Our penultimate Fresh Faves of 2014 were picked by our readers over the weekend – and are reviewed this week by Tom Robinson this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
Advance warning: Team Freshnet will be taking a two week break over Christmas/New Year. Our dropbox opens for the last time this year around lunchtime today (Monday 15 Dec) and our last Listening Post of 2014 will be next weekend 19-21 Dec. Our dropbox will be closed from Thursday 18 Dec until Monday 5 Jan 2015.
CABLE STREET COLLECTIVE – Two Cities
The aim of Cable Street Collective is to make – they tell us – “rhythm-driven, African-influenced sunshine music” a genre they’ve dubbed “Carnival Pop”. This track Two Cities proved popular on our Listening Post this weekend, and fans can find a second helping in the form of their previous track “Wasted Hours” – currently available on Soundcloud as a free download. Fair play to Ashley Underwood – along with band members Dave, Roma, Jonboy, Tristan, Fiona and Alex – for not only talking the talk but walking the walk. I wouldn’t know Congolese Soukous or South African Kwela if either of them bit me in the leg, but Ash clearly knows both at first hand and the stompy township-flavoured sections of Two Cities groove like a bastard. Personally I’d prefer to hear more of said groove – and rather less stopping, starting, chopping and changing – as a fogeyish devotee of the oldschool “once you’re in the groove, don’t mess with it” philosophy. But don’t mind me – loads of people loved this over the weekend, and the chances are that you will too. Click “play” and decide for yourself !
EMILIO PINCHI – Trying Man
You’d need a heart of stone to resist Emilio Pinchi‘s fresh confessional lyrics and lowkey throwaway delivery. It’s a beautiful, authentic performance that never sounds like it’s trying too hard, yet carries absolute conviction. Oh and the perfect sub-three-minute length for a single. Some readers may be sick to death of me banging on about this for the umpteenth time, yet for anyone posting pop songs online to attract new listeners this is a crucial truth. When you’ve written a wonderful gem like this it’s always better to get in quick at the beginning, slap your audience round the ears then get out again fast, so you leave people reaching for “replay” rather than “fast forward”.
Of course there’s a place for slowbuild/longform songs too. But far too many tracks in our inbox are longer than the content justifies: perfectly good songs, but with the ideas spread too thinly. A song that’s grabbed you in the first thirty seconds will often – after four and a half minutes – have you going “oh for god’s sake” and clicking to the next track. Unless you’re Mogwai or Aphex Twin, the old cliché that ‘less is more’ remains true.
This tune Trying Man actually made me click “replay” several times. Emilio’s laidback acoustic fingerpick and Merseyside accent grow on you with successive listens, while the density of his lyrics tumbles over you in waves. Big props too to whoever’s responsible for this deliciously subtle production that never outstays its welcome. When recording a singer-songwriter, this is the holy grail: enough depth and texture to make a proper “record” that sounds great on your hifi. Yet so gently unobtrusive that if Emilio picked up a guitar in your living room and sang this to your face it would still sound like exactly the same song.
FAERGROUND ACCIDENTS – We Hate The Same Things
When John Robb’s Louder Than War Records sign you up and put out your debut single on 7″ pink vinyl – and when it then gets repeat airplay from the likes of Steve Lamacq and Marc Riley on 6 Music – you know you’re doing something right. When Sleaford Mods book you as special guests for their show at the O2 Academy in Sheffield, then it sounds to me you’re on to a winner. We Hate The Same Things was released – complete with video – on November 24th by Faerground Accidents, who describe themselves as a “Psychotic Pop Psychedelic Punk Androgynous Rock n’ Roll band based in Sheffield UK” and consist of Bomar Faery (vocals/guitar), Daniel ‘Bass Frehley’ Botterill (bass), Michael ‘Breezie’ Breeze (drums), Murray ‘Muzz’ Fenton (guitar), Henrietta Rowlatt (keys). In my book anyone bringing more psychotic pop pysychedelic androgyny into the world is A Good Thing and we wish them every success in 2015.
GIRLBOY – Jennifer Lawrence
And talking of pop androgyny, where better to turn than to than a band called Girlboy with this funny, horny tongue in cheek paen to Jennifer Lawrence – multiple award winning actor – and the subject of much salacious instrusion into her personal life earlier this year. This single was released last week and the band itself consists of successful feminist and LGBT author Abigail Tarttelin – reponsible for the splendidly outrageous lyrics and velvet vocals on Jennifer Lawrence – in collaboration with Leeds/Lincolnshire based songwriter Michael Reeve – who previously featured in our Fresh Faves here a couple of years ago. Musically this slice of wellmade motoring pop faithfully reflects the duo’s stated influences of The National, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Debbie Harry of Blondie. Girlboys of one kind or another have been close to my heart for many a year (especially the one I married 24 years ago) and – after repeated listens to Jennifer Lawrence – I like this musical kind of Girlboy very much indeed.
LOVEGRENADE – Ambiguous
Lovegrenade is, the band are keen to point out, a one word name. The band in question is a rock n roll trio formed five years ago in the underground music scene of South Tel Aviv, and this six-and-a-half minute epic Ambiguous will delight lovers of loud, longform, authentically lofi guitar-driven shoegaze. As a lover of band manifestos, I particularly liked these words from Lovegrenade: “We keep our musical aesthetics alternative and totally DIY- recording our music as cheap as possible and with the help of gifted friends from our little community. “We craft our albums, design our own covers and T-shirts – and distribute our music for free. Our sound documents the days and the nights of our lives in the hot and horrible city of South Tel Aviv. The best way to feel the music is to see it live – so come as you are, prepare your tissues and eardrums, and we will give you an emotionally heartbreaking and mindbuzzing experience… ” Gentle reader, Easyjet will fly you from Luton in the UK to Tel Aviv for just £85 – and we don’t doubt that Dudi Malka, Eran Nave and Itay Sendowski would be delighted to welcome you there. Is it worth your while to flash the plastic and climb on a plane ? Crank the volume up loud and click “play” to find out!
