FRESH FAVES: BATCH 38

So it’s Monday and once again it’s time for our latest batch of ‘Fresh Faves’. As usual, massive thanks to all the artists who submitted their tracks and to all the Fresh On The Net listeners who dropped by to hear them.

BYE POLAR BEARS – High Tide

High Tide is a delicious blend of swirling guitars and glitchy electronica, with a vocal hook that will sneak into your head and firmly lodge itself there before you’ve realised what’s happening. Meticulously crafted, there is a lot going on here, but with everything anchored to the driving rhythm of the kick and snare, it pulls off the trick of being multi-layered, whilst never obscuring the pure pop song that lies at its heart. Ultimately this makes for a track which is both immediately accessible and has enough depth to keep surprising your ears on repeat listens, as they continue to stumble upon new musical treasures within the interweaving riffs and melodies. So far Bye Polar Bears are giving little away; they are at their most revealing in their Twitter bio, which simply reads, “Wiltshire based Indie/Electronica experiment. Combining live instruments and programming. The future!”. It is quite apt that their website is dominated by a photo of a large post-it note which simply reads, “Bye Polar Bears – coming soon”. We wait with anticipation.

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COLE STACEY & JOSEPH O’KEEFE – Without Lisa

Singer Cole Stacey and multi-instrumentalist Joseph O’Keefe have been working and touring together for some time, so it’s perhaps little surprise that their songs transfer so beautifully to record. When he says ‘multi-instrumentalist’, Joseph really means it. On their bandcamp page he is credited with a plethora of instruments, including ‘chimney’; I know, I’m intrigued too. Here, his melancholic piano and guitars provide the perfect bed for Cole’s honey-toned vocals, who responds in kind, weaving his phrases tightly into the lilting rhythms of the music. Although clocking in at under 3 minutes, the track covers a lot of ground, constantly pulsating and expanding with ever developing melodies and lush string arrangements. Without Lisa is taken from their new album ‘On Hire’ which is out today and available via their Bandcamp page.

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CONRAD VINGOE – Fuel for Fire

Fuel for Fire is the ideal tonic for the plummeting temperatures and dwindling daylight hours we currently find ourselves at the mercy of, providing auditory comfort whilst hinting that the thaw of spring will one day come. This is sepia soaked soulful folk at its best, with understated instrumentation that compliments the soft, wistful vocals perfectly. Sumptuous Rhodes style keys augment the bittersweet melody of the chorus and delicate organ stabs in the verse seem to evoke the promenade of Conrad Vingoe’s native Brighton, reminiscing on a long lost summer from the cold of a winter’s afternoon. This track is taken from Conrad’s third album, Simple Secrets, which is available from his Bandcamp. Here you can also check out his latest project, The One Mic EP which, as the title suggests, was all recorded old-school style with one mic, and is an equally pleasurable listen.

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CORMAC O CAOIMH – A New Season For Love

Continuing with the wintery vibe is Cormac O Caoimh, with a track that was hugely popular with our Freshnet listeners, and it’s easy to see why they fell in love with it. Mixing folk with an underlying jazz sensibility, there is a dreamy feel to the vocals with vivid and magical lyrics to match. The sound is incredibly intimate; every vocal inflection, every breath, every creak of an instrument is heard. It almost feels as if you’re in the room, wrapped up in your warmest coat with the music echoing around you, glimpsing some vast and beautiful landscape through the condensation laden windows. Hailing from Cork, Ireland, A New Season For Love is the title track from Cormac’s latest album, which is available via his website.

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DRUNK MULE – Forget The Crowds

Built around a psychedelic groove, this track will quickly have your head nodding and I get the feeling that, dropped mid-set at a gig, it is bound to get the whole place dancing. There’s a really spacey vibe as the song builds into a kind of musical mantra with a vocal hook that implores you to ‘Forget the crowds, forget the money’ and get lost in a world of sound. Drunk Mule are a Scottish duo, with core members Stephen Simpson and Rich Morris drafting in additional musicians when they perform live. Since getting together in early 2010, they have already amassed an impressive back catalogue of tunes and Forget The Crowds comes from their latest album ‘I Built A Death Ray’, which was released in October. You can get your hands on it and take a look at the brilliant retro sci-fi themed cover on their Bandcamp page. Note from Tom: you’ll find their musical comments most weekends on our Listening Post here at FOTN – where they also swap excruciating puns with their fellow regular, Debs McCoy.

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MARY CIGARETTES – Middle Class White Trash Ways

Clearly a devotee to the songwriting craft, Mary Cigarettes is enigmatic; painting a vivid, emotional world for us, whilst hinting at an ocean left unrevealed below the surface, which only fuels our intrigue. This song makes excellent use of space, with every measured vocal phrase seemingly nestled at the perfect point within the subtle and cinematic instrumentation. Lyrically beguiling, it has you hanging on every line and the spell is only strengthened by the assured vocals, which switch effortlessly into the delicate higher octaves when required. With music of this quality and originality it seems unfair to mention potential influences, but it puts me in mind of a territory somewhere between the Cocteau Twins and Morrissey, without drawing obviously from either. Generously, Mr Cigarettes has made all of his songs available for free download from his SoundCloud page. It is also well worth whiling away a little time browsing his blog, which features his music videos and general thoughts on his life and times.

