Beautifully stark and personal love songs
It seems a lifetime since I received the debut EP Poppies from husband and wife duo Chris and Aissa Anderson (2010!). Even now, the handmade and hand-printed cover sticks in my mind, as does the beautiful sound this couple made. After all, it’s an over-simplification to describe Simpleswan as purveyors of folk music. Hearing this album conjures up memories of the first time I heard both the Cowboy Junkies and Fleet Foxes. It is folk music, but a million miles away from the introspective finger-in-the-ear tosh that you normally associate with that genre.
All ten songs are simply constructed essays where absolutely nothing is added in the production that isn’t needed. Songs like the raw opening track “Blowtorch” and the delightful “Marigolds” have a sense of other-worldliness that is so rare these days. “Changes” and “30 Second Dream” both manage to evoke memories of classic bedsit troubadours like John Martyn and Clifford T. Ward, that I used to see on OGWT in my teenage years, as I pined to be a student living in a grotty flat. (Oh, the folly of youth.)
The only song that appears to have made the transition from EP to LP is the impossibly brittle “Postcard from Japan”. You can hear every swish along the guitar strings as Chris bares his soul on a love song, the likes you’ve probably never heard before. “The Summerhouse” (the title traack) is actually a real place on the couple’s allotment. The sense of contentment they feel in that environment comes across in both the words and the couples’ delivery.
“Remember the ’80s?” closes the album — as close to an up-tempo tune as we are going to get. If my ears are correct, Aissa plays something like a bontempi organ to compliment Chris’s guitar while they contemplate the lost days of their youth.
The Summerhouse — like Simpleswan themselves — isn’t for everyone. But, if ever you need something to hear when you’ve turned all the lights off late in the night and you’re feeling very sorry for yourself, this is the album for you.