Monday, 18 August 2008

'Nu-Folk'

I guess I've not really been paying attention, because it has become very clear that the 'folk scene' is back and has been for some time. Clothing-wise, a lot of Autumn/Winter fashion is set to have a bohemian, folklore vibe (thank you, Gok's Fashion Fix) and in the music world, folk acts have suddenly become a lot more prominent. Obviously in America the likes of Devendra Banhart, Sufjan Stevens and Joanna Newsom have been around for ages, but folk-influenced acts here in Britain have been slightly harder to come by. However, earlier this year Laura Marling, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, and Johnny Flynn (whatever happened to the Sussex Wit?) released lovely folk-tinged debut albums (the former two of which are both Mercury nominated), and last week Noah and the Whale released their beautiful debut offering, "Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down". And that's just to name the more well-known acts; there are an awful lot of them about.
But what does all this mean? Are we merely experiencing a cheap revival which we could call the 'British Nu-Folk Scene' (thanks to Sweeping The Nation for coming up with that - "some arse will eventually christen it so it might as well be us". STN is definitely a recommended blog by the way), shoving all vaguely related artists under the genre and then just laughing about later, claiming it was all a joke? The thing is, unlike 'nu-rave' (sorry), it's not a style that can be imitated easily and still sound good. It's not as simple as wearing gaudy colours, getting out a synth, screeching and pouting. The best acts with folk-ish sounds actually have meaning and depth; you couldn't say, "gee, I want to sound like Joni Mitchell", get out a guitar and suddenly write a song with as much beauty as, say, 'Both Sides Now'. Well, if you could then you're obviously very talented and then, yes, you could go off and be a big folk star. Well done.
And speaking of Joni, I thought it was interesting that during 2007 - teh yr of nu-rave lolz - no-one really started listening to the original rave music. So will this new folk-style music increase numbers listening to the original stuff or not? Will we suddenly have everyone indulging in Loudon Wainwright and Vashti Bunyan? I'm thinking it's doubtful, which in some ways is a shame. While some lone, indier-than-thou snob out there is no doubt screaming, "No - Bert Jansch is mine and mine alone!", the rest of us are maybe thinking that if it became more popular it'd be more readily available; I know the folk section in my local music store is woefully small (something like one CD per artist). Though I guess no-one else around here seems to care; apparently I'm just an old woman.
To surmise (a.k.a. I'm too lazy to actually answer any of the questions I asked, thus rendering this entire post pointless), I love folk music and music influenced by it, and so have no problem with it's growing fandom. You should feel encouraged to go out and buy some in fact. However, if I see the girls who just a few months ago were sporting neon pink leggings and screaming about how kerayzee cool Klaxons were, suddenly donning floaty, paisley dresses and screaming about how kerayzee cool Kid Harpoon is, then...Then I might have a problem.
Recommended: download the 'Summer Days Through the Folkish Haze' mix from blog extraordinaire Blue Walrus HERE
P.S. No mention of Bob Dylan because I figured he's cool regardless of whether folk is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A new band on the nu-folk horizon. Hunting Bears.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml5RQVPsiRI