POLLEN – Stepping On Lego
We’ve long been fans of Cam Allen’s Pollen project here at Fresh On the Net and on The BBC Introducing Mixtape. Formed in another hemisphere back in 1995, the lineup has been fluid with periodic changes over the years much like The Waterboys, Dexys or The Fall. At the beginning of last year Pollen was a long-distance collaboration between bassist Chris Boughton in Japan and Cam on guitar and vocals back in the UK. Subsequent recording sessions in Helsinki for a sophomore album called Our Frozen Sea produced This Isn’t California – a Fresh Fave in September last year. But those ongoing sessions have resulted in a long-term relocation for the band to Finland together with a new lineup – which sees Cam joined by the rhythm section of Martin Brown and Michael Lennie.
And so here we are 15 months later with Stepping On Lego: two minutes and fifteen seconds of mesmeric and irresistible guitar rock, recorded with no bells and very few whistles. Or in this case very few overdubbed guitar lines blending seamlessly into the arrangement. It’s performance of real swagger and assurance, made by musicians who know exactly what they’re doing. So often, guitar bands who can really play over-compress their sound so that the vocal ends up fighting to be heard over the resulting wall of sound. Here Cam’s hugely likeable trademark vocals riding effortlessly over the top. Regardless of how many copies it ultimately ends up selling, this here is a hit – a palpable hit.
SONIC FALLOUT – Unless It Takes Forever
My, this is a big noise: declaiming baritone Scott Walker vocals disappearing into the reverb over epic widescreen 60s pop ballad big beats. With, perhaps, a nod in the direction of the Manic Street Preachers. It’s not fussily or even expensively recorded – no symphonic string section or distant Phil Spector tympani – yet it pulls off a heroic grandeur, particularly on the guitar solo which makes its grand entrance at 1.20. And this is quality songwriting – the kind of tune that could spectacularly close your set anywhere from the local pub to the Royal Albert Hall.
But dear oh dear, these people don’t make it easy for friends and fans like us to spread the word about their music. The entire absence of any kind of online profile or public information about Sonic Fallout must be a deliberate policy – surely nobody could be that obtuse by accident? Perhaps it’s part of some grand strategy that involves confining their activities to the “real” world of gigs and record shops. What I can tell you is that they’re based in Hornsey, North London and unrelated to the Swansea band of the same name. But not who’s actually in the band – or even how many of them there are.
They’ve uploaded this track to BBC Introducing and in all honesty – great though it is – what would be the point of us playing it ? I suppose it would make us look good by broadcasting three minutes of quality entertainment on the wireless. And it might make a small handful of people in Wood Green look good to their friends. But that would be it. Our radio audience wouldn’t be able to find or follow the band, buy the song, watch them perform it on YouTube or go and see them play live. It makes more sense to offer the opportunity to an equally deserving band who’ll make better use of it.
SUZI WOODS / ANDY MORTON – Skin
The quality of Suzi Woods‘ vocal caught readers’ imaginations over this weekend’s Listening Post with her fine guest performance on Andrew H. Morton’s track, Skin. Midlands musician and author Andy Morton has had an interesting career writing for theatre, TV and short stories and as a published expert on Tolkien. He’s now, he tells us, committed to songwriting “for better or worse, for richer for poorer – with folky The Details and frothy Cafe Culture – but the main thrust of my work is solo.” On this beautifully written torch song his canny choice of guest vocalist shows both artists to best advantage – Suzi’s sensuously intimate vocal delivery and Andy’s own mastery of harmony and arrangement: we’re just loving those extended guitar chords and atmospheric strings. In a fairer, juster, gentler world the dream team of Suzi Woods and Andy Morton would be serious theme song contenders for the next Bond film.
WAYLAYERS – Weightless
Oh gosh, how shall I put this. This new single Weightless by Waylayers is released today as a followup to the acclaimed Take Hold – and sounds like the next stage in an unstoppable rise international stardom. Alcopop records have done them proud with these releases – and if there isn’t serious money and management behind the buzz this band is creating, well then somebody deserves massive brownie points for creating the illusion that there is. They’ve taken the blogosphere by storm, while keener ears than mine – those of Huw Stephens, Tom Ravenscroft, Steve Lamacq, John Kennedy, Janice Long, Simon Raymonde and Lauren Laverne – have picked up on the appeal of Waylayers at radio. It’s always gratifying to see ambitious, gifted and personanable young musicians make their mark on the music scene through sheer intelligence, drive and hard work. I’ve listened to Weightless seven or eight times in the last two hours and there’s no question that it’s immaculately written, played and produced – and at 2.49 the perfect pop single length. And yet the more I listened, the duller I found it: that’s 22 minutes of my life that I’m never going to get back. On the other hand many of our moderators and readers positively adored this tune over the weekend. Trust me, these boys are going to be big: Harry, Dave & Joe need no words of commendation from the likes of me to speed them on their way.
ARTISTS: If you’ve submitted a track that hasn’t made the Listening Post you’re welcome to re-submit it another week. If your music has appeared on the Listening Post but not in our Fresh Faves, feel free to send us an even stronger track another week.
But if we’ve recently featured you in our Fresh Faves – or on my BBC Introducing Mixtape – please wait until March before sending us another track, so we have space to help other deserving artists… For more info see Robinson Has A Good Old Moan.