Tag Archives: new folk

Race the Loser

Saturday is my day of musical adventure and today I feel like uncovered a rare gem in the form of Lau, who recently released their third long player, Race the Loser. Hailing from Scotland, Lau offer one of the most exciting takes on traditional music, I am yet to come across. Hypnotic & exquisite are two words that come to mind… here’s two clips to show what I mean.

There’s something about discovering new music that makes the blood quicken…



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Return of the New Folk

Well, already 2010 has been lighting up my musical cortex; an incendiary performance by Dirty Three kicked started my year of live music and though 2010 is still in its infancy, there have already been some great new releases. Here’s a taste of some of the music that is rippling the waters of this Lost Shark.

Blank Pages – The Album Leaf

This slow burning, cinematic track, effortlessly walks the line between serenity and melancholy and brims with a vibrancy that lifts it from mere mood music to something transformative, irresistable. Jimmy LaValle has again skilfully blended the organic folk sounds of violin, xylophone, percussion and horns with electronic ambience and programmed beats, to create an album (A Chorus of Storytellers) that is quietly assured, and big on emotional impact.

Little Bird – Eels

Mark ‘E’ Everett’s latest opus, End Times has been referred to as his Blood on the Tracks and he has never been one to pull punches when it comes to baring himself in his songs. Little Bird shuns humanity and curses the insincerity that is plaguing society. When E sings, Little Bird/ You look alright/ I’m sure its not easy/ Getting through your night, I am reminded of the loneliness in Hemmingway’s Old Man and the Sea, when a small bird comes to rest on the Old Man’s fishing line, only to leave him as the fish lurches and cuts his hand. Little Bird has that same hard won beauty about it… lonely and stoic, this is the sound of a man and his struggle.

Hide it Away – Retribution Gospel Choir

Low’s Alan Sparhawk made his name pioneering his very own brand of slowcore, but with the formation of Retribution Gospel Choir in 2008, the man proved that there is always room for rock. Hide it Away has got some real swagger, mixing spaced-out psych rock and lurching grooves with a catchy-as-hell chorus that will stick inside your brain like cobblers pegs. A full-tilt sonic rave that stings hard and beautiful.


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Vic Chesnutt – Everything I Say

Since the tragic loss of Vic Chesnutt on Christmas Day 2009, I have been delving deep into his albums, and with each listen they uncover greater musical and lyrical depth… as it says on the A Silver Mt Zion website, one of the greatest ever is gone.

This track from his 2007 album North Star Deserter, showcases Vic teamed up with members of A Silver Mt Zion, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Fugazi and captures the power of their wildly successful collaboration. Vic’s incredible take on folk/blues has never sounded more impassioned…

Listen to this as loud as your computer speakers will allow and let the genius of Vic Chesnutt kick your Saturday into another dimension.

                                                              Everything I Say

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The first sounds of 2010

The new year is unfolding before us… two skys have opened and already my mind is filling with song. There is always much anticipation at this time of year and I too am anticipating great things for 2010. So, whatever you do, wherever you are, may creativity rush through you unbridled… And to colour that rush, here are some of the sounds that I will carry with me throughout the year…

Gregor Samsa – Jeroen Van Aken

Classical glissandos of piano, muted drum rhythms, weeping strings and vibraphone come together with harmonious intensity, while the vocals simmer, whispering their truths. Jeroen Van Aken, taken from Gregor Samsa’s latest album Rest, is the birth name of artist, Hieronymus Bosch, but rather than descending into the at times apocalyptic visions of Bosch, the song takes us to the edge with dazzling restraint. The langorous quality of these songs, welcome you in and hold you dreamlike. This is an album of lasting beauty.

Balmorhea – Remembrance

Balmorhea are one of those rare bands, unafraid of stillness. Their latest longplayer, All Is Wild, All Is Silent, is swirling with folk instrumentals, each song conjuring the majestic atmosphere of Steinbeck’s dustbowl America. Gently picked guitars (and banjo), fleet drums and emphatic piano lines colour the landscape; their sound as vast as the sky, often emptying into silence. This is an album to slow the spin of life. To make you drop anchor and hear the pin drop.

