Laura Veirs - Warp & Weft
In the same year that 23 year-old Laura Marling released a fourth album that proved she's as good a songwriter as promised, one Laura Veirs releases her ninth and proves she's still as good a songwriter as ever - but not enough people know about it. Although she has 17 years on Marling, Veirs has occupied the same folk singer/songwriter sphere since her eponymous debut was released in 1999 but has remained something of a cult figure throughout that time. However, fans of Once I Was An Eagle - and, indeed, all leading contemporary female alt/folk voices - would be wise to seek out Warp & Weft, released on the fertile-as-ever Bella Union label, as it's a fine album in its own right as well as a superb entry point to Veirs's catalogue.
Warp & Weft balances light and dark throughout, this contrast no better epitomised than the head-on approach into winter described on 'Shape Shifter' ("Winter's on the way / Think we're gonna make it out") and the emerging thaw of 'Sun Song' ("Water rushing in the banks / Freed from the ice, it has the sun... to thank"). This tension forms an odd cohesion between the songs, which are hopeful even at their most despairing and, thanks to an occasional detour into upbeat electric territory ('America', 'That Alice'), can actually really rock. Crucially though, whatever tone or tempo, Veirs never drops the ball where the musicality is concerned. These are not simple one-woman-and-her-guitar acoustic ditties but warm, rich tapestries aided by Tucker Martine's production; witness the way the strings swoon in at the midway point of 'Shape Shifter' just like rolling mist, the jazzy offbeat shifts of 'White Cherry' or the building layers of guitar, mandolin, percussion, whistling (!) and more on the gorgeous 'Sadako Folding Cranes'. You're basically never far away from something special so, whether you're familiar with Veirs or not, put this to the top of your wishlist.