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Knots

Matt Stalker and Fables' second album Knots is a gently cathartic piece of work from the north-eastern folk five-piece. Following 2011's The Man Who Said This Died of Alchemy, they return with a beautifully crafted LP that purges and heals. The remarkable chamber folk arrangements, smartly insightful words and subtlety of Stalker's voice all blend into something that is elegant and wistfully serene.

While many artists this intensely confessional can come across as either hilariously self-absorbed or downright miserable, Matt Stalker and Fables are refreshingly unpretentious and quite charming. It's like musical therapy (Stalker is a former prison psychologist, after all). So when he tells us on the title track, “We all tie ourselves in knots, sometimes”, his gentle and unassuming manner entices us to believe him.

Even the names of the songs carry the same lovable quirkiness that permeates the whole album. ‘Gently Whirring Percolator’, ‘You Are Always Welcome At My House’ and ‘The Foreign Terrain of Now’ all contain the kind of simplistic realism that makes words all the more meaningful, exactly because Stalker revels in the everyday.

Musically, Knots is sophisticated – pared down folk with tinges of jazz and bluegrass and impressive use of piano and cello all makes for a sound that sets Fables apart from others in the genre. The album in its entirety plays in a similar way to Bon Iver, Bon Iver. It's a thematic, expansive and soothing headspace, but a tongue-in-cheek and humorous one at that.

Rachel Bell

by Now Then Sheffield