Lisa Hannigan "Sea Sew"

Lisa Hannigan

Debut album from rising young Irish singer/songwriter probably best known to British audiences for her vocal performances on records by her fellow countryman Damien Rice. Hannigan's quirky, literate, acoustic folk-pop, rich with the backing of strings, brass, and glockenspiel, is more upbeat than Rice's, and is comparable to the work of Kathryn Williams and Juliet Turner. "Lille" (featured here), was the first single from the album, and has you floating away on a sea of loveliness.

Erland and the Carnival 'Erland and the Carnival'

Erland and the Carnival 'Erland and the Carnival'

There's not much more British than slightly freaky folk music. As if to prove the point, Erland Cooper (along with Simon Tong (Verve, Blur) and (drummer from The Fireman) David Nock) has mined these pleasant pastures for a debut album of depth and weird beauty.

Together, they've taken various bits of existing poetry, lyrics, folk tales and songs, and melded them together with their own organs, guitars and lyrics. The result is a collection of engaging, swirling tracks and stories that sound like the soundtrack to a creepy, dreamy funfair.

The best example of this is The Derby Ram – an update of the traditional ballad about the giant ram which got the city its emblem.

Elsewhere, William Blake's verse The Echoing Green is set to a hypnotic offbeat guitar part that Cooper hides his voice behind. Leonard Cohen's return-to-libido poem Disturbed This Morning is given a curious reworking that makes it more wanderlust than old-man lust, and My Name Is Carnival (featured here) a cover of a track by tragic 60s folk singer Jackson C Frank (which gives the band their name) is a buxom, jazzy, introduction to the Carnival's shtick.

It's a curiosity alright, one you can file next to similarly interesting backwards-looking modern bands like The Decemberists, The Coral and Mystery Jets.

A freakbeat take on sample culture.

The Mummers 'Tale To Tell'

The Mummers 'Tale To Tell'

The Mummers drift out of your speakers with a debut which is both exciting and new, but such is its joy that it happily convinces the past to skip along with it.

It is clear that this is not going to be an album to stick to the obvious. The track 'Wonderland' storms out of the blocks with a sound best described as early Goldfrapp taking a ride on a carousel with a Danny Elfman orchestra in tow. When the vocals drift in, they again add another layer to the piece, an enchanting almost naive little voice which adds to the fairy-tale-like ambience of the record itself.

The lead single, 'March of the Dawn', is the perfect opening statement for the band. The track is all at once triumphant, bombastic, fragile, eccentric, and really, truly, lovely. It's happy enough to suggest a summery track, but at the same time it also has a magical winter vibe, conjuring the images of colourful and hazy Christmases past.

The cover depicts the lead singer in the woods, and the record does achieve the sense of the magical outdoors from fairy tales and 60s folk music. The album is whimsical to an extent, but it never pushes too far in to any sense of unbelievability. In fact 'Tale To Tell' suggests that this is only the first step in to the forest of the Mummers, with no need to leave a trail of sweets behind.

Fink 'Biscuits For Breakfast'

Fink 'Biscuits For Breakfast'

Wandering through the vault today, I decided to listen to a disc that Aidan had cut together. I'm so glad that I did, as the subject of this review needs special mention.

Prior to 'Biscuits For Breakfast', Fink was happily carving a path through the world of ambient trip-hop. 'Biscuits' sees Fink strike out in a new direction.

Built around his bluesy voice, finger-picking acoustic guitar and the stripped-back live rhythm section, there is a wonderfully intimate smokiness in Fink's approach to his songs. It's intimate, but utterly lacking in sentimentalism.

The featured track, "Pretty Little Thing," on which he plays the whole menagerie: bass, guitar (nylon strings, no less), and B-3 Hammond. The lyrics in this cut are not much to be sure, but as a first track Fink's looking to usher in the set's atmosphere, and as such it works beautifully.

Over The Rhine - The Trumpet Child

Over The Rhine - The Trumpet Child

Don't Wait For Tom caught my interest straight away when it was played to me. It's so obviously a nod to Tom Waits. From the very first clatter everything about it is Tom Waits. Actually, I found that the rest of the album makes for better listening.

It's a bit novelty humour sounding in parts. I prefer the sweeter numbers myself - Karin Bergquist has a lovely voice. Nothing Is Innocent does it for me. Check out Trouble though, it's a catchy number.

