Folk

Up and Coming – Carmody, ‘The Ways of Your Love’

Carmody-11

With the current rise of artists such as Loyle Carner and Tom Misch, frequent collaborator Carmody continues to release fantastically well-polished tracks, her most recent effort coming in the form of ‘The Ways of Your Love’.

Expertly treading the fine line between celestially haunting and comforting warmth, ‘The Ways of Your Love’ sounds as if it could be performed by a significantly sized orchestra, slowly building towards a crescendo with blooming strings and understated percussion providing the backdrop for an intense vocal delivery, finishing as it began, with softly plucked guitar. The instrumental has an odd juxtaposing effect on the listener, in that it is at once calming and enveloping whilst at the same time being slightly unsettling, reflecting the uncertainty of the South London artist when tackling their feelings towards the subject of the song – this gives way to the swelling finish to the song where emotions overcome and overpower.

The true strength of Carmody is her voice – the ballad is sung with a crystalline clarity and shows great range, even within singular verses and choruses, reaching passionate notes with apparent effortlessness, combining power with an emotional form of breathlessness.

A grand winter song indeed, and a strong end to an already strong year.

“I wanted to write about the electricity you can have with someone even though you have nothing in common… go where your body takes you, sometimes” – Carmody 

Listen to the track below, via Soundcloud

This article was written by Mo Hafeez – with thanks to Isobel Williams (WHITEBOARD)

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What we’re listening to (#21): ‘Submarine – EP’ by Alex Turner

Submarine, a 2010 film directed by Richard Ayoade of IT Crowd fame (who has directed some past Arctic Monkeys’ music videos, notably ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ and ‘Cornerstone’), was about story of Oliver Tate and his comically strange and awkward coming-of-age. Visually it’s slightly washed out, a faint sepia colour correction a feature of most scenes, some Super-8 footage thrown in to boot. It really is a great film overall, quirky yet cool, and not too far on either side of the scale, topped off by a phenomenal soundtrack as written by Alex Turner.

He ditches his typical rock style that he’s been known for a long time and instead opts to pick up his acoustic guitar to provide at the time five (and a half) new songs – it’s soft, ballad-like, and there’s not too much going on that it detracts from itself as well as the film. If you’re watching the film, the tracks are more of a secondary focus, and so Turner doesn’t pull all the tricks from out of his sleeve lyrically and musically, instead restraining himself. The result is an album that on the surface, especially when combined with the content of the film, perfectly reflects the uncertainties of adolescence whilst showing the growth of Turner as a musician separate from the Arctic Monkeys, his at times snarky yet retaining tenderness.

 

 

‘Stuck on the Puzzle’, fairly barebones with simple percussion providing backing a slowly picked chordal-background, a solid bass riff, and a watery organ synth that comes to the fore at the end, is perhaps, audibly speaking, one of the more catchier songs on the album. Turner croons away about the stubbornness of a teenager’s emotions and the perceived eventual change in view that comes with age, and a realisation at the end that he just ends up in the same place he started, confused as ever:

“I tried to swim to the side
But my feet got caught in the middle
And I thought I’d seen the light
But oh, no
I was just stuck on the puzzle
Stuck on the puzzle”

‘Piledriver Waltz’, later reworked into a more upbeat and rocky version on the Arctic Monkeys’ Suck It and See, is also notable, it’s crescendo building up perfectly, a breathy delivery of the words ‘Piledriver’ bringing in the organ synth that lays in the background for the whole song to play a fantastic melody – lyrically though it’s not quite there, and Turner only just manages to make the hotel metaphor of the chorus work, the line “If you’re going to try and walk on water make sure you wear your comfortable shoes” wrapping it up nicely. It’s a great way to close the EP, the time-signature changes a great highlight.

 

The other three tracks feature less instrumentation but provide better imagery via the more classic Turner-lyricism on display, and there’s so many lines that can be pointed too. Personal favourites include “And I will play the coconut shy//and win a prize even if it’s rigged//I won’t know when to stop//And you can leave off my lid, and I won’t even lose my fizz//I’ll be the polka dots type” (on ‘Hiding Tonight’), and “It’s like you’re trying to get to heaven in a hurry//And the queue was shorter than you thought it would be//And the doorman says “you need to get a wristband”” (on ‘It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind). The latter evokes almost Bob Dylan/Simon and Garfunkel-esque vibes with its fingerpicking, strings extremely delicately placed beneath, the former’s electronic notes almost equally as unobtrusive. ‘Glass in the Park’ features some fantastic secondary-lead guitar for a bit extra melodic weight.

The album does sound quite samey throughout, but that’s what was trying to be achieved, a soundtrack that could be followed with the progression of the film, with the progression of the character of Oliver Tate, and in fact shows very well the progression of Alex Turner as an artist.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

What we’re listening to (#17): ‘Veneer’ by José Gonzalez

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I’m a supporter of Swedish singer-songwriter José Gonzalez and his stripped down album Veneer, the only two personnel on the record being himself and Stefan Sporson (who appears on only one track, ‘Broken Arrows’).

