Label: Hilldrop Records Release date: 01/11/10 Link: Myspace So, after the release of strong EP The Areoplane Darling, Nicholas Stevenson has released his début album Phantom Sweetheart, and I rather like it. It's difficult to say why some folk music creates the impact it does, after all it's just some bloke singing and an acoustic guitar, but even before paying attention to any of the lyrics, Phantom Sweetheart wormed its way in my consciousness. I've managed to pin the feeling down to the emotion Nicholas sings with. The reason bigger folk bands such as Mumford and Sons have become quite so loathed in some circles is partly due to the feeling that they sing lifeless, emotionally boring songs. Music isn't great simply because of how it is composed, or how the lyrics have been written but because of the wealth of feeling that comes from that music. Stevenson doesn't have the best voice, comparisons to John Darnielle aside, but it feels as if he brings that feeling straight to the forefront. Pushed to describe his niche within the folk genre, I'd describe his music as melodic folk, but of course it's more than that. Anyway, I'll talk about the substance of the music rather than the wishy washy elements behind it. It's of course mostly based around the acoustic guitar and vocals, but there's always wispy sounds in the background, strings, backing vocals or another guitar. The sound is rich and strong, echoing happily around the room, and reverberating pleasantly in your head. The lyrics are strong if unspectacular, with some nice couplets that stick in the mind. “She writes these stories about me and herself/ She changes the names and pretends we're somebody else” being a notable example. There aren't any songs that'll make you sit back stunned into silence, but it'll fill the gaps in your mind happily. Maybe a little samey, it's not unimportant that I've rarely made it to the end of the album without feeling a little bored. It's less that it starts off strong and weakens, and more that it never really leaves one particular tone. It's hard to really place huge amounts of variety in folk music, but it would help if Stevenson wasn't always creating music with the same slightly longing feel, a upbeat middle section would do it wonders. He's certainly worth a look anyway, probably never going to rival the heights scaled by bands such as The Mountain Goats, but completely capable of hitting the spot. After all he's one of the few artists that my girlfriend immediately liked after I played him to her, and that's got to count for something right? Photobucket