Norwegian singer/songwriter Ane Brun managed to bring out the subtleties in Beyoncé‘s gargantuan ballad “Halo”. Her chamber-folk rendition is a pared-down, understated acoustic affair with Swedish cellist Linnea Olsson on strings duty. It’s a nice break from the drum-heavy bombast of Ryan Tedder’s original production.
You can find “Halo” on her latest double album “Rarities”, collecting her rare tracks from over the years.
We first posted about them for our Popforward feature in 2011, and since then The Staves have gone on to release a sublime folk album entitled “Dead & Born & Grown”. Now the British sibling trio are embarking on a US tour, and we want you to hear their gorgeous harmonies live FOR FREE. If you happen to live in Oregon and are a fan of the band, today’s your lucky day! You can stand a chance to win ONE pair of tickets to see them perform live in person at Mississippi Studios in Portland on June 18. All you need to do to enter this giveaway is to follow the steps below.
1. Become a fan of The Staves and Pop Labyrinth on Facebook (if you haven’t already).
2. What’s your favorite Staves song? Comment below to tell us, and don’t forget to leave your name and email address so we can contact you if you win!
The contest ends on Monday, 6/17. A winner will be picked at random and contacted via email.
In case you don’t totally trust your luck, tickets for the show are still available here.
In the meantime, check out the video for their beautiful new single “Facing West” below.
Laura Marling is the Rihanna of folk. On to her fourth album in 5 years, the prolific Brit folk darling just unleashed her new single “Master Hunter” last week, and it’s a change of wind for her. It’s been a while since I heard something this upbeat from Laura, but that trademark visceral melancholy in most of her songs is not lost here.
STREAM: Laura Marling – Master Hunter
“Where Can I Go?” is another strong cut from her forthcoming album “Once I Was An Eagle”. After 3 solid albums, I have no doubt this next one will be yet another challenging but rewarding listen. Her albums always take time to marinate and grow, but once they do, oh boy do they do.
STREAM: Laura Marling – Where Can I Go?
You can also watch a nice trailer for her upcoming short film for another track, “When Brave Bird Saved”:
It’s been a while since I last heard of Japanese folkster/multi-instrumentalist Shugo Tokumaru, but he has returned with a gorgeous stop-motion video for his lovely new single “Katachi”. Clearly a lot of time and effort was put into this labour of love, and the visuals work so well with the beautiful soothing harmonies. That it’s sung in Japanese probably adds to its warm, earthy charm. Make this your required Sunday morning viewing, then grab a free download of another track “Decorate” right below.
A lot is happening in First Aid Kit‘s world. First, the Söderberg sisters will be featuring on several tracks of the new album “The Fire and The Flame” by Blood Music, aka fellow Swede Karl-Jonas Winqvist. The lead single, “Glad That You Called”, is a charming, laidback twee-folk duet, with a cute music video of the three frolicking about in a big greenhouse.
STREAM: Blood Music feat. First Aid Kit – Glad That You Called
Secondly, the indie-folk duo has recently released a iTunes Sessions live album, featuring this harmonious cover of Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot.”
STREAM: First Aid Kit – Dancing Barefoot (Patti Smith Cover)
Last but not least, their excellent album “The Lion’s Roar” will get a Limited Edition boxset edition come October 2, with 2 bonus b-sides and one brand new track/single, “Wolf”. Here’s the kaleidoscopic, forest-based video for it.
STREAM: First Aid Kit – Wolf
Have I mentioned the girls are performing in New York tonight and tomorrow too? As I said, a lot is happening in First Aid Kit’s world, and deservingly so.
Danish songstress Fallulah is back with a brand new track, “He’ll Break Up With You When Summer Comes”. It’s a beautifully arranged, delicate alt-folk-pop number, with Fallulah delivering some choice words to Mr. Ex in the bridge in a rather calm manner. She makes summer postbreakup sound like a picnic by the lake, which is how it should be.
Here’s a lovely outdoor live performance for your viewing pleasure.
And while her new album isn’t coming out until 2013, us Americans can finally get a hold of her debut, as “The Black Cat Neighbourhood” is set to drop on August 21 on MBM Records, with fall tour dates to follow. I’d love to see her when she stops by New York!
British singer/songwriter Lianne La Havas will finally release her debut album “Is Your Love Big Enough?” on July 9 in the UK, and on August 6 in the US via Nonesuch Records. The title track will serve as the lead single here in America, and it’s an upbeat one akin to “Forget”, showing her versatility aside from her pretty acoustic ballad ones. “Is your love big enough for what’s to come?”, she sings, like it’s both a challenge, a come-on, and a warning. I’m not still not sure whether she sings “Ice cream on second avenue” or “I scream”, but the latter gives a slight curve to the sentiment. Download the track below, and watch the video if you fancy a look at what it’s like to be on tour with Lianne.
