amy may ellis‘s music is weathered by waves, moors, and london rivers. also to her credit, she takes ukuleles and knitted socks seriously.
on a sunday boat morning, between children’s drawings, cardboard advice from previous occupants, lists of recommendations, a telephone call to discuss lyrics, and cups of tea, amy sang “lonely loving” in a golden indoor-outer space, took us on a walk, and introduced us to her harmonium. hooray!
the advent calendar mixtape is back with a new frost fair song for skating away on thin ice every day until 24th december.
on 1st november, first aid kit played shoreditch town hall in london. three days later, i am still happily caught in their harmonies like in an autumn fog.
the evening began with van william, whom i had once seen with his band port o’brien when i had a stubborn cold. this time, he seemed more earnest as he played his new solo songs, even as he made jokes about how he kept losing his guitar string at difficult notes and guessed his way to his next london gig. he also took us back to port o’brien times with “fisherman’s son” (whee), and was joined by first aid kit for “revolution”.
first aid kit‘s set went from new fireworks skating across frozen lakes towards lonely finish lines, to nights cutting like knives in “it’s a shame” (oh my, do i feel for klara in this video), from singing about cold stockholm and dancing to trombone solos in “emmylou” to “you are the problem here” which, as klara said, was written as a response to brock turner but sadly “keeps remaining relevant”. johanna and klara took the time to introduce their wonderful band warmly and their friend van came back out to sing on “king of the world“. apart from all the singing, dancing, and exuberant smiles exchanged freely between audience and band, one of my favourite moments was the first encore, “ghost town”, which johanna and klara performed by themselves and acoustic. they invited everyone to join in, even if they didn’t know the lyrics and people sang softly, like a ghost choir.
a gig like a seaside campfire, lovely and brilliant all around. and, judging from “fireworks”, “it’s a shame”, and “postcard”, their upcoming album ruins, out on 19th january 2018, will be one for the “repeat” button.
oh my giddy aunt. this september has been excellent, not just for collecting chestnuts and watching rain push yellow leaves off tree branches from a top-floor library window, but also for piling new songs into playlists to get through winter.
phoebe bridgers‘s brilliant debut album stranger in the alps paints ghosts on people and sinks hooks into sad words, flinging them across a pale blue sky as bait for clouds. particularly lovely winter company are “funeral” (every time she sings “and that’s just how i feel”, a cinnamon bun could die of sadness), “would you rather” (with conor oberst on the other side of the tin can telephone), and the mark kozelek cover “you missed my heart”.
cat stevens/yusuf‘s the laughing apple makes references to songs from the olden days such as “if you want to sing out” in “you can do (whatever)!” and contains a jagged, beautiful new version of his 1960s “blackness of the night”. this is yusuf like i remember cat stevens. especially lovely with plum crumble: “grandsons”, “mighty peace”, and “i’m so sleepy”.
vasas flora och fauna‘s veneziansk afton is more dancable than their debut släkt med lotta svärd but still cheerfully delivers finnlandswedish lost-in-the-neighborhood observations with lines such as “we buy your old things”, “must one have a name, i’d rather not be called anything”. preferred dusk stroll soundtrack: “vi köper era gamla saker”, “egnahemshus”, and “min förtvivlan”.
and, although it’s technically not out until november, you can already order jeff hilson‘s latanoprost variations, which, with kite-string poems about moth art garfunkel’s head of troubled hair, finding a robert plant, unsolicited music recommendations, full stops and eye drops, is another hibernation treat.
gaelynn lea makes music with violin-loops and kindness, “under the influence of coffee.” her vocals grow lyrics fierce as weeds, swaying awesomely like ocean waves. she’s also a disability rights activist.
after having been introduced to her music when she won npr’s tiny desk contest with “someday we’ll linger in the sun” in 2016, i was dead excited to see her play at the windmill in brixton, london, on 23rd august 2017. and oh my days. accompanied by dave mehling, gaelynn played fiddle tunes as well as her own songs, such as “watch the world unfold“, “someday we’ll linger in the sun”, “let it go“, and “grace and a tender hand”, which walked broad smiles across my face. her protest song advocating for disability rights was brilliant, their neutral milk hotel cover great craic, and the birdsong singalong with the audience was beautiful and lasted forever. though not as long as in kilkenny, where people would not stop singing, she said.
in between their london gigs, i asked gaelynn and dave to come out and play. it turns out that dave collects facts on their tour; his encyclopedia includes information on the bee population in amsterdam and borrowed grass for a george washington statue in london. and gaelynn not only drew us the picture above to go with the song, but she also believes that instead of becoming grown-ups, “everyone’s a work in progress.” here are these lovely human beings playing “grace and a tender hand” in hoxton square:
“grace and a tender hand” will be on gaelynn lea’s upcoming album, which will be released in autumn 2018. you can support it via gofundme over here. until that album comes out, we have gaelynn’s 7″ “all changing tides”, out on 10th november 2017, to look forward to.
here’s the second song in fins ara’s summer song trilogy, “alone”, which he also played for us in that hidden auditorium up a london hill. for the third song, “lagom”, out on 8th september, keep an eye on here.
one sunny sunday, we followed fins ara to a piano in an empty auditorium in north london, for slow gloom dancing and, as he would say, “hope amidst confusion”. “veer” is the first song off his debut ep a love, elusive, which will be unfolding song by song over the summer.