music, review

Indie & Folk

This marks a new weekly segment: Sharing The Goodness! It’s exactly what it says on the tin — I’ll be sharing songs I’ve come across and feel could use a little more attention. Whether it’s a bouncy disco track I heard a week ago or an obscure acoustic number I’ve been bobbing my head to over the past month, I’ll be rounding them up five at a time every Saturday to help these artists get more exposure and to help you get some inspiration for the work week. Better yet, I’ll be grouping these up by genre(s) so you’ll know what you’re getting into. Not too fond of rock? Want to see more electronica or synth-pop? Just keep an eye out for my next piece.

After all, I want to share the goodness!

Starting off the list: indie and folk. Considering I’m a huge fan of this sound, expect me to re-visit these a lot in future posts. I’ll also occasionally put an artist on the list twice, if I feel their repertoire is just too damn grand to be confined to one suggestion. (Links in the titles!)

1. “Sing To The Moon” by Laura Mvula

I was indirectly introduced to Laura Mvula by a mutual on Twitter, who then told me she’d make me cry, no less. Well, they weren’t wrong. British-born folk and neo-soul musician Laura Mvula is a tour-de-force, tugging on your heartstrings even as she sweeps you off your feet and ignites your imagination. ‘Sing To The Moon’ is the very definition of a showstopper — a gentle chorus and tender vocals initially draws you in, only to wrench at your heart with fanciful violins and harp strings. Even better? The lyrics are beautiful.

They hearken to a friend or a family member holding your hand through hard times, invoking hope when life is pushing anything but. Too many songs attempting to relate to a ‘general and impersonal audience’ can come off as overly vague or corny, but Laura Mvula knows exactly who she’s talking to and why. The despondent and the depressed, the hopeless regularly beaten down by reality yet turning their faces to the sky for one last look nonetheless.

Sing to the moon and the stars will shine,

Over you, lead you to the other side

2. “She” by Laura Mvula

I couldn’t resist putting on another song by her. Where ‘Sing To The Moon’ is a delicate balancing act between serenity and sentiment, ‘She’ is a thoughtful trip through the emotional and psychological struggle of a woman searching for ever-elusive happiness. A lovely chorus wavers in and out of a minimalist, twinkling audio narrative, later contrasting with the rollicking and redundant outro — it’s as catchy as it is indicative of the signature ‘she’ going through the motions of her frustrating life. Ooh, I love a clever composition.

The music video compliments ‘She’ beautifully and I recommend you give it a watch. The direction is poignant, following the eager gait of a young girl as she travels through what seem to be either premonitions of the future or flashbacks on the part of the woman you see getting married, having a baby and eventually struggling to find meaning in it all. No matter how you interpret it, it’s a real treat.

There she waits looking for a savior.

Someone to save her from her dying self

3. “Little Sparrow” by Leyla McCalla

Haunting and vulnerable, this soulful folk/blues ballad has cemented Lelya McCalla as an artist to keep an eye on. A morose guitar plucks its way through subject matter that hits particularly hard for anyone who has struggled with displacement — in fact, this piece was specifically based on her experience as an immigrant learning to adapt to a new country. Using a baby bird as a metaphor it explores themes of helplessness, practicality and the unreliable nature of distant dreams. Coupled with a somber violin that goes straight through your chest, this is a piece that’s hard to forget long after it’s finished.

The lyrics are arresting, simple in execution and filled with wizened sentiment that can only come from experience. It’s the kind of song that encourages you to sit outside and take a moment to analyze everything as is.

Little sparrow, don’t make your home

Out in the snow

4. “River” by Ibeyi

With eerie chants and a foreboding backbeat, ‘River’ grabs you in the first few seconds and dares you to pull away. While I only discovered them recently, this French-Cuban duo has an incredibly dedicated fanbase and it’s not hard to see why — blending folk and alternative approaches with traditional Yoruban beats, they’re about as distinctive as musicians come.

Although this might not snag your attention if you’re more inclined to faster paced songs, its sheer force of personality and somewhat unpredictable instrumentation make it striking and interesting in turns. Lovely vocals and lyrics that waver between abstract and straight-forward, I’m incredibly glad I came across this. Consider me a new fan, Ibeyi.

Let me baptize my soul with the help of your waters

Sink my pains and complains


5. “Coffee” by Sylvan Esso

Not going to lie, I’ve been listening to this almost every morning since I found it. It’s the perfect sunrise track, as airy and smooth as the first few minutes of the morning peeking over the trees in chilly winter hours. A little keyboard here, some twinkling bells there, the gentle shake of maracas on and off — despite all these different sounds, it maintains a consistently gentle atmosphere.

Overall? It’s amazingly catchy while remaining dainty and subdued, perfect for those that want a memorable tune in their more meandering songs. While I personally love slow pieces, I won’t pretend like some can’t get a little too ponderous and vague in their melodies. Thankfully, you’ll be humming ‘Coffee’ from sunset to sunrise.

Get up, get down, get up, get down

Sentiment’s the same but the pair of feet change

Thanks for joining me for the intro to the new weekly segment! Did you like any of these artists? Got recommendations? Feel free to leave a comment below and join me next Monday where I’ll be sharing my favorite ambient and electronica songs.

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