Artists at a glance
MATTHEW THE OXX
These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and they’re lovingly reviewed (well, not so lovingly in some cases) this week by Team Freshnet stalwart Louis Barabbas – artistic director at Debt Records and frontman with The Bedlam Six. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
DOC HARTLEY – Come On
Paul Hartley’s assuredly solid songwriting would likely have led to a modest pop pension twenty years ago, in the days when we could talk about “the music industry” without quotation marks. Still, even without the attendant riches Come On knows squarely where it belongs and what it wants to be, produced and arranged as it is by Steve Orchard and Nick Ingham (who have worked with Paul McCartney and Oasis respectively). There is a meticulous euphoria at work here that lifts the one-last-go kitchen sink romance into an almost Homeric proposition… I just wish I fell in love as easily as I did in the 90s.
ELLE MARY – Falling
The act of falling is notoriously passive but this tidy little spectral masterpiece feels distinctly like a leap. Ellie Rossiter’s impeccable voice drifts in a wakeful daze through eerie astral vistas, distant lights extinguishing unnoticed whilst indeterminate traumas circle in ominous orbit. The song’s use of space is very effective, all unnecessary indulgence has been pared away completely, a brave and triumphant production decision that many would do well to adopt – after all, it’s impossible to fall as beautifully as this without plenty of room. Exquisite.
GROENLAND – Immune
Over the course of Immune this Montréal-based orchestral indie outfit cook up a pretty captivating arrangement from ingredients that initially struck me as rather bland. The ruthless and impatient side of me says axe the first minute and a half but I’m probably being unfair. I love how the piano cranks up its game to combat the muscly cello jabs in an uneasy union with that deliciously malevolent drone. I enjoyed the subtle synthy licks sneaking about underneath the three-way sparring match between piano, strings and drums during the song’s mid-section, like a weedy kid watching a playground brawl whilst simultaneously trying not to be on the receiving end of a stray punch.
KETO – Change
“It’s time for a change” sings KETO’s Leah Sinead. In the light of last week’s election results I can’t help but agree. There is a lot going on here, something is mustering itself. Woozy grunting strings scrape themselves off the edges of the song and crumple up around the room. I like the little gasps of piano that occasionally float over the brooding core, like whisps of smoke escaping from a pixie in an oven. I’m not so sold on that central persistent clunk though, it kind of makes me imagine a bored Steve McQueen listlessly flinging his baseball at the wall of the cooler… and that really conflicts with my burning pixie metaphor.
MATTHEW THE OXX – Beyond The Gates
MATTHEW THE OXX’s first single from upcoming album “First Aid For Drowning” sounds like a solitary man accompanied by ghosts. If there’s a plug-in for that I want it. I’m a great believer in drawing on old forms and coaxing them into the present rather than simply aping tradition with one eyebrow cocked ironically. This song is refreshingly honest and contemporary despite its grounding in the past. I like the mixture of influences that ground this piece – there’s a slightly Celtic bent to the vocal delivery (genuine or adopted, it doesn’t matter) whilst deeper down in the mix is the yelp of a pedal steel guitar and a rhythmic shuffle more typically associated with the United States. But there’s no sense in dissecting such things too fiercely, songs about death are for everyone.
NANO KINO – Bike Ride
I don’t know a huge amount about NANO KINO. Their Soundcloud says they’re from London but their Facebook is full of Newcastle references. Bah, we’re all citizens of the internet so what does geography matter? There are a lot of interesting things happening here, more than I appreciated on the first couple of listens. Based on the intro one could be forgiven for expecting a kind of lo-fi Stereolab, all tangled oohs and aahs knocking about in a fogged up underpass. But there’s an authority to the vocals that stomps in from nowhere and takes the song to a completely different place, an aggressive humanness that I find more hypnotic than the echoing muddy spirals rumbling up from beneath.
NIHILS – Lovers On The Run
NIHILS are Ramon, Florian, Dominik and Thomas. They’re from Waidring in Austria. I’m not the right audience for this kind of calculated pop music so can’t offer much in the way of a helpful review. The song is clearly doing something right but I listen to this stuff the way a dog ponders a television – everyone else is interested but I’ve no idea what it’s for.
Well done though, lots of people like it.
SKYMOUSE – Sparking Blades
I love this. Feels like a Joe Meek production for the Atari ST or if The Shadows embarked on an intergalactic expedition helmed by Jimmie Haskell. As for where you might encounter this band on our own planet, I don’t have the exact co-ordinates, their biog simply says “Sky Mouse and his friends are the crew of a spaceship that sometimes parks in Freeborough Hill on the North Yorkshire Moors”. Well, hopefully they’ll re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere soon so I can see them at a gig in the not too distant future…
TRUDY – All My Love
Listening soberly to this Leeds-based trio I can’t help imagining the verses being sung from under a duvet on a Sunday afternoon whilst the rest of the band join in from the kitchen, still awake and drunk from the night before. I like this track’s murky exuberance – pressing play is rather like picking up a stone in the garden and finding a lot of slithering things underneath engaged in a happiness montage from a slightly degraded betamax. So TRUDY, which of my two review motifs is closest to the truth?
WOODPIGEON – When You Look For Trouble, Trouble Comes
Recorded onto 24-track tape at Montreal’s Hotel2Tango and proudly featuring a vintage stylophone played through an ancient amplifier, this is another gloriously backward-facing track that seems infatuated with the past. But its production is not all nostalgia and gadget-porn, there is a troubled thrust to the song’s narrative that propels the piece headlong into more uncertain territory; it certainly bears repeated listening. Sonically swampy and emotionally ambiguous: I really want to hear more.
PS from TR: 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 three months before sending us another track, so we have space to help other deserving artists…