I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the popular resurgence of folk in the British mainstream is brilliant. Quite apart from the fact that I still really like the artists who’ve got big, it means a whole new raft of wonderful young folksters are making appearances, buoyed by interest in their kind of music. These are two:
I’ve written about Bristol’s Alms before, but their three new tracks are worthy of further discussion. What seemed most important about their sound last time round was a commitment to understatement – a wonderful avoidance of the kind of showy buildups they could be tempted to indulge in in favour of gentle melodies that surround the listener rather than attempt to carry them along with them. This feeling has been kept up in the new batch of songs, but, like any young band should be attempting, these songs have evolved from what came before, revealing new talents. ‘All Good’ sounds like it could come closest to a blustery flurry of noise, but instead builds to a reverb-laden background guitar coming to the fore, gently trickling a new melody into the already established song. ‘Only Up To Me’ is the most upbeat song the band have released so far, an endearing ditty that takes the best of traditional folk music’s rollicking, forthright nature and twists it into a more twee shape. The final of the three new tracks, ‘Sane’ displays the the band at their most adventurous so far, eschewing the more obvious folk tropes of their work and embracing the electric guitar. Not only does the track show off a willingness to play around with the band’s dynamics, but a knack for interesting production that hasn’t been seen before, with looping, echoed vocals making a welcome appearance late on. Alms are slowly building up a nice little body of work, and with an ear for melding extremely catchy melodies and well-constructed folk, they certainly have it in them to catch the attention of a far greater audience than this tiny corner of the blogosphere.
London twosome The Skeleton Dead caught my eye by writing two things in their initial email to me. Firstly, they said they loved me. I’m not sure how personal the email was, but it’ll work to pique my interest. Secondly, they said that they “write songs on classic themes of love, seafaring and finding porn hidden in the woods”, which is as good a description of what lyrics should be about as I’ve ever heard. Tom Sharples’ deep, breathy vocals are reminiscent of Maximo Park’s Paul Smith, but eschew the pretension I associate with that voice in favour of compelling phrases like, ‘Didn’t feel the chill at all/ Most probably the alcohol/ But money never better spent/ On a bank holiday weekend’ (in ‘Gather Up Your Clothes’). Lyrics like that could seem banal in less well-executed circumstances, but the band’s music is perfectly suited to that articulation of message, as the dark, intimate tone that pervades each song helps elevate the lyrics into loftier, more poetic territory. The swirling background noise of ‘Are You Going To Overreact?’ augments a relentlessly strummed guitar, whilst my initial difficulty with ‘A Nautical Theme’s fairly literal musical choices (harmonium, thunderclaps and creaking) was quickly allayed by the swoonsome lullaby of the refrain, aided by Claire Wakeman’s velvet vocals. This is the sound of grey, British clouds and what goes on underneath them, and I really, really like it.
This post comes with thanks (and apologies) to the two bands involved, because I have taken a fucking age to get around to writing it, and they haven’t even seemed overly angry about that fact.