A couple sweet, folky records to listen to as antidotes to the over-Mumfordization of modern folk rock.
Big Thief, Masterpiece
FOR FANS OF: Jenny Lewis, Haley Bonar, Phox
Brooklyn natives Big Thief are still relatively new to the scene, but listening to sweet-hearted, fully produced tracks like “Masterpiece,” the title track of their debut album on Saddle Creek Records, one might be forgiven for thinking they’ve been charming us forever. There’s just something so sunny and warm about their sound, even in more sinister moments, like the intro to “Real Love.” Most importantly, the band is deft at navigating between stripped-down folk (“Velvet Ring“) and straight-ahead indie rock (“Humans“), an underrated and sorely missing quality of variety which separates the best indie folk acts from the also-rans whose endless balladeering becomes exhausting.
Aldous Harding, Aldous Harding
FOR FANS OF: Sam Lee, Joanna Newsom, Sharon Van Etten
[NOTE: Since I first discovered Aldous Harding, her album has been pulled from Spotify, leaving only singles behind. It’s also hard to find a copy of it for purchase online in the US. So…good luck?]
There are a few artists whose voices are uniquely able to bring a listener to shivering and tears. Antony, Jose Gonzalez, Joanna Newsom; these are singers whose rich vocal presence is underlain with fragility and sorrow, even in their brightest moments, as if at any moment their vocal chords might fail them and they’ll be too far gone to continue. Aldous Harding sits comfortably in that camp. The New Zealand singer-songwriter is best described as a “gothic folk” singer, whose songs carry the weight of beasts and villains, kings and hunters, all layered in heart-rending acoustic nuance. Find a quiet place in autumn leaves, beneath the trees whose branches have shed their colors, and build a nest for yourself in the cradle of her voice.