Johnny Flynn


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This week’s show marked the 24th hour of The Folk Bloke. If I had been in any way prepared, I would have marked the situation with features, interviews, competitions and general reverie. As it was I just talked about how I had psychic powers and played some excellent music.


Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetry Sings

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I’m just going to leave these here. Do with them as you will.

Tenacious D – Double Team (YSI)

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Today, DIY Radio broadcast the first episode of my new weekly show, The Folk Bloke, and that’s what you can see above. If you like the kind of thing I post here, you’re more than likely to approve of the show, so please do listen in. Please? Oh, go on. Please?

Metronomy – Radio Ladio (YSI)

So we’re back here again, are we? You’re probably already tired of thousands of bloody lists, but I’m afraid you’ll have to stomach yet another if you’re staying around these particular parts of the internet for now. So here goes; my top 20 albums of the year, hastily assembled and even more hastily relistened to in order to form a vague order. Enjoy!

20. Scott Pilgrim vs. The WorldOST

Yes, I know, it doesn’t really count, but there’s enough original material on here to keep it at least vaguely valid in the grand scheme of things. You could criticise this collection for being much of a muchness, populated by hipster-friendly, retro-cool sounds, not to mention filled with throwaway Beck tracks. On the other hand, you could say that’s the whole point and, you know, Beck wrote those tracks. In my opinion, this is the most endlessly enjoyable collections of film music I’ve heard, treading a fine line between “jukebox” soundtrack and original compositions beautifully and ebbing and flowing just the way a “proper” album should, with very few low points (‘Under My Thumb’ is shit). The fact that even when I knew every track on this album and was watching the film for the third time, every track still sounded perfectly placed and never detracted from the film’s overall tone is testament to just how right Nigel Godrich and Edgar Wright got this.

Sex Bob-omb – Garbage Truck (YSI)

19. Vampire WeekendContra


This is more or less here on the strength of its singles. As an album, it lost the singular sound I came to adore from the self-titled debut, and failed to develop its own, but more than delivered on the sheer effervescent excellence of their best songwriting moments. ‘Cousins’, ‘White Sky’ and ‘Giving Up The Gun’ (and, to a lesser extent, ‘Horchata’) have been all over the place this year, and with good reason – they’re fucking amazing pop songs. I still can’t listen to the initial drumbeat of the former without smiling and jerking about like some sort of electroconvulsive arse. Maybe it’ll take more time (I didn’t give it much of a chance after its January release), but the only reason this isn’t right up there amongst the very best of the year is because nothing quite matched those incredible moments it offered only a few times throughout.

Vampire Weekend – White Sky (YSI)

18. The Savings and LoanToday I Need Light


I’m not going to lie, I’ve barely listened to this yet, but I’ve already taken to it completely. Only released this month, this duo’s much protracted debut (it’s been six years in the making) possesses the kind of melancholy only the truly Scottish can muster. Anger is completely absent as the haunting sound of Martin Donnelly’s deep voiced,  poetic lyricism spreads slowly over quiet but carefully thought-out instrumentation. There’s something of The National in here, and not just through vocal similarity; this is the sound of an ordinary man almost burdened by his own artistic nature and ability to express the feelings of  many. A soundtrack to strong drinks (courtesy of the brilliant intro to ‘Catholic Boys in the Rain’) and prematurely dark days.

The Savings and Loan – Pale Water (YSI)

17. Timber TibreTimber Timbre


Technically a re-release, but I only heard it this year so it’s going in, all right? This group of creepy, folk-based songs act just as well as mini fairytales – the kind the Grimms tried to get rid of. Taylor Kirk’s warbling vocals articulate a kind of non-specific terror that never seems to stop closing in, lending the whole affair a tone that’s adopted perfectly by the instrumentation. Distant organ, staccato, reverb-heavy guitar riffs and the briefest hints of fiddle contribute throughout, aiding every slimy little feeling Kirk wants to wrest from you. It’s a masterclass in emotional music, it might just not be the emotions you want to experience.

