Following the release of his debut album (reviewed here) back in April, the alt-folk musician James Auger aka A Choir of Ghosts releases a new single. ‘Skin & Bones’ is released on November 20th with an accompanying video.
“The song is about the realization that you can’t always ‘fix it’ for the people you love. Sometimes they have to solve it themselves, and you can’t do anything but watch and hope for the best. In order for things to grow to its full potential, you sometimes have to let go,” says Auger.
“It’s a hard realization but I think a lot of people can identify with the feeling of sudden emptiness, when you come to something in your way that you cannot share, but rather have to go about alone. Your only hope lays in that once the obstacle has been passed, you can rendezvous on the other side.”
A spring 2020 European tour was cancelled due to Covid-19, but Choir of Ghosts has now sprung back into life with this gentle, longing beautiful song and atmospheric video filmed deep in the Scandinavian forests.
Describing themselves as “vaguely acoustic music for the vaguely thinking person” The Sunny Smiles Three are a new alt-folk trio composed of John Parkes, Alaric Lewis and Simon Smith. All three have spent a good few decades as stalwarts of the UK’s indie music scene. Frontman, John Parkes, has been in the likes of the Greenhouse, Fuzzbird and the Sinister Cleaners. Alaric Lewis has played bass with Breaking the Illusion, Cyanide Pills and Suzi Blu as well as being an in-demand guitar tech for some of rock/pop’s royalty. Drummer, Simon Smith, meanwhile was in the Wedding Present, the Ukranians and Cha Cha Cohen.
Fireman Spaceman Mermaid is the trio’s debut album but also includes bonus songs from a recent EP, giving you a whopping sixteen tracks of delightful indie alt-folk-rock.
Named after the retro ‘Sunny Smiles’ charity booklets back in the 1950s and 60s, the three do a nice line in slightly quirky-but-beautifully-crafted acoustic songs with bitter-sweet lyrics and catchy melodies. Parkes is a gifted singer-songwriter, able to conjure up lyrics that so perfectly capture slices of everyday life – like a Ray Davies for the modern era. And with their impeccable indie pedigrees the three have enough musical clout between them to ensure Fireman Spaceman Mermaid is nothing less than a cracking debut.
Released: The Orchard / FR Records 16th November 2020
Describing their style as “post-truth, new wave folk” The Strunts came about as Kintyre musicians, David Fee and Les Oman, reacted to the inauguration of Donald trump as US President with a bout of song-writing. ‘Ranches and Mansions’ one of the songs on this album was the initial fruit of this collaboration, soon followed by several more. The Strunts and their debut album Too Much of Everything were born.
Applying a combination of dark humour and raw emotion with a singer-songwriter folky vibe, the album is quirky and eccentric yet musically appealing – based around Oman and Fee’s bouzouki and acoustic guitar playing. Recorded over the past three years, with the help of musician and engineer/producer Sam Hales at his Campbeltown studio, other local musician friends came on board as the project evolved. These included Alison Leith on additional vocals, Anne Leith on backing vocals, Mark Leishman on drums and percussion, Alex Johnson on double bass as well as Hales on electric guitar.
In spite of being delighted with the result, The Strunts say they will be “equally delighted if POTUS 46 is somebody else, meaning that the ‘difficult second album’ can fly in some other weird and wonderful direction.”
If no-one has done more than Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends to repopularise sea shanties in recent years, then surely no-one has done more than Bristol’s Longest Johns to give them an alt-folk makeover, pull them into the twenty-first century and make them cool.
Cures What Ails Ya is the Longest Johns’ third album. Building on the impact of the first two, Written in Salt released in 2016 and Between Wind and Water released in 2018, the Longest Johns began attracting a dedicated online following that consisted of a quirky but thoroughly modern combination of folk enthusiasts and internet gamers. Collaborating with the creators of suitably-themed games like ‘Sea of Thieves’ the group’s online content has helped them garner over 70.000 YouTube subscribers and upwards of 7.3 million streams by the time this, their third album, is released.
But what of the music? I just love it! An upbeat album as teeming with feel-good vibes and irreverent takes as it is with maritime hardship and folk tradition, Cures What Ails Ya is just beautifully held together with the rich harmonising voices of the four members and, in places, some suitably lovely accompanying instrumentation. Song-wise, there’s a real mix – from standards like ‘Bonny Ship The Diamond’ and ‘Oak and Ash and Thorn’ to new original songs like the wryly tongue-in-cheek ‘Hoist Up The Thing’ and ‘The Last Bristolian Pirate’ which manages to name-check Tescos.
A brilliant album from the men who made shanties sexy – buy it!
Available on digital formats, CD and vinyl Cures What Ails Ya’ is released on 10th June 2020 with a special online live launch party
A Choir of Ghosts is the alter-ego of Swedish singer-songwriter James Auger and An Ounce of Ghosts is his debut album. Written over a three -year period this highly personal album is influenced by both the thick forests of the Scandinavian landscape and the experiences and feelings he went through over that time.
Right from your first listen of the album a number of things become immediately apparent. First, Auger has a fantastic voice – with that slight Americana vibe that makes for perfect singer-songwriter territory. Secondly, he’s really got a good ear for catchy memorable melodies – even after an initial couple of plays this album feels like it’s been a much-loved part of your collection. And finally, this is a really well-constructed, beautifully-produced debut album – from the epic orchestral soundscapes that dominate tracks like the grandly-titled ‘Sinner In Rapture’ (also released as a single) to the warm, introspective feel of stripped-back acoustic numbers like ‘Driving Home’.
Beautiful melodies, thought-provoking lyrics and gorgeous production An Ounce of Gold is an extremely impressive debut album and one well worth seeking out.