Machine Translations – Oh Ma, The Sea Is Rising

This is taken from the 2009 DVD/CD release, Last Hope, a collection of short films, inspired by the ocean, set to the sounds of artists such as Explosions in the Sky, Smog, The Dirty Three, Holly Throsby and of course, Machine Translations. The collection was put together by Andrew Kidman and takes a collage approach, collecting moments that highlight the intense power and beauty of the ocean. This is so much more than a surfing film, which it is often referred to as… For anyone who has ever lost themselves at the hem of land and sea, this will sweep you away.

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The New Folk VI

 Well, this may possibly be my last post until December 29, as I am jetting off to Tasmanian waters for a few days and may not get near enough to a computer to make an update… so to sign off on what has been an amazing year, here’s a handful of songs to soundtrack these glorious summer days. To all of the people who have read this blog – whether you be a regular, a sporadic visitor, or a fly-by-nighter – thank you. I am already looking forward to an exciting 2010 as there are many projects bubbling away. Big love to you all…

Orenda Fink: That Certain-Something Spring

Orenda Fink’s sophomore solo album blends her love of traditional American folk music and Gothic literature. Recorded live in a basement and a lounge room , the album has that wistful melancholoy that has become the trademark of quality home produced folk. Orenda’s thick as honey voice sails in and out of the mandolin, accordion and saw that give this album a southern tinge. The perfect music to slow time… most definitely an album to curl up with.


Port O’Brien: My Will Is Good

Taken from their third longplayer, Threadbare, this showcases a stripped back sound for Port O’Brien. The album swells like a lung full of salt air, not surprising given Van Pierszalowski spends much of his year working on a salmon fishing boat. This album is making lots of the Best of 2009 lists, and for good reason. It is elegant in its simplicity, dramatic in its craft and brings a pop sensibilty to the folk tradition.


Vic Chestnutt – Coward

Lyrically, there are few singer/songwriters with the literary prowess of Vic Chestnutt and he doesn’t disappoint on his latest release, At The Cut. Released earlier in the year, At The Cut sees Vic team up for the second time with members of Montreal collectives, A Silver Mt. Zion and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Fugazi. Its a darkly explosive combination, blending Chestnutt’s distinctively simple vocals and guitar playing style with the often mesmeric wail of strings and guitars that Godspeed and Silver Mt. Zion have made their own.


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Sweet Come Down Saturday

Saturday is here in all its glory… gentle breeze, the old dog sleeping at my feet and a handful of quiet hours stretching out before me. And here are a few of the songs that will carry me through. Saturday morning come downs never sounded so sweet…


Sweet Come Down – The Black Ryder

The Black Ryder blend fuzzed out noise, hypnotic rhythms and a sweet country twang to create a sound all of their own. Sweet Come Down showcases the vocal interplay of Aimee Nash and Scott Von Ryper – Nash’s voice floating and ethereal, Ryper’s cracked and earthy. It burns slowly and then it is gone… crawling into a corner of your consciousness and asking to be played again. Don’t expect any hooks from this band… just settle in for the ride.


Soon It Will Be Fire – Richard Youngs

Richard Youngs is one of those incredibly prolific talents, recording more than 50 albums as collaborator or solo artist. And there is no sign of slowing down, his latest release Under Stellar Stream released this week through Jagjaguwar. Youngs hyopnotic folk sits deep in your belly, his at times fragile voice, and deeply meditative playing draw you deeper into the silences so carefully left. This is music to slow time and drift toward vanishing point. Soon It Will Be Fire is from his 1998 release Sapphie.


