Samamidon - Bright Sunny South (***)
A folk singer cast from an old-fashioned mould, Sam Amidon rearranges and repurposes songs from the ages, his albums to date principally reinterpreting hymns and trad folk standards – plus, often, a cover version of lesser vintage, with Tears for Fears and R Kelly gracing past releases, and Bright Sunny South offering up an incongruously reworked Mariah Carey number.
But while his sources are venerably second-hand, the selected songs are reborn in novel shapes, with jazz inflections and instrumentation beyond the banjo-fiddle-acoustic genre hub. That’s not to say the fruits of Amidon’s latest labours will curry broad favour, with Bright Sunny South likely to play best to those already partial to roots re-visitations, or existing fans of the Vermont artist’s work. But then again, Amidon’s hardly shooting for mainstream adoration, with the aforementioned Carey cut less an aspirational point-of-reference, more an impressive (and successful) attempt to find depth where it’s least expected.
Out 13th May
Thirty Pounds of Bone - I Cannot Sing You Here, But for Songs of Where (****)
I Cannot Sing You Here, But for Songs of Where is Johnny Lamb’s third album as Thirty Pounds of Bone, and its title is evocatively apt. As Lamb sings these ‘songs of where’ – recorded in dozens of bucolic locales from Shetland loch-sides to coves in Cornwall; quartered into sections entitled Past Place, Present Place and suchlike; and woven through with field recordings that hark to earthy origins – it’s easy to feel transported.
This applies not only to space (with allusions to and echoes of landscape in every water splash and wind howl) but time, as Lamb carves his niche amidst a plethora of traditional folk sounds. But this is no moribund exercise in revivalism; rather, I Cannot Sing You Here… is a vibrant collection that combines old and new to great effect, with special mention owed to drone-backed opener Veesik for the Broch and tender ballad The Snow in Kiel.
Boats - A Fairway Full of Miners (***)
On third album A Fairway Full of Miners, Winnipeg’s Boats convey an array of unruly but endearing quirks that are liable to be manna to some, anathema to others. Their hyperactive brand of indie-pop recalls the likes of Architecture in Helsinki, with lyrics that straddle strange poetry and jolly nonsense (“o mighty cufflink pincher, o frothy eater of sandwiches!”), and a playful songwriting style that conjoins carnivalesque abandon (O Telescope’s hollering noisiness) with extra-sugared electro-pop (We Got Tables and Chairs’ glockenspiel/guitar solos blend).
Mat Klachefsky’s high-pitched nasal yelp needs acclimatising to (Getting Worst.Jpeg’s shrill assault especially so) and there are moments where the smorgasbord of ideas starts to sound less like inspired eccentricity and more like a band in search of a rudder. But when it works, it really works, with Animated GIFS a squelchy twee-epic and Advice on Bioluminescent Bears undoubtedly the year’s finest song about a captive colour-changing grizzly.
Out 20th May