With spring finally here, it is time to put away those overplayed winter records. You need to bring in this joyous season of warm weather and excessive sweating with a new genre of music. Luckily for you, you do not need to needlessly sweat in some decrepit Leo lab any longer. I’ve got your genre for this season all picked out, polished and pretty for you.
What is that genre you might ask? Why am I holding back this great surprise? Because I’m aural sadist, apparently.
Folk music. I’m not talking about your backwater redneck with ninety-five percent of his or her teeth missing with a banjo strapped around his or her neck. Okay, yes, there are banjos, but by the end of this playlist, I promise you, you will be a devout banjo convert.
Sorry, Jesus, I know that whole Easter thing just happened and I know rising from the dead in three days is quite a feat, but have you even heard the banjo before?
Many songs, I know, I’m guilty of this, you can put on in the background for the sake of background noise. You don’t have to think about the pounding bass or the lyrics, it tends to be all nonsense, anyway. However, folk music doesn’t allow for this. Folk music is filled with rich stories that will captivate your tired mind and take you away for at least three minutes.
Hey, it’s better than reading yet another chapter on yet another old white guy for history.
“Sophie” by Bear’s Den, off of their debut album, Without/Within.
Upfront and personal, I’m not easing your way into the folk genre. Here is the banjo, now listen to it. Bear’s Den throws you into the middle of a love triangle you weren’t even aware you were a part of. And in less than two minutes, your heart has shattered all over your dorm room. With lyrics such as, “You can take all your love out on me, Sophie” and a chorus that just repeats, “And I can’t forgive myself,” you have to wonder what the hell happened.
And how can you discern that answer? Well, you put this song on repeat and cry your eyes out. Enjoy!
“You’re A Wolf” by Sea Wolf, off of their debut record, Leaves in the River.
All right, let’s pick it up a bit. The opening guitar is chilling, setting the stage for the rest of the song. The cello swoops in and carries you off to some dark forest where you’ll be wandering as (see song title) a wolf.
Alex Brown Church’s vocals whine and pervade your listening experience. Who is this gypsy woman? Why are her lips stained with wine?
Need I repeat myself?
“The Story I Heard” by Blind Pilot, off of their record, 3 Rounds And A Sound.
I spent a solid twenty minutes on whether or not I should put this track on this playlist or “3 Rounds And A Sound.” But, I figured, there’s only so much crying you can do in one day, so I decided to spare your tear ducts.
Blind Pilot is a band that can take you away from your restrictive school desk to somewhere dark, barely lit by a dying campfire. Bob your head to the steady drum and hum along with the guitar. Blink away your folk-induced tears and dance a little bit.
“Autumn Tree” by Milo Greene, off of their eponymous debut.
It is no secret that Milo Greene is one of my favorite bands. The concluding track, “Autumn Tree” is one of the most haunting songs I have ever listened to. Why is your heart breaking? You don’t know—but, damn, it feels so right.
Last month, I had the pleasure to see these guys play at The Bowery Ballroom and let me tell you, I had the most pleasant chills standing in the front. For the two-hundred and thirty seconds that this song plays, let Milo Greene’s atmospheric vocals take you away from this dirty, urban city, if only for a moment of escapism.
“Swim Until You Can’t See Land” by Frightened Rabbit, off of their album, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks.
No, ignore the album title! This song is not only for winter! You can listen to it whenever you want! You don’t have to be drinking a mixed drink either! Embrace your song-choosing freedom! Exclamation point!
If you haven’t realized at this point, folk music is all about escaping for a little bit. In this case, you’re swimming real far out until you obviously can’t see land. Frightened Rabbit is from Selkirk, Scotland aka one of the coolest music countries out there today. Can you deny the Scottish brogue? No, you can’t. You’ll be singing along as if you’re a native Scot and no one will be able to understand you. Yay!
“Hold Back The River” by James Bay, off of his debut record, Chaos and the Calm.
This song perfectly embodies the album’s title. Initially calm and relaxing, James Bay serenades you into folk bliss. But the chorus? Oh, man. He certainly doesn’t hold back one bit. Feel free jump around and dance. Folk music doesn’t always have to be tear-jerking, fetal-position, in-the-dark music. You can link arms with your friends (folk music tends to be a group singing effort) and shout “Hold back the river / Let me look in your eyes!” on the quad. I won’t judge.
“Your Protector” by Fleet Foxes, off of their eponymous debut.
Look at this album cover:
If this picture doesn’t take you back to the much simpler, freakin’ medieval times, nothing will.
You can barely hear Robin Pecknold as “Your Protector” begins. But it is misleading as the song unleashes its true form almost immediately. Like a train, the song picks up when Pecknold shouts, “You run with the devil,” providing no information, backstory, but only an accusation. Who is running the devil? Why is this person lying down to die beside the speaker?
“Fuel Up” by Stornoway, off of their debut album, Beachcomber’s Windowsill.
What I like most about Stornoway is that their records sound like they’re playing in the room you’re sitting in. “Fuel Up” is especially unique because it tells the story of growing up through car rides. And you cannot deny the vivid imagery the lyrics give you. “When that morning broke / And the sky fell down / It went black as night / And the wind blew ‘round”—I mean, please. You’ll never find a set of lyrics quite like this in another song. Unless the track is by Stornoway; that’s a totally different story.
“I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From” by Kings of Convenience, off of their debut record, Quiet Is The New Loud.
There is simply no one else in the world, past and present, who has a voice like Eirik Glambek Bøe. Two of the most emotional Norwegian men I know (they’re the only ones), “I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From” is a quiet little track that does not want you to pay close attention to it—it’s too delicate. But, the simplistic beauty in each note played on the guitar draws your mind in and suddenly you’re crying.
Personally, I’m a fan of this song because it goes against all love song conventions. Most love songs are about a person who needs their significant other to save them. This song is brutally honest and for that, I think its lack of knowledge of what to save their significant other from, makes it ten times more romantic than any other love song to date.
“The Gardener” by The Tallest Man On Earth, off of his album, Shallow Grave.
Aggressive folk about a psychotic person who is keeping another person captive and murdering people! What a positive song!
With lyrics like, “So now he’ll fertilize the roses / So I can stay the king you see / In your eyes, babe,” “The Gardener” is a morbid folk love song. But, hey! At least the guitar is happy—that’s positive, right? Go find a garden, kick off your shoes and bask in the sunlight. Put this song on loud and go dance around a flower garden.
Try not to look too cultish, all right?