Folk music has wandered down some interesting pathways of late. Like any genre it needs to move with the times and although there are always going to be the “folk police” – normally a bearded guy called Brian in a June Tabor tour shirt – trying to dictate what is and isn’t folk music, change, or at least evolution is inevitable. In recent times folk music has been seduced by the indie chic and Camden cool of the likes of Mumford and the Whale and more latterly emerging names such as Brona McVittie and Rowan Coupland have shown that there is a shimmering dream-pop inspired route for it to take.
But sometimes I miss the more fun, the more story telling, less mystical, the more lyrically accessible and often slightly wonky approach to the genre. If you feel the same, that you want to enjoy the songwriting rather than the soundscaping or how zeitgeisting, faddy or fashionable a record is then Nature Makes Amazing Shapes will be just what you are looking for. Because it deliberately isn’t trying to fit in and be on trend, it can cover a lot of ground and of course if you are never in fashion how can you ever be out of fashion?
Reverse is a strange, almost lullaby slice of innocent folk meets world pop, Jezebel is a jaunty confessional built on infectious bass grooves and This Sweet Delusion is a spacious plea whose simple lines leave McCambridge’s strident vocals the focal point. Just Said No is more in keeping with what you might expect from the folk tag, musically straight-forward, lyrically poignant and designed to have you singing along before the first chorus is even over and Hooligan reminds me of the ragged and roots musical machinations of The Violent Femmes, not a point of reference I get to break out very often but I’m always pleased when I do.
It’s a great album, on reflection it might not even really be a folk album after all. It’s more than that, its musical scope may touch base there more often than not but it also skirts world music, singer-songwriter stylings, warped post-punk and indie music. And of course anyone seeming to channel the spirit of Jonathan Richman, at least in approach and attitude, is exactly what music, not just folk music, needs right now.
Brian is going to hate it which is exactly why you should buy it!