For some reasons, I am not too fussed about the new Scissor Sisters single “Only The Horses”. The band roped in producer-of-the-moment Calvin Harris for the collaboration, and his signature sound is all over it but Scissor’s. This could have been a Mika track even! I don’t know if this is their attempt to conquer the (UK) chart again, or just the safe for-the-masses one to pave the album sales the way “Fire With Fire” was? Maybe some extra bits and bobs from the extended mix may sway your opinion?
STREAM: Scissor Sisters – Only The Horses (Calvin Harris Extended Mix)
For the record, I think “Shady Love” was the better one. It was different, but still fun & silly.
STREAM: Scissor Sisters vs Krystal Pepsy – Shady Love (Extended Mix)
“Only The Horses” is out May 13.
A member of the BBC Sound of 2012′s club, Lianna La Havas is hotly tipped as one to watch by British media. I first heard of the 22-year-old London native through her buzz single “No Room For Doubt”, which I thought was pleasantly nice enough. However, I wasn’t feeling the tracks on her EP as much. Even though she has a great soulful voice, her materials didn’t sound terribly exciting. The Corinne Bailey Rae comparisons also did her no favors.
Well, I would like to take that back. I shouldn’t have written her off so hastily, because her new single “Forget” totally flipped my premature verdict on its head. The song is much more sonically interesting than I expected – a slick, funky midtempo with a Latin twist. The simple, understated performance video gave her space to present herself as a star, taking command of the screen with moxie and sass. It helps that she’s very videogenic and charming, too. I am glad that she’s capable of versatility, beside the acoustic folky stuff. Apparently, she’s been working with Matt Hales (Aqualung), so I look forward to at least a piano ballad. With her album scheduled to arrive in May, you have plenty of time to get acquainted with Lianne and her music. Check out the video, download an acoustic live version, as well as her sweet cover of Everything Everything’s “Final Form”.
STREAM: Lianne La Havas – No Room For Doubt (feat. Willy Mason)
Alison & Will are back with “Melancholy Sky”, the new single off their forthcoming career retrospective LP “The Singles”. One of the two new tracks on the compilation, “Melancholy Sky” is a languid, mellow number in the vein of “Seventh Tree” era, married to ’60s girl-group pop percussion. It also features a nice string arrangement and horn section, and of course, Alison’s unmistakable, crystalline vocals.
As always, it’s lovely on its own, as far as stopgap tracks go, but I kinda prefer the pastoral “Yellow Halo”. This album will be their last with EMI, and whichever direction they decide to take next, it should be interesting. Though if Alison’s beautiful Twitpics are any implication, their hearts are still wholeheartedly with nature. Stream the new song below, and check out the video for “Yellow Halo” too.
I was first introduced to First Aid Kit via their sublime performance of “You’re Not Coming Home Tonight” on Youtube. Two years have passed since then, the Söderberg sisters had gone on to release a debut album, as well as recorded a single for Jack White‘s boutique label Third Man Records, which is a quite impressive feat. While they surely both have grown and matured much, two things remain the same: their world-weary, melancholy folk harmonies, and their habit of hanging out in forests. Their upcoming sophomore album, “The Lion’s Roar”, was recorded in Nebraska, promising a full-band sound, and the lead single of the same name might in fact be the best thing I’ve heard from the duo so far. It still astounds me to hear these two Swedish girls sing the blues like they were born and raised in the South all their lives. Age and geography ain’t got nothing on them! If you’re a follower of the nu-folk wave of Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver, you’re in for a treat. Watch the gorgeous music video for “The Lion’s Roar”, or stream the radio edit right below.
STREAM: First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar (Radio Edit)
Pictured above are the three sisters from Watford, collectively known as The Staves. This British trio should soon be on every folk-pop fan’s lips with their debut album scheduled for release next year. If you like the likes of Laura Marling, The Pierces, Birdy etc., then their new single “Mexico” will most certainly appeal to you. Basked in a warm glow of harmonies, the song is a thing of understated beauty. The melodies tread lightly and unobtrusively, yet they draw my full attention and reduce me to silence every time. There’s not necessarily new ground to break, just beautifully crafted mellow music for your listening pleasure.
Watch the music video for the track below, and keep in mind that all the effects were achieved in camera!
STREAM: The Staves – Mexico
The Staves’ new EP is out on December 11.
