Welcome to 2014’s hottest new feature here at FTR (ok so it’s currently the only new feature but that makes it even more clearly the hottest) The 7″ Club!
What’s that I hear you all ask (as one mighty voice from inside my brain)?! Well when I was home at Christmas I stumbled across a box of old records I was beginning to think I’d lost forever. What I found inside said box? A shed load of 7″ vinyl, and with it a smattering of memories and a lot of stuff I could barely remember what sounded like, let alone why I bought it.
From this came an idea, to blow off the dust, pick up the needle and give these once beloved treasures another spin. Perhaps to discover something brilliant, perhaps to revisit an old favourite, perhaps to laugh at the complete rubbish I used to think was the most important band in the world, either way it would be an adventure, an adventure worth sharing with you lot (well I hope so anyway)
So ladies & gents, without further ado, I introduce the first member of the 7″ club (selected completely at random from the pile)
LAURA GROVES – I AM LEAVING
Ah Laura Groves, now that’s a lovely place to start!
Laura, for those not in the know, is a folk musician from Shipley in West Yorkshire. Though according to her Twitter is now based in Brixton, which is probably a shock to her system compared to the outskirts of Bradford. If you were (like me) a sort of folkish-alternative type in Leeds circa 2006 you almost certainly would have seen Miss Groves play somewhere about the shop. Along with the Folk Theatre Partisans and, well, just The Folk Theatre Partisans, she was pretty much single handedly keeping Leeds folk going along (the likes of Ellen & The Escapades, Paul Thomas Saunders & Sam Airey would come later, to sometimes excellent effect)
She was (possibly is) a constantly sparkling live performer. A guitarist and pianist of the highest order, verging on the virtuoso. Her music combined folk with an almost classical level of composition. She would go on to release a beautiful debut album on XL offshoot Salvia Records, somewhere in the process forgoing her own name to use the moniker Blue Roses which was also the title of the album. It garnered rave reviews, and comparisons with both her contemporaries (Laura Marling, Emmy The Great) and legends of the genre such as Joni Mitchell and notably Joanna Newsom. Certainly it contained the same widescreen approach to songwriting Joanna demonstrated on Ys and the vocals were a match for even Joni. It perhaps in places became cluttered and a touch confusing but it was a debut of such promise and talent it’s hard to believe it didn’t reach a wider audience.
What of this 7″ then? It was her debut release for Salvia, and recorded prior to the aforementioned album. While the albums production was crisp and professional, there’s a lo-fi approach here, if you were being cruel you might even say it sounds a touch like a demo. The track starts off showcasing some seriously fast finger picking on the ol’acoustic guitar, which is joined briefly by a synth line that’s oddly 80s sounding for a West Yorkshire folk song. There’s some gorgeous female vocal harmonies “oohing” away, till the main vocal kicks in and is joined by a jaunty xylophone line, which recalls Emmy The Great but is actually not that well suited to the song. The vocals are high in the mix, crystal clear and piercing, perhaps a touch too much sometimes, but the talent is demonstrated and impressive throughout.
Lyrically (as you’d imagine from the title) it’s about our heroin leaving someone behind. “My days are so mis-spent now, I’m wasting my time worrying all about you” is the killer line here, it’s perhaps not to be taken quite as you might expect. Indeed this is more a story of someone going away for their own good, not necessarily because of what troubles them at home but in spite of it, elsewhere she rallies against her home (“oh soulless city! Your changing skyline is twisting me up inside”) suggesting there’s more to it than a boy who’s done her wrong. Latterly in the track we find her questioning whether even travel can change her life (“I wonder whether constellations can change a leaden sky, a heart unmoving”) like so many others realising simply running from your problem is not always the answer.
The B-side, Bridges, again showcases some superb guitar picking. Indeed it’s reminiscent of arguably Britain’s greatest folk guitarist Bert Jansch, there’s a similar touch and tone to the playing. The vocals here are given more space to soar and express themselves before they’re joined again by some lovely harmonies. Latterly on the track there’s a fantastic piano line that acts as a perfect counter-point to the acoustic guitar. Here the lo-fi production is charming and perfectly tuned to the songwriting. The lyrics are more throwaway than it’s a-side sister, but there’s a charm in the oddball nature of the line “oh sometimes bridges burn themselves down”.
As an introduction for the brilliant record that would follow it’s a splendid start. It showcased all of Laura’s talent, yes there were faults but for an artist just starting their career thats surely part of the charm.
What Happened Next?!
Well the debut I mentioned before came along, and then went, and well nothing much followed. Until now! Well by now I mean last September when Laura released a brand new ep, Thinking About Thinking. Back under her own name, and indeed under her own production it was a reminder of everything that made her so exciting the first time around. She also found time to front an entirely different band Nautic, who Pitchfork compared to Womack & Womack. Both Laura & Nautic now find their home on Deek Recordings, and you can purchase them both on Bandcamp now.