Following a week that exposed the sad reality of [FILL IN THE BLANKS] music journalism, we promise our reviews are written from scratch every Monday by someone in tears and on a deadline.
This week is no exception, so here we present ten tracks chosen by you, and reviewed by
[BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF AUTHOR] an idiot.
ACTOR – Uppercut
Kicking our Faves off in style is this track from Actor who, if you’ll pardon a terrible pun on the track title, seem a cut above the rest. We get all sorts of music sent to us at Fresh On The Net, and obviously energetic, vocal-led pop is hardly unusual, but this pitches it just right: a bass line that gets you moving, sweeping synths, crisp beats, and a strong but sweet voice that doesn’t overwhelm. I suspect it’s very easy to overcook this kind of music, and I’ve heard plenty of examples that have attempted restraint only to emerge a little too thin; this avoids both those traps and throws in some interesting lyrical ideas too.
Actor is Louisa Osborn, who’s collaborating here with producer Chris Mulligan and drummer Ste Anderson, apparently writing this music in “a murky art space once home to a bomb factory in Leeds.” Well, hopefully the only thing that will blow up is Actor’s career — in a good way. Actor will be appearing at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on December 8, and at Scotch of St James in London the day after.
BETH PORTER/AVAILABLES – These Days
Some people have talent in spades. Bristol’s Beth Porter is a fine example: she plays the cello, has a delicate, heartfelt singing voice, and the songwriting chops to create something like this, backed by The Availables, who somehow manage to sound like an organic extension of Beth herself.
Together, Beth Porter & The Availables supply our most popular track this week, and you would expect no less from an artist who’s worked with folk acts such as Eliza Carthy, Jim Moray, Jackie Oats and Bellowhead, along with more mainstream names, such as Newton Faulkner, The Proclaimers, Petula Clark and, it says here, Kula Shaker!
As for The Availables, when Beth was asked to perform her own songs in Germany at short notice, she hurriedly rang friends and musicians to see who could play with her, hence the name. This track is part of their debut album, Open Doors, out now on King Bill records.
CROOK – Immaculate (I Can’t Remember)
Taking the vibe right down is Crook. Some people don’t pay much attention to lyrics, which isn’t a bad idea with some genres, but I am a sucker for a few words that, once heard, open up a whole world in your mind or take you deep into an artist’s soul. This is a mournful song about a love perhaps lost or unrequited, visuals provided by lines such as “Somebody’s coming, hide under the sheets, the light of my phone, the light from the street,” atmosphere by a piano, disembodied strings, a variety of creepy noises and those haunted, murmured vocals, barely audible at times.
Hailing from “somewhere in Ireland”, now possibly living in Berlin, there is very little information to be found about Crook. The three track EP from which this is taken, Calando, is Crook’s second. It was recorded at Attica Studios in Co. Donegal and is available on Bandcamp. You can also find lots of arty photos on Instagram that will apparently be included as postcard-sized prints with CDs of the EP.
GLASSPARC – Doubts
Keeping it quiet and somewhat understated, while coming from a completely different angle, is Glassparc, the alias of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Pete Wilson-Lambert, accompanied by Alvaro Lopez on drums and Richard Mainwairing on strings.
According to his bio, Pete, who’s from Bath, began as a classical clarinettist, pianist and teacher, and still is. This explains a lot when you hear Doubts, a song that challenges the insecurities of a loved one with encouraging words over soft guitar and wistful strings. “It’s luck of the draw,” he sings, “would you open your eyes and see what you’re made of.” It’s like a reassuring arm around your shoulder. Great voice too, I must say, demonstrating both power and range.
Doubts is part of Glassparc’s 5 track debut EP, available on Bandcamp now.
MATTIE GINSBERG – Black Friday Cyber Monday Bullshit Blues
Shattering any sense of peace and tranquility like an angry flashmob at a supermarket is Fresh On The Net favourite, Mattie Ginsberg, complaining about one of the more recent commercial crazes to hit a drab retail park near you. What begins as a rant quickly escalates into an expletive-filled tirade until it all boils over like a cauldron of rage. “Fuck!” Spent, he then unleashes a penny whistle solo.
I am so happy this made our Faves, and on “Cyber Monday” too, because there’s no possible way Tom or anyone else can broadcast this without some serious editing that would ruin the track.
