Reviews by Paul McGee

My Quiet Companion 'Self-Titled' - MQC

This Swedish trio is Patrick Rydman on guitars, mandolin and vocals, Sofia Ekberg on guitar and vocals and Henrik Cederblom guitar, percussion and vocals. They formed in 2012 and perform original songs in a folk, roots, Americana style.  With their range of acoustic instruments and harmony singing there is an attractive groove to the arrangements. A number of the songs here appeared on an EP released by Sofia Ekberg and previously reviewed by this site.  

The sound is both intimate and light with fine interplay between the musicians. All the Small Details refers to Alzheimer’s disease and is written with a sensitivity that also informs the song Let It Slip Away, a reflection on single parenthood and the need to protect a questioning and vulnerable child.

Today I Woke Up and Circle of Stones are more up-tempo numbers and the closing Goodnight Sally is a quiet lullaby to soothe the uncertainties of life.

October Gold 'Self-Titled EP' - Self Release

This duo is based in Montreal and creates beautiful soundscapes which have been described as "painting your imagination with song."

Singer-songwriter/guitarist Kit Soden is joined by violinist/ pianist, Aliza Thibodeau and the mixture of folk and classical sensibilities merge to create a very pleasant listening experience.

This self-produced EP follows on from two previous full releases, Into the Silence and Bridge of the Sun, and the 5 tracks are performed with the assistance of Evan Stewart on Bass, Thomas Fortner on cello, Erin Schwabe-Fry on french horn, Will Bennet on percussion and Ben Ewing on shakers and tambourine.

The playing is gentle and understated with a mid-tempo pace that does not challenge the listener but rather sets a mood of quiet contemplation. The lyrics are based on poems by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) and Archibald Lampman (1861-1899). This works unexpectedly well with the words complimenting the fluid arrangements with a pastoral air of erudite musings on love’s great mystery. 

Bellstop 'Karma' - Self Release

Where to start with the music that reaches out from the fascinating and rich creative heritage of Iceland? The country has given the industry such musically diverse acts as Björk and The Sugarcubes, Sigur Rós, múm and Of Monsters and Men among many others. It is a dynamic hotbed of talent for a small population of some 300,000 people.

Bellstop are a folk orientated duo with Runar Sigurbjornsson on Guitar/vocals and Elin Ólafsdóttir on vocals. They are the creative source and have written all 12 songs featured here. They are joined by band members, Andri ólafsson on bass, Eysteinn Eysteinsson on drums/percussion and Halldór Bjornsson piano, organ and programming in addition to producer duties.

The tracks are a real mixture of styles, from the opening, Trouble, with its tribal chant and groove and tight harmonies to the acoustic strum of Moving On. The vocals of Elin Ólafsdóttir are particularly strong and a standout feature, sounding confident and full of rich texture; a cross between Bjork with her intensity and Natalie Marchant on the softer side. The song arrangements are melodic and tight with some nice guitar playing throughout.

Ravens has an interesting dynamic and Red is a brooding track that has human fragility at its core. Friends in High Places and Daylight follow a love theme.  The band describes their sound as folk 'n' roll and I cannot disagree with this - interesting and different.