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.
A portable record player sits atop a piano under a solitary spotlight, and from it emerges a dark and unholy voice, oom-pah-pahing whilst ‘the boy’, attired in boiler suit and gas mask, lurks in the shadows. Patti Plinko wouldn’t be out of place in an air raid shelter circa 1941, and the boy would be out of place anywhere. Together they put on a show that keeps the temporary inhabitants of this particular underground bunker in Leicester Square enthralled for the better part of an hour.
Pram Town is a ‘folk opera’ from former Hefner frontman Darren Hayman. The story follows a unmotivated guy stuck in the town where he grew up, Harlow (nicknamed Pram Town in the 50s because of the sudden influx of young families when the town was built in the aftermath of WWII). He meets an ‘out of his league’ London woman while fare-evading in a first class train carriage.