Folkroom’s 2017: A Musical Round-Up!

Anthology 2017

December being December, our Twitter timeline is filled with Best of 2017 lists – websites doing their best to serve the past year’s music up to us in easily digestible listicles. And hey, that’s great. In fact, one of the reasons we don’t tend to do a round-up of our favourite albums for the year is that we rely so heavily on these lists to introduce us to the great records we missed! We just can’t keep up with all the music out there. One thing we can keep up with, though – and one thing that these sites often miss – are the releases by the terrific musicians who play for Folkroom. We’ve made a playlist – a showcase of the music our pals put out in 2017. You can listen to it here, and read our thoughts on each act below.

‘Miss You Already’ by Worry Dolls – Rosie Jones and Zoe Nichol have been playing gigs for Folkroom since the beginning, and we’ve been so proud to watch them grow into such an acclaimed act on the UK country and Americana scene. Their debut album Go Get Gone has a lot to do with that status, building warm Nashville sounds around the duo’s stunning vocal harmonies.

‘Vanished Birds’ by Jack Harris – The elegant black and white cover of Jack Harris’ tremendous latest record, The Wide Afternoon, recalls Johnny Cash’s American series. It’s a fitting comparison, if not entirely musically, for the statesman-like role Jack is taking on in young British folk music. He knows his history, he knows his songwriting, and he knows how to stop you in your tracks. ‘Vanished Birds’ is an elegant closer to a record of the highest quality.

‘Oh Sister’ by Anjana Vasan – We loved Anjana’s debut EP so much, we released it! So excuse the bias here, but also feel comfortable that it’s entirely earned. ‘Oh Sister’ is playful, soulful folk music, and fits wonderfully on the eclectic Too Dark For Country EP, which explores race and grief and desserts. We think Anjana is an unparalleled voice on the UK folk scene, and are so proud to have released this record with her.

‘Heron’ by Camille Delean – The first time Camille played Folkroom, she didn’t even have musical accompaniment. We were so keen to hear her, we had her go acapella. Things have changed since, and her long-awaited debut album (co-produced by our own Ben Walker) was richly arranged and endlessly warming. Nowhere, though, are Camille’s dreamlike vocals better captured than on Music on the Grey Mile‘s opening track, ‘Heron’.

‘Coventry Lullaby’ by I Am The Cold Man – We were so excited to host I Am The Cold Man’s A Winter’s Night EP launch this year, in no small part because of how gorgeously and how intricately the EP had been composed. It captures the duo’s sound wonderfully – listen to the catch-your-breath-then-watch-it-hover-in-the-air winter sounds of Coventry Lullaby.

‘I Ran Thru The Dark (To The Beat of My Heart)’ by Nadine Khouri – When we talk to other musicians about Nadine Khouri, the responses usually come in hushed whispers of reverence and love. It makes sense. Released early this year, The Salted Air is a collection of songs unlike any other we’ve heard in 2017. Lush, thoughtful pieces that belong together – it’s hard to listen to one song without indulging in the entire record.

‘America’ by Patch & the Giant – There’s something faintly ridiculous to us, writing about Patch’s ‘America’ in 2017. The track is one of the few on their debut album that we’ve been hearing for the last five years or so that the band have been playing Folkroom. Cult-like figures on the scene, Patch’s members will often turn up in other acts, and feel very much like roots holding the scene together. Their record, All That We Had, We Stole was so good we made sure we hosted the gig that launched their vinyl!

‘The Descent’ by Merlyn Driver – Tag this as our one to watch for the future. Merlyn’s ridiculously assured debut EP, This Is A Corner of a Larger Field stands out as a highlight amongst highlights for a fine year in music. Featuring global influences (including, on this track, the Nordic song form of joiking), Merlyn builds music from all he experiences whilst, like all the best cultural explorers, working to expose the sounds to the wider world without diminishing their meaning within the culture.

‘The Birds’ by Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker – Another old song rediscovered here as Josienne Clarke and Ben ‘One Half of Folkroom’ Walker repurpose the stunning opening track off of their long-forgotten debut record and name a brand new Rough Trade-released EP after it. It’s a song that fully deserves its second shot at recognition.

‘Come to the Opera with Me, Loretta (Jay Chakravorty Remix)’ by Jess Morgan – We actually featured the original version of Jess Morgan’s gorgeous song on last year’s list, but this moody remix dropped last month, and reimagines the track as something bordering on an 80s power-ballad. More power-ballad remixes of our pals in 2018, please, Jay Chakravorty. More of these, now.