Not only is Gonzalez a very talented guitarist, but he also has a knack for bringing somewhat-classically styled playing to a larger audience in the format of indie-folk tunes. In fact, he’s so talented that it kind of takes away from his lyrical prowess, which when you look at on paper, is nothing to go crazy over, with much repetition being used throughout – however, when you combine the two together, along with his low almost mumbling voice which are double tracked to great effect at various points on tracks, it creates a very ethereal atmosphere.

The only time he picks up the energy (only very slightly) is in ‘Hints’, centered around a fairly complex riff when combined with the fact he’s singing over it – his lyrics are more forcefully delivered, the guitar more tense, the only percussion present being Gonzalez’s fingers move up and down the fretboard, his use of non-standard tunings creating an interesting chordal basis for the track.

Other originals like ‘Crosses’ and ‘Remain’ continue to showcase talent, particularly his unique strumming and picking patterns,  but perhaps the repetitive lyrics might throw some listeners off. The latter’s riff stuck in my head long after my first listen, and the very well built up ending is another instance where Gonzalez goes a bit more upbeat, with Bonfa-esque jazz vibes.

The song that most people know from this album is ‘Heartbeats’, a cover of a song by the Swedish band the Knife – perhaps most remember the Sony Bravia television shot in San Francisco advert more. Even though it’s not his own song, he makes enough changes to it to keep it original, to keep you listening, and whilst he was that, he also crafted a melody that many aspiring guitarists took their time to learn (including myself). The lyrics, whilst not his, are poignant and are sung poignantly:

“And you, you knew the hands of the devil
And you, kept us awake with wolf teeth
Sharing different heartbeats
In one night”

This album has the power to put you asleep, and I mean this in a good way – Gonzalez’s voice has a certain quality that is difficult to place your finger on.

If you’re craving for something different, pick up this album.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

What we’re listening to (#16): ‘Sunny Side Up’ by Paolo Nutini

Paolo Nutini’s debut album These Streets honestly didn’t do much to set him apart from his peers – he hadn’t quite landed on a genre, and his lyrics were very casual at times, especially in ‘New Shoes’. He was a simple singer-songwriter who was acting older than he really was. Extremely tight production often took away from the gruffness in his voice that was starting to come through, but it meant that the record was relatively accessible. The album wasn’t a flop by any means, managing to sell a few million over time, but it wasn’t enough to save him from the James Blunt and James Morrison comparisons.

Sunny Side Up isn’t a regular sophomore album, it sounds like an album made by someone who’s been on the circuit for a while and knows his niche well.  His voice is the real kicker here, it progressed from barely post-teenager to fifty-something crooner in three years.

“10/10” opens up the album with reggae, and arguably it’s not the most exciting foray into the genre, but enjoyable nonetheless – the song perfectly introduces us to Paolo’s more growling-prevalent stylings. “Coming Up Easy”, welcoming listeners back to Nutini’s regular style, a great whirling organ-backed piece that breaks upbeat verses and choruses with a short sucker-punching bridge – he also does the same towards the end of the track, with a great crescendo over the words:

“It was in love I was created and in love is how I hope I die”

He does a similar thing at the end of “No Other Way”, albeit in a much more soulful manner – the brass creeps in, building towards the chorus of the Scottish-Italian singing about the ups and downs of relationships. A short offbeat reggae styled bridge breaks up the 2nd verse and the chorus, and after this extended chorus, Nutini lets it rip, all out screams of the words “oh baby” providing a fantastic goosebump-factor.

“Pencil Full of Lead” was one of the songs of the summer, receiving extended radio-play for a few months, and acts a fantastic pick-me-up along with “High Hopes” on an album which is otherwise quite sombre.

The album’s first single “Candy” is also worth a listen, and once again he employs a crescendo towards the end, which was often cut-off when played on radio – without it, it has to be said that it might just be a regular rock-soul ballad. It does showcase Nutini’s talent to write songs about relationships and what not without sounding to cliche or cutesy, and he does it very intimately on the track:

Nutini’s follow up to this album wasn’t too shabby either –

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

Up and Coming: Bones – ‘Plasticine EP’

When I pressed play on this LP, I’m not sure I was expecting what came – ‘Everything’s Alright’ opens with a gentle, indie-sounding acoustic guitar with the soft voice of Kimberley Bo. It worked well, but it didn’t really grab my attention straight off the bat. Then came in the hip-hop inspired verses of Ben Jones, an almost melodic rapping that reminded me of Ed Sheeran’s forays into the genre. His Manchester accent adds an edge of roughness that aren’t present in Sheeran’s songs though, and this works well to complement Bo’s vocals.