Timber Timbre – Lay Down In The Tall Grass (YSI)

16. Johnny FlynnBeen Listening


This wasn’t quite the follow-up I’d hoped for from London’s best Shakespearian actor/folk pin-up, but it grew on me from its release onwards. On first listen, I was pretty aggrieved at how little cohesion I thought it had. Moving towards a more eclectic sound, the album utilises upbeat trumpet, electric(!) guitar and even a bossa nova beat (on ‘Churlish May’). Sitting smugly and listening, I thought ‘Ha! He’s abandoned his folky roots, the bastard,’ but after quite a few more listens (thanks to my girlfriend’s obsessed housemates) I feel like the bastard now. While there’s definitely been an expansion in ideas, he always returns to the core of what he does best. For every bolshy ‘Kentucky Pill’, there’s a beautifully harmonised, quiet ‘Amazon Love’ to back it up. It may not flow perfectly, but it’s certainly a great set of songs.

Johnny Flynn – Howl (YSI)

I’ve been to Newcastle’s fantastic bar/restaurant/venue The Cluny a fair few times now, but I’d never yet ventured to the far end to have a look at Cluny 2, the newly added extra bar and venue space. Well, not only did I get to have a good look round on Saturday, I also got to see the magnificent Johnny Flynn as part of the bargain. And not only that, this was the first gig I’ve been to for a long time where the support bands have been any good at all – and these two were both pretty wonderful.

Cluny 2 used to be (and I think, still is) a theatre space, meaning the stage is placed amidst seating, and there are balconies overlooking it all, meaning it’s pretty intimate to begin with. As we walked in, we realised that the audience didn’t believe in personal space and had stood right next to the already enclosed stage anyway, so taking our position we watched the first act, James Mathé. A permanent part of The Sussex Wit himself, Mathé played rickety old keyboards and sang whilst Mr. Flynn himself took turns providing backing vocals and violin accompaniments. What we heard was a beautifully stripped down set of folktronica at its purest – folk melodies and styles set (mostly) to electronic instrumentation. Mathé’s voice is usually restrained and slightly affected (think a more downbeat Alexis Taylor), but at its wildest grew into a heartrending keen as he put his whole body into singing out what he had to say. It was a lovely start to the gig – as Mathé himself put it, ‘it isn’t music to dance to’, but it’s music to relax to. His Myspace offers a few tracks that seem further fleshed out and more obviously indebted to electronic and pop music, but it’s still lovely – ‘Bloodline’ in particular is a masterpiece of laid back heartache pop. I can’t offer any tracks as yet, but hopefully some will be forthcoming.

Next up was Anna Calvi who I understand has garnered the affections of Xfm legend John Kennedy and a certain Devonté Hynes (aka Lightspeed Champion), and based on this performance it’s perfectly understandable why. She opened with a virtuoso solo performance on her guitar, alternating between furious picking and harplike strums before segueing into the first track, fixing the audience with a steely glare and billowing her deep alto vocals as her bandmates both provided the percussion for her wild guitar work. The immediate impression was one of amazement – it’s unfortunately rare to be met with a new artist so accomplished at their chosen instrument. The set continued in a similar vein, full of tracks that oscillated between the ‘silence as instrument’ aesthetic championed by The xx and the pure overblown guitar theatrics of Showbiz-era Muse. Calvi seems completely unlike any artists in the current scene – completely comfortable in her own skin and with her own skill. But it’s her bandmates who make Anna Calvi as good as she is, providing the perfect, restrained accompaniment, keeping her in line and grounding her but letting her soar when she needs to. She truly is quite special, and the demos on her Myspace page help prove that with ‘Blackout’ a highlight of both that page and the set.

