Happiness

Album of the week : Communion : New Faces - Various artists

Not to be confused with the ITV talent show of the 70s and 80s that gave us Lenny Henry, Victoria Wood, Michael Barrymore and, erm, the Chuckle Brothers, New Faces  is the latest compilation from Communion, the record label du jour and seemingly one with a never ending golden touch

There are similarities, however. The album gathers together a collection of acts turning heads around and about on (currently) a mainly minor level and pops them blinking into the spotlight to see if they survive. Like the TV show, not all the acts make it and a few would have faced cruel words and a harsh stare from Nina Myskow, who was the Simon Cowell of her day, only with worse hair, terrible make-up and even less humanity

But no matter, most of the material is great. Featuring tracks from big names Gotye (of ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ fame), Ben Howard, Michael Kiwanuka and Julia Stone (without her brother Angus, alas!), this 20 track compilation also showcases some of the best new and currently unheard voices of 2012

The bookending boys of the album. Opening proceedings is Michael Kiwanuka, whose Chicago Soul-inspired ‘Tell Me A Tale’ showcases his talents superbly, while at the other end, the curtain comes down with a cut from man of the moment Gotye, who offers the sublime ‘Bronte’ as evidence that his number one ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ was no fluke

The highlights of New Faces come not from those names though. We knew they were good, so its wonder lies in the discovery of new and fledgling talent. Daughter undoubtedly fit the latter category. They’ve received some well deserved exposure of late, and have just signed a deal with 4AD. On ‘Love’ Elena Tonra’s vocals are both haunting and beautiful, layered atop dark melancholy on this bittersweet lament. ‘Middle Of The Bed’ serves as a timely reminder of just how good Lucy Rose is. Her warm tone adds an extra poignancy to this tale that flips between love and despair, fuelled by the fluidity of the minimalist instrumentation. Boy & Bear provide an injection of full-bodied folk rock with ‘Milk & Sticks’, whilst Matt Corby delivers a nostalgia tinged tale of ‘Kings, Queens, Beggars & Thieves’

Julia Stone doesn’t disappoint with the gorgeous ‘Let’s Forget All The Things That We Say’ - who needs men, anyway?!

In testament to Communion’s talent-spotting abilities, the truly new faces also excel themselves. David McCaffery fits neatly into that age old category of acoustic singer-songwriter with ‘Stars’, but he does so whilst retaining a distinctive character of his own. Dan Croll’s vocal and an impassioned chorus carry ‘Marion’ while Will Nott’s delicate “Won’t Go Back” is another promising introduction. But it’s Joe Banfi who stands out as best of the youngsters. ‘Olive Green’ has an impressive depth and texture, rather appropriate for a philosophy student. There’s a deftness and restraint here that belies Banfi’s age, as he displays patient craftsmanship in transforming muted verse into moving chorus

The Apache Relay’s ‘American Nomad’ has strings, piano chords and crescendos to rival Arcade Fire, and Three Blind Wolves’ ‘Emily Rose’ is haunting even though they do seem to have borrowed the vocalist from Fleet Foxes

Other acts season the pot. The more established Ben Howard adds ‘Three Tree Town’ to the mixing pot but it’s the brittle ‘To Your Health’ by Keaton Henson that impresses amongst other wins from Bears Den, Gabriel and the Hounds and James Vincent McMorrow

Get this album if you enjoy acoustic folk at its best. Scrap that – get this album if you enjoy MUSIC.  Listen to this on lazy hot summer afternoons (if they ever arrive) – and NMTBP can guarantee, for all you music snobs, that it will have your friends asking “Hey, who’s this?” Result!

Buy it here

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June 08, 2012

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