Mattie Ginsberg hails from Bethal in Snowdonia and his Soundcloud page is a feast of musical treats, some in Welsh, some in English, all worth a listen.
SWEET DEALS ON SURGERY – 100% Hitler Free
Running at a little over two minutes, here is an infectious punk song that gets in, gets out, and the only fucking about you’ll hear is in the lyrical content, where some relationships have clearly gone awry. I think it’s a triumph to keep a song short enough that it does everything it needs to, but still leaves you wanting more.
Sweet Deals On Surgery’s Speed Date Yr Way To Fame appeared on Tom’s BBC Introducing Mixtape back in September 2014. The Manchester-based trio is Robot Alien (who also appeared in Fresh Faves 137), Alec Splatt (who drummed for Robot Alien) and, er, Timble Drumcakes, who may also go by the name of Tim Davies.
Their debut LP, The Snake And The Snoozer, is due for release next year. And if you think the band and that album have unusual names, they already have an EP on Bandcamp with the cunning title of Total Reek Hole (say it out loud), which includes tracks such as Elvis Costello Is A Wanker and Rohypnol’d At A Family Do. OK!
THE WHOLLS – X21
Speaking of prohibited substances, it sounds like the government may soon ban this X21 The Wholls are offering as part of their crackdown on legal highs. Hailing from Bedford and garnering radio play from BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens, it seems there is both money and rock’n’roll antics going on with The Wholls who, according to a press cutting from the Daily Mirror posted on their Facebook page, “blew their £40K advance in one week at Las Vegas”, while their producer drinks his own urine to boost his immune system. Which is nice.
So, given write-ups in the national press, airplay on national radio, spiffy video, artwork and logo, opening for Miss World in China (!), sold out shows in Canterbury, Guildford, plus The Monarch and Barfly in London, it’s probably fair to say this is a band in the ascendancy and with some strong backing.
TOKYO TEA ROOM – Sleep
As something of an antidote to all the anger and “explosive energy” of the last few tracks, Sleep by Tokyo Tea Room is just the ticket, with hazy guitars and airy boy/girl vocals set to a very agreeable, head-nodding tempo. Although it sounds like nobody’s going to break a sweat, the playing on this is tight, with everyone moving as one.
From Caterbury, Tokyo Tea Room are Beth Plumb, Daniel Elliott, Ben Marshall, Sam Teather and Graham Nunn. The band have been playing a few gigs, doing a few support slots and recording their debut EP, presumably from which this single is taken. It’s great to see a group building themselves up in this way, and I expect we’ll be hearing more from them in the future.
VINCENT BURKE – Here She Comes
Vincent Burke has got it bad. You know when you’re so besotted, almost stupidly in love, you’re no longer functioning as a human being and nothing can break the spell? Maybe, like me, it rings a more distant bell. I had a feeling the lyrics in this song came from a young man even before I clicked through to the Soundcloud page to find my suspicions confirmed: “This is me at 19, waiting endlessly on the university steps for her to walk by, and then not talking to her…” Yeah, thought so.
From Plymouth and now married with kids, Vincent Burke effortlessly recalls his experience in this beautiful, soppy love song. If this song was a dog, we’d probably all be covered in drool by now, but at least the pup is cute. Vincent has appeared on Fresh On The Net and Tom’s BBC Introducing Mixtape quite a few times already, so if you like this, then it would be well worth checking out more of his work.
WYLDEST – Dark Matter
Wrapping up our Faves this week is Wyldest (spelling that deliberately sets them apart from both Oscar and Kim, I feel). There’s a lot going on in Dark Matter, and it’s really a track of two parts. The first sets the scene and tells the story, then after a brief lull the speed and intensity builds, guitars and bass become more urgent and things get a little heated. I can’t even begin to imagine what’s going on. The production is excellent: sparkling keys, chiming guitars, layered vocals, bass and drums all crystal clear. It’s impressive, suits the song, and must’ve taken ages.
Surprisingly, given the big sound, Wyldest are a trio: Zoe, Holly and Jack from North London. They’ve been gigging around London and have a few tracks on iTunes, including this one, ahead of their debut EP, but no word on when that’s coming out just yet.
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.