The Underground: Ed Tullett – Neverjoy

Welcome to The Underground (or Notes from the Underground if you’re a Dostoyevsky nerd), a weekly segment in which I examine the very best in unsigned, undiscovered and underground music. It’s my goal to highlight and hopefully promote talented artists who have yet to receive the attention they deserve. If you know (or are!) a band or artist you think should be featured on The Underground, please give them a shout out in the comments section below, or alternatively you can tweet me their info @AnOrangeFellow.

Neverjoy is a fairly dark indie-folk album from songwriter Ed Tullett, being sold at the generous price of free. Before I get into the specifics of Neverjoy, I feel like I have to add a bit of a qualifier for this review, and explain why the album has me so impressed:

The underground folk scene is kind of a tricky one to get in to; it’s a genre that has a great deal of half-efforts (especially if combined with the dreaded singer-songerwriter subgenre!), misunderstandings and noble fumbles. It’s a genre many musicians write for without a good understanding of how the songs need to be put together; they recognise the pieces but can’t really implement. I’ve heard all too many underground folk albums that get the theoretical aspects of folk right but fail in execution; profound-but-technically meaningless covers of the woods, lyrics that attempt a personal clandestine flare but end up simply being obstacles, and yes, terrible, terrible misuse of banjo.

I find that the banjo has an odd place in contemporary music. It’s an instrument that’s recently been discovered by people who don’t really want to play country, bluegrass or traditional folk, and many artists stumble when trying to find a modern use for it. It’s a shame, because when it’s used well, as it is in Neverjoy, it can be an incredible mood enhancer, adding the necessary sweet overtone or prolonged painful strain that really characterises a song. On Neverjoy, Tullett is able to see the emotional wealth of the instrument a damn sight better than many of his peers in the indie folk scene, who run to the tool because it’s simply the done thing for the genre.

The range of Ed Tullett’s voice is also very strong. He hits both the the high and low notes with ease and comfort, and is able to harmonise his own voice incredibly well in post. The lyrics are also appropriately reflexive of the singing – indie folk is an wasteland of emotional honesty, and it’s refreshing to hear songs that feel as if they genuinely mean something to their creator. Of course, I would be remiss to mention vocals without mentioning the excellent work Ffion Atkinson does on ‘Faker Death’ and ‘Continental Dares’. While having a perfectly lovely singing voice, I feel that the implementation of her singing is what makes it so strong. On the songs Atkinson sings on, she doesn’t feel like a guest singer; she feels like part of the narrative. I am not sure whether Mr. Tullett and Ms. Atkinson share any history, however the stories they craft together coupled with their vocal talents really do lead to some pure and wonderful moments. (So much so, in fact, that I was certain Ms. Atkinson performed on more than two songs)

Neverjoy is a smart, personal and downright pretty album. It does everything that it needs to do to succeed as an entry in its genre, and seems like a true labour of love from Mr. Tullett. Quite simply, Neverjoy plays out as a perfect how-to guide for the indie folk scene, and it comes highly recommended.

Listen to and download Neverjoy fo’ free here (includes bonus tracks, too! Holy smokes!)

Like Ed Tullett on Facebook here.