Little Things is one of two new tracks released by US indie rock darlings Big Thief this week, the first new music since 2019’s Two Hands – one of two albums they put out that year. Driven forward by a propulsive rhythm, it’s a big emotional wallop round the head that it’s impossible not to get caught up in, thanks to shifting drum patterns, meandering, increasingly intense guitars and singer Adrianne Lenker’s urgent, confessional vocal.
Electronic folk innovator, recent Paul Hamlyn Foundation award winner and TPW favourite, Me Lost Me’s latest single is taken from her forthcoming EP The Circle Dance and comes accompanied by a kaleidoscopic music video filmed on location at Sunderland’s Penshaw Monument. Gently haunting and instantly compelling, like much of her work Acrobat On The Roof seamlessly blends the old with the new, creating something unique, timeless and understatedly beautiful.
At 86 years of age, Shirley Collins is still creating music brimming with life, vibrancy and hope. Her new EP Crowlink includes spoken-word poetry, ambient, glistening new-age synths and deep, earthy folk, dragging seemingly ancient tales into the present and creating something deeply personal and intimate yet entirely relatable and accessible. Crowlink is a thing of timeless, transportive beauty, and deserves your immediate attention.
Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine. Credit: Daniel Anum Jasper
I’m pretty convinced at this stage that Sufjan barely sleeps. Following two albums in 2020 and Convocations from earlier this year, announced today was A Beginner’s Mind, a collaborative album alongside Angelo De Augustine and written during a month-long sabbatical in upstate New York staying in a friend’s cabin. A 14 track album “(loosely) based on (mostly) popular films”, single Olympus explores the mythical deities and monsters created by Ray Harryhausen for films such as Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, and is an evocative, folky delight.
Magic is the new single from producer, singer and songwriter Kat Kitka, an utterly engrossing, haunting beautiful piece of music that pretty much completely defies description (but here goes). Folk, spoken word, ambient and ethereal pop are are dissected and reassembled alongside hugely evocative field recordings, resulting in a five minute track unlike anything else I’ve heard this year. The Kate Bush vibes are strong with this, which isn’t something I say lightly. Highly recommended.
In her poem Wild Geese, Mary Oliver explores what one must do in order to lead a good life. In it the speaker talks directly to her reader, imploring them to not worry so much about being good; rather, the reader should be true to nature and the beauty found in it. As someone who holds the natural world in similarly high regard, it’s fertile inspirational ground for Nina Kinert, who describes her own feeling while reading the poem as “a sort of wanderlust, travelling of the mind in a time when we all need to stay put to stay safe.” The result is a brief but beautiful ballad which not only has the heartbreakingly poignant piano you’d expect, but a pan flute, which adds further a further atmospheric layer to a hauntingly lovely piece of music.
I’m probably biased as I’m a big fan of one of these artists and not really that interested in the other, but I would say that Becky and the Birds’ cover of Bon Iver’s The Wolves (Act I and Act II) is far superior to the original. Not that we’re supposed to judge music in such a binary fashion (it’s not better just… different), but whatever: I think in this instance – given they’re both treading a similar musical path – standing each version toe to toe with one another and seeing who comes out on top is fair enough. And in my humble opinion, this is richer, more engaging, more spine-tinglingly wonderful. You know, just… well, better.
This is the latest single from Sofi Gev, the solo project of American singer-songwriter and indie pop artist Hannah Lovelady. Blending elements of folk, indie, electronica and pop, You’re The Star features some wonderfully subtle and evocative vocal manipulations reminiscent of Oklou’s recent album. But while Oklou’s music feels sparse and at times detached, You’re The Star is warm and richly populated with a variety of instruments and textures: an intimate, glimpse into both the strength and fragility of desire.
Music was one of the few things that made 2020 bearable, and Gia Margaret’s album Mia Gargaret stood out amidst even the best releases of the year due to its almost paralysing beauty. Solid Gold came out today, and unsurprisingly it’s wonderful, with yearning, Americana-esque guitars lolling gently in the background accompanied by a steady, hushed pulse of percussion. With or without her voice, she’s one of the most consistently mesmerising artists out there, and we should treasure her.
Here comes another entry in the “things I completely missed in 2020 but probably shouldn’t have done” canon, this time courtesy of Raven Mahon and Mikey Young aka The Green Child. Low Desk:High Shelf is taken from their second album Shimmering Basset, the recording and themes of which deal with Raven’s relocation to Australia from California. A week ago I would have casually mentioned that the lo-fi, almost naively wonderful electronic opening reminds me of some of John Maus’s best work, but as it turns out even niche musical heroes of mine can trash their own legacy in a single swoop. So instead I’ll say it’s a brilliant, yearning, melancholic, hopeful slice of electronic folk-pop, and leave it at that.