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Music Album reviews with Ian Sinclair: November 22, 2021

Latest releases from Courtney Barnett, Nation of Language and Henry Parker

Courtney Barnett
Things Take Time, Take Time
(Marathon Artists)
★★★★

THE third album from Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett continues to mine the rich seam that she has made her name with – seemingly mundane observations and everyday concerns sung like she has just got out of bed, accompanied by slackerish indie guitar licks.

It’s an engagingly refreshing mix – the melodies and witty phrasing are brilliant, and she is able to voice millennial angst as well as any musician I can think of. Single Write A List Of Things To Look Forward To is positively sunny, while on If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight she gives a glimpse into living through the pandemic in Oz: “It’s so quiet outside/with this curfew lullaby.”

There is a niggling feeling that her lyrical concerns, focused on self-reflection and personal relationships, are pretty limited but with songwriting this good it’s easily shelved.
 

Nation of Language
A Way Forward
(PIAS)
★★★★★

 

INSPIRED by synth-pop pioneers Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, singer Ian Richard Devaney formed Nation of Language in 2016. After their critically acclaimed debut was released just as the pandemic hit, the Brooklyn three-piece have now followed it up with their sophomore record.

If you like ’80s electronic pop and bands like LCD Soundsystem, The Drums and Future Islands, then you will love this set. Full of potential singles, there is a rare concision and consistency to the album, from the driving Across That Fine Line, concerning the moment a non-romantic relationship turns into something different, to the hometown dreams of The Fractured Mind, with, I think, a sly reference to Semisonic’s Closing Time.

It helps that Devaney has a magnificent voice, full of romance and longing, making A Way Forward one of the best things I’ve heard this year.

 

Henry Parker
Lammas Fair
(Cup and Ring)
★★★

 

THE second album from West Yorkshire folk artist Henry Parker is “about observing change,” he explains, be that the shifting seasons, changing ways of life or more personal transformations.

Recorded in Keighley, he is backed by a talented bunch of players on bass, drums, percussion, piano, strings and flute, their contributions providing warm, restrained accompaniment to his ruminations.

Parker himself plays some lovely melodic acoustic (and electric) guitar alongside his plaintive, soulful vocals, echoing folk revivalists like John Renbourn and Bert Jansch.

There is a timeless feel to the record — harvests, travelling people, horses, valleys, mills and moors litter the songs, with nothing to suggest we are in the 21st century.

Compromising eight originals and two traditional tunes (The Brisk Lad and Death and the Lady), Lammas Fair is a real treat for all the folkies out there.

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