In this first week of 2016 we received another stunning batch of tracks in our inbox, from which our moderators had the difficult job of picking just 25 tracks for our Listening Post last Friday. Our readers have had the even harder job of picking just five each from that shortlist over the weekend.
You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
BATTERY OPERATED ORCHESTRA – The Sea
Husband and wife team Battery Operated Orchestra make pumping 8–bit electronica — sounds like a salacious headline in a crap newspaper, but is in fact awesome.
The Sea has the urgency and the Chiptune timbre of an 8-bit computer game and was exactly what I needed with my coffee this morning as I sat down to begin these reviews. Loads of energy and a classic female lead and male backing for the vocal sound.
I love the boingboing springy sample that features throughout though i can’t place exactly where i know it from. Is it the springs in Sonic The Hedgehog….? Answers on a postcard.
BENJI TRANTER – The Launderette Song
Benji Tranter & The Well Adjusted Individuals (awesome name) hail from London and recently released The Launderette Song in aid of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).
The Wurlitzery/Rhodesy intro to the song sets the tone perfectly. The whole piece is like that misty-eyed, smiling sigh when things are a bit crap, with the warm embrace of an electric piano to comfort you. Benji Tranter’s vocal delivery is great. Sad, wistful but ultimately hopeful with Country Blues styled patter mixed in to great effect. The climax of the song is powerful through means other than volume and this only adds to the charming mix of melancholy, positivity and humour that runs throughout. I also love the cheeky wink of a major 7th as the final chord of the song.
FROG – Catchyalater
Frog are a two piece form New York and with Catchyalater have provided me with my first turn-the-lights off and listen in the dark moment of 2016.
The tape wobble effect on the piano provides momentary fluttering between hope and despair, which is also achieved at a slower pace by tenderly weaving, fragile vocals. Several of this week’s tracks either address or create this juxtaposition of emotions, yet all in very different ways. Frog have achieved that with a yearning delivery and an arrangement that is marked with clashing moments and pulsing rhythms. There’s a lovely, spooky incremental build in tension towards the end that really takes you by surprise, especially in the dark.
HELLO BEAR – Spenser Avenue
Norwich-based powerpop rockers Hello Bear consist of Luke Fox (Vox, Guitar, Keyboards), Mary Podd (Guitar), Tom Harvey (Bass) and Daryl Blyth (Drums).
Spenser Avenue is a well crafted Pop Rock, teen-friendly anthem reminiscent of the Busted/McFLy school of…erm… Pop Rock with enough suggestion in the lyrics to make well mannered parents everywhere raise an eyebrow.
The production is just right for the genre with tight and punchy drums and big guitars. Appropriately placed gang vocals and a well constructed build up to the final chorus provide intriguing touches to this well baked recipe.
NIAMH CROWTHER – Little By Little
Niamh Crowther is based in Dublin and at only 18 years old already sounds like she’s been making this sort of music longer than that. There’s an assured songwriting talent here backed up with a great arrangement in the case of Little By Little.
Some lovely production moments and an intriguing instrumental section help to make this more than just a sweet folky number from Niamh Crowther. The interplay between the drums and the bass/guitar during the choruses is great and really helps to keep the rhythm and drive of the song fresh and engaging.
RUTH OWENS – Tonight
Ruth Owens is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter from Birmingham who has been playing music since the age of four! In her song Tonight the drums leave a lovely amount of space whilst being really upfront in the mix. There’s a constant rhythm on cymbals but the real drive of the song comes from the mandolin and occasionally the bass. It’s a clever use of instrumentation that allows the slow swung song to lilt along without losing energy.
Ruth Owen’s voice has an effortless quality that is well complimented by the alt-country backing. It’s a voice that seems to have a confidence well beyond her years. There’s a really great guitar sound during the bridge that brings to mind a melancholic steel band in a stone chamber trying to communicate with a whale…or something.
SAM HOCKADAY – An End
A Singer-Songwriter and Producer hailing from Lincolnshire, Sam Hockaday has a strong and controlled vocal delivery. Particularly when that vocal is placed atop an arrangement such as this it’s reminiscent of Chris Isaak or Lindsey Buckingham.
There’s a healthy dollop of long, dreamy reverb on the vocals that adds a beautifully dischordant and eerie layer to the arrangement, the slow pulse of which is subdivided and given movement by the guitar, percussion parts and occasional vocal flourishes. Lovely Stuff.
SOME VELVET MORNING – Damocles
Some Velvet Morning hail from North London and have in the past raised a heady £100,000 in a crowdfunding campaign to record their second album. They’re now trying out an interesting new release strategy, putting out a single every month in 2016 of which Damocles is the first.
It’s a proper stomping kind of song, the one you want when you’re in a rush for the bus or as the band have proved, in a film soundtrack during a suitably high energy moment – Some Velvet Morning have had tracks featured in a trailer for Kick-Ass and in Irvine Welch’s Filth.
The arrangement and synth work is interesting and provides another aspect to focus on if the anthem stomp vibe isn’t for you. Love the arpeggiated synth in the build up to the final chorus. Squelchingly pleasing and suitably euphoric in its effect.
TAFFY TROUBLE – Backseat Driver
If there was a semi-autobiographical film about the life of Taffy Trouble’s vocalist, Ella, Lady Sovereign might be her hard-as-nails arch enemy in an epic rap battle. Or at least their latest single Backseat Driver just made me think that.
There’s a heartfelt sass to Taffy Trouble in both the production and lyrics but with a firmly tongue in cheek delivery. There’s something oddly hypnotic about this track and I find myself transported to a sweaty nightclub where everybody stands in rows with eyes closed, nodding their heads from side to side listening to this track very loudly.
WEIRD RIBS – A Remote Place
Weird Ribs is the production work of Joseph Cox, a Hull based Musician and Graphic Designer and A Remote Place is his latest offering.
Somehow the track is both unsettling and relaxing at the same time. Or maybe that’s the Camomile Tea. In any case the description fits the gentle digital pulsing of the track. The sampled glockenspiel or marimba-like instrument occasionally retriggers and stutters, jarring the senses but it’s soft attack always serves to soothe from that momentary glitch. A lovingly crafted, meditative trip.
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.