Laura Marling


This might be my favourite episode of The Folk Bloke yet – not for any actually professional reasons, just because I managed to get songs from Skyrim and Future of the Left into it.

Sven – Ragnar the Red (YSI)
Sven – The Age of Aggression (YSI)

This time I actually have a reason for not posting: I was at End of the Road, which was quite easily the best festival I’ve been to yet. A fantastic lineup, uncrowded, laid-back atmosphere and woods to walk around in. I couldn’t ask for more. But, if you weren’t there, this could all seem self-indulgent, so I’ve got a mini-treat for you. This week’s Folk Bloke was an exercise in excitement for me (it’s pre-recroded) and either consolation, jealousy, irritation or reminiscence for the listeners, given that it’s entirely End of the Road themed. Whoopee!

The Secret Sisters – Tennessee Me (YSI)

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)

10. Good Shoes - No Hope, No Future


If you’ve been reading here long enough, you’ll know I have a serious soft spot for Good Shoes. Morden’s finest jangly miserablists were one of my first true musical loves, so perhaps I’m being a little biased here. Then again, I think there’s a serious case to be made for this being one of the year’s most underrated releases, perhaps because reviewers couldn’t separate the band that faced them from the image of one from the indie revival circa 2006/2007. But with a more open mind applied, No Hope, No Future is quite a different beast to its predecessor. Songs like ‘Our Loving Mother In Pink Diamond’ are far more intricate and layered than previous output while their more familiar numbers (‘Times Change’ and ‘I Know’ spring to mind here) have picked up a few new tricks in a faster pace, more willing to abandon a single, controlling melody. This is the sound of a group who have matured, but were met with a press that refused to believe that they had. I’ll be keeping the faith.

Good Shoes – City By The Sea (YSI)

9. Arcade FireThe Suburbs


Feeling for Arcade Fire is now so strong, I’m starting to wonder if they’ll ever have a release that won’t be hyped to high heaven – frankly, the sheer amount of discussion about this album before it had come out (I saw in-depth discussions about the significance of the album artwork appearing the day it was revealed) could have destroyed the band if the album wasn’t quite up to scratch. Luckily for them then that they have quite as much talent as they do, eh? Any album that starts with the understated majesty of the title track and follows it seamlessly with the stomping ‘Ready To Start’ is onto a winner and even if it’s not quite the magnum opus people are claiming it is, it’s definitely further proof that the ‘Fire are one of the most exciting prospects for continued brilliance in… well, the world right now.

Arcade Fire – Rococo (YSI)

8. Laura MarlingI Speak Because I Can


I have a feeling this is what Laura Marling always wanted – Alas, I Cannot Swim might have wowed many, but I’m not sure if she was completely happy with it. This, her second album embraced a darker, wilder feeling that always inhabited her lyrics and let it loose in places, whilst utilising her considerable skills as a truly emotive soul to spin tales of real beauty (‘Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)’ really, really works in the current British climes). There’s the creeping outside influences that Johnny Flynn succumbed to somewhat in songs like ‘Alpha Shallows’, but the difference here is that they’re wrestled into shape, slotting into the songs rather than overtaking them. What shines through is how much of Ms. Marling we see here – this is less an album of music than a document of the person she was as she recorded it. She may be telling stories, but the ‘I’ of the title really is Laura.

Laura Marling – Devil’s Spoke (YSI)

7. Beach HouseTeen Dream


Teen Dream is the moment Beach House broke out of the dream and into the pop. All the hallmarks of the band are there; laconic speeds, hazy synths and circuitous guitar lines, but in amongst it all lies a new knack for a properly catchy melody. Ask anyone who’s listened to ‘Norway’ recently, it will have been stuck in their head for days. This really helps move the album along too – as songs slip into one another the thing that breaks you out of simply letting it all wash over you is the appearance of a refrain you can really grab a hold of. A consistently beautiful, engaging listen.

Beach House – Zebra (YSI)


6. Mountain ManMade The Harbor


This group of Vermont-based ladies came out of nowhere, made me shiver in delight and seem to have disappeared again just as quickly. Luckily, I don’t think I’ll get bored of listening to this before they re-emerge. A collection of sparse, harmony-laden songs (both new and covered) with never more than a guitar and vocals to their name shouldn’t be this nice to listen to, but it is and with audible recording studio silences and stifled giggles between tracks, this could almost be a single long performance, which only adds to its intimacy. Not to blow my own bugle, but I think I said it best when I wrote that “this is heart-warming and haunting in turn [and] could soundtrack a summer day or a winter’s night”. That’s Made The Harbor’s greatest trick – making such similarly executed ideas sound so wonderfully disparate.

