Friday, June 12, 2009

Thank Folk It's Friday

Thank Folk. Or 'anti-folk'. Or 'psyche-folk'. Or whatever. It seems ever since I first decided I was going to do this little post (the first in a probable series - see below), all I've found is how liberally the word folk is tossed around these days.

"When did it happen that everytime a female singer-songwriter put out a record it was considered folk?" a friend asked when we talked through the line-up, which, as you can see, is an all-girl affair. I have no answer to his question, but he seems to raise a good point that only got stronger the more songs I added (not to mention the ones that didn't actually make it, particularly the likes of Brandi Carlile).

Anyway, all that aside, here are a bundle of recent releases that have been placed broadly under the heading of folk, anti-folk, or 'folk rock', whatever that might entail. All I know for sure is they are some of the more beautiful records to have been released lately. May they ease you into the weekend.

Alessi's Ark - Memory Box (Notes From A Treehouse, 2009)

Let's get this started with a little folk-pop from the spectacular Alessi's Ark. The London-based teenager made a deal with her parents at the age of 16 allowing her to quit school to try a career in music as long as she agreed to go back if it didn't work out. Don't expect to see her in class anytime soon.

Blue Roses - Greatest Thoughts (Blue Roses, 2009)

Hands up if this doesn't immediately have you checking you aren't listening to Joni Mitchell.

Emmy The Great - 24 (First Love, 2009)

One friend of mine waited no longer than the February release of First Love to declare it album of the year. Admittedly he's prone to rash statements, but he might not be a million miles out come December.

Alela Diane - White As Diamonds (To Be Still, 2009)

This is my favourite song on this list. I'll let it speak for itself.

Jill Barber - Hard Line (For All Time, 2006)

At the jazzier end of the folk scale is this Nova Scotia native. By the way, who knew Canadiana was a thing?

Angela Desveaux - Shape You (The Mighty Ship, 2008)

Although born in Quebec, Desveaux also ended up in Novia Scotia and soaked up the area's rich folk history. What is more, Desveaux was raised on country music by her parents, something we'll always endorse. It's clear from this that a little of Lucinda Williams stuck.

Jessica Lea Mayfield - We've Never Lied (With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, 2009)

You wouldn't imagine that a protege of the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach would fit onto a list like this, but clearly Mayfield does, even if you can hear little flourishes of Auerbach's sound throughout on this album.

Dawn Landes - Private Little Hell (Fireproof, 2006)

Like Jill Barber, it was hard to pick a single song off this album, because there are so many ideas on it. Using her skills as a studio engineer, Landes has mastered a number of sounds to produce an album that reveals a little bit more every time you listen. If I could, I'd probably have used the outstanding cover of Tom Petty's 'I Won't Back Down', which is tagged on the end as a bonus track. Look it up.

Laura Marling - Ghosts (Alas, I Cannot Swim, 2008)

Laura Marling created the London-based teenage songwriter template that Alessi's Ark is now using after first gaining widespread attention at 17. Still only 19, she's among the most exciting songwriters in the country.

Jenny Lewis - Pretty Bird (Acid Tongue, 2009)

If we asked her, Jenny Lewis probably wouldn't want to be on this list. She's not the sort who likes to be tied down by labels. In truth, there's not much that's folk about Acid Tongue, although there's plenty in her back catalogue, most obviously in her work with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat, but I'm a huge fan of this song and it seemed to fit. And until someone properly explains to me what anti-folk is, I'm claiming an exemption.

That covers the girls for a while. Thank Folk It's Friday will be back however, with a few different little themes, in the next few weeks. Just because it's nice.

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