FOLK-COUNTRY BLUEFLINT Maudy Tree (Jorock) ●●●●●

If ever there was a band best suited to be heard in the ale-imbued confines of a wee folk club rather than in the car or at home, it’s Scottish folk quartet Blueflint.

For every song here on Maudy Tree that seems to begin promisingly with a subtle TV theme- tune allusion to either Deadwood or Out of Town, it all winds up down the same cul de sac, with a twee lyric here or a forgettably bland banjo break there.

Acolytes have dubbed the Blueflint bluegrass sound based around the harmonies of Deborah Arnott and Clare Neilson as haunting, but on hearing these déjà vu melodies and clichéd narratives about rolling seas, log fires, drowning sorrows in booze and tilling the soil, the spirit just deadens. (Brian Donaldson)

FOLK-ROCK THE SHIVERS More (Fence Records) ●●●●●

Having tootled along in NYC for years, this is The Shivers’ sixth album but first to be released over here, and it’s a perfect introduction to their idiosyncratic and gentle form of genius.

Diversity is the name of the game

for rock-poppers Jo Schorikow (vocals/ keys) and Keith Zarriello (lead vocals/ guitar), as anti-folk rubs shoulders with new wave, and soft piano sits next to Dylan-esque shuffles. It’s all linked together though by a

delightfully soulful sensibility, most ably demonstrated by centrepiece tune ‘Love Is In The Air’ with its echoes of Marvin Gaye, and the plaintive organ-drenched echo ‘Two Solitudes’, both of which deliver the requisite shivers down the spine. Quietly inspired. (Doug Johnstone)

VOCAL-LED TRIBAL POP MUSCLES OF JOY Muscles of Joy (Watts of Goodwill) ●●●●●

For the past three years, Glasgow’s M.O.J have honed a singular body of work that spans myriad divergent forms from post-punk to Bulgarian a cappella; from Gaelic psalm singing to New Pop. The vocal-led, all-female septet’s trick is to fuse such styles with melodic instinct, sensitivity, and coherence. They’ve established a formidable live reputation, but what strikes on this debut album is how the songs live and breathe on record: see the organic percussion and sublime, evolving harmonies on ‘Water Break-Its-Neck’, or the pliant bass- lines and increasing vocal defiance on ‘Room of Our Own’. The empowering tribal-pop of ‘Coins Across his Hips’ and the blissful psyche of ‘Swan Shape’ further manifest the charms of this remarkable debut. (Nicola Meighan)

NU-FOLK LAURA MARLING A Creature I Don’t Know (Virgin) ●●●●● While some will lap up anything by the Brit winning, twice Mercury- nominated Marling, those with a little remove might want to consider whether this is the sound of the emperor’s new clothes rustling. Marling’s voice is strong and dextrous, her music blessed with a windblown pastoral air on album stand-outs like ‘My Friends’ and ‘All the Rage’, and particularly ‘Sophia’ (where even the Hampshire girl’s accent has relocated to the Midwest) which will no doubt go down well in yet-to-be-cracked transatlantic territories. Yet the record also rests on wan couplets like ‘Night After Night’s ‘you are my speaker / my innocence keeper’ and too much soupy semi-acoustic timidity. Nice, but not groundbreakingly so. (David Pollock)

ANTI-FOLK JEFFREY LEWIS A Turn in the Dream-Songs (Rough Trade) ●●●●● LO-FI POP/ROCK GIRLS Father, Son, Holy Ghost (Fantasy Trashcan) ●●●●●

COUNTRY ROCK FEIST Metals (Polydor) ●●●●●

‘A cult boyfriend is like a record in a bargain bin,’ rambles Jeffrey Lewis, paralleling his calibre as a date with his music both acquired tastes; ‘no one knows its worth ’til a collector comes in.’ While we can’t advocate going out with the prolific NY anti-folkie, we can agree heartily that those who take a chance on his wry, verbose tunes will discover lots to adore. ‘I Got Lost’ is a ramshackle strum, ‘Krongu Green Slime’ is just the kind of colourful weirdness you’d expect from a musician who’s also a respected comic book artist, while ‘Mosquito Mass Murderer’ finds Lewis rapping about massacring bloodsucking insects. Sweet, talented, funny, fearless in face of wee beasties maybe he is decent boyfriend material. (Malcolm Jack)

At times Christopher Owens’ religious cult upbringing and drug dabbling has threatened to overshadow the music he makes as the driving force behind San Francisco’s Girls. No such problems with this assured follow- up to 2009’s Album, however, as at last the songs are more interesting than the frontman’s fucked-up past. Owens’ issues remain, but Father, Son, Holy Ghost showcases a newfound soulfulness and it suits them. Opener ‘Honey Bunny’ gets things going with a woozy rush of riffs, but the ache of ‘How Can I Say I Love You’ and the gospel- tinged ‘Myma’ and ‘Love stay with you from first listen, not to mention the album’s centrepiece ‘Vomit’; a six minute epic that builds in the most majestic of ways. (Camilla Pia)

This album suggests Leslie Feist has foregone trying to recreate the breathy anthemics of The Reminder and the Apple-advertising ‘1234’ in favour of a more mature, mellow-textured style. It’s not such a bold move when her songwriting is as striking as this. ‘The Bad in Each Other’ swoops in, pondering ‘when a good man and a good woman / can’t find the good in each other’, and these raw-hearted country-rock sentiments extend into the Neil Young-style steel guitar twang of ‘How Come You Never Go There?’ Metals wears a certain sadness at its heart, from the dark sexuality of ‘A Commotion’ to Carpenters-echoing ‘Bittersweet Melodies’, but also hoists Feis ever closer to Baez, Mitchell and Smith. (David Pollock)

INDIE-POP DUM DUM GIRLS Only in Dreams (Sub Pop) ●●●●● It’s little surprise to discover that The Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner co-produced this Californian female quartet’s second album. Progressing from trashy, distorted beginnings to something more polished and unashamedly pop, they’ve followed a similar path to their Danish JAMC-loving counterparts although perhaps too quickly to bring along those who liked them rougher around the edges. Only In Dreams deals with heavy subjects, among them the death of Gundred’s mother. Big emotions ambitiously expressed spells standout moments in ‘Bedroom Eyes’ and ‘Hold Your Hand’. But more generally they recall Sweden’s Those Dancing Days fizzily catchy, if too clean-cut to entirely convince. (Malcolm Jack)

22 Sep–20 Oct 2011 THE LIST 79