Artists at a glance
THE WITCH AND THE ROBOT
Our reviewer for this week’s Fresh Faves – chosen by our readers – comes from journalist, compiler, DJ, producer and all round Good Egg, Phil Meadley – who last reviewed our Fresh Faves in April. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
ALDER – Stockholm
The words “ambient electronic”, “dark pop”, and “gretsch pop” (the former is a type of guitar manufactured in the Far East) are bandied around on this Scottish act’s bandcamp site. And those descriptions are probably apt. Stockholm has got a very shoegazey feel to it, and the singer’s heavily reverbed vocals sit nicely on top of the intentionally soporific guitar and synth melodies. I can’t tell you why Alder’s track is called the latter, but that’s not really the point, I think. This track is all about texture.
ANDREW BUTLER – Mainour
I really like this indie-folk track by London-based Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley sound-alike Andrew Butler. It’s well written, recorded, and sung, and as such I predict a promising future for Mr. Butler. I’d agree with the soundcloud description of his style as “timeless” and with a brooding, late-60s melancholia that I find rather appealing. Good work and I look forward to hearing more.
BLACKFINCH – Scoundrel Run
Experimental electronic act Blackfinch describe themselves on their Facebook page as “guess you know why you are here”… well certainly I do because I’m reviewing your track for Fresh On The Net, but that may not be enough for the general public. Anyway the vibe is repetitive piano chords and drums with heavy glitching throughout. I’m sure I use some of the same plugins, so can see where they’re coming from (i.e. it’s great fun to play with them… a lot), but there isn’t really enough structure or variety (outside of the numerous glitch effects) to grab me fully. However it is radically different from anything else being reviewed in this batch, and Red Snapper also spring to mind, which is no bad association.
EMMA MCGRATH – Sit With Me
Emma McGrath is a 15-year old musician from Harpenden in Hertfordshire, with a voice far older than her age implies. Sit With Me is classic singer-songwriting fare beloved by so many A&R types, and is touchingly melancholic in feel. It’s nothing radically different, but I suspect that’s not really the plan here. She should appeal to a wide section of the public and could well be a name to watch out for in future months and years.
JAY WOODWARD – The Joker Or The Fool
My personal favourite of this week’s choices, The Joker Or The Fool seems to use quite a lot of late 60s psychedelic recording techniques, but in an appealingly unique way, which is no easy task considering how many acts are influenced by this era. Again it falls into the indie folk genre (such a popular direction to go at the moment), but Californian Jay Woodward seems to do it better than most, and, yes, I can hear the influences of Neil Young, Fleet Foxes, Beck, and Nick Drake. Luckily he switches things up a fair bit sonically, and adds enough of his own identity to keep the interest up. One to keep going back to.
LEESUN – We’re All Made Of Stars
Isn’t this title also the same as a rather well known track by Moby? If so then that’s a brave decision, but in fairness this track by Leeds-based artist LeeSun is nothing like the latter’s rousing anthem, and owes far more to iconic Icelandic pixie Bjork and the vulnerable vocal style of Cerys Matthews. Lyrically it’s a bit too fey for my tastes, but there’s some lovely orchestration accompanying the main melody, and the backstory of LeeSun being born Seoul, growing up in Canada, and eventually settling in Leeds is fascinating too.
MACKSKAK ESERNYOVEL – Lenin
I was quite excited to discover that a Hungarian group was selected for the FOTN top ten this week, but, although this is perfectly nice indie folk (yet again), there’s really no other indication that Mackskak Esernyovel band are from Hungary. They could just as easily be from London. Sounding slightly akin to Of Monsters and Men, it will be an attractive whimsy to some, and a bit nondescript to others. Some nice violin playing throughout, mind.
MATT STOCKL – Waves
I had a rather pleasing vision of singer/songwriter Matt Stockl wandering through the bleak winter Scottish highlands, musing on life and music, until I found out that he’d moved to Windsor. Nothing against the latter town, but it did destroy the romanticised storyline that I’d dreamt up. That said it really doesn’t detract from the fascinatingly dark soundscape that he conjures up here. The line “I love to hang around the forest at night and watch you down in the waves” is particularly intriguing (albeit in a slightly predatory way), and says to me that this guy has a bit more about him than most. I also like his use of glitch electronica and found sounds, so look forward to checking out more of his music in future.
PEUR – Hollow Skies
To break the overtly whimsical nature of this week’s FOTN choices, we have a Mancunian three-piece band that owes more to the sonic excesses of Muse and Biffy Clyro. It’s all about chunky riffs and epic chorused vocals here, and it does the job rather well, albeit whilst treading a well-trodden path. The fact that Peur have described their genre on Facebook as “loud” says it all really (but it’s very tuneful so don’t think Motörhead). So file in the same category as the aforementioned and add Royal Blood for good measure.
THE WITCH AND THE ROBOT – Oh! Glass Reality
I like the trippy title and accompanying lyrics by this Lake District-based band. I also appreciate the silly stage names that The Witch And The Robot have devised, and also that they describe their genre as “sex music”. They’re obviously very silly chaps and I applaud them for it. Musically speaking they’re heavily influenced by sixties psychedelic folk rock and have been described by someone at Drowned in Sound as “some sort of freak-folk, pastoral, krautrock mindblow”. That about sums it up really. There’s even a hint of Marc Bolan’s famous vibrato style from their vocalist. As such it’s a retro hotchpotch and none-the-worse for it.
During his journalistic career writing for the likes of The Independent, Observer Music Monthly, and The New Statesman, Phil wrote features on Massive Attack, Moby, Gogol Bordello, Steve Reich, Herbie Hancock, David Byrne, Damon Albarn, Richard Thompson, Gang Of Four, Placebo, Air, Rufus Wainwright, TV On The Radio, and many more. He covered rock, pop, electronic, folk, world and classical, which was sometimes challenging but always fun.
He’s also compiled over sixty compilations including ‘Miriam Makeba: South African Skylark’, ‘Kelly Joe Phelps: Roll Away The Blues’, and the Huey Morgan and DJ Format favourite ‘Eastern Bloc Funk Experience’. As a DJ he’s played numerous festivals and support slots for the likes of The Gotan Project and Misty In Roots, but these days is mostly immersed in music production under various monikers. He also claims to have a connection to mysterious collective The Gaslight Troubadours, who are currently working with Marc Almond and Professor Elemental.
PS from TR: If you’ve submitted a track that hasn’t been picked for the Listening Post, our team has definitely listened to it and there’s no need to send it again: feel free to send us an even stronger track another week. The same goes if you were picked for the Listening Post but didn’t feature in our Fresh Faves.
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… For more info see Robinson Has A Good Old Moan.