An open letter to Stornoway (or our review of Beachcomber’s Windowsill)

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Dear Stornoway,

I feel we owe you an apology of sorts. You see, I have been tasked with writing a review of your wonderful debut album Beachcomber’s Windowsill for a certain folk music website. It sort of makes sense, I suppose – Beachcomber’s Windowsill is one of the folkiest albums released yet this year. It is beautifully written, filled with absolutely lovely instrumentation and terrific not-quite harmonies. And yet I must still apologise, because you have made it quite clear to us all that you are very much not folk.

And so we owe you an apology. Or rather that the system of genre categorisation owes you an apology, because, dear Stornoway, you very much are folk. You see, there’s this new sub-genre of folk emerging at the moment. The newspapers and magazines are calling it nu-folk, but that’s just silly. We don’t go to folk gigs wearing neon t-shirts or anything. In fact, we all just tend to call it ‘folk’ still. But this is definitely a time of change in the folk scene right now, and your album is entirely representative of it. We don’t have to wear terrible clunky woolly jumpers any more! And men can be folk fans without beards, which is a terrible relief to those of us with rebellious chins.

No, folk music has gone back to its roots – which ironically means that it’s become a lot more contemporary. Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons are singing songs about the here and now, the world we live in. Just like you are really – like in ‘We Are The Battery Human’, which sings about freeing us all from the modern screen-hooked tendencies. It’s very good, by the way. And folk isn’t as angry as it used to be. You can sing about more fun things now, about enjoying life and all that sort of thing, like you do in the opener ‘Zorbing’, which isn’t quite about the practice of climbing into a giant inflatable hamster ball and rolling around fields, but sort of kinda is at the same time.

Here’s the thing, Stornoway: you seem to have accidentally created one of the best folk albums of the year so far, and at the moment you’re acting a little as if it’s a bad thing. It really isn’t, though – folk is one of the most credible, fulfilling genres about these days, and without even trying you’ve made a fantastic example of it. So, I’m really sorry that you’re going to be designated folk from now on, but I beg you to reconsider your response to it – don’t alienate your fans by insisting you aren’t one of them, and we’ll all be here to welcome you with open arms into the (not so beardy) world of folk.

Yours sincerely,

For Folk’s Sake

PS. We all really love the kazoo on ‘Watching Birds’. Bring that back for the second album, please.

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