Minor Careers – Spokane

Spokane create music that reflect the moments in between events. Each song exquisitely crafted, achingly subtle yet strangely brimming with emotion. Rick Alverson’s murmuring voice hovers in the at times barely there instrumentation and loving stretches of ambience. Nothing is rushed. Like a sparsely furnished room, Spokane provide the necessary space for you to enter into their soundscapes. A fine place to inhabit in those increasingly rare, quiet hours.

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More sounds from the New Folk

Well, morning has passed me by but as always the day has been soundtracked by some new folk sounds… Here’s a snapshot of what has been entering my ears of late. Plenty here to get those Saturday morning feet a stomping! Enjoy and don’t forget to drop your LitRock suggestions into my previous post… I plan to post some of your suggestions real soon.



Little Lion Man – Mumford and Sons

This a sweet slab of new British folk from four young men with names that were begging for them to come together and make music. Marcus Mumford, Country Winston, Ben Lovett, and Ted Dwane marry gutsy, old-time folk with their love of bluegrass and country. And on Little Lion Man, they capture the live fire that they are becoming renowned for. let’s hope they hit these shores soon… Their debut album Sigh No More is out now.




Soul of a Man – Rambling Jack Elliott

Rambling Jack Elliott is one of the final links to the old American folk tradition. As Johnny Cash once said, nobody has covered more ground and made more friends and sung more songs than Rambling Jack. And in the tradition of the folk troubadour, he has just released a new album of Depression Era blues songs to pay homage to a handful of the songs that have fed him over the years. This track, originally penned by Blind Willie Johnson, is a song that haunts me every time I hear it. The lyric, I’m going to ask the question, answer if you can/ If anybody here can tell me, what is the soul of a man?  cuts straight through me and Rambling Jack has the life-weary voice to deleiver it with conviction.


steve kilbey

The Wrong Road – Steve Kilbey

Originally recorded for one of the tribute albums to the late great GW McLennan (although it sadly never made it on to the finished album), this is Kilbey at his stripped back best, capturing the elegance of McLennan’s lyric. This song is a major contender for the LitRock list that I was talking about recently too, with Grant superbly name-checking Dickens: 

Started out Oliver, ended up Fagin/ Don’t you worry, it’s my problem

It still hurts that there will be no new McLennan songs…


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Take a ride… the sounds of Kerouac, Cohen & Bon Iver

As the clouds roll in and the humidity continues to rise, dip your toes into the sounds of these new folk sounds. Take a ride to the rugged coast of Kerouac’s Big Sur with the Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard; be mesmerised by the messianic tones of Cohen as he tames the crowd at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival and rug up in the snow storm of Bon Iver’s Blood Bank. You won’t regret it…



Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard – Big Sur

Taken from the soundtrack to the new Kerouac film, One Fast Move or I’m Gone, this is a sweet slice of folk from the pages of Big Sur. And while Kerouac was more of a jazz man, I can see him driving along some mid-west highway, arm out the window, nodding approvingly. There is an ache in both Farrar & Gibbard’s voice that lends an authenticity to Kerouac’s words and the arrangements distill Kerouac’s bummed-out prose beautifully.




Leonard Cohen – Suzanne

Forty summers ago, Cohen stepped on stage at the Isle of Wight festival. His set followed Jimi Hendrix (touted as one of the best of Hendrix’s career) and the audience was close to rioting. Standing in the centre of what had become a political maelstrom, Cohen looking like a ragged messiah, stood undaunted and delivered a set of songs and poems that brought the crowd to a stand still. For the first time, this set has now been released along with DVD footage of the concert and a documentary by Murray Lerner. After his mesmerising tour earlier this year, this is on the must have list.




Bon Iver – Blood Bank

After the release of the much lauded For Emma, Forever Ago, many wondered whether Bon Iver mainmain, Justin Vernon would be able to capture the beauty of his lovelorn debut. Blood Bank puts all those doubts to rest… The warmth of Vernon’s voice sits somewhere in the chest cavity and reverberates, longingly. Images of stacked up cups of blood, snow storms and secrets that fuck with your honour are pieced together to create a song that sweeps you away. Breaking up has never sounded so good…


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