Swiss-born Long Tall Jefferson (aka Simon Borer) says of his Cloud Folk record: it’s “an album for the now with elements of trap, cloud rap, chillwave”, as well as “bass-paddled melancholy, polished longing, minnesong and folk song and singer-songwriter traits translated into a new century”.
I don’t know: all of that sounds like a cup of expensive super caffeine coffee at my local Starbucks that would never have my name on it!
But not to worry: Cloud Folk is a really nice melodic folk-pop record (with really nice melodic folk-pop songs) that is coloured, from time to time, with a few pulsing electronic keys, drums, and bouncing bops – plus the odd nib of a trombone or theremin.
The first song, ‘Wild Imagination’ is an introspective glance at youthful perception. A simple guitar frames the loping vocal, while a sad harmonica plugs holes in lonely memories – and there are a few bubbles of electronic blimps that dance in the song. But the song is insightful enough to simply conjure a pop nod to Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abby” and its reflection on an ever-fading youth.
To make a nice reference: the song is a bit like the really decent folk-pop-rock sound of Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, circa their very wonderful Reach For The Sky album. This is also true for the fast-paced (with great bass line!) ‘Young Love’, with a bit of Tim Renwick meets Mark Knopfler guitar solo. And that’s a folk rock ‘n’ roll pretty great thing to do. Then ‘Dopamine Dream’ follows with another off-hand voiced, guitar-spiked, and organ pumped Dire Straits ‘Money For Nothing’ vibe. This is simply wonderful music.
Then a bass throbs to introduce the infectious total syn-pop folk tune ‘(I’m In Love With An) Astronaut’- a song that “bungles” in very same Jethro Tull “jungle” with its impossible not to love chorus, even though your forty-minute concept album Thick As A Brick progressive rock loving soul will deny the guilty pleasure three times, while some cock crows in admission to the admiration for a (ahem!) certain bona fide hit single sound. Hopefully, this tune won’t be the gravity that attracts the attention from so many other less commercially inclined songs on the album.
To state the obvious: this isn’t an album for folk purists who think Ewan MacColl just about got it right, or, as my practicing Greek-Mythologist friend, Henry Thumm believes, all lyrism should only be accompanied by a double-necked sheep-gut strung seven stringed (and quite antiquated) Orpheus-styled lyre. To (again!) state the obvious to the purists: Cloud Folk won’t, to quote the legendary Christy Moore,” tickle your fancy”.
That all said, for those of us who still enjoy a few introspective Anthems In (a non-English) Eden, there are lovely moments of folk purity. ‘Better Man’ floats with voice, pulsing acoustic guitar, that odd trombone, and a sincere melody. Perhaps, Paul Simon’s ‘The Boxer’ (without the huge drama) is a distant echo. That’s big complement! Then ‘Everything Is Wrong’ is a comfort with a handshake melody, and perhaps could have been a folky outtake from Nick Lowe’s Jesus Of Cool (aka Pure Pop For Now People in my stodgy American market), which like this album, rides the rollercoaster ride of pretty cool sounds.
And ‘Killjoy (Forever Away)’ gets cerebral and drifts, with keyboard beauty, like a song from (my beloved) Barclay James Harvest from their Time Honoured Ghost period that touched a bit of country flavour. The same is true for ‘Follow You Around’. This is rock-folk with (sort of) light progressive keyboard work that is suspended in really subtle air.
‘Christmas Song’, again, returns to acoustic Eden with the warm breath of a Paul Simon song. And that theremin (Thank you Anna Trauffer!) vibrates briefly into the very musical stars.
The final song, ‘Angela’, could almost be an oft replayed tune on a jukebox in The Eagles’ dystopian ‘Hotel California’. And that’s a cool thing to do. The lyrics are interesting and quite profoundly spooky: “Then you poured the holy wine/Into my soul” and “Lonely like the saints of old/Cigarettes against the cold”. This is slow danced metaphysical stuff that pleads for a grasp at some always elusive pop folk compass, with magical spirits and big leafed autumnal starry night melodies that, somehow, ooze old time elusive acoustic truth.
In fairness, Cloud Folk is a definite departure from previous tunes like ‘Yonder Is A Mountain’, ‘Old Friend’, and ‘Stay A Little Longer’- all of which seldom strayed from the 70’s singer-songwriter template – with a lovely authentic folky touch. But as Ian Anderson (to mention Tull again!) wrote on the group’s first record, “But things change. Don’t they.” And Cloud Folk does just that: It never stops being melodic folk music; but sure, at times, it bounces and bops; it rocks a little bit; and then, ultimately, it just sings a really nice tune that even my friend and passionate Greek Mythologist friend, Henry Thumm, with all his ancient folk baggage, can still, even after all these years, love this album because yeah, sometimes things really do need to change.
‘Yonder Is A Mountain’ – official video:
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