Some weeks we get one good album, others none but this week we’ve got three and it’s difficult to know where to start. On balance we think Vena Portae, an Anglo-Swedish alt-folk band, just nick it from that Tom Petty.
We didn’t have high hopes: one third of Vena Portae is folkie singer songwriter Emily Barker, whose albums with The Red Clay Halo have been critically pleasing but a little dull. But this new effort, in which she joins songwriter and performer Dom Coyote and Swedish producer and multi-instrumentalist Ruben Engzell, is 12 million times better. (Barker wrote the tune for Wallander, if you saw that).
It’s gloomy folk pop but it’s done really well and songs like Turning Key create a real atmosphere. We had this on repeat for a whole day and never tired of it. Atmospheric and irresistible, as the Press notes say.
“Vena portae” means “vein portal” in Latin, a short vein that carries blood to the liver, and the album reflects the band’s love of roads, rivers, veins, portals and creative openings. The album was recorded in the tiny, snowed-in Swedish town of Mölnbo just outside Stockholm, in a make-shift studio.
As well as Turning Key, the mournful and banjo-backed Transatlantic is good.