Some bits of it reminded me of a later Morcheba sound. Jim White too. Hey, didn't they collaborate at some point? Hmmm, that's strange.

Doveman - The Acrobat

Doveman - The Acrobat

Hang on, let me just wipe the tear from my eye. What a sad collection of songs. Damn, it sure is strikingly beautiful - "I could die here in your arms, but I'm not sure you're worth the sacrifice".

I love the banjo sound. Luckily it features throughout of the album. Often just meandering along, certainly never overpowering. Nothing is overpowering here. Every instrument, voice included seems to find a humble spot somewhere in the background.

Some bits of this remind me of the days when I was listening to a lot of Jim White. The better bits of Jim White that is.

Have I heard Walk On before? Is it a cover? Maybe not, it's a must hear though.

Bat For Lashes - Fur And Gold

Bat For Lashes - Fur And Gold

A couple of tracks in I was pretty convinced I'd stumbled on some rather dark material in my collection - almost invoking images of Sisters of Mercy. As it went on I started to pick up restrained Bjorkesk moments in the vocals in the lead singer's tone. I'd changed my opinion by the end of the album.

I like the instrumentation used throughout. Rhodes, piano, harpsichord, snares, handclaps; I think I even spotted a dash of theremin in there. I really like the rhythmic elements they choose to throw into the mix. Prescilla has some great examples of loose acoustic beats that really work.

It's not as dark as I'd envisaged, or at least elements of it aren't. It still feels gothy/vampirey/fantasy based but it almost like it contradicts that with the lyrical work (the content being kind of urban). Oh, I don't know what's going on, but I do like it.

As a completely irrelevant aside, the first second of What's a Girl To Do sounds like it's sampled from a Beach Boys track (Sloop John B I think). Told you it was irrelevant.

Oi Va Voi - Digital Folklore

Oi Va Voi - Digital Folklore

Oi Va Voi have recently released a new album that's getting very good reviews - I thought it prudent to listen to some of their old stuff first. I try to make a habit of working that way where possible.

This is cool. Very eclectic mix of sounds and influences. At it's core you get Jewish klezmer type goodness but it's spiced up with all sorts of other things. Drum and Bass beats for example are used in the vast majority of the tracks. I guess it's basically traditional Jewish music with electronic wizards working the controls. Lots of cool bits of looping and the like.

It surprises me that this doesn't sound more dated, given that it's 5 years old now (in a genre, ethnic/electronica, that's a bit risky for that). Looking forward to sitting down with their latest offering now.

Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers

Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers

It only takes a moment to understand the motivation behind what's going on here - it's a revolt against racism in America. It's done in a very uplifting way, you know, so it's positive sounding.

For the most part it's a gospel record. You get lots of great handclappy gospel rhythms which as you well know always goes down well with me. Though actually, there's some sort of weird synchronisation going on in one of the songs, I can't remember which. The claps on the left and right channels are just far enough out of line to be a tad off-putting.

The first half is upbeat then it gets more acapella based during the 2nd half. I really love the major->minor key changes in the harmonies - in Freedom Is a Constant Struggle it's used to great effect. Check out We'll Never Turn Back for that matter.

Interestingly there's a cover of Come By Here (more commonly known as Kumbaya) on here (ah, this has the crazy handclaps in it). I had never looked into the history of the song before. Seems there's a bit of debate about who actually wrote it. Turns out that a cheeky white reverend may well have stolen it and claimed it as his own. Sums up the tone of the album really, eh?

CocoRosie - La Maison De Mon Réve

CocoRosie - La Maison De Mon Réve

I have to admit that I've raved about Coco Rosie in the past without even really hearing them. Well I've heard them now, and I'm relieved to find that I was within my rights to take the stance I did. I'd become very familiar with Terrible Angels after randomly discovering it on an internet music service (Pandora from memory).

It strikes me how similar this is to a lot of the stuff I've been listening to in Berlin lately - Goldmund goodness like Golden Disko Ship. The fact that this is close to blues dawned on me when listening to Jesus Loves Me. This sounds so much like Sister Rosetta Tharpe that I have to wonder if it's a cover.

Acoustic guitar, twisted female vocals and beats formed from the scraps and rattles of found sounds. Every track, varied as they are, is great. Check out By Your Side, it's adorned with the sort of loop/hook that the hip-hop heads strive for.

Great to finally hear the whole work.

Syndicate content

Back to top