Artists at a glance
GHOSTS OF SOCIAL NETWORKS
These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and are reviewed this week by Fresh On The Net’s latest recruit. Please welcome Angry Baby‘s Flo Bannigan! You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
THE BOOKSHOP BAND – The Other Side
Any band that is inspired by books has got to be worth a listen. The Bookshop Band‘s The Other Side provides a tinklingly fantastical soundtrack as the perfect backdrop to crystal clear vocals. Beth Porter and Ben Please, the creative force behind The Bookshop Band, are no shirkers – they have written and recorded 120 tunes, all inspired by books, to be released on ten albums at a rate of one a month during 2016.
As true literary aficionados, I doubt it’s a coincidence that The Bookshop Band’s first album, Curious and Curiouser, is being trailed around the time of World Book Night on 23 April. And if you know whose birthday falls on that day (clue – they’ve got a 400th anniversary this year) you’d maybe enjoy spending more time in the bookshop, or the theatre, or both. If you want any more inspiration to do so, The Other Side might just be all you need.
BROOKE BENTHAM – Oliver
It’s always a pleasure to find a young singer who is reassuringly original. Brooke Bentham fits the bill. No soundalikes here, with Oliver London-based Bentham provides unique vocal style against stripped-back guitar and strings, providing an offering with maturity well beyond her years.
It’s a melancholy sound, appropriate to a story of love less than fulfilled, and providing relatable emotion by the bucketload, both in the lyrics ‘Oliver, you cannot see the vulnerable hold you have on me’ and in the heart-wrenching delivery ‘I’m too tired of playing these games’.
Oliver marks a re-entry into the music world for Bentham, who – overwhelmed by critical acclaim for her debut song We’ll be Ghosts – took time out to hone her craft before offering her music to us again. I’ll certainly be keeping my ears open for more from her.
GHOSTS OF SOCIAL NETWORKS – Love Potion
Mixed-up relationships are the stuff of many great tunes, but here’s the thing. Love Potion tells the story of a woman who ‘only wants me when she’s had a drink, when she’s too messed up to think’. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t constitute consent, guys!? I’ll admit to a wry smile when I saw that this track is ‘one half of the debut AA single’. Maybe this is a hint to take her to a meeting, instead of fixing another Love Potion?
With this track, Ghosts of Social Networks offer a retro-sound, reminiscent of early Britpop, which is no surprise since they hail from Manchester, home of so many brilliant ’90s songsmiths. Love Potion opens with a cheeky guitar solo intro, then builds, steadily and consistently, to almost anthemic proportions, all of which clearly caught the attention of the appreciative ears of visitors to The Listening Post this weekend.
HALF TERM – Amber
When is a band a band, and when is a solo artist a solo artist? Half Term is the band name adopted by singer/songwriter Adam Ewels and, if the happy-go-lucky sound of Amber is anything to go by, he is friendly enough for me to want to call him by his first name – by which I mean ‘Adam’, rather than ‘Half’.
Listen to Amber once and you’ll want to put it on repeat, whether for the rhythm that defies you to sway along, or the lyrics ‘dreaming of teenage love’ that promise to take anyone back to the heady days of schoolyard romance.
Adam’s experience as a musician in many previous bands shines through in the multi-instrumental arrangements he lays out here. Come to think of it, maybe he doesn’t need to be defined as a band or a solo artist. Perhaps what we have here is a one-man-band for the 21st Century. I’d love to be able to say ‘catch him live at….’ but information about forthcoming gigs is a bit thin on the ground at the moment.
MYNAMEISIAN – The 1st Bomb Dropped On Berlin During WW2…
Blimey – that’s a title that demands attention! The question is, is it true? Well, it certainly appears on a website titled Little Known Facts of World War 2, so that’s good enough for me. Historians reading this, feel free to comment below with further and better particulars, plus inevitable criticism of my research techniques.
MyNameIsIan is a band and, yes, there is more than one person in it and no, none of them is called Ian. They are James Buzzanca, Joe Coleby and Reginald Foxwell. Describing themselves as a ‘heartbreaking, bipolar anti-folk, anti-garage rock band’ and titling their first album In The Best Case Scenario We’d Die at the Same Time (shades of Bonnie and Clyde there – see, I’ll always get an obscure musical theatre reference in somewhere if I can…) I can’t help but think that these fellas are having a huge laugh. Especially with the line ‘Bigfoot is the only mythical creature that I think could possibly exist’.
