Sincere thanks once again to all of you who came by over the weekend to tell us your favourite five tracks on our latest Listening Post. The Democratic Process has once again produced a bumper collection of best-loved songs from across the interwebs, and as ever, they’re listed in alphabetical order. To see the full list, click on Read More
ANNIE DRESSNER – September
Born and bred in New York, Annie Dressner currently lives in the UK – at a guess, somewhere near Cambridge. And with the communication smarts so typical of New Yorkers, her Twitter feed is an object lesson in How It Should Be Done. Many artists still view Twitter as a megaphone through which they can bellow promotional messages at their followers. It’s fascinating to watch Annie start and develop personal conversations with everybody from Stylusboy to Aidan Moffat. In my case she tweeted “
@freshnet I would love if you would have a listen to my music for future mixtapes. Was on Cambridgeshire Introducing & was so fun!” I tweeted her a link, she submitted September, we put it on the Listening Post, and here she is: first in our alphabetical list of songs that were most-loved by Friends Of Freshnet this weekend. That’s the way to do it. Soundcloud.com/annie-dressner
BENEATH THE BEACH – The Dust In Modern Eyes
Musical taste is highly subjective – and one reason why the Listening Post is so endlessly fascinating. We’re gradually building up a loose community of volunteer critics who show up here and give their love to the tracks we pick from each week’s inbox . You never know which tracks will catch their fancy but this one, I have to say, was right up my street. Straight in, no messing, with an electronic smack between the eyes. Urgent energy, dense layered playing and declaiming vocals. The surprises keep coming: just when you think you know what’s coming next, they derail your expectations. A huge amount of thought and sheer creative inventiveness has gone into the writing, playing and arrangement. Some might sneer that Dust In Modern Eyes is a bit clever and intellectual. But that, dear readers, is exactly why I like it so much. Soundcloud.com/beneaththebeach
FOURA – For Ever
For Ever isn’t so much a song as a journey, a leisurely magical mystery tour guided by the gorgeous vocals of a band member known only as V. All too often in this age of loop-based computer recording, arrangements are repetitive and overlong; all too many guitar band lock onto a riff like a tram leaving the depot and you know with a sinking feeling exactly where it will end up four minutes later. But this particular journey is quietly non-linear, with subtle harmonic surprises lying in wait along the entire length of the song. The male half of the duo, Keidrych Wasley, is also a gifted cinematographer. You can hear some of the tracks from their current album-in-progress here. You’re also invited to keep in touch with their blog to see updates, sketches and inspiration. Soundcloud.com/foura
GOLDEN FABLE – Sugarloaf
Who would have guessed five years ago that Tim And Sam’s Tim And The Sam Band With Tim And Sam (a group that at one point numbered Team Freshnet’s very own Massimo Zeppetelli among their ranks) would end up as a duo called Golden Fable making ethereal noises like this. Tim McIver and Rebecca Palin continue to plough their own fiercely independent furrow across the musical landscape. In the case of Sugarloaf, that straight and narrow furrow slowly grows and widens along the way. The sound is draped in a kind of gossamer haze. Much as I loathe all talk of genres, if you held a gun to my head I’d have to describe this as a kind of 21st century electro shoegaze. Bethan Elfyn, Adam Walton, Jen Long, Marc Riley, John Kennedy and Gideon Coe are all supporters. Free downloads are available from goldenfable.com
HEIDI BROWNE – Girlfriend
Based in Market Drayton, Heidi Emma Peach Browne has been writing and gigging for ten years. Creativity and performance chops are like muscles – the more you use them, the stronger they get. People didn’t place this track in their favourite five because of its hifi production values or glossy arrangement; they loved it because the writing is sharp and direct and the vocal performance is absolutely f*cking immaculate. When most of us get up with a guitar to sing, we tend to concentrate on the playing and throw away the vocal into a nearby microphone almost as an afterthought. Whereas what the audience wants to hear is somebody telling them a story – straight and direct, person to person, heart to heart. Girlfriend is a masterclass in how to do just that – in a radiofriendly 2’39″ flat. Will we be including her on the BBC Introducing Mixtape next month? Damn straight.
JACK WALLEN – Sympathy For The Devil
An interesting inclusion in this week’s Fresh Faves. Sympathy For The Devil shares a title with one of the most famous songs in the canon of 1960s pop counterculture – while Jack Wallen himself would cheerfully admit this is also the roughest recording here by some margin. Yet there’s something about Jack’s performance here that carries absolute conviction. A sense that he HAD to make this music or he would explode with frustration. As for recording quality, it only becomes clear this is a live recording when we hear an audience burst into whooping applause at the end. These are early days – Jack’s writing will develop and settle and his melodies will grow more distinctive because he already has the three qualities many aspiring artists never achieve in a lifetime: Character, Charisma, and utter Conviction. Soundcloud.com/jack-wallen
JACOB – Secret Hands
Goldsmiths University sits in the heart of London’s flourishing New Cross music scene, and its Popular Music degree course must be doing something right. The list of recent students reads like a Who’s Who of interesting artists who’ve crossed our radar in recent years. Not only regular favourites like Dimbleby & Capper and Lisbee Stainton but also Crewdson, Beaty Heart, James Blake, Alt Track, Buffalo Ink, Ifan Dafydd, Gilbert Linley, Tom Morley, Fabiana Palladino, Katy B and those mischievious reporobates La Shark. So who did the university’s Director Of Popular Music Performance Simon Deacon tip to us as the latest in this illustrious line when he came in as a guest this March?