After two such good support artists, I’d almost forgotten that we’d come to see Johnny Flynn, but sure enough he appeared, bandmates arrayed around him to the screams of the strange group of folk groupies that seem to have sprung up from the depths of Newcastle. Before I go on, I’d like to mention these idiots. As talented and good-looking as Johnny undoubtedly is (my girlfriend didn’t stop telling me so for a fair while afterwards), when your inane screaming of his name is clearly making him nervous and uncomfortable onstage, and therefore disrupting the gig, maybe that’s a signal that it’s time for you to grow up and stop acting like a tween at a Jonas Brothers concert. Just a thought. Anyway, aside from half the crowd acting like braying twats, Johnny and his Sussex Wit played a fucking blinder of a set all in all. Opening with ‘The Box’, he was immediately met with singalongs and a full-on hoedown which more-or-less continued throughout.

Brilliantly, the band opted to alternate between songs from the first album and new tracks from the forthcoming sophomore effort, meaning the crowd’s interest neevr waned, but we were all treated to tasters of what’s to come. And if the gig was anything to go by, the second album will be just as good as the first. Sounding, literally, a lot more rhythm and blues than A Larum, the new songs see Johnny playing his usual dobro alongside banjo, trumpet, violin and god knows what else whilst his band sound far more amped-up and foregrounded than before. The older tracks sounded better with live experience too with ‘Brown Trout Blues’, ‘Cold Bread’ and my personal favourites ‘The Wrote and the Writ’ (which I have written about elsewhere as being pure poetry set to music) and ‘Tickle Me Pink’ (the first Flynn song I heard) receiving a hugely warm reception. It was a stunning set and performance, and judging by the extended cheers and applause of the crowd afterward, one I wasn’t alone in wishing it hadn’t ended when it had. Oh, and new-folk fans, there’s a confirmed Laura Marling appearance on the new album. Be excited.

Anna Calvi – First We Kiss (Demo) (YSI)
Johnny Flynn – Brown Trout Blues (YSI)

I read this on Condemned To Rock ‘n Roll and liked their answers so much I thought I’d try it myself.

List 10 musical artists (or bands) you like, in no specific order (do this before reading the questions below). Really, don’t read the questions below until you pick your ten artists!!!

1. Radiohead
2. Muse
3. Andrew Bird
4. The White Stripes
5. We Are Scientists
6. Future of the Left
7. Tom Williams & The Boat
8. Johnny Flynn
9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
10. Arcade Fire

What was the first song you ever heard by 6?

‘Manchasm’ – I’d heard a lot about how crazy the band were, but never expected to go on Youtube and find a band sounding like an evil B52s with lyrics about a sound engineer and a cat called Colin. I’ve loved them since.

What is your favorite song of 8?

‘The Wrote and the Writ’ – It’s one of the most perfect pairings of beautiful songwriting with poetry I’ve ever heard.

What kind of impact has 1 left on your life?

They changed my entire musical perspective, opening my eyes to things like intelligent rock to rampant experimentalism and a whole heap in between. I can only fault one of their albums (and let’s be honest Pablo Honey doesn’t really count, does it?) and I think they’re the best band in the world, ever.

What is your favorite lyric of 5?

They’re breaking both my hands
They’re breaking both my hands
And telling me to
Take it like a man
And take it like a man
Well fuck that.

There’s something simultaneously very angry and very vulnerable about that, somehow.

How many times have you seen 4 live?

None, although I’ve seen The Raconteurs once so does that count as ½?

What is your favorite song by 7?

‘Wouldn’t Women Be Sweet’. It’s a little different to their other tracks, a bit more of a downbeat folk track with some very odd lyrics and a beautiful lilt to it, it’s wonderful.

Is there any song by 3 that makes you sad?

I haven’t known of his work for long enough yet to have a real emotional connection to any of it, to be honest.

What is your favorite song by 9?

‘Maps’ – isn’t that everyone’s favourite?

When did you first get into 2?

I think I heard about Muse just before Absolution came out (Wikipedia tells me that’s 2003, making me 14) and went out and bought Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry and bloody loved both of them.

