Still Trying – Nathaniel Rateliff
Take Bon Iver and Mumford and Sons, add them together, plus a dollop of genius lyrics and a tonne of soul, and you get the sound of Nathaniel Rateliff. Intrigued? You should be.
This American singer-songwriter from Missouri has been around for a while, but I’ve just discovered him. He is just what you want in the alt-folk genre we’ve all grown to love today. He’s got the grungy and powerful voice and knows how to build a song up from a soft guitar riff and whisper to a full foot-stomping, make-you-wanna-shout style folk track.
Still Trying is a magic song from his 2013 album Falling Faster Than You Think You Can Run that does just this. It’s calming yet stirring at the same time. I know that’s an awful contradiction but somehow Nathaniel Rateliff reaches that in this song.
If you want more upbeat and shouty folk music listen to his 2015 album Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, if you want more gentle tracks like Still Trying then stick to his earlier albums. I like both styles for different reasons and all his work makes for compelling listening.
Only Love – Mumford and Sons
This week I’ve been checking out Mumford and Sons new album Wilder Mind.
I’ve always been a fan of these guys. Their folk-belters like Awake My Soul, I Will Wait and Little Lion Man are songs which will always stand out for me as some of the best banjo-strumming, foot-stomping tracks we’ve heard in recent years. But like many, I also began to struggled with the same-same sound the guys were producing in every track on their first two albums. I eagerly went to their concert in 2012 only to leave feeling a little disappointed – I was overwhelmed by how much the songs blended together as one, yet, I had hope. I could tell Marcus and his bandmates had more to them, they weren’t going to be one-trick ponies, because they had more talent than they were showcasing. Wilder Mind is the album that proves that.
The range of songs on this album is impressive, the band have worked hard to produce something new and fresh and they’ve done that. It’s a bit of an experiment record, there are a few different routes they’ve gone down. Some songs showcase qualities of Radiohead, others have a riffs you’d expect to hear on a Coldplay track. My pick of the bunch from a few quick listens, is Only Love.
The track starts slowly with the male harmonies we all know and love, the type that really make your hairs stand up. I’m immediately caught up, the lyrics are the kind that make you stop, listen and think:
“And I hunger and I thirst
For some shiver
For some whispered words
And the promise to come”
But don’t fret, Only Love isn’t a depressing ballad. It may start slowly but this song is magic in the way it reaches a point where it just erupts! There isn’t much warning for the loud, invasive and energetic invasion of electric guitars that burst out in the middle of the song. It is magic.
This is the kind of song I needed to hear from Mumford and Sons, this is the song I want to see them play in concert.
Only Love marks a new direction for this band and I think it’s a good move.
Southern Sun – Boy and Bear
A couple of weeks ago I agreed to buy tickets to a concert with a friend, I’d never heard of the band before but the Aussie group came highly recommended. Now, after some serious listening, I’m ever so grateful that I get to see this group live. The band is of course Boy and Bear, the indie folk-rock group hailing from Sydney.
Southern Sun is the song that’s really taken my fancy during my investigation, it’s a stunning track with all the trademarks of an indie hit. The intro is a tease that’s so different from what’s to come. It’s a slowed down, echoey melody with a sound similar to Fleet Foxes White Winter Hymnal. It’s attention grabbing without a doubt and for that reason it leads perfectly into the main sound of the track which has a bouncy, toe-tap-inducing quality that we’ve all come to love in this popular indie-folk sound conquering music charts today. The tune has elements of Crowded House (in fact, they actually recorded a cover of Fall at Your Feet for an album dedicated to the Finn brothers – check it out, it’s awesome) and Mumford and Sons, with a perfect combination of catchy lyrics and an effective layer of instruments.
It starts with a simple, upbeat accoustic guitar strum, but it’s not long before a grungy reptitive electric guitar hook comes across on top of the riff, adding a groovy quality. Next comes quality backing vocals which add a crowd pleasing ‘aaaaaaaah’ singalong through the chorus and pick things up a notch. Singer Dave Hosking has a fantastic sound, he dominates each verse with his distinctive, gravelly vocals and is complimented perfectly by the band behind him.
Southern Sun is a tremendous song, I’m amazed it hasn’t been picked up for airplay here in NZ. So simple yet effective. It’s the first single from their album Harlequin Dream which was released a year ago and quickly climbed into 7th place on Triple J’s Top 10 albums of 2013 poll. Rightly so, this is a fantastic band with a long way to go in their career. I can’t wait to see them play Bodega in Wellington next month.