Folkroom’s 2016: A Musical Round-Up!
It’s the middle of December, and as we drag ourselves towards the end of a historical, horrendous year, we at Folkroom find ourselves desperate to focus on some of the better things that happened in 2016. In that spirit, we’ve gathered together a playlist featuring all of the artists in our little scene to have released something (and put it on Spotify) this year. You can listen to it here!
We’ve omitted a couple of Christmas releases for the sake of year-round listenability (sorry Forty Elephant Gang and I Am The Cold Man), but you can find them on our Christmas playlist instead. For a fuller review of the artists involved, and their various remarkable achievements in an otherwise immensely unpleasant 366 days, you can read through our track-by-track breakdown below.
‘The Waning Crescent’ by Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker – Josienne and Ben stole the show a little this year in terms of good news for our friends and musicians. Off the back of 2014’s Folkroom-released, BBC Folk Award-winning album, the duo saw themselves signed by the world’s coolest label, Rough Trade. This, the first single off of Overnight, their terrific new record for the label, is a glimmering chamber pop song that still dazzles us on every listen.
‘Learning to Love the Bomb’ by LAISH – Easily the biggest straight-up pop classic we’ve heard from our collective this year, LAISH’s bright, bouncing song has picked up a whole new following for the band. Steve Lamacq seemed particularly enamoured, and so he should be – this is the stand-out moment from the band’s new album Pendulum Swing. That’s no small statement though, and we could just as easily have featured ‘Song For Everything’ or ‘Love on the Conditional’.
‘Anchor’ by Emily Mae Winters – One of the most promising songwriters around right now, ‘Anchor’ is a stunning track that has silenced numerous audiences in 2016. Listen to it, washing over you like a tide. Emily’s EP Foreign Waters is out now.
‘Jackson Hole’ by Michael Garrett and Chums – The highlight of Garrett’s debut EP, which came out in late November, is this devastatingly beautiful track. Inspired in no small part by his relationship with his father, the rich veins of emotion running through ‘Jackson Hole’ mean we’ve seen people gently crying along to this song in at least three different gigs this year.
‘An Honest Tune’ by Catherine Okada – After disappearing from our radar for a year or so, Catherine Okada returned with a new EP of gentle pop folk. Tucked away at the end of the record, ‘An Honest Tune’ is an old familiar friend to us, and a perfect live session of a song that is, ironically, about the impossibility of living up to the expectations of perfection.
‘Anyone Who Knows What Love Is’ by Samantha Whates and the Chaps Choir – This soaring, show-stopping take on Irma Thomas’ greatest hit has been left on repeat on more than one occasion in 2016. Whates’ vocals are unparalleled – introducing her as a backing singer during a gig earlier this year, Josienne Clarke named Whates as her favourite vocalist in the world. We can see why. This wonderful cover was released to raise money for C.A.L.M., so if you enjoy it please do go buy yourself a copy.
‘Wrecking Days’ by Kitty Macfarlane – A true future icon of folk, as far as we’re concerned, Kitty Macfarlane has been writing spellbinding music for a while now. Her debut EP, out earlier this year, is rich with aural landscapes of her home in south-west England, and her adventures on the French coastlines. Nowhere, though, does she conjure a clearer picture of an idyllic world than in ‘Wrecking Days’. This song is simply put, flawless. Come back to us in 70 years, we’ll still be able to sing every word back to you.
‘Come to the Opera with me, Loretta’ by Jess Morgan – Jess Morgan has long being grabbing our attention with both her music and her hand-on DIY approach to record-making (like, she literally makes her own records, guys). It’s refreshing to see someone getting every aspect of their releases so right, and her new record is scattered with instant classics. This melancholic take from Edison Gloriette has a hook most musicians would kill for.
‘Rugby’ by Brightly – After playing a few Folkrooms with an acoustic guitar, Charlie Gleason started to take his live show back to the electronica-influenced background that, in fairness, his records had never wholly left behind. So consider this the beginning of a brief lapse from folk in our Folkroom playlist. ‘Rugby’ is a brutally honest, emphatically beautiful song from one of our favourite innovators about. The album it’s taken from is terrific, and the gif video he created for this song is the most we felt like we were living in the (non-post-apocalyptic) future in 2016.
