Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Album Review - Long Live, Snowblink

Written for and published on The 405.

Having already become firm favourites among hundreds of music bloggers everywhere, Snowblink’s full album is finally being released.

Snowblink, made up of San Franciscans Daniela Gesundheit and bandmate Dan Goldman, have produced a beautiful album in ‘Long Live’ that brings a touch of the ethereal to the increasingly popular folk genre. Providing a link between the nature-inspired lyrics of Fleet Foxes and the pretty vocals of Leslie Feist of Feist and Broken Social Scene, Snowblink are very ‘now’ but manage to be wonderfully nostalgic at the same time.

Gesundheit’s voice is really quite mesmerising and thankfully this voice is allowed to be the focus of every song on the album, indeed in parts like ‘Divining Rod’ it is all you hear. The songs might deviate in style – a hint of gospel in ‘Sea Change’, indie pop vibes on ‘Heckling the Afterglow’ and country on ‘The Tired Bees’ - but Gesundheit’s voice forges a close relationship between each and every one. Long Live is very much one whole rather than simply a showcase of fifteen disconnected but well written tracks.

'Ambergris' is the highlight of the album, finger-picked guitars and layers of lovely instrumentation make this song quite anthemic but in the most understated way. The song has enjoyed some popularity thanks to the internet’s capacity for sharing and helped along some way by the 70’s inspired music video, which shows the band in a hippy utopia, walking among wildflowers, complete with floaty dresses and frolicking children…sounds pretty good to me! By the time ‘Ambergris’ is nearing its end with the nonsensical refrain of “I hope you find your ambergris” it has crept all the way up to spine-tingling territory.

Snowblink’s first full album is essential listening for anyone enjoying the present folk music take over, especially those who like their folk with a country twist. Twinkling melodies and understated it truly makes ears happy, ‘Long Live’ Snowblink.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Live Review - Lissie/ Ramona, Heaven

Written for and published on For Folk's Sake

Lissie played a sold out gig at London’s Heaven, but not without the help of her trusty superglue. She followed a storming set from Brighton four piece Ramona, who were first to take to the venue’s lofty stage and provided a more than satisfactory warm-up for the powerful lungs of Lissie that were to follow.

It might be a lazy comparison, but the punk-influenced musical stylings, the blonde hair, and the pouty attitude of Ramona’s lead singer Karen Anne brought a young Debbie Harry to mind. Single ‘How Long’ was another nod to a punk era gone by: a perfectly modern take on the punk-rock sounds of the late 70s, it reminded me of the Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’. With the addition of 90s classic Blue Boy’s ‘Remember Me’, the highlight of the set, Ramona proved that they are a group with many strings to their musical bow.

Then it was Lissie’s turn. The atmosphere was buzzing as this much-talked about musician opened up with ‘Wedding Bells.’ It’s often a worry that a much-hyped act will struggle to live up to expectations. This was certainly not the case with Lissie. Her powerful and soulful voice – whether she’s singing softly on ‘Bully’ or belting it out on her first single, ‘When I’m Alone’ – changed my cynical mind right from the start.

Appearing totally comfortable on stage, she told a bemused audience that she had to briefly stop the gig to get some superglue. “I don’t play with a pick, I guess I should learn. I actually have this long nail…” she explained to the thoroughly disgusted crowd. But after covering her fingertip with super glue, and as if to prove her method certainly works, she played a truly magnificent and heartfelt rendition of ‘Everywhere I Go’.

The band had chosen to cover Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’, as performed on Radio 2 recently, as the ultimate finale (especially appropriate at a venue named Heaven). Lissie and her band produced a particularly magical rendition of the rock anthem, that would have brought a smile to even the most hardcore of Led Zep fans.

Having listened to Lissie’s album I wasn’t quite so sure what made her stand apart from the veritable gaggle of girly singer/songwriters currently in vogue. Actually her album Catching A Tiger just doesn’t do her justice, her powerful and soulful voice is totally unique and definitely one to see live. Lissie is one of the best singers around at the moment.