Johnny Flynn is back with his new album ‘Been Listening’ but this time without the help of his Sussex Wit following his 2008 debut ‘ A Larum’ which captured the hearts of music lovers. On listening to his debut, my own mother once said to me that she wants me to marry Johnny Flynn.
Opener, ‘Kentucky Pill’, although a brilliant track does not really sum up the entire album, though it is clearly still a folk track, here Flynn seems to shy away from the ‘folk-rock’ label and delves more into a ‘folk-pop’ reinvention. The brass instruments add bright, subtle pop vibes. A lot of brass is found on this album in comparison to Flynn’s debut. The album is scattered with little pop sounding gems like this, for example ‘Barnacled Warship’ begins in this manner, though more Belle & Sebastian than Madonna. Violin riffs neutralising the pop and reinforcing Flynn’s folk roots.
That said,there are many songs, for example, ‘Lost and Found’ which could have easily came from ‘A Larum’ with their simple folk tone and sinister lyrics. Typical Flynn lyrics include ” will you put down your fiddle, young Willie, will you put down your fiddle and pray that the world has begun with the birth of the sun and its death the very same day” as found in ‘Sweet William Part 2’ which opens with a haunting violin riff.
Johnny Flynn has definitely been more experimental with this album, this is represented in the opening of the song ‘Churlish May’ with it’s hip-hop style drum beat. More electric guitar is found in this album too, such is seen in the lo-fi title track with the solo riffs which come and go in waves, often complimented by violins, an odd musical combination, which undeniably works.
‘The Water’ features his long term friend Laura Marling, it’s a slow and seemingly medieval folk type affair, with a waltz rhythm, which is reflective of Marling’s follow up album which was released in March. Clearly more of a collaboration than solely a song with guest vocals.
It’s obvious that Mr Flynn has been a little more experimental on this album but his signature sound is not lost as it’s clearly present throughout, even on the brighter, more poppy numbers.