How did you get into 3?

Heard about him on Hype Machine, listened to ‘Tenuousness’ and that was that!

What is your favorite song by 4?

‘Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine’ – Just a raucous slice of guitar brilliance, and so visceral.

How many times have you seen 9 live?

Once, Reading Festival this year. It was brilliant, so brilliant in fact that Thom Yorke did an impromptu mini-cover of ‘Maps’ just before the final song later that night.

What is a good memory concerning 2?

Listening to Origin of Symmetry very loudly with my two best friends when we were all young and impressionable was somewhat wonderful. Seeing them at Wembley Arena wasn’t too bad either.

Is there a song by 8 that makes you sad?

Again, ‘Wrote and the Writ’. The lyrics are purposely slightly obscure, but there seems to be something tragic about the priest figure he mentions.

What is your favorite song by 1?

Frankly, that’s a little impossible to choose. ‘Just’, ’15 Step’, ‘2+2=5’ and ‘Paranoid Android’ all spring to mind, but I already know I’ve missed some.

How did you become a fan of 10?

Shamefully, ‘Funeral’ completely passed me by, and so it took Neon Bible’s amazing reviews to make me take notice, and once I’d heard that there was no going back.

Arcade Fire – Antichrist Television Blues (YSI)
Radiohead – Videotape (YSI) [That’s another favourite…]

Glastonbury Day Three

Well, I seem to have been a bit useless again, and broken my promise of those daily reviews, but I’ll make up for it with the review of my busiest day at Glastonbury.

Waking to sunshine again, we got ourselves quickly over to the Queen’s Head stage to see Two Door Cinema Club. I’ve written about this Northern Irish three-piece before, but if you haven’t already heard them, they really are quite something. Consisting of two guitarists, a bassist and a drum machine, they have already made three absolute indie-pop gems in the shape of debut single “Something Good Can Work” as well as “Undercover Martyn” and “Hands Off My Cash, Monty”, but this set went to prove just how much more they’ve got in their arsenal. Drawing in a largely ambivalent crowd throughout and soon getting the whole tent moving is no easy task, but that’s exactly what happened. Even with technical difficulties slowing the end of the set, they charmingly talked with the crowd and got a smile on every face. Definitely one to watch.

Wandering around a bit later, I spotted the poetry and spoken word tent, and noticed that John Hegley was performing. For those who haven’t come across him, Hegley is a quintessentially English comic poet and songwriter. With songs about a man who dislikes furniture, living in a Luton bungalow and poems about guillemots (birds not band) and hamsters, he’s not your conventional act, but that’s never a reason to discount him. Staying wonderfully deadpan whilst having the audience in stitches, the tiny tent was packed to the edge, and Hegley revelled in it.

Making our way to The Snug tent (half of the time reserved for bouts of Singstar), we waited patiently for Johnny Flynn. One of the flagbearers for the London new-folk movement, along with his band The Sussex Wit, Johnny Flynn crafts beautifully poetic folk numbers that manage to become catchy in the same instant as they are artistically incredible. This set was without the band however, and Johnny walked on armed with only a dobro guitar and his amazing voice. After becoming used to the full band versions of his songs, it was brilliant to hear exactly how he first conceived his songs, and established numbers like “Tickle Me Pink” and “The Box” became completely different songs with the acoustic treatment. As he left the stage, there was rapturous applause and shouts for more, and for good reason, it was wonderful.

For the most of the rest of the day, we remained mainly in one area, the Green Fields. Slap bang in the middle of the Greenpeace area was a tiny stage called the Chess Club/Mi7 stage and, just before the festival a little bird (well, Myspace) had let me know that there would be two consecutive sets from Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling. Apart from anything else, I was ridiculously excited about this as it let me see all three new-folk artists that I love most (Johnny Flynn being the third) in one day. So we took our positions in the tent with good time to spare, and saw the two preceding bands.

