A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar - SMall Town TalkMA POLAINE’S GREAT DECLINE play a timeless kind of Americana and it’s only the fact that the lead track here is called ‘Japanese Knotweed’ might give you the suspicion that they are British. Following their debut album, Got Me Out Of Hell, Small Town Talk is the third EP from Beth Packer and Clinton Hough assisted by Chris Clavo on double bass and co-produced by Ben Walker.  Beth’s voice can be powerful, almost strident, or fragile and bitter-sweet – ‘Been Loved Too Much’ has the feeling of a pre-war German nightclub while ‘Harvey’ has the pumped accordion feel of Tom Waits with Beth’s harmonica and Clinton’s slide guitar on top.

Keep The Light InTHE BLACKHEART ORCHESTRA are Chrissy Mostyn and Richard Pilkington. They have recorded three albums and I despair at the parochial nature of the music scene – myself included – which means that I haven’t heard of them till now. That’s partly because they have just changed their name, but still. ‘Keep The Light In’ is their new genre-defying single; contemporary songwriting mixes electronic beats with omnichord, vintage synths and brass while Richard’s background vocal line “five, six, seven, twelve” sounds just a bit creepy.

Amen 1‘Sometimes You Have To Go Far’ is the first single from Amen 1, the first part of MIKKO JOENSUU’s trilogy of albums. It was recorded in the wilds of Finland and has a suitably epic grandeur – over seven minutes long, driven by huge piano chords and what sounds like a whole orchestra. The philosophical lyrics, “Sometimes you have to go far to feel you’re at home”, are perhaps a bit prog-rock but the song has to be heard in context.

Elinor EvansELINOR EVANS was born in Aberdeen, raised in Aberystwyth and is Celtic through and through, dipping into Breton and Manx music on her EP of solo clarsach pieces, Reflections.  The set opens with the single bell-like notes of Scott Skinner’s ‘Cradle Song’, a very un-traditional interpretation. Then the bass notes appear and finally the tune develops conventionally. ‘Drummond Castle/Crossing The Minch’ is a sparkling set of marches and she returns to tenderness on ‘Tree Of Strings’. There is a long set of Breton, Welsh and Manx tunes, ‘The Lorient Set’, to finish with.