Why this man right here, Jacob Cheetham. Goldsmiths challenges its students to explore and expand their own creative boundaries and you can hear Jacob doing exactly that on this track Secret Hands. It’s a work of naked emotional intensity and effortless sonic daring: he calls it “gay pop for when your parents leave you home alone”. I call it painting with sound and poetry. You called it one of your favourite tunes this week. This, my friends, is a man to watch. Soundcloud.com/jacobcheetham
KING SINGH – Wood or Wire
We first heard and played the work of Alexander McIntyre Singh in the form of an atmospheric home recording called Hijamumpa back in when he was first known as King Singh May 2009. With it’s haunting melodic refrain “You are asking the wrong person” Alex took the song with him when he teamed up with the brothers Rees to form Pandas And People. With the help of producer Al Groves they turned with astonishing speed into a hoty-tippped full-on live festival band – with an irresistible blend of instrumental firepower and beguiling hooks. Not to mention drumming to die for. And yet… part of me still hankered for King Singh’s own blend of homegrown sonic wizardry, and right here is an updated version of exactly that: Wood Or Wire, “a song I made with samples and other stuff” as Alex himself modestly puts it. It features speech samples of the young Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate – as you can see in the video here.
PORT ISLA – Nobody’s Fault
There’s clearly huge demand among record buyers – or music consumers as we must now call them – for the classic songwriting values of the Americana genre. Hence the rise of artists like Paolo Nuttini and even our very own Dry the River. The big thing Port Isla have going for them is a firm grasp of the genre, and an authentic sound that could almost be an outtake from The Band circa 1970. What they have against them is 1) a web presence uncontaminated by biographical information of any kind or any factual context to their music. 2) A song length of 5’05″ – effectively halving their chances of airplay. 3) The fact that the original records by The Band are still widely available, along with those of their many imitators: it’s a crowded market to say the least. On the other hand friends of the blog came by in droves to place Nobody’s Fault among their favourite five tracks of the weekend. Like I say there’s clearly huge demand for this kind of music and I wish them every success.
SNIPPET – Lets Talk About Us
Back when Fresh On The Net was a BBC Introducing radio show on 6 Music, Snippet was quite simply our most-played artist on the programme, ever. It won’t have escaped your notice that Snippet is also Team Freshnet’s Johnno Casson, architect of PrickNding, instigator of the Home series of compilation albums and tireless as both a champion and an exponent of quirky leftfield pop. Favouritism on my part ? You bet. I feel about Snippet much like John Peel felt about The Fall. All the classic Snippet trademarks are in this track. A loping, irresistible groove. Effortless Estuary vocals. Sharp laconic lyrics tautly written without a single surplus word. Always unusual – never inaccessible. Johnno’s favourite phrase is “Warm and toasty” and music doesn’t get much warmer or toastier than this. And big up to his Partner-In-Snippet Wim Oudijk for production so perfect you don’t even notice it’s there. Somebody once described Snippet as “a National Indie Treasure”. Oh wait… that was me. Soundcloud.com/snippet
SONGS FOR WALTER – Meet Me At The Empire
Brian Eno has come up with so many memorable sayings. One of my favourites is “I wish almost all songs were shorter”… after all, Yesterday by The Beatles is just 2’05″ long while Elvis Presley’s All Shook Up comes in at 1’57″. Eno himself cites Stay by Maurice Williams And The Zodiacs as a perfect example of pop brevity at 1’37″. Extreme succinctness is a big part of Meet Me At The Empire’s charm… it’s a vignette, a cameo, a lightly-sketched glimpse of a romantic meeting from a bygone era. Manchester songwriter Laurie Hulme has put together Songs For Walter by way of a tribute to his late grandfather, whose first date with his future wife is depicted in this song. An artist with a less assured touch might have been tempted to pad the whole thing out, trying to make it into a “proper” song. “I really love lo-fi stuff, there’s something so much more honest about it” says Laurie. “What you lose in quality you gain in character.” He’s not wrong.
And that’s it for this week. If you’ve submitted a track that hasn’t made the Fresh Faves you’re welcome to re-submit it again. But if you have been a Fresh Fave in recent weeks could you possibly hold back for at least six weeks before sending us another one. If you keep sending us great tracks they’re likely to get onto the Listening Post, but that means less room for new names who haven’t had a chance yet…