Toronto
2 min

Is folk the new ambient?

Nu-folk & wrong-headed retro

SIMPLE EMOTION. Lovely singing and songwriting from Rachel Goswell. Credit: Xtra files

Is folk the newambient? Cocktail music for the Birkenstocked sensitive realist? An escape from all the tired “bling” tunes saturating the airwaves?



So many bands and solo artists are doing this light, introspective fare. Everyone seems to be influenced lately by sad, languid Nick Drake songs. It’s all very pretty, this nu-folk and I’m so falling for it.



Rachel Goswell (Slowdive, Mojave 3) has just released her much anticipated solo debut, Waves Are Universal. It has an easygoing, laidback quality but there’s pep in the arrangements (Celtic touches, uillean pipes, gravelly guitars, church bells). It never allows itself to ooze in Enya drippiness. It has life and a vigorous heart. Grandma prob-ably wouldn’t like it.



“Gather Me Up” is cliché ridden but totally embraceable. Goswell has a lovely earnest voice as she sings, “I’m tired and it’s late/ Too late to think of excuses why/ I can’t see you again.” An accordion joins in and so does Mother Nature with the sounds of birds from the Cornish estuary Lostwithiel! I have to commend producer David Naughton for making this work. I didn’t roll my eyes once. Have you ever heard the sounds of Chislehurst Caves, Thai insects and Camden Rd? They’re all here.



The songs are all written with pure, simple emotion by Goswell and cowriter Joe Light. It’s all very lovey-dovey. On “Hope,” Goswell gets a bit Beth Orton vocally, as she sings to her love. “You give me hope/ You stop my world from crumbling.” The best song is “Coastline” with its aggressive guitars, soaring slide and tribal rhythm drumbeats as Goswell’s warm folk-soul words glide in and out. “And though those fears can keep rolling in/ Surrounding beauty keeps me going.”



Legendary movie critic Pauline Kael once described actress Dyan Cannon as “Looking a bit like Lauren Bacall and a bit like Jeanne Moreau, but all the wrong bits.” That’s how I feel about the abundance of ’80s sounds on The Killers’ debut album, Hot Fuss. They chose the wrong bits. Ultravox, Tears For Fears and early U2 are the influences that I hear on this Las Vegas foursome’s debut. I never liked those bands. But these boys definitely have potential. It’s a catchy album with tight pop hooks (drummer Ronnie Vanucci keeps everything at an energetic pace) that’s destined to be huge.



MTV will love lead singer Brandon Flowers (with his fake Brit voice). You can just see him posing in lovely outfits as he sings the new single, “Somebody Told Me.” It’s basically Blur’s “Girls And Boys.” “Somebody told me you had a boyfriend/ That looked like a girlfriend/ That I had in February,” sings Flowers.



I really loved the “I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier” chant on “All These Things That I’ve Done.” Flowers is joined by gospel greats, The Sweet Inspirations. That song has an inspiring lovely Queen meets Rotary Connection moment. On “Midnight Show” Flowers does a blatant Morrissey yodel that made me laugh. No wonder Morrissey’s a big fan.