Archives for posts with tag: folk pop

Grawlixes_Good ShadowWellington-by-way-of-Dunedin duo Grawlixes have just released their debut album “Set Free” and it’s a bittersweet reflection on life and love and coming together and moving apart. Hard to pick a representative tune, but I’ve always loved “Good Shadow” so here we go:

“Good Shadow” also exists as a song on the 2nd album by The Prophet Hens, a band Robin Cederman and Penelope Esplin have been part of in Dunedin for several years. A sign of a great song is how well it works in different settings.

The album is beautifully crafted folk-influenced pop. The minimalism of guitar and melancholy accordian is augmented with some fine sonic touches from electric guitar and also violin arrangements from Alex Vaatstra. But the real heart and soul of the album is the pairing of the voices of Penelope and Robin.

To illustrate all the above here’s another song – “Darling” – which is also familiar from The Prophet Hens live set, but which was never recorded by that band:

 

Broken Heartbreakers
The Broken Heartbreakers have a new album out and it’s a beauty. If you were familiar with their two previous albums of classic 60s-styled folk-in-pop-clothing you’d expect that. But you may not expect what this new one “How we got to now” serves up. Here’s “Breaking Branches” from the album:

The recording captures the space in the songs and sound of the (12-string) guitars is as exquisite as the voices.

Vocal’s are shared between songwriters Rachel Bailey and John Howell. Both have rich, smooth, warm voices which work perfectly together. Rachel Bailey’s vocals have always been a highlight of the Broken Heartbreakers. Here they have all the depth and smooth and smokey Celtic intrigue of a fine Western Isles single malt whiskey. Another fine example of that is the goose-bumps singing starting “Somebody Please”.

There’s plenty of variety on this album and things which are little different and outside what you might expect from the band. The opening track – “My Sense of Wonder” – sets out the stall for the album. A beautiful melodic beginning, those voices, and a song with some unexpected twists as it gradually mutates through a half-whispered-half-mumbled section before unfurling an unexpected freak-flag in the form of one of the most outrageous psychedelic-experimental guitar solos you’ll hear this side of a King Loser album.

Further on “More Than Most” – another unexpected brief and spoken-word gem – places them firmly in their natural Dunedin habitat of North East Valley. It’s these little touches and the album’s sense of the songwriters’ life journey together which makes “How we got to now” a bit special.

two white cranes_greyscale
two white cranes hail from Bristol in the south west of England. Here’s the first track from their recently released album “Radisson Blue”.

two white cranes on the album is Roxy Brennan, along with Dan Howard and Owen Williams.

PopLib has previously featured another band Roxy and Owen are in – Grubs. Grubs have an album coming out next month called “It Must Be Grubs”. Owen is also in Welsh noise-pop band Joanna Gruesome and now Roxy has joined as one of the two replacements for vocalist Alanna McArdle.

“Radisson Blue” is the second from two white cranes in a year. It is just guitar, bass, drums and voice – sometimes just guitar and voice – but it is all the more captivating for the way the air and space in the music draws in the listener to what takes on the character of a personal performance.

There’s an air of modern urban folk about songs like “I tried” and “Coach Trip” in particular. There’s also a reminder for me of the earliest singles by one of my favourite US bands in the 90s – Crowsdell – who used a similar twisting tangle of melodic guitar to weave musical strands around a distinctive voice to create mesmerising songs.

Bristol has a strong history in producing beguiling folk-influenced pop well outside the mainstream of the ‘alt.indie’ music, being the home of 1980s/1990s indie-pop big hitters Sarah Records and The Subway Organisation. This is a whole different era but there’s still a bit of that wilfully independent spirit there. Seek it out.

Kane Strang PopLib

Young Dunedin musician Kane Strang (currently in Germany I think) has been self-releasing self-recorded music for a few years. His acoustic songs released over the past few years were interesting and hinted at potential, but didn’t really grab me. However, his recent music – as assembled on ‘A Pebble & A Paper Crane’, recorded either with a band or a lot of multi-tracking, is spectacular at times. And utterly individualistic.

I presume Kane Strang records on a laptop, but his bedroom psychedelia has the woozy wobbly saturated warmth of a 4-track cassette porta-studio recording. He’s a dandy in the underworld; songs ripe with fruity indulgence, baroque melodies, overwrought imagery & scruffy but fussy elegance.

It’s a bit of a grower too. It’s always a good sign when something doesn’t reveal all its charms on first listen but slowly invades your subconscious over time & you find yourself humming these ambitious melodies while out walking in Dunedin’s sunshine & rain.

Favourite tracks here are the opening ‘Love Letter for a Trend Setter’ and ‘Winded’ which I first heard (and featured here) in April, but it’s all a fine collection any lover of psychedelic flavoured folkie pop weirdness should check out. The album is available to download from Kane’s Bandcamp page and is also available on CD – there are some copies in Portil music store in Dunedin for $15 right now.

Update 2015: Kane has removed “A Pebble And A Paper Crane” from his Bandcamp. You can still hear “Winded” from this album here on TEMPORARY – Selections From Dunedin’s Pop Underground 2011 – 2015

There’s also a couple of tracks someone has uploaded on YouTube too.