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PLASTIC FLOWERS – In You I’m Lost

In You I’m Lost is a short but sweet slice of lo-fi, ambient indie from Greek artist Plastic Flowers. Clearly adhering to the maxim that less is more, the instrumentation is minimal, with a simple guitar riff underpinned by sparse percussion. Gradually and tentatively building, just when you think you’ve got a grasp on things, you are left hanging tantalisingly in mid air as the track reaches its brief duration and I’d imagine most listeners will be tempted to hit the rewind button at least once for a second pass. In You I’m Lost is available on a ‘pay what you want’ basis from their Bandcamp along with several other tracks all with great artwork. It is also worth checking out the video for the song on their website. Like many artists these days, Plastic Flowers keep their cards close to their chest, opting for the music to do the talking. Note from Tom: see How To Write A Band Biog.

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THE BIRDMAN RALLIES – Telescope Katie

The Birdman Rallies are an alt-rock four piece, with members drawn from York and Harrogate, who describe their music as, “a snake of melody, a raft of harmonies and a hamper of interlocking rhythm”, and on this evidence that analysis is bang on the money. Opening with a haunting vocal melody, this tune never stands still for too long, veering from clinical verses to raucus post rock riffage, with a chorus that is destined to have a festival crowd singing along at some point in the future. The band ride the changes deftly, never once losing momentum and I imagine they must be an exciting prospect live. Telescope Katie is the opening track from their album ‘Moons’ which is available from their Bandcamp, either as a ‘free’ or ‘paid’ download; go on, they deserve it.

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THE SHALLOWS – Win or Lose

Recent stars of Fresh On The Net’s Prick & Ding feature, The Shallows are a four-piece band based in London. Purveyors of no-nonsense indie, they clearly have a knack for creating perfectly crafted tunes, which don’t cut any slack and get your foot tapping without fail. This track is no exception, with it’s tight punchy verses, that don’t dwell too long before exploding into the triumphant, sing-along chorus. As they continue to ratchet up tension throughout the song, you get a real sense that this band is building to a bright future in every sense. Win or Lose is taken from their EP ‘About Time Vol. 1’, the first instalment of a set of three, which is available from their website. Londoners can catch them live this Wednesday (14th November) at the Enterprise in Camden.

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TOM LOFFILL – ACPO

Tom Loffill is a London based solo artist, who has a slightly quirky and tongue-in-cheek outlook on life. This is backed up by his often amusing, and excellent music videos and the biography on his website in which he tells us, “Sometimes I smash up keyboards in fits of rage and glory”, and claims to have died in 1786. Some of his keyboards must still be intact, as a wall of synths, riding along on a relentless drum machine rhythm, provides the driving force behind this track. With the groove sorted, Tom is free to wax lyrical over the top and his voice has a great rock n’ roll edge to it, always threatening to tip over the edge into something more sinister. ACPO is available to download for free from SoundCloud and is taken from Tom’s ‘On The Surface’ album, which is released on 3rd December and available for pre-order via his Bandcamp page now. You can catch him live at the ‘On The Surface’ album launch at The Others in Stoke Newington, London on 4th December.

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WHALES IN CUBICLES – Across America

I was introduced to the music of Whales In Cubicles through their excellent single Nowhere Flag, which came out earlier this year, and Across America sees the London based four-piece on similarly enjoyable form. The band’s sound is firmly in alternative rock territory, with a healthy grunge influence which will please listeners, such as myself, who fell in love with rock music in the early to mid nineties. However, despite these clear nods to the past, Whales In Cubicles are certainly putting their own spin on things and crafting their own sound. The band are clearly at their happiest when they’re at their loudest, with restrained verses soon breaking under the strain as epic avalanche choruses burst in, with frontman Stef Bernardi’s vocals soaring full throttle over the top. According to their SoundCloud page there is an album due in 2013 and on this evidence it will definitely be one to look out for.

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WHITE HEAT – Hymn

Made up of members of various previous bands in Leeds scene, the final lineup of White Heat came together just under a year ago, so it’s very early days for this band, but they seem to be achieving great things already. I’m afraid I’m going to have to let my stony reviewer’s façade slip here and declare that I’m absolutely in love with this track. The verses are driving and hypnotic, with the combination of the looping guitar riffs and Maria Tjader’s ethereal vocals drawing you in, helpless, like sirens luring sailors to the rocks. From this point on you have no choice but to drift with the current, eventually being overwhelmed as a wave of glorious shoegaze guitars crash in and wash over you in a sea of noise. What’s so impressive is that ‘Hymn’ is the b-side of their first release, the equally fantastic track ‘Smile’, which was released in the summer and is available as a download or a limited edition 7” via their Bandcamp. If this band keeps going at this rate, they surely have an exciting future ahead of them.

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James Robins
Fresh Faves reviewed by
Team Freshnet’s James Robins

FROM TOM: 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 every week it leaves less room for new names who haven’t had a chance yet…

James Robins

Originally from Manchester, in 2011 I came down to London to intern on Tom’s BBC 6Music show and ended up sticking around. Music has been central to my life ever since I can remember, so I’m loving being a part of Team Freshnet. Otherwise I can be found digging through dusty vinyl in musky record shops or arriving unfashionably early at gigs.

2 Comments

  1. white heat is my favourite here…the singer has that convincing understated thing that can’t be learned,and those guitars are extraordinary . a beautifully paced piece of music…the spirit of this band made me think of catherine wheel who had that song ‘black metallic’ decades ago …

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