There are albums that release you from the stress of a day’s work with energy and aggression, there are others that enrich a moment of peace and tranquility with delicate melodies and pleasant soundscapes. Between these two extremes there is a category of special and different LPs whose beauty resides in the unique balance between lyrics and music, in the stories they tell. Here there are selected five amazing albums made by folk artists and talended songwriters. These works may seem to have different styles and sounds, but they all share the ability to tell beautiful stories through melodies and lyrics that do not cease to touch even after numerous listening.
#1) Imelda May, Life Love Flesh Blood
As the only album of this list to be included in the Top 20 chart across all genres, the value of this work by Irish singer Imelda May is manifest. As a matter of fact, she has already achieved a strong reputation as one of the best folk and rock singers of our time and her last work, Life Love Flesh Blood, further consolidates all the positive things that have been said so far about her.
Initially affirmed with a rockabilly-oriented musical style, Imelda May has slowly shifted towards a peculiar and enjoyable soft rock with the incremental introduction of elements coming from the folk tradition. The last album signs the definitive change in her musical direction and sees the artist engaged with a number of country and folk ballads of absolute value.
#2) Marika Hackman, I’m Not Your Man
Marika Hackman is a young English singer-songwriter whose debut album, the 2005’s We Slept at Last, showed to the world her talent as singer but also her delicate and atmospheric folk style. Her last recent release, the beautiful I’m Not Your Man, confirms her ability to mix together traditionally english-folk atmospheres with alternative-rock elements.
The songs in I’m Not Your Man essentially belong to two main categories: some are more oriented towards the indie pop elements of their style (e.g. Boyfriend and My Lover Cindy), but there are also a few beautiful tracks more atmospherical and melodical than the others, such as the unpronounceable Blahblahblah and the poetical So Long.
#3) Thomas Dybdahl, The Great Plains
The Great Plains by Norwegian singer and songwriter Thomas Dybdahl. is without any doubt one of the best Neo Folk albums I’ve heard so far in 2017. The LP, released on February 2017, mixes diligently a large number of different musical influences and it manages to balance intimate and reflexive pieces with more energetic tracks.
Often compared to Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake for the way so elegant with which Dybdahl touches the themes of love and loss, his last work is full of warm and nostalgic tracks moving from folk to indie pop sounds.
#4) Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice
American songwriter Kurt Vile and Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett joined their efforts this year and released an interesting collaborative album in which the two authors basically sing about their processes of musical composition. The LP, named Lotta Sea Lice, succeeds where many collaborations fail: the two artists managed to integrate their different compositional approaches and singing techniques and the amalgam resulting from this joint work is ultimately a musical style in itself, complete and well-characterized. A confirmation of this achievement can be recognized in the fact that both the original tracks and the few covers reintepreted by the duo have exactly the same style and are hard to distinguish from each other.
#5) Mark Lanegan Band, Gargoyle
Gargoyle, the new work by Mark Lanegan and his bandmates was one of the most waited albums of the year. The 10th solo album from the American singer-songwriter shows the artist consolidating his legacy sound and style without breathing new life into his standard forms. In this respect, the album seems a small step back when compared with the previous work – the more innovative and inspired 2014’s Phantom Radio, which in my opinion is still one of the best “Folktronic” albums of the last years.
Other notable releases of the year in Folk & Songwriter categories are Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes, Semper Femina by Laura Marling, and Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood by Sun Kil Moon.