Record Store Day Folk Releases

Record Store Day
Image Courtesy of Record Store Day

Record Store Day is one of those annual events we just love here at Timber and Steel. Originally started in the US as a way of getting consumers off the internet and back into independent record stores, Record Store Day entices music lovers with limited edition releases from some of the world’s best bands along with in-store appearances, signings and free gigs.

This year Record Store Day is getting bigger and better with a huge amount of artists signed on. The event will be held on the 16th April around the world (including in Australia) and we’ve sifted through the limited edition releases that have just been announced to give you our top folk recommendations.

If any of these limited edition Record Store Day releases take your fancy it might be worth heading down to your local independent record store before the 16th April to see what they’ll be getting in. You can find a full list of participating Australian record stores here.

And now for our pick of the releases:

Released Exclusively for Record Store Day

For local releases check with you local independent record store. The full list of Record Store Day day exclusives are here. Go out and support music on the 16th April!

Review: The Decemberists, “The King Is Dead”

The King Is Dead
Image Courtesy of Pitchfork

It seems that all of the press surrounding the release of The Decemberists’ new album The King Is Dead is focused on the band “returning to their roots” and changing “from indie to folk-rock”. But do you know what? I think The Decemberists have always paid tribute to their folk roots and The King Is Dead is just a continuation of the musical journey for Colin Meloy and the band.

What has shifted for The Decemberists seems to be the scope of their music. Rather than being a heaving, rollicking concept album like much of The Decemberists’ back-catalogue The King Is Dead is a collection of stand alone songs, tied together with loose themes (in particular that of the changing seasons) but without a through narrative. Meloy feels a little more restrained in his vision and the result is a wonderful piece of American folk-rock that should make any fan of this kind of music smile.

From the opening track (the foot-stomping “Don’t Carry It All” with its driving, Arcade Fire-like rhythm) The King Is Dead hooks you in and keeps you smiling right through to the end. The Decemberists have managed to produce an album that straddles a number of genres and tones while still managing to give the listener a sense of completion – each song is a gem in its own right but together they just seem to reveal something more.

Meloy is more than happy to experiment with his instrumentation on The King Is Dead. With a band the size of The Decemberists (plus guest artists such as Gillian Welch and Peter Buck) it would be easy for the sound of the album to become too muddied and dense. But Meloy managers to avoid this by cleverly using the right instruments at the right time – from the acoustic guitar/vocal only sections of ballads “January Hymn” and “June Hymn” to the all out trad instrumental with dueling fiddle and accordion in “Rox in the Box”.

Readers of Timber and Steel are probably already fans of the first single from The King Is Dead, “Down By The Water”, featuring the wonderful Gillian Welch on backing vocals. Welch is a real talent and adds a lovely depth to her contribution on the album. Peter Buck (of REM) also appears on three tracks and while his contribution is a a little muted (he mainly plays mandolin) the influence of REM on the entire album is undeniable. And speaking of influences I dare anyone to listen to the second track (“Calamity Song”) and not think of the Mountain Goats.

Overall an absolutely amazing album from The Decemberists. The King Is Dead only needs a single listen for you to fall in love with its sumptuous melodies and rich instrumentation. The standout tracks are the duo of seasonal-based ballads “January Hymn” and “June Hymn” but the whole album is amazing from start to finish. This is guaranteed to be on high rotation on the Timber and Steel jukebox for a long while to come.

Tired Pony Recording New Album in February

Tired Pony
Image Courtesy of Tired Pony

In July this year we wrote about the newest folk supergroup on the scene Tired Pony made up of Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol fame, REM’s Peter Buck and various other musicians from bands such as The Editors and Belle & Sebastian. Their first album, The Place We Ran From, has proven so successful that Lightbody and Buck have announced they will be will be heading into the studio early next year to record the follow up.

“We’re going to tour the states at the end of this month and we’ll go into the studio to make the new album next year,” Lightbody told Spinner. “Snow Patrol will be recording the new album from November to the end of January and when it’s finished I’ll go in and record the new Tired Pony album in February.”

The second album will have “more of a bluesy kind of feel” according to the boys and will most likely be recorded in Nashville or Memphis.

The Decemberists Recording with Gillian Welch

The Decemberists
Image Courtesy of The Decemberists

It appears as though US nu-folkers The Decemberists are having fun while recording their new album in a barn somewhere in Oregon. Not only are they finding time to cross dress as fairies and dance in the fields (see above) they’ve also announced that the extremely talented Gillian Welch will be adding backing vocals to at least one track on the new album. Add to this the previously reported collaboration with Peter Buck from REM and it looks like we might have a very interesting project on our hands.

Still no firm release date from The Decemberists although the February 2011 rumour is still doing the rounds.

The Newest Folk Supergroup Tired Pony

Tired Pony

Not to be outdone by the likes of Monsters of Folk and Mt. Desolation members of Snow Patrol, REM, Editors and Belle & Sebastian, among others, have banded together to form their own folk supergroup. Named Tired Pony, the group features Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol), Peter Buck (REM), Tom Smith (Editors), Troy Stewart (Snow Patrol touring band), Iain Archer (Snow Patrol collaborator) and Richard Colburn (Belle & Sebastian).

“I had no idea if the music was going to be country, folk, blues or whatever,” Peter Buck explained to NME.com, “I was prepared for a punk record, I brought my mandolin. As long as it was spontaneous and improvised, it sounded like a very exciting thing to do.”

You can listen to snippets of Tired Pony’s music on their MySpace (no full tracks unfortunately). The band’s debut album The Place We Ran From is available now.

The Decemberists Record With REM’s Peter Buck

The Decemberists
Image Courtesy of The Decemberists

Don’t you love it when your favourite musos “team up”? It looks like just that is happening right now – US nu-folk royalty The Decemberists are reportedly recording their new album in Portland, Oregon with REM’s Peter Buck. According to lead singer Colin Meloy’s twitter “The secret to Peter Buck’s inimitable 12-string guitar playing? He uses fingernails of ancient mummified monarch children for picks”. Interesting.

No release date for the album as yet although February 2011 is being bounced around the interwebs.

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