I am so pre-disposed to hating any sort of music that the latter half of the Oughts tags with the “folk” label that I’m sort of surprised to recommend one of my happiest discoveries of the year to you with full knowledge that the folk tag fits it perfectly.
The album is called The Sleeper, by UK band The Leisure Society. The LS is a 5-7 piece band with former Telescopes and friend-of-other-famous-talented-people Nick Hemming on lead vocals and various stringed (banjo, guitar, etc.) instruments. Trust me when I say that this disc is a must-have, chock full of some of the prettiest and best-arranged music you’ll hear all year. Need a 3am soundtrack? This is it. Need morning music to get a sunny day started? Here you go. Need a soundtrack for a rainy afternoon? Again, perfect choice, right here.
I suppose my biggest problem with the recent variety of “folk” music or folk-influenced music has to do with the same bias I have against recent varieties of “pop” or “power-pop” music. In both genres, it seems far too easy for lesser talents to come up with songs that sound the right notes without actually being interesting on their own merits. In folk, you get some good harmonies, a gentle acoustic strum, and for too many artists that’s the whole problem, licked. So, for every Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci or Skipping Girl Vinegar bathed in wonderful golden glow you have to wade through thickets of terrible, forgettable dreck.
I obviously approached this record with some caution, ready to keep it at arm’s-length. That lasted about 30 seconds in to the song “A Short Weekend Begins With Longing”, with it’s Jackson Frank-inspired vocal phrasing by Hemming. It fell away completely by the chorus of the Ivor Novello Prize-nominated single, “Last Of The Melting Snow”. The Sleeper sounds at once both effortless and painstaking, full of gorgeous bits of fiddle, ukelele, flutes and other assorted strings set in perfect service to the wonderful melodies they’re part of.