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Column/ Playlist – Laura Marling to Michael Kiwanuka: An insider's guide to the new-folk explosion

Column/ Playlist – Laura Marling to Michael Kiwanuka: An insider's guide to the new-folk explosion
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Over the past five or six years, a certain corner of London’s music scene has produced a series of both internationally acclaimed artists and sub-cult heroes all, remarkably, with a distinctly folky sound. One of the city’s most recognisable names Laura Marling has announced she’ll return with with album Short Movie next year – which interestingly is her first long player not to feature the word ‘I’ in the title – and I can’t help but fondly consider the incredibly bounteous West London scene that I am still proud to be a part of. Almost six years ago to the day, I was lucky enough as a doe-eyed 18 year-old to walk into a studio with producer Ian Grimble plus Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett and Marcus Mumford to record a song, Zion, for the Communion label’s first vinyl compilation, which dropped in 2010. That record featured a host of special artists – some familiar, some unfamiliar, and some familiar but under unfamiliar guises. As a personal update, here’s a playlist of acts, both established and rising that the scene and the artists within it have nurtured in the last few years.

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Will Stokes

Laura Marling – Short Movie

Laura Marling was just 17 when she released her first album Alas, I Cannot Swim. Her sound, with its preoccupation toward the likes of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell has earned her exemplar status when it comes to ‘new-folk’.

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Dancing Years – We Danced Last Night

Fresh off the tour bus, having traversed Europe this past Autumn/Winter with Australian alt-indie outfit Boy & Bear, Dancing Years have enjoyed a phenomenal 2014. Latest single We Danced Last Night dropped on December 1st via indie label Hide & Seek- keep an eye out for album rumblings.

Daughter – Youth

Gestating in the form of a front-woman Elena Tonra’s eponymous solo-project, which also appeared on the Communion label’s 2010 compilation, Daughter’s characteristically cold, reverb-heavy sound has earned the band generic associations with the likes of Jeff Buckley and The xx. Youth was notably featured on an emphatic commercial for ITV’s broadcast of the Tour de France.

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Roo Panes – Know Me Well

Gravelly-voiced former model Roo Panes effortlessly garnered an army of follows in the lead up to debut LP Little Giant, which was released through indie label CRC Music in October. Lush string arrangements and crafted, intelligent melodies come together in the album’s careful handling of all things ‘new-folk’.

Michael Kiwanuka – Bones

With debut album Home Again earning him a Mercury Prize nomination, Michael Kiwanuka has often been lauded as the modern day’s answer to artists like Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. His sound nonetheless remains distinctively his own.

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Josh Flowers & the Wild – Young Bones

Currently cutting their debut album, Josh Flowers & the Wild are self-confessed devotees to the crunching textures of the blues. With a sound compounding the best of both polished and rough textures to create, frankly, one hell of a raucous live show; JF&TW are soon to announce a string of momentous live dates in 2015.

Ben Howard – I Forgot Where We Were

Having decisively demonstrated with I Forgot Where We Were that that ‘difficult second album’ need not be so difficult, Ben Howard has been a regular on the UK airwaves since debut LP Every Kingdom first saw light in the September of 2011, fronted by howlingly catchy single The Wolves. Howard now prepares for a tour in the spring of 2015, including a trio of appearances at London’s Alexandra Palace in April.

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Bear’s Den – Above The Clouds Of Pompeii

Bear’s Den’s Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones are long standing members of the West London folk scene, having previously played together in a Communion-backed project called Cherbourg. Fast forward to the present, and complete with third member Joey Haynes Bear’s Den have enjoyed extensive touring in the UK and USA with Mumford & Sons and Daughter, among others. The band’s first LP Islands was released in October.

Mumford & Sons – The Boxer (Ft Jerry Douglas and Paul Simon)

Two albums deep, and Mumford can enjoy the current status as one of the biggest bands on the planet. From tireless touring through low-ceilinged, sweaty UK venues to a Glastonbury headline slot, the band has achieved almost everything a musician can hope for. Marcus Mumford’s down time endeavours since second album Babel most recently include his contribution towards Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes: a foray into previously unheard Bob Dylan lyrics, led by Elvis Costello.

Jack Garratt – The Love You’re Given

Having lately supported the aforementioned Ben Howard in Europe, Jack Garratt has enjoyed an astronomically fast rise through London’s independent circuit with his one man extravaganza of James Blake-esque, dark electronic pop. With Garratt currently in the studio, one can safely say that for 2015 we can expect more- much more.


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