‘Sensorama’ by Harry Harris – On The Andre the Giant EP, Harry Harris’ first release since upping sticks and moving north of the border to Edinburgh, the four songs are each used to make a statement about Harry’s musical intent. ‘Sensorama’ takes the story-telling of his earlier work and lays it over early-U2 guitars and Hold Steady strums. It’s ace.

‘Born to Queue’ by Joe Innes & the Calvalcade – One of our most listened-to albums of the year (beaten only by Laura Marling and St. Vincent, we’d hazard a guess), Joe Innes’ debut LP, Foreign Domestic Policy, is a riotous post-Brexit indie pop record, and the first that manages to really exploit the immense talents of his Cavalcade. It was a real challenge picking one song from the album – almost every track feels like a single, with punchy melodies and memorable hooks throughout. But ‘Born to Queue’ really does show the band in full swing – precisely what makes the album one of 2017’s best.

‘The Fair Tea-Maker of Edgware Row’ by Kirsty Merryn – It feels as if Kirsty Merryn is about to break into the popular folk scene, and her new record She & I should be the last made without label support. Taking stories of inspirational women, real and fictional, Kirsty builds a record that would have been an engaging listen on premise alone, but is lifted by the wit of her lyricism and boldness of musical arrangement.

‘One of Them’ by Tilly Moses – Tilly Moses’ first record, Alight & Adrift, is in many ways the most traditionally folky on this list. On ‘One of Them’, Tilly shows us why this young York-based folk artist is one to watch in the next generation on the scene. Big, moody arrangements and a distinctive voice of her own mark Tilly’s music out as unexpectedly bold and forward-thinking folk music.

‘Small-Time/Secret’ by Pica Pica – Back in March, old pals of Folkroom Josienne Clarke and Samantha Whates headlined one of our gigs. We had to change our promo in the days leading up to the event, as they settled on a name for their new band. Now, as 2017 ends, they release their first single on Rough Trade Records. Get them! Boistered by Adam Beattie and Sonny Johns, the music is careful, considered and softly beautiful.

‘London’ by Louis Brennan – The latter half of the year has seen us drip-fed with teasers for Louis Brennan’s debut record, due out early next year. We’ve had a few singles so far, and each has been terrific, if absolutely bloody miserable. ‘London’ is the best of the bunch so far, pairing Louis’ own-brand grief with a catchy damn hook that becomes increasingly difficult to stay still to.

‘Old Rip’ by The August List – Oxfordshire duo Kerraleigh and Martin have long been knocking out punchy alt-Americana, and their latest record, Ramshackle Tabernacle, has given us some of the best tracks yet. The opening track, ‘Old Rip’ has been a live favourite of ours for a while, and it shimmers on record, with Kerraleigh’s omnichord an undoubted star. The duo seem to be getting a local hero status in Oxford, but should be vying for national hero status before too long.

‘Take It Away’ by HAWK – Consider this one a bonus track of sorts. We’ll be the first to admit this isn’t very folky at all. Since they last played for Folkroom, Hawk have come leaps and bounds. They relocated to Berlin, and developed a sound that feels like the sort of thing you’d hear in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s local bar The Bronze if it was still open today. HAWK have been getting noticed off of the back of this new, socially-conscious music, and it’s fully deserved. They are bold and incredible, and sound like exactly the sort of band that Bella Union should be making massive.

‘Subjects Of Our Love’ by Deerful – An endless favourite of our occasional Folktronicaroom nights, Deerful released their debut album Peach this year. It’s a synthy, samply delight that features decidedly folk-friendly songwriting tucked cosily beneath a blanket of beeps. An excellent way to expand your listening beyond more traditional folk sounds.

‘At Sunset’ by Robin Elliott – Still one of the most underrated songwriters we know, Robin Elliott released his best work yet this year in the gorgeous At Sunset. It features a long-time favourite of ours in ‘Lean Times’, but the title track is the real star – an intricately picked piece of folk music that leaves the listener hanging onto every one of Robin’s softly-spoken lyrics.

‘Free Falling (Live)’ by Tom Hyatt – A bold idea from long-time Folkroom pal Tom Hyatt, his debut of sorts is a beautifully presented live album recorded at Camden’s Spiritual Bar. Joined onstage by regular collaborators Maya McCourt and Tom, the record is a modern equivalent of the Greenwich Village gigs. A classic songwriter presenting his songs as they were meant to be heard. It’s an unconventional first release, sure – but it sounds incredible and comes in a beautiful physical package that demands to be owned.

‘Harmony’ by Scrounge – One final punch here from former Folkroom-signee Lucy Cait’s new band Scrounge, who debuted their sound on the short, vital Brace EP this year. There’s no room for waste here, and Lucy and Luke cut all the fat from their tracks. Take ‘Harmony’, which packs more into its 54 seconds (!) than most acts manage on entire albums.

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