Warner’s World: Listen To More Folk

Folk Music Album, Artist Recommendations


Charlie Warner

Top Left: Pink Moon by Nick Drake; Top Right: Stranger in the Alps by Phoebe Bridgers; Bottom Right: Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes

Charlie Warner, Managing Editor

Charlie Warner, Managing Editor, Columnist

   Quarantine was a strange time that I think most people would like to forget about. However, in that time, I had a lot of time to learn about new music and expand my taste. Due to growing music communities on TikTok, Reddit, Twitter, etc. I checked out albums I’ve never heard of before. The result of that is my growing appreciation and love for a genre that goes unnoticed a lot of the time, that being the genre of folk music.

     The most well known folk music is British and American folk, which consist of old songs passed down through many generations. Now, folk music has expanded into many subgenres, such as traditional folk, indie folk, folk rock, etc. As a genre, folk has a lot to offer, so I thought I would recommend some of my favorite folk albums.

     First off, “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake. I found this album around April 2021 and instantly fell in love with it. This record is short and sweet, and I can’t help but listen to it all the way through every time I listen to it. Drake’s voice and songwriting are top tier. His deep voice against his beautiful, detuned guitar playing is so beautiful. Drake is a huge figure in the folk community, influencing two other huge indie folk artists like Elliott Smith, who then in turn inspired current indie powerhouse Phoebe Bridgers.

     “Either/Or” by Elliott Smith is an album I actually wasn’t too impressed by upon first listen. I felt I should like it because many of my favorite artists had listed it as a favorite/influence (Fleet Foxes, Phoebe Bridgers). However, upon trying it again I fell in love. Smith’s guitar playing is intriguing, similar to Drake’s style in it being mostly in an alternate tuning. His lyrics are haunting, often whispered over his guitar; they show the artist’s struggle with mental health. Again, the Drake influence is seen here as Drake struggled with mental health as well.

     “Stranger in the Alps” by Phoebe Bridgers is like if Drake or Smith were still alive today. Her songs are built around guitar with lyrics that rip the listeners heart apart, with Bridgers stating Smith as a direct influence. Bridger’s lyrics paint sad pictures of failed relationships. Additionally, Bridgers has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard.

     Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes is an amazing accomplishment in that it was released in 2008, yet takes listeners back in time as it is full of baroque influence, but doesn’t come across as cheesy in any way. This LP is full of beautiful songs with lots of imagery of animals and nature, and it feels fitting to listen to outside.

     An album that is a bit different, but I’ve enjoyed just as much is “Trick” by Alex G. Upon my initial listen of this project, I was excited because I had a feeling I would really like Alex G. Then, on the first song “Memory” there is a part of the song that is quite honestly unpleasant. It’s a harsh, high-pitched squealing that I believe is made with a guitar. I was taken aback, but I came to love this album. Each song’s guitar is so catchy, and Alex G’s lyrics are strange and silly. Despite some of the unusual elements of his songs, they are very enjoyable and a great example of how folk music can be a bit more modern. In fact, Alex G has done work on some of Frank Ocean’s music, including “Self Controland “White Ferrari.”

     I could go on and on and recommend more albums, but these five are a good start to get into folk as they cover different subgenres and decades. There are multitudes of artists who deserve recognition for being pioneers in this genre (Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell), but there are a lot of them, so here’s a list of some of my absolute favorites: Neil Young, Father John Misty, Rayland Baxter, Bon Iver, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett.

     All in all, this genre has a lot to offer and is much more than the “This Land Is Your Land” type of music people associate folk with (even though those old folk songs are still fantastic).