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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
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+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
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+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
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+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
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+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
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+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
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+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
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+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
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44.1 kHz Archive

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Alasdair Roberts
Farewell Sorrow
Drag City

It seems impossible that someone, in this microwaved modern age of postmodernist palm-piloting, could make a record of folk songs in a passionate fashion, constructed with clued-up artistry, and filled with earnest love of the form. Forget the fact that the global village has rendered such forms of passed-down vocal storytelling absolutely archaic — popular culture and musical development have come so far in just the last 30 years that it seems almost as impossible that someone could even recapture the spirit that Anne Briggs, Shirley & Dolly Collins, Nic Jones, and Wizz Jones did in the hippified revival of traditional English storytelling folk song that occurred in the late '60s/early '70s. In talking about his "folktronica" longplayer, Pause, English electro boffin Four Tet offered that this state of the game existed because kids these days couldn't go the whole nine, couldn't embody folk's rusty, rustic, atavistic manners and mannerisms as a way of life, it being far more difficult than merely tricking themselves out in the right trainers or lighting a sizeable spliff. I have no idea if Alasdair Roberts has embraced the folkie life, retreating somewhere deep in the misty midst of some hermitish Scottish highlands, or if he's just embraced the folkie types, spinning those Briggs/Collins/Jones/COB/Pentangle reissues until their spirit bled into his. Either way, he's made an album every bit the equal of those seminal works, perhaps most reminiscent of Briggs' The Time Has Come in the way it mixes the traditional with the personal, the traditionalist with the eclectic, and the acoustic with the electric. This second solo record seems set to establish the singer once best known as Ali Roberts, frontman for Movietone-toned post-Palace woe-peddlers Appendix Out, as an important songwriting figure. The passionate, artistic, earnest, emotive folk songs herein can't simply be taken as the labor of love of a songwriter writing songs in the same way the songwriters he loves did. Rather than just being inspired-by, this album is inspired, and I have much faith in saying it will inspire inspiration itself. In the glut of played-out product that has gathered over the last decade, paying mind to all forms of music, only Richard Youngs has been really exploring folk forms in artistic, experimental, aesthetically adventurous ways on a non-obscurist level. But where Youngs' work works in highly idiosyncratic ways, Roberts fills his trousers out in a more folkloric fashion, his ancestral orals holding hundreds of years of humanity in his worker's hands, nestling fingers interlocked as nurturing nest, the flighty flights of folkie fancy finding a fine voice that sings them in fine spirit. His first solo disc, The Crook of My Arm, was a guy-with-an-acoustic-guitar collection of traditional folk songs he'd learnt from listening to the likes of Briggs/Collins/Jones. This second, Farewell Sorrow, sees him backed by a full band of Appendix Out types, penning his own songs in ways consistent with traditionalist form. This sounds like it could be a disaster, but it's not. It's naught short of majestic, nearly magical, no less; its madrigals — "Slowly Growing Old," "Join Our Lusty Chorus," and his own instrumentally illustrated anthem-in-Eden "I Fell In Love" — are such soulful, stirring stuff, telling their tales of lore from days of yore with such evocative emotion and in tone so golden that you can barely believe they've fallen into your stereo in compact-digital form.

by Anthony Carew

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