Aside from my horrific inner struggle not to dislike ‘my bands’ getting popular (despite my own constant promotion of them), I have to say that Mumford & Sons’ inevitable rise to Radio One glory has had a distinctly pleasing side effect – a sudden growth in the amount of new folk artists, and with that a sudden growth in the amount of new folk music I’m enjoying.
Mega-props then go to The Blue Walrus for basically discovering seemingly the only new folk band to have completely evaded any kind of exposure thus far. Then again, Bristol’s Alms are approaching their music a little differently to the current norm. The usual response to this kind of band these days is to ask how so few people make so much noise; Alms could be asked quite the opposite. The restraint in their music creates a rich atmosphere, where every pluck of a banjo or double bass string adds a little more to the mix, each song possessing a kind of gentle lilt that carries you through but refuses to rush. Even when, on ‘Shove’ they do give in to the kind of grand crescendo we’ve come to expect from these bands it seems entirely controlled – as the bittersweet message of ‘Don’t wanna jump, or be pushed off, but I’m gonna give myself the final shove’ rings out, you realise that the buildup wasn’t to carry the emotion upwards with it, but to act as a counterpoint to that softly-sung final refrain.
It’s that refusal of grandeur that makes Alms’ music so enjoyable – you won’t find any perfect four-part harmonies here, Lawrence and Ollie’s vocals overlap but always seem a little untidy in a refreshingly forthright way. This isn’t music to sing in a crowd, there’s a genuinely heartfelt emotion at work here, and this doesn’t seem like the kind of band who want to ruin that feeling by pushing it too far towards the dramatic. Alms are defined by their honesty – honestly emotional, honestly human and, honestly, they’re wonderful.