Mountain Man – How’m I Doin’ (YSI)

This is very lazy (again), but a nice big live review of Laura Marling (amongst others) on her latest UK tour is up on my new favourite site, For Folk’s Sake. But, for the sake of so me original material, here are some things I didn’t include in that review:

- As Alessi played my girlfriend turned to me wide-eyed and whispered, ‘She’s adorable!’

- I now prefer theatres to regular venues; no-one talks through songs, no-one disrespects support artists (well, apart from latecomers) and it feels more like a ‘show’.

- In hindsight, I didn’t give Boy & Bear enough credit, they were pretty awesome (plus, I now have two Australian folk acts in two posts).

- I didn’t say a proper goodbye. Bye!

Boy and Bear – Mexican Mavis (YSI)
Alessi’s Ark – Shovelling (YSI)
Laura Marling – Alpha Shallows (YSI)

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)

Sorry for the long wait between posts folks, I’ve been slack after coming back from uni, and I’m afraid I have more bad news, I’ll be away for about two weeks from tomorrow on holiday. But fear not, I leave you with something wonderful.

I got an email from Laura Marling’s mailing list a week or so ago, proclaiming her to having played with Jeffrey Lewis. Now seeing as I love her and newly love him, this seemed like something I should hear immediately, and hear it I did. For an odd little new section on the Guardian website, Jeffrey Lewis has started singing the news and then performing tracks with other artists, and the result of the first of these was his collaboration with Ms. Marling (link). And a weird one it is too.

They’re covering Eminem’s “Brain Damage” in a simplistic sing-song style (x4 alliteration), with Jeffrey’s tell-tale drawl sitting uncomfortably but wonderfully next to Laura’s dictive style. It’s not an instant classic, but I’ve listened to it a lot recently and it makes me smile, which is never a bad thing. And with that I leave you!

Jeffrey Lewis and Laura Marling – Brain Damage (Eminem Cover) (YSI)

BONUS HOLIDAY TRACK!

Weezer – Island In The Sun (YSI)

It’s the end of the year, and sure as eggs is eggs there are music lists, polls and debates galore. I’m a sucker for a good end-of-year list, so I’m sure as hell gonna contribute my own. So without further ado, here are my top ten albums of the year:

10. Does It Offend You, Yeah? – You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into

A triumph of genre crossovers, from Daft Punk to ’80s pop, there was hardly a dud track on here.

Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Weird Science

9. Ida Maria – Fortress Around My Heart

Explosive, effervescent pop-punk from the amazing Miss Maria, her live show is just as good.

Ida Maria – Stella

 

8. Lightspeed Champion – Falling Off The Lavender Bridge

Dev Hynes truly manages to shake off the Test Icicles tag to mould himself as a brilliant, twisted folk troubador.

Lightspeed Champion – Galaxy Of The Lost

 

7. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords

I know comedy records shouldn’t count, but this is such a well-formed album, the fact that it’s funny doesn’t even matter that much.

Flight of the Conchords – The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)

 

6. Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires

The perfect blend of house, indie, funk and any other genre you want to name, this album manages the seemingly impossible task of making a hugely coherent album without ever becoming samey.

Friendly Fires – Photobooth

 

5. Mumford and Sons – Lend Me Your Eyes EP

Alright, it’s an EP not an album, but all four tracks are just so beautiful, so unbelievably heart-wrenching and glorious that I can’t not include it.

Mumford and Sons – Awake My Soul

 

4. Laura Marling – Alas, I Cannot Swim

New-folk’s true pioneer, this album delivered exactly what everyone wanted, the old demos produced beautifully, as well as some wonderful new tracks.

Laura Marling – Night Terror

 

3. Johnny Flynn – A Larum

Three new-folk albums in a row eh? I’d been waiting for an album from Johnny Flynn since his first demo of Tickle Me Pink, and the album was everything I’d wanted and more.

Johnny Flynn – Leftovers

 

2. Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Angles

Hip-hop doesn’t have to be corporate, gangstafied shite, it can be poetry, it can be dance music, it can be funny or tragically sad. In short, this album’s brilliant.

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – The Beat That My Heart Skipped

1. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

To be honest, I don’t think there was ever a doubt in my mind that this would be first place. When it came out it was just so different. Totally summery, totally African and totally incredible.

Vampire Weekend – Bryn

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