Despite not having blogged about her at all, I have slowly developed a soft spot for Birdy, aka Jasmine Van den Bogaerde. The English 15-year-old has got herself quite a unique niche in delivering stirring covers of indie faves like Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love”, and The xx’s “Shelter”. With her debut self-titled album out on November 7, she is giving away a free download of album track “White Winter Hymnal”. Such good timing it is too, considering the Northeast’s unfortunately early winter this year. The Fleet Foxes cover boasts a fuller production than her more minimally arranged singles, and it’s a reliably lovely, soothing ditty. Download it below.
I must confess to thoroughly enjoying all her singles so far. There’s something special about Birdy that sets her apart from your average Youtube bedroom warbler. I like her quietly subversive practice of picking these supposedly low-key, marginally obscure indie songs, belting them out for the unfamiliar masses, and granting them new life as future X Factor audition staples. I couldn’t care less if her cover choices are of her own picking or painstakingly narrowed down in a dungeon somewhere by A&R monkeys. At the end of day, it’s melodies being beautifully sung, and that’s enough for me. I expect the album to be essential winter listening.
Watch the video for her latest single, a version of Cherry Ghost’s “People Help The People”, and peep the tracklist after the jump.
Last I heard from Kiwi singer/songwriter Bic Runga, she was making freeform psych-pop jams with The Mint Chicks frontman Kody Nielson as Kody & Bic, and giving them away on Bandcamp. I was not too fond of it, and thankfully, it appeared to be a short-lived side project. Bic is set for a proper comeback this November with her first studio album in 6 years, entitled “Belle”. It only took one listen to the lead single “Hello Hello” to remind me just how much I missed her voice, and how glad I am to finally hear something new from her. The track harks back to her “Beautiful Collision” days, with an uplifting, autumnal melody, albeit with a folkier tinge. It is a lovely re-introducion to Bic’s music, and also as good a start for those new to hers. Watch the music video, or stream “Hello Hello” right below. To be honest, I can’t wait to hear the rest!
When Lykke Li was on tour down under, she popped by Triple J HQ for an acoustic live session. For the station’s “Like A Version” segment which is basically an Aussie version of Live Lounge, she delivered a haunting cover of The Righteous Brothers‘ 1965 classic “Unchained Melody”. The perennially brooding Swede’s got that uncanny ability to sing like she’s alone in a cavernous cathedral, even if she’s just sitting comfily in a studio. With this melancholy performance, Lykke has officially joined the Melody cover club, previously inhabited by the likes of Gareth Gates, Clay Aiken and Air Supply. I quite like how she bluntly answered “No” when asked if she likes the movie “Ghost”. Lykke’s got no love for claymaking doomed lovers! Listen to her version below, and grab it for free if you like.
MP3: Lykke Li – Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers Cover)
Are you still clinging to what little’s left of summer sunshine? Well, the new Kings of Convenience video won’t make things easier. Here’s what Erlend & Eirik have to say about this rather unexpected present:
“This song is from Declaration of Dependence, that was released almost 2 years ago. We thought it deserved a video and 2 weeks ago the weather-forecast was good. We called up our friends (who has got some rather advanced video shooting equipment) and made this one-take video, on top of Eirik’s roof. The audio is the album-recording of the song. Bergen is not always as nice as this, but it’s days like this that makes us want to live here.”
Now that’s a lovely way to bid adieu to summer.
For the occasion, how about a nice bonus b-side? Here’s their rare cover of Badly Drawn Boy’s “Once Around The Block”, originally released on the Toxic Girl single back in 2001. That’s 10 years ago!
My favorite French madwoman, Camille Dalmais, is back to the music hole. Her fourth studio album, “Ilo Veyou”, will be released on October 3. Whereas she experimented with body percussion and English lyrics on her last one, with solid results like “Money Note” and “Gospel With No Lord”, this time around, she seems to go for the acoustic route, with the majority of the album recorded live in church chapels. The first single, “L’étourderie” (which means “thoughtlessness” in English), is a subtle but lovely taster of what’s to come. Never one to shy away from antics, Camille uploaded a special acoustic performance of the track on Youtube, in which she sings while also showing off her balancing skills! Delightfully kooky. Watch the video and stream the original below.
For the first single off his third album, Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan went back to basics. “For A Nightingale” is a stirring acoustic love song, with a no-frills but sublime simplicity very much akin to my favorite song of his, “Be Good Or Be Gone” (the latter’s video is a must-watch by the way). A suitably lovely tune for a mellow Sunday.
Fionn Regan – For A Nightingale
“100 Acres of Sycamore”, his forthcoming third album, is out on August 15.
