Scouring best-of lists from last year to find ones that have flown under the radar, singer /harpist McVittie’s contemporary folk has stood out from among a vast array of names.
Label: Company of Corkbots
Time: 10 tracks / 47 mins
She is further evidence that the wider you spread your influences, the greater your work can be. Hers range from school years hymns, through teenage obsession with Prince to post-folk electronic artists like Tunng – although she also goes back to Eric Satie and folk song field recordist Alan Lomax.
What comes out from all that is an almost ambient folk album wearing a thin scarf of subtle electronica.
The collection mixes her own compositions and a handful of traditional songs, as well as blending more reflective passages both between and inside the stronger pieces, which can stand out while ambling along on atmospheric carpets.
The title track, and “Under the Pines,” for example, have singable tunes, but – like most tracks here – are far too slow for drums. The former brings in cascading, echoing self-harmonies for decoration, along with a trumpet swell and low-level electronica, while the latter has that leisurely trumpet offsetting her harp at its tinkliest.
Similarly, “And the Glamour Fell on Her” (a phrase meaning “out of touch with reality” or “in a dream world”) is suitably drifting and feels a little out of synch. Like “Broken like the Morning,” it would be unremarkable on many albums, but here help to build the calming, otherworldly mood.
Opener “When the Angels Wake You” could easily fit on Abigail Washburn’s City of Refuge, with harp replacing banjo, and the jaunty tune “The Flower of Magherally” is shrouded in flutes. So there is plenty of organic sound here.
The strength of the traditional songs really anchors things. Tunes don’t sound more traditional than “Newry Mountain,” but its highly sympathetic strings arrangement is inventive enough to make it feel contemporary.
Inventive, chilled and marinated in twinkling harp, this is surely a release that other folk artists are sitting up and noticing with a view to how their own sounds might bend in its direction.