‘Moon Maps’ by Deerful – A similar not-really-folk joy from the year came from Deerful’s light and deceptively gleeful music. A member of Enderby’s Room (more from them later) as well, Deerful is Emma Winston’s personal musical release, and her back catalogue is filled with tiny moments of wonder like this.
‘I Know’ by Winterfalle – Three years since we first met Sam Falle outside our regular gig spot The Harrison and his band Winterfalle have finally put out their debut EP. It is terrific. One of the best translations of a band’s live set to studio recording that we’ve yet seen, as it happens. Here’s one of Winterfalle’s greatest, and a song that’ll be familiar to any number of Folkroom regulars.
‘Archives’ by Edgar Wallace Exchange – It seems, sadly, as though Edgar Wallace Exchange may have been a flash in the pan within lead singer Cameron J Niven’s wider folk kitchen. Niven’s back to performing solo for now, but if all we have to remember EWE by is their lone EP and their ill-thought acronym, we’ll still feel like it’s more than we deserved. ‘Archives’ is a gorgeous track with glimmers of Cass McCombs and John Grant.
‘Empire of Love’ by Andrew Butler – The first act ever to headline a Folkroom, and the first to release on our label, Andrew Butler took 5 years to release his long-awaited debut album. ‘Empire of Love’ is the stand-out, with ghostly backing vocals calling us into a waltz around the abandoned ballroom Butler seems to store somewhere just behind his aching heart.
‘Bless Your Heart’ by Worry Dolls – Another long time friend of Folkroom, Worry Dolls’ debut album is finally going to be out in Q1 2017. Until then we have this stomping first single inspired by their visits to Nashville, and the bitter sarcasm that sometimes hides in the title blessing.
‘Flowers’ by Patch and the Giant – Alright, we’ve stumbled onto a theme here. After their 2013 EP with Folkroom, Patch retreated, reformed and prepared their debut album – out early next year. Here’s one of the sneak peeks we’ve had so far. Sounds like the album is going to be ace!
‘The World is Flat’ by Paul Mosley – Without a doubt the year’s most ambitious release was Paul Mosley’s The Butcher; a folk opera inspired in no small part by Anais Mitchell’s landmark 2010 album Hadestown. Perhaps most remarkable was that Mosley doesn’t even seem to stumble in attempting to create his own take on the genre. The Butcher is engrossing, seemingly effortless stuff, and a story well worth exploring either alone or with your family.
‘Restoration’ by Amy Gillespie – An enigma live, her stage presence lively and irreverent, her music choppily Dylan-esque one moment and calmingly reflective the next, Amy Gillespie takes a more constant form on her recorded tracks. On this year’s Seventh Wave EP she manages to reclaim that once dreaded word – ethereal. The record is mesmerising, and nowhere more so than on the hypnotic ‘Restoration’.
‘Lakeside’ by Enderby’s Room – We’ve been eagerly awaiting a record by Enderby’s Room for a while now. It feels as though the EP might finally be on the horizon, but for now this softly spoken single will more than suffice. Whispered loveliness from lead singer Dan Mayfield and Deerful’s Emma Winston.
‘Thin Skin’ by Benedict Benjamin – An acclaimed headline at a summer Folkroom gig was a small achievement compared to everything else Benjamin got up to this year. His album, out so early in the year nobody realised yet just how much they’d rely on comforting music like his by, say, June, is a wonderful collection of contemporary folk songs, and ‘Thin Skin’ is the very peak of it all.
‘Safehouse’ by Stables – If we can take any comfort after Stornoway announced they were to split earlier this year it’s that we may have found their natural successors in Stables. A mini Folkroom super-group, featuring a member each from Keston Cobblers’ Club and The Lost Cavalry, Stables filled their debut album with perfect pop-folk nuggets like this bad boy.
‘Taunt’ by Thickets – Like being sung an intense love song by the landlord’s daughter in Wicker Man, ‘Taunt’ is Thickets at their very best. Simply put, we ADORE this band. If 2017 has anything to offer the world (and Christ, it’s not looking like it does), it’ll come in whatever form Thickets choose to release their next music.
‘Tide Take Him’ by Various Guises – Blanche Ellis and Maya McCourt have both been making waves on the London folk scene as individuals and band members in any number of fine acts, but together as Various Guises they offer a whole lot more. Their EP, out last month is filled with songs like this. We’ve never felt more sorry for the drunken sailor.