well, I think if features some very nice music that was released just before 2010. The man I’m talking about is not an unknown one and so there is not much to say about him or his music even though I wouldn’t consider me as the biggest adept of his oeuvre. So, you may have guessed it (or you did read the headline of this post), I’m talking about Phil Elverum aka Mount Eerie (former The Microphones) and his new EP release Black Wooden (though he calls it a LP in his shop) (thanks to Hlynur Gudjonsson for reminding me of it and providing important information).
Black Wooden is the follow up of the great Lost Wisdom record from 2008 (that featured Julie Doiron – yap, that’s right, the Julie form Daniel, Fred & Julie who just recently released their self-titled collaboration debut on You Have Changed Records) and two other releases (namely the CD, that was included in a book with journal entries called Dawn and a 12’’ LP called Wind’s Poem – but sadly I don’t know neither the first nor the second one).
But let’s switch over to the music of Black Wooden. The EP features 6 tracks which were recorded at the Southern Studios in London back in 2007. They are dark and got some ambient moments in them, but not electronic ambient moments, more the ambient mood created by minimalistic guitar play and longer instrumental parts in the tracks (best example for that is the title track). Both acoustic and electric guitar create an interesting duo – the first soft and fragile, the latter hard and compelling. In the middle of this there is Mister Elverums unique and characteristic voice that’s loaded with depression and that sounds like it travelled a very long way just to realize that the whole journey was useless – exhausted might be the right word to describe it.
Along with the mentioned ambient sound it is plain and simple a folk record through and through. It got the typical reflective lyrics, lots of emotion in the voice, relatively simple instrumentation (just the guitars and voice) and a somber overall atmosphere. The tracks are heavy and you have to chew on them a bit to get really into them. But if this point is reached, you will see the sheer unbelievable deepness of every single note and second of it. Maybe it is a bit too early to say so, but I think this EP will certainly make it in my EP Top List of 2010.
And, as I said before, I’m certainly not the one who knows the most about Mount Eerie’s music, but I think that this EP is a great way to get started with. I for myself needed Black Wooden to spend some more time on Mount Eerie in the future to get rid of the status of “Surley, I know him, but what does he sound like?” to establish something more fundamental.
It’s only two days before 2010 and I’m very happy that I found yet found another great band in the outgoing year. Ok, I did not really find them, because the good guys over at Hyperbolium posted about The Shants just recently. But you may forgive me if I repost on them for they clearly deserve some more blog love. They hail from Oakland/California and finished their first EP, called Russian River Songs, short time ago.
The title is explained by the fact that they recorded their demo near the Russian River “holed up in a cabin in the redwoods” as they say. The complete EP was mainly recorded live and in only two sessions what adds a nice campfire atmosphere to the tracks. And saying campfire atmosphere, it is just the right word to express all the other aspects of Russian River Songs. That is: the overall dark character of the music with the haunting but very mellow lap steel melodies, the cozy acoustic guitar play accompanied with chilled e-guitar vibes and cradling bass lines together with decent sounds from the rhythm section on drums – I don’t need to say that this is pushed to the limit every time the harmonica kicks in. The lyrics are perfect to forget about your surroundings and to hum or sing along with them with closed eyes thinking of a nice night with your friends hanging out around some crackling campfire with some tasty beers or beverages of your choise.
The voice of Skip Allums is flying through the tracks mostly with great calmness and always with a sad side note that really fits the whole release very well. Although I wouldn’t say that it sounds much like an americana voice it surely is a great alt. country voice with lots of character and range.
The best thing about the EP is, that it combines alt country and folk in a very ingenious manner with the always present acoustic guitars, the country driven lap steel and harmonica and Skip’s voice, which also subjoins a little bit of indie character (like in Lift Up Your Eyes). This combination works just fine for me and I’m glad as a lad (come on, it’s just one stupid rhyme…hehe) that I discovered this nice little 8-track EP which you can order directly via mail. To stream some more of The Shants’ music, don’t wait and visit their MySpace site or head over to their Tumblr page.
Additional note: Skip told me, that they will head to Sacramento this winter to record their debut full length in Tape Op’s The Hangar studio together with Bryce Gonzales (who engineered Davendra Banhards latest album What Will We Be). Those are great news and I’m really looking forward for this recording in 2010. You should too.
The holidays are over and CFM is back with some fresh music you really should listen to. I’m talking about a young man from Dublin/Ireland with a fascinating americana voice armed with acoustic guitar and a bunch of great acoustic songs up his sleeves. He goes by the name Dermot Kennedy and has not released his debut record yet. Reason for this may be the fact that he only just recently found a good backing band to make music with. I tell you something: I really could imagine him and his music being the new act, say maybe on labels like Suburban Home Recordings – you may disagree, but I still say so.
The strumming acoustic guitar play on steel strings dominates the record and I don’t want to fight the battle of techniques because I think finger picking got its moments especially when it comes to complex melodies, but strumming, on the other hand, can express very well the emotions of the often thoughtful and sorrowful songs by contrasting the “hard” sound of the steel strings with the emotional americana like voice.
And speaking of Dermot’s voice I can tell you that it will grow very fast on you and takes you prisoner because it is very present but still full of feeling, maybe not as whiskey driven as a Chuck Ragan, but in the end it is it what makes the music really special. And I can assure you that the first release that will see the light of day in the future, will be a great one if it is as good as the eight tracks Dermot sent over for listening.
What is there more to tell…yeah, beginning with the tracks I got on my HD I can say that their style is similar and without experiments – and you know, I consider this a very good thing because there is no attempt to hide the intimacy that lies in the tracks and I think every listener will appreciate that, because it brings together the artist, the music and the recipient. And the old argument, that a non experimental style would be non creative or even boring, is just wrong because that kind of music just needs a bit more attention – and this separates the masses in a good way, me thinks.
So, if you want to know a bit more about Dermot Kennedy, visit his MySpace site and listen to some of his music. I for myself can only repeat what I said above, namely that I think Dermot’s music is a hidden treasure that is still to be discovered – so don’t walk along without spending a minute or two.