New Faces (Communion Records)

Opening with the ultimate new face Michael Kinwanuka, (just to remind you who first spotted him),  the Communion label’s New Faces compilation is an interesting mix of veteran, (The Low Anthem’s Jocie Adams) established, (Julia Stone) and the boy that makes the tea (Will Nott).

Julia Stone’s contribution is a marked departure from her work with her brother as Angus and Julia Stone. The drum machine backing track and sparse piano is a move away from the acoustic guitar and fuller instrumentation that feature heavily on their previous work, and marks her new direction as one that’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

New Faces delivers a clever mix of artists. There are those who are already well on their way, such as Daughter, whose hauntingly spacious track marks her out as a musician who is already very clear on her direction; or Ben Howard, who illustrates just how his ubiquity has come about so readily with a gorgeous track you can’t help but appreciate. As with Daughter, Lucy Rose has also enjoyed her five minutes of fame on BBC Radio 6 Music, and whilst ‘Middle of the Bed’ isn’t her most engaging track, it’s a signal that there is likely to be more intelligent and mature folk to come from her.

Matt Corby most certainly has a touch of the Jeff Buckleys about him on ‘Kings, Queens, Beggars & Thieves’.  The uncannily similar voice lingers at every other notes, combined with a pensive guitar, but the soaring string orchestra give the track a classier feel, but will no doubt do little to quell the too-obvious-to-ignore comparisons.

As with any album that’s twenty tracks long, there’s inevitably a dip in the second half.  Jocie Adams’ endearing country lament ‘Bed of Notions’, whilst enjoyable, marks the first in a string of low-tempo, similarly acoustic tracks. Dan Croll, The Apache Relay, and James Vincent Morrow, whilst all contributing tracks that are acceptable in themselves, become subject to a track order faux-pas, generating a feeling of acoustic guitar/male voice/wistfulness fatigue by being programmed next to each other.

Already packaged up into a PR’s dream, Will Nott was discovered whilst interning at a studio, having decided to record his own EP when an artist failed to show up. The charming ‘Won’t Go Back’ seems assured of a future slot on the soundtrack to the next Juno or Five Hundred Days of Summer, with its gentle acoustic strumming and whimsical vocals.

New Faces tails off rather than ends with a flourish, although Gotye’s recent chart success does bookend the compilation nicely with Michael Kinwanuka.

Those familiar with Communion and their work will of course enjoy this – they’ve developed a winning formula of premium acoustic acts that they’re wisely sticking with. Undoubtedly it serves it purpose to showcase their current roster, and as with any compilation, there are some ups and downs, but on the whole, these New Faces are hits rather than misses.