The long awaited Around The Well is split into two halves, the first a soft collection of home recordings, the second a spruced up smattering of studio work. Disc one is reminiscent of 2002’s “The Creek Drank The Cradle” in that it is restrained of detail and relies solely on a minimal amount of musical instruments. This gives it a wholesome, stripped down atmosphere, and seeing as all 11 tracks on the first part are unedited and raw, there is nothing to distract from Iron & Wine’s (Sam Beam’s) genius.
Fixing you into a lazy haze-filled melancholy from the get go, Draw Me Stories bring their second album of folk infused ambience, this time with added roots. Following on from their debut The Plugged Sessions, the Welsh troupe unplug and play with their voices and more instrumentation to create a delicious album full of transcendental hymns.
Ah, be still my beating heart! If ever someone was to capture the gentle-giant ethos through music, this is it. The third album by husky baritone troubadour Grant Campbell offers a delicacy which manages to penetrate the most heavy hearted amongst us, and leave a mass of quivering wrecks in its wake.
Listening to Rachel Harrington sing tales from her second album, City of Refuge, is akin to being sat in front of the fire by your great aunt Bess and told the stories that made her a woman in a time when wagons rolled and the fiddle and the banjo were played without a hint of retro irony.
Building up layers of synthesiser and creating an engagingly ethereal – by which I mean otherworldly but without being atmospheric like Sigur Rós – sound, Black Moth Super Rainbow are as unexpected as their name.
London via Sweden’s Fanfarlo have been steadily bringing out a single a year for around three years now. Their debut album, Reservoir, has finally been unleashed and as expected, it has been more than worth the wait.
In their second album Cats on Fire display their finely honed good taste with a selection of songlets which evoke the likes of The Smiths, Belle and Sebastian and Kings of Convenience. They’ve been criticised for this elsewhere, but it’s hard to question the combination of influences that are woven into the silken fabric of this album. Listening to it is like coming home to find that your beloved record collection’s had a bonkfest and produced a beautiful baby in your absence.
Members from the likes of Beirut, The Arcade Fire and Belle & Sebastian have played a role in creating Flare’s (aka Flare Acoustic Arts League) diverse and brilliantly produced third album Cut. They lead on from the likes of The New Pornographers and The Hidden Cameras in showing that good pop music does not have to be formulaic. In fact, each of the songs on Cut manages to stand out as unique. This diversity accounts for a lot of its charm but equally accounts for its few flaws.
Sad Day For Puppets are Scandinavia’s latest contribution to the UK music scene. With thoughts of Aqua, Alphabeat and ABBA, I approached them with unnecessary caution, as on the strength of this album, Sad Day For Colours have cemented their place on my summer’s playlist.
A Mouthful is a master class in marvellous, unadulterated eclecticism. The record is a mad-sounding melange of all things beautiful – there are recorders, harmonicas, hand-claps, glockenspiels and swirling strings. There is ostentatious, borderline gypsy brass, playground chanting, mc-ing and piano. Melodies swing from sweet and bluesy on tracks like ‘Searching Gold’ to electro-tinged late 1970s nostalgia on ‘Aha’. Too much, you would think? Not for a minute. All of this put together works bloody brilliantly. This album is – my well-documented Francophile over-enthusiasm aside – a work of sprawling genius.