Let’s Tea Party were first, three scruffy young men with a penchant for smiling, melodicas and lovely, lovely tunes. After inviting a harpist they’d only just met to play with them, I couldn’t help but be on their side, and I’m looking forward to hearing more of them, although what I have heard suggests its a slightly more noisy style that they usually go for. Following quickly on their heels, King Charles followed. Unbelievably skinny with gigantic dreads, I expected some acoustic numbers, and that’s what I got, at least for the first song. He asked the audience to stand up, before unleashing 40 minutes of guitar solo-led, screaming explosions of rock goodness. Now from the one song I’ve heard, this doesn’t seem entirely in keeping with his usual style, but it was just unbelievable. The crowd turned from mild-mannered folk lovers into frenzied rock fans instantly. Certainly, it’s my most intense experience at Glastonbury, and as the announcer afterwards said, “you’ll all remember being here for the rest of your lives”. I think that may well be true.

After a short break, Mumford & Sons arrived to a wall of screams and hollers, a fair few which came from me, having just met Marcus Mumford outside and feeling like I’d made a new friend, despite only chatting for two minutes. I knew what to expect from their live show, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to just how glorious it is. I think it’s the harmonies that do it. I could talk forever about how wonderful the instrumentation is, how the sounds grow and envelop each other and just tremble down your body, but it’s the harmonies that push it into a truly wonderful territory. Those beautiful voices working together just like the instruments never fail to get me like very little other music do. Playing to crowd that seemed to be waiting for Laura Marling, I think they gained quite a few more fans in the process. Mumford & Sons are almost too good, and I’m suspicious.

But as I said, the crowd were waiting for a certain young folkstress by the name of Laura Marling. Packed like at no other time in the day, people were standing on benches, craning over one another to get a glimpse of the true queen of new-folk. Her set was nothing short of beautiful, playing every song the audience were waiting for, gracing us with a few newer, more country-tinged numbers. Her star status is assured, and with good reason – she straddles the responsibility of being a pin-up and an artist better than most can manage, and still remains humble and gracious.

Dashing off to see our last band of the festival, we reached the Pyramid stage to see a bigger crowd than any other we’d witnessed. Stretching from the front row, up the hill and all the way into the camping behind us, Blur were truly a good choice for the closing act. You have to feel sorry for the bands on at the same time, they were always going to attract a huge crowd, and with good reason. I always forget just how many hits Blur have had, and just how varied they all are, but watching Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave perfectly recreate the songs that made them the superstars they are, I was constantly enthralled. From the atomic bomb of a song that is “Song 2”, to the gospel singalong of “Tender” and into my personal favourite, “Coffee & TV”, this set was just proof of why Blur are an incredibly important band for British music.

But Glastonbury didn’t end there. It may have been the last set, but wandering around later that night we saw some incredible things. These included hundreds of people spontaneously dancing to “Thriller” in the Stone Circles, accidently finding Basement Jaxx playing to about ten people in a futuristic Hong Kong covered market and watching a middle aged woman nearly impale herself on a candelstick whilst dancing to the Friends theme tune on a table in the middle of a thunderstorm. Really. And that’s why Glastonbury is the best festival in the world. The music might be incredible, but there are so many non-musical moments, so many discoveries and experiences that you can have there that it pushes the festival out of simply a musical area and into a festival in the true sense of the word, a celebration of human interaction, and what we’re capable of.

Did I just write that last bit? Well, if you didn’t like that, I’ll just tell it to you straight: It’s fucking amazing.

Two Door Cinema Club – Undercover Martyn (YSI)
Johnny Flynn – Tickle Me Pink (Demo) (YSI)
Let’s Tea Party – Reptile (YSI)
King Charles – Time Of Eternity (YSI)
Mumford & Sons – The Cave (YSI)
Laura Marling – My Manic & I (YSI)
Blur – Coffee & TV (YSI)

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