There was a time when I thought of of folk music as the favourite only of hippies and horribly optimistic people, and scowled and listened to the tough hardcore music I loved, like Crowded House. Now, I pat my past self on the head patronisingly for thinking like that, and admit bravely that most of the new music I’ve bought has been folk. It puts me in this lovely springtime mood, thinking of long drives to the beach and sepia-toned picnics in the park (full disclosure: I’ve had maybe one park-based picnic in the past six years.) I love folk. The Fleet Foxes and their ethics and beards almost completely took over my life. Iron and Wine as well. (Stick a beard on a man and give him a guitar and watch me swoon. Alas Chris prefers to be clean-shaven, though he does happily bash about on his guitar making up songs about how the cat smells terrible or how we stay up late writing songs about staying up late when we should be getting a sensible night’s sleep.)
One of my lovely co-workers pushed me in the direction of Isbells, saying that they were going to be the new work favourite. (Past favourites, played until we were sick of them, include: The Morning Benders, Broken Bells, Mountain Man, Laura Marling.) And you know what, they are. Just as tender and beautiful as Fleet Foxes, and similar in a way, it’s an album that takes a few voices, two guitars, and creates something that lights up your house and reminds you, like folk does best, of all the little things in life that are so important. A lot of folk seems to put me in this strange clucky mood, all its talk of family life—Feist’s Mushaboom being an example that always gets me sighing—and this album is no different, like with track Maybe’s lines:
I don’t know who you are/you don’t know who I am/maybe you will be mine/and we’ll have a beautiful child/a house and a dog and travel a lot/but the moment’s gone so maybe not
Couple that with a wistful tune and I get all misty-eyed in regards to children. Sometimes I think that if it wasn’t for sappy family songs like Animal Collective’s My Girls I wouldn’t even want to have kids and would continue to be happy living my self-involved life of vanilla cake and ten-hour stretches on the couch reading nonsense on the internet, single-handedly saving the world from overpopulation.
Isbells’ self-titled album is a gorgeous little collection of tunes both melancholy and upbeat, moving and fun. I say “little” because it’s currently at the lovely EP-type price of $14.95, though at ten tracks and forty minutes long it outruns (and outmusics) a lot of other albums I’ve paid more for.
Because I always find something to complain about, I’ll say two things here: that it is quite similar to other folksy music out there, and that these lyrics from first song As Long As It Takes would have been heard by my past self and mocked roundly:
What have you done/To the earth we all love/where do we go from here/who’s responsible/look at the mirror on the wall/what do I tell my child/its future’s gone for life
In summary: Meets Expectations, which, because I share many musical tastes with the person who recommended the album to me, were high.