Danish songstress Fallulah stopped by Dermot O’Leary’s show on BBC Radio 2 yesterday to perform a live session, which included a special folky rendition of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Gold Lion”. I never thought about how the song would sound like with banjos and accordions, but she and the band did a splendid job covering it! Apparently, her debut UK single is “I Lay My Head”, out in late August, and the album “The Black Cat Neighbourhood” should follow by next year, even though it’s been out in Denmark for a while now. She said she’s not even signed in Britain yet, but I suppose this will be rectified soon. Stream/download the cover below, and check out two of her latest videos after the jump.
Danish songstress Agnes Obel has been on my radar for her beautiful piano-laden music, which comes highly recommended if you like Emiliana Torrini or Sarah Blasko. But tonight, I’d like to share a new remix for her single “Riverside”. Lulu Rouge amplified the quiet bleakness of the original with his throbbing, dark spin. It’s an understated and moody rework that’s meant for the night-time. You can stream/download the remix below. After the jump, make sure to stream the original, and get an mp3 of album track “Brother Sparrow”.
Agnes Obel – Riverside (Lulu Rouge Remix)
This edition of Popforward is an unusual one, because I’m about to “tip” an act that has already ceased to exist. Primary 1, aka Joe Flory, was known for producing leftfield electronic music and remixing artists like Mutya Buena and Metronomy before he decided to take the mic and embark on a major label pop career. He first got on my radar for “The Blues”, a stunning collaboration with Nina Persson (The Cardigans). Signed to Atlantic UK, he released two good singles in a row, “Princess” and “Never Know”, with the latter being his most instant pop number to date. However, despite having the tunes and visually arresting videos, his music remained relatively overlooked, and things got all too quiet. After a while, I found out he deleted his blog and Twitter without an explanation. Apparently, due to his frustration with the music industry, he retired the “Primary 1″ moniker and called it a day. The album, “Other People”, was quietly chucked on iTunes with little promotion or fanfare. It is such a shame when things like this happen, because I’ve heard the album, and while it feels a bit underdeveloped, it’s certainly has its share of highlights. He proved to be indeed quite good at making moody, low-key pop music that blends electronic, folk and soul together nicely, like a more downtempo Hot Chip. I hope he will continue to make music under a different guise. Check out the opening track, “A.O.K”, a pick-me-up electro ditty with a chantlike hook that goes “If I can be happy, you can be happy too”. Make sure to get his lullaby-esque cover of “Tonight You Belong to Me”, and see the very cool video for “Never Know” after the jump.
Yesterday, UK pop songstress Ellie Goulding stopped by Radio 1′s Live Lounge to promote her ace new single “Lights”. Her two-song set consists of a lovely acoustic take of the song, and a surprise cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats”, which is pure ear candy. A full-fledged acoustic album from Ellie in the future is almost a given now. I love both electro-Ellie & folk-Ellie, though, so I’m not ready to give up the former just yet. She seems so much more comfortable as a pop star now. Stream/download the live performances below.
The US edition of her stunning album “Lights” is out now. I highly recommend getting a copy if you still haven’t.
The new UK single “Lights” is also out now, with her previous Live Lounge cover, Rihanna’s “Only Girl”, as the b-side.
More on Ellie.
Canadian singer/songwriter Serena Ryder and her band, The Beauties, have transformed American Idol alumna Jordin Sparks’ hit “No Air” into something that could be straight out of the Twin Peaks soundtrack! Log lady will approve. This interesting low-key reinterpretation was first released on the deluxe edition of her album “Is This OK” in 2009. Now, it will be collected on a limited edition 12″ EP, along with 3 other covers of Band Of Horses (“The Funeral”, on which she sounds like Cat Power), Hank Williams (“Rambling Man”), and Kylie (“Slow” – a rocky take with bassline). Quite an eclectic array of selections there! Her reason for these covers is refreshingly honest, too: to get shows in England. You can stream all the tracks here, or just try her version of “No Air” below.
Rather out of the blue, Seattle-based dream-pop/shoegaze band Trespassers William just released a collection of rarities, consisting of unreleased covers, remixes, and alternate takes, on Bandcamp. It’s one for the loyal fans, but not to be missed is their much-coveted (well, for me) cover of The Innocence Mission’s “Tomorrow On The Runway”. It was recorded for a tribute compilation that was eventually shelved, and remained unreleased until now. Both Karen Peris and Anna-Lynne Williams are two favorite vocalists of mine, and the original is the sort of unbearably beautiful folk song that, for lack of a better expression, can make grown men cry. So the idea of Trespassers William covering this particular song is just too good to be true.
The band had also recorded their version of Muppets tune “The Rainbow Connection” as a sweet little lullaby. Stream/free download below.