Last year saw an interesting development in the local music scene - the revival of folk music. Well, not so much folk as folk influenced indie pop. And while it would be fair to say that this isn't an overwhelming trend (I'm not arguing this is the new Dunedin Sound or anything) there were a notable number of, mainly pretty young, groups picking up acoustic guitars and counting in with a "one, two, folk you".
Ragamuffin Children are Christchurch duo Anita Clark and Brooke Singer. Last year they picked up the Best Female Artist(s) Alternatui for Werecat Lullabies, an album of quiet, melodic songs featuring cello clarinet and glockenspiel along with the guitar, fiddle and keyboards they play when performing live (see the live video on the video page). Songs like album standouts 'More of Me' (featured in the podcast) and Lullaby are simply quite beautiful.
Urban Tramper (pictured above) describe themselves as Tree Ninjas so you might expect their albums to be full of hippy dippy nonsense. And while they do have songs extolling sitting around the campfire, hugging and watching the sunset, they write captivating music that has harmony and melody, great playing, and some suprises - check out the trumpet that comes in part way through the featured track 'Eucharist'. It was hard to pick a track from their third album Tokon and the Colours - it's a real grower - there's also a video for 'How Do You have Your Tea?' on the video page. Also worth checking out is a live session recorded for National Radio (stream).
Lots of the bands that make up the indie folk revival have a pretty low profile. Needles and Bees are only just starting to make any significant inroads onto the live scene but they've been beavering away recording tracks on a "two dollar mic" and posting them on the internet. The fidelity of their equipment isn't that good but the songs are - you can check them out here.
Teacups emerged on the scene with a gig in a big tent in downtown Auckland during the last arts festival. While they could be accused on being more enthusiastic than proficient they do have great voices and they're a lot of fun. Hopefully an EP is coming soon, I'm hoping the featured song 'Lily's Eyes' makes an appearance with a decent recording. The trio are about to get a huge publicity boost as they've scored the opening slot for Catpower.
Like Teacups, Delgirl, a self confessed alt-country act are influenced by some of the big names on the Americana scene like Jolie Holland, Jenny Lewis and Gillian Welch. 'Little Sparrow' is one of their older songs but they recently released their debut album Two, Maybe Three Days Ride.
Finally in this episode is one of my favourite acts of 2007 - Bear Cat. The song I'm featuring is 'Panda, I Love You', but almost all of their songs are about Pandas! The songs are really silly, but infectious. The other day I realised the songs I'd been singing to myself all day started,"Panda, your fur is so soft, in summer it must get so hot, I want to give you a hug, extinction, it sucks". I'm not sure how these guys didn't end up getting an Alternatui last year, but hopefully they'll release something this year and be in the running.
Download the Counting The Beat - What the Folk! podcast