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Feature // Thank Folk Its Friday #4

by ChristopherMoffatt
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on 29 November 2013 in Features

Hello again folk fans, it’s time again for another saunter through the genre’s very best offerings of the week. Rest assured, your every whim and fancy is catered for: from autoharps to madcap tales of northern towns via songs rendering self-help books obsolete. It’s a lovely selection - enjoy!

Jon Byrne – ‘Don’t Let Life Get You Down’/’Forever Chasing That Feeling’

‘It’s grim up North’ goes the old truism – we have all learned this one way or another, either from watching old episodes of Corrie, reading Alan Bennett and Shelagh Delaney or simply by going by bus to one of its towns only to be half-drowned within seconds of disembarking. With the first track from his double A-side, ‘Don’t Let Life Get You Down’, however, Jon Byrne sets out to relieve us of this notion altogether. Using his hometown of Barrow as the setting, the verses are essentially a series of amusing vignettes full of fun and farce while the chorus works as an anarchic tribute to the art of getting on with it. The second track, ‘Forever Chasing That Feeling’, taken from his most recent LP Built By Angels, is ostensibly an anthem for the demoralised with the hook of ‘I want to dance in the streets like royalty, forget about my life and my poverty’. The combination of Kinksesque instrumentation and Byrne’s adopted croak in the throat works perfectly and leaves us with a rather lovely little double A-side, here.

 

Marissa Nadler – ‘Dead City Emily’

‘I was coming apart those days…’, and so begins Marissa Nadler’s latest bout of shimmering introspection. It’s something we should now all becoming familiar with as ‘Dead City Emily’ comes from Nadler’s sixth full studio album, July, to be released in February. It’s a song of great and varied texture and, while the strings are effective, they could almost be superfluous as it is Nadler’s unique, evocative voice that steals the show.

 

Alana Henderson – ‘Wax & Wane’ (pictured)

Should you ever feel the curious, masochistic urge to venture into the yawning abyss that is your local bookstore’s self-help section then you will know that it is a grim, disturbing experience. Perhaps then, it is not unreasonable for me to request that all these brightly coloured abominations be pulped – twice over – and replaced with copies of Alana Henderson’s ‘Wax & Wane’. This is not a random diatribe against self-help books; the title-track from Henderson’s debut EP is essentially a jolt to the listener to remind them to take control of their own lives. When stuck in a self-made rut, who would you rather listen to: a book full of turgid platitudes or a beautifully rhythmic, cello-led song with a gorgeous vocal? Well, exactly! Elsewhere on the EP there are equally as affecting tracks, including the beautiful detailing of how the slightest listen of a certain song can evoke the most vivid of memories, ‘A Song About A Song’.

Wax & Wane, the EP, is available to stream and download here:

 

Basia Bulat – ‘Wires’

We glide seamlessly now from one female singer-songwriter wielding an unconventional instrument to another. Canada’s Basia Bulat and her autoharp are back with new single ‘Wires’, hot on the heels of her third studio album Tall Tall Shadow. ‘Wires’ begins slowly and wistfully but soon sparks into life; the chorus, with every note quivering with emotion, appearing to work as some sort of regular purge for Bulat. It is quite a lovely dollop of clever and carefully crafted folk and, when Bulat’s honeyed voice reaches the higher notes, with her locks of yellow hair, she can’t help but be reminiscent of Joni in full flow, as can be witnessed in the video below. Currently on a European tour at the moment, Bulat will be returning to the UK for a series of shows in February.





 

Making Marks – ‘Barcodes’

We finish off this week with a real treat from sons and daughters of Oslo, Making Marks. ‘Barcodes’ acts as an amuse-bouche for their new album A Thousand Half Truths, to be released in February and makes one drool profusely at the thought of the incoming course. Jangling guitars, felicitous synth lines and harmonies of silvery voices provide the backdrop to the band’s tales of fending off solitude in urban life – taking the metro and dates in the financial district, among them. Of course, there’s always the feeling that there’s something more complex and profound going on below which only enhances what’s there already. As far as comparisons go, it is nigh on impossible for a listen of ‘Barcodes’ not to conjure an image of Stuart Murdoch and co in action, while at other times, comparisons to The Feelies feel to be more apt. Regardless, it is a lovely slice of folk-pop which should start your weekend off nicely.

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