“Here’s a duo that know what it means to duet. Their tight vocals and beautifully timed lyrics are a credit to Manchester’s song writing history” – Liam Bradford, BBC Radio Manchester

Jones displays his singing chops on the next track, ‘Devil’s Lair’. It’s here where their music takes a turn towards your more standard indie numbers, and I definitely heard shades of Parachutes-era Coldplay as the duo sing about relationships, a cliché topic, but well delivered nonetheless. The duo’s harmonies are on point, and are dotted around the track – they don’t overwhelm the song, and really come to the fore during the chorus. Simple percussion helps to keep the track from being too bare as Bo leads out of the track with an acapella line of “I’ve been waiting here, I’ve been waiting for you”.

There’s a definite move away from the typical indie sounds in the title track – blues-rock inspired progressions and a scratch-based verse-riff definitely picks up the pace after the ‘Devil’s Lair’, especially after the chorus where a short burst chords are jammed out to great effect. Jones’ guitar playing is better represented here than on any other track, and Bo’s falsetto vocals work very well, adding some pop overtones to ‘Plasticine’, allowing the duo bounce off each other with ease.

Closer ‘Ayva’ was also a bit unexpected – there’s a folk-song vibe to it, and once again Bo and Jones’ vocals work very well together, the higher tone of Bo being added intermittently throughout Jones’ verses, and joining in the chorus to a saddening, almost ethereal effect. Even though it was just an EP and track-ordering may not have been a big priority, I couldn’t help but think this track could have gone before ‘Plasticine’ to give the it a bit more of a noticeable flow, but it hasn’t really changed my view on the pair musically.

Plasticine EP cover

In a relatively short time, the duo have been prolific in their gigging, playing alongside acts like Badly Drawn Boy and James Atkin of EMF-fame. With such a variety genres to draw upon for inspiration, I’m hopeful that they won’t just fall to the wayside with the plenty of other indie bands trying to make it, and I’d love to hear more rapping from Jones on future tracks.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez.

Up and Coming: The Debut of Faith Bekoe

Zimbabwean-born artist Faith Bekoe spent her childhood in England, soaking up the musical influences around her. She began singing from the age of five, and began playing professionally in the latter part of the past decade, mainly in the South of France. Touring with a plethora of groups to an array of cities, she has played many respected venues , including ‘Le Bikini’ in Toulouse just last year. On March 5th, she released her debut single ‘By the Fire.

Faith Bekoe

Her style is described as mixture of traditional African rhythms, with a range of influences drawing from both electro and folk backgrounds. She uses these new and exciting sounds as the setting for her often poignant lyrics. ‘By the Fire’ opens with harmonious humming that echoes of the sounds of the delta blues and folk artists from the first half the 20th century that had such a great influence on the music we hear today.

Her voice is soft yet has an undeniable power that seems to bubble up from the lyrical content of love and loss. The simple opening is soon joined by a syncopated synth beat that adds modernity to the music and adds to the interest of the song through its off-beat rhythm. The acoustic chords progression that falls underneath all of this adds warmth to the song and helps lift the vocals of the piece which occasionally merge into the synth sounds, adding an exciting tone to her voice.

Overall, ‘By the Fire’ is an extremely strong first single and looks set to send waves into the musical world. The style is unique and new and the world is seemingly at the feet of Faith Bekoe.

https://faithbekoe.bandcamp.com/track/by-the-fire

This article was written by Sam Brunt

What we’re listening to (#14): ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’ by Neutral Milk Hotel

This is a strange one for me – if you take a look back at what I’ve written about on here over the past year, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea really doesn’t fit in with anything – I’ve talked about hip-hop, blues, rap-metal, soul, garage-rock, indie, britpop et cetera et cetera. I think it’d be wrong to simplify this album and put it into the folk genre, since it’s so much more; it’s an emotionally distraught 40 minutes (the good kind).

Obvious standouts include the title track – at first glance the lyrics seem twisted and fucked up, take the following:

“Oh how I remember you,
how I would push my fingers through
your mouth to make those muscles move”

The whole album is eclectic in the same kind of sense, but he’s speaking and singing in compassion, talking about the awkward intimacies of love, whilst eerie saws fly in the background, driven by the simple progression on the acoustic guitar.

Anyone who’s already listened to album will also know about the constant references to Anne Frank throughout the song, from the direct in ‘Holland, 1945’, where the distorted guitars punch you in the teeth whilst the drums sock you in the stomach, and to the more subtle, like in ‘Oh Comely’.

The song’s actually quite depressing, with Jeff Mangum singing “will she remember me 50 years later? I wished I could save her in some sort of time machine”. For most of the 8-minute song, his voice and the once again simple guitar progression drags the song forward, with his voice taking to different octaves to give that strong sense of sorrow which is signature on the album as a whole. The trumpet and violin that sporadically join in towards the end took me by surprise, and it actually did send shivers down my spine.

This album’s received its share of criticism, but it’s stood the test of time so far, and will likely do so for a while.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez