BEST NEW MUSIC: BILLY RAFFOUL - 1975
Simply seeing the words 'the 70s' seems to call up a soft, gentle image - slightly out-of-focus and blurred around the edges, idyllic and pastoral in earth tones. It's like a dreamy flashback scene in some movie, automatically transporting us to simpler times, captured in Kodachrome.
So much music and art that references the past views the past through some rosy-colored spectacles, succumbing to nostalgia's temptation to over-simplify and overlook the complexities of living during those times.
Nostalgia for a time you've never known is a particular feeling. It transcends simple longing for a return to childhood and simplicity that so much nostalgic music succumbs to. It's like that moment in someone's life when they cease listening to and finding new music and default back to whatever they listened to in High School. It feels like copping out, bailing on the current culture and burying your head in the sand.
Nostalgia for unknown times is a bit more of a mystical instinct, however. It's like the Brazilian word "Saudade," or a longing for a home you've never known. It's more of a yearning for Utopia or Heaven On Earth, or simply addressing the feeling that you feel out of place and out of joint with the current time.
BILLY RAFFOUL - 1975
On his latest single, and title-track for his long-anticipated debut EP, Billy Raffoul goes beyond simply referencing the '70s to actually taking you there, via gentle and subtle indie folk music. Raffoul sings with a hushed, intimate, whispered style over intricate finger-picked guitars and gorgeous swooning cellos, giving an epic emotional undertow to "1975" that will suck you under, if you let it.
Raffoul has been garnering comparisons to Neil Young, no doubt in part to his Canadian origins. Raffoul's music also has a widescreen, wind-swept quality of Neil Young's more gentle moments, making you think of vast oceans of prairie grass slowly bowing in the breeze. Raffoul brings a bit of edge and grit to his folk musings that prevent "1975" from becoming too precious, luckily. Raffoul's also been compared to singer Joe Cocker and his voice has a similar charcoal rasp in the margins. Bruce Springsteen would be another worthwhile point of comparison.
Raffoul's sound is also in keeping with some of contemporary indie folk's leading voices, most notably Bon Iver or Mark Kozelek and Sun Kil Moon. Raffoul's a little more gasoline-soaked than Bon Iver and a little less self-indulgent than Kozelek, however, finding an easy equilibrium that should appeal to anyone who's irritated by folk music's extremes.
So lie back, let your eyes slit in the shifting light of the afternoon, and let "1975" take you to different times. We Are: The Guard recommend it. It's a healing journey that will help soothe your soul in these tumultuous times.