Second Guessing is the latest release from Ivan Moult, a pleasant practitioner of folk music, released in September of last year; his Bandcamp biography states he possesses a “voice that could soothe a set of angry ring wraiths into tranquility”, a description that is a reflective of the artist’s understated and refined style. What impresses me upon listening to a new artist for the first time is how complete their songs sound, and Ivan Moult’s songwriting qualities are prevalent in the first few tracks of this record – I confess to not having heard of Ivan Moult before an idle afternoon spent trawling through local music labels and their artist pages a couple of weeks ago, but I was impressed upon listening to find that there is a full-bodiedness to his songs. Take the third track, I Know I’ll Never Be Born Again, a song that sounds like the musical lovechild of a collaboration between Sam Beam and The National, it just eases itself along effortlessly.
Something I always appreciate from artists who ply the folk trade is an out and out acoustic track, one that’s nothing more than a voice and a guitar. Ivan Moult’s offering in this vein is a song called Kindness, a melancholy and reflective track that shows the songwriter’s self-doubt and worry. Next in line is Photos, a song that swiftly moves us to the other, sunnier side of the spectrum. A rolling bassline in the background is accompanied by sporadic guitar picking, drenched in a hazy reverb, all the while with the compelling vocals of Ivan Moult coaxing you along before closing with the quick-witted lyric “I have nothing to expect, so when you love me it’s the best”.
One of my favourite tracks off the album is Stilling Heart, a song that sounds at its start like the beginning of another solo acoustic ballad, but then moves into something a bit more reminiscent of a time where soul was king, almost sounding like a love song written in defiance. Its successor is the heartfelt Most of All, a sadder-sounding yet almost uplifting song that is a glowing tribute on Ivan Moult’s part to a love.
Finally is a song that has cemented itself as one of my newly found favourites, Selfish September. Humble in its beginnings, this song then moves into rougher waters with the introduction of the electric guitar and its concentrated chords, all the while the empassioned vocals of Ivan Moult ring out before a musical breakdown that climaxes with two riffing, blues-driven guitars squealing out at each other. Then the calmness, the tranquility returns and we’re eased back into the sway of the gentle drums and the soothing confessional tones of Mr Moult as he talks about making amends.
Unfortunately nowadays too many folk records consist of warbly, choral vocals and carousel-like guitar that leaves you feeling like you’ve heard this before. Second Guessing breaks out of the shackles of the norm in this genre and is an accomplished release by its composer, an artist that at the very least deserves a bit of recognition for his efforts.