With occasional sounds of Fun Boy Three coming through in the vocals, this is a dance-inspired track that you can’t help but enjoy, even if – if truth be told – I haven’t a clue what it’s really all about.
PLAYING HOUSE – New Haircut
There is an energy to New Haircut that screams out for live performance. Those vocals are powerful! When so many bands rely on studio technology and production, it’s refreshing to hear raw musicianship. Playing House matches unashamed pop with the confidence of early punk.
‘Write about what you know’ is perennial advice, so Playing House draw on the inevitable pain of growing up ‘birth, death, anxiety, growth and isolation’. But they package it in angry, assertive loudness; ‘I’m a beautiful creature…So I got a new haircut to make you feel worse’. They may have drawn their name from learning to be grown up, but this is no bedsit-land-ballad – it’s much more of an off-the-grid squat for people carving out life on their own terms.
If you’re quick, you can catch their EP release show at Birthdays, Dalston on 13 April. If you miss that, they’re taking to the road – Manchester, Edinburgh, London, Liverpool and Cardiff – between 17-23 April. Well worth the ticket price.
TOURISTS – Cut and Run
Tourists is a Torquay-based band, which makes me wonder whether they are, in fact, tourists or if they are named after the influx of people that arrive in their town each summer.
Describing themselves as encapsulating ‘modern post-punk revivalism with a melodic, psychedelic spin’, Tourists know how to put a pop song together. Cut and Run is a chirpy-sounding little number. Jamie Giles’ vocals aren’t overly-reliant on diction, but I gather from the title and the scraps of lyrics that I picked up over several listens – ‘I went over to tell her a lie, but I was still dignified’ – that this is a messy break-up song.
If you like your pop with a heavy helping of guitar, this one is for you. Especially the extended outro, which is every front-man or woman’s gift – the chance to grab a bottle of water and a minute or two’s vocal rest while the remaining, talented band members (Lloyd Bastow – Guitar, Matthew White – Bass, Tom Wilkinson – Synths) impress the audience with their musicianship. There is an energetic back-beat from Scott Morton too, that reminds us (in case we ever needed it) why drumming is best done live rather than by machine.
Catch Tourists at a secret, South Devon meadow for the Love Summer Festival on 13 August.
WASI – Mama’s Gonna Get You
This is definitely a week for pop, in this case Wasi‘s brand of riot-pop, all the way from LA, coming to a festival near you this summer. At least that’s where Mama’s Gonna Get You deserves to be played. With its brain-commandeering hook ‘Better watch your back/’cause mama’s gonna get you’, this is a song that needs a crowd hollering it out.
WASI are Merilou Salazar and Jessie Meehan, with Garrett Harney on drums and Dylan Robin on lead guitar. They describe themselves as having a ‘fierce do-it-yourself mentality’ but there is nothing homespun about their music. Influenced by many bands, there is definitely a touch of The Ting Tings about this track. Enjoy it with tacos and friends for an authentically Californian, full-on WASI experience.
XOCKHA – Losing Sight
Yet more pop, this time of the dream variety, combined with lo-fi indie rock, drifting melodies and ambient vibes. Or so says XOCKHA‘s Facebook page which also, very helpfully, tells us to pronounce the band’s name EX-OC-KA. It doesn’t tell us why.
Losing Sight is follow-up single to their 2015 EP, Sleeper which found favour with BBC Introducing and Tom Robinson’s BBC 6 Music programme, so it’s good to see XOCKHA repeating their success through this week’s Listening Post. Definitely towards the ‘rock’ end of their spectrum, Losing Sight combines complex arrangements with a surprisingly controlled vocal.
XOCKHA are booked to play Bestival this summer, which must count as a home game since they are based on the Isle of Wight.
YLLWSHRK – Northern Soul
Yllwshrk, or Yellow Shark, in homage to Frank Zappa, has its origins in the London Contemporary Orchestra, where the five musicians who form this collaboration were playing when they were persuaded to bring their talents together.
They describe their sound as alt-rock, but I hear jazz, don’t you? Either way, this is a class act, especially remarkable as they only came together in Yllwshrk format earlier this year. Their debut gig at The Islington in January was advertised for ‘£3 entry, but with that you get a free drink’. At London prices, that must have been the bargain of the year…
Since then they have been busy – Northern Soul was recorded and released along with two other tracks in the intervening months. Theirs is not a commercial sound, but it deserves to be heard and it makes a change from pop, doesn’t it?
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.