Johnny Flynn

Sillion

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Recorded over a three-year period during a surge in his burgeoning acting career, U.K. folk singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn returns with Sillion, another exploratory and remarkably high-caliber LP. Since 2013's elegant Country Mile, Flynn has become somewhat of a breakout television star, appearing in three different series while also committing himself to several theatrical plays. In spite of his many creative pursuits, his work as a songwriter has remained distinctive and consistently rewarding. The trio of tracks that open his fourth album stand among the best of his career, setting the bar high for the remainder of Sillion's 11 cuts. Lead-off track "Raising the Dead," which meditates on the death of his father and birth of his daughter, is given further heft by its oddly clamorous marching arrangement and rich group vocals. "Wandering Aengus" rambles with a strange poetic grace in a jangling rock gait adorned by horns and stuttering cellos. Recorded partly on a vintage straight-to-vinyl VoiceOgraph machine, "Heart Sunk Hank" feels like the beating heart of Sillion as Flynn seems to transcend time itself, sweeping from warbling antiquity to warm modern fidelity and back again with a ballad as ageless and lonesome as anything in the folk canon. Frontloaded as it is, there are plenty of other standouts here, from the pulsing dark drama of "Barleycorn" to the earthy atmospheric closer "Hard Road." With a creative schedule as busy as Flynn's, he could almost be forgiven for padding a few key songs with some pleasant filler, but instead Sillion is all top-shelf and one of the strongest releases of his career.

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