Artists at a glance
THE BIG SUN
These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed this week by blogger and resident Nordic-ness enthusiast, Fresh On The Net’s Derval McCloat. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
BALCONY – Satisfied
Balcony are a London based four-piece. Their lead singer, however, has a hint of Scottish about his super smooth, melodic charmer of a voice! [Is Derv right boys? Ed.] Satisfied is their current single, the abstract visual for which was recently premiered by Noisey, and, given the surreal sensuality of its content, it’s no wonder that it has already notched up a respectable 3k views.
Where the sexed up video is a bit ‘David Lynch brings Tipping the Velvet into the 21st century’, the track itself, with its warm electronica, subtle temperate guitar playing and inviting vocal is sonic pleasure personified. Rhythmic to the core, it’s a track driven by hand-clap beats and a slick blend of riveting percussion techniques. Balcony’s sound is a few steps up from day-to-day pop and a few wide of indie. It’s mellow, well rounded and gives a warm glow. Bit like a good single malt.
Satisfied is masterfully executed, with the kind of clean finish only artful production can give. It’s polished, but not overly so. Balcony have a vibe that will resonate across the usual mainstream suspects – it’s youthful, uplifting, melodic, catchy and most importantly, radio friendly. In fact, it has all the formulaic bits ‘n’ bobs that go to make up a hit single. I can see no reason why this can’t do well … can you?
Balcony play Servant Jazz Quarters on the 12th, Farr Fest 15th, Sofar Sounds 19th, The Finsbury 30th July (I used to walk past there in my ‘youf’ – usually when I didn’t have the bus fare) and after that you’re on your own #FBit.
EKKO – Paradise
Right at home here! Those of you in the know will be aware that I run a blog, the spotlight of which is cast very firmly in the direction of the Nordics. Norway is in the Nordics, and Ekko is Norwegian. She is in fact, from a place I have yet to visit – Stavanger; a region which looks pretty much how this song sounds – mesmerising.
Fresh, pristine, yet enticing vocals bob and billow over sparkling Norwegian electronic prisms that alternate between ice white and black granite. All of this delightful crystalline loveliness is given an earthiness by the pumping bassy heartbeat, the centripetal force around which everything else flows.
Ekko is only on social media a few months … there’s no history, no detail. It’s all very cloak and dagger. Needless to say, Ekko is a singer I shall be pursuing (in the blogosphere, not physically up and down the streets of Stavanger, map flapping in hand). [That’s a relief! Ed.] Paradise is her first single, but alas, other than that, there’s not much else to tell you. To keep an eye on where Lady Luck takes this young Norwegian electro-popper you’ll have to get liking and following. For now, here’s her debut single, which true to its title, is a little slice of Paradise.
MOUSES – Hollywood
Next up cometh Billingham duo Ste and Nath aka Mouses with a 1m30s cut-and-run of momentary musical madness. They say they play lo-fi punk rock… I agree with the latter but not the former.
This is a fleeting dash sans earplugs through a behind-schedule building site, or quite possibly, what the Strokes might sound like if Julian Casablancas had taken singing tuition from Johnny Rotten and Nick Valensi played a Black & Decker instead of an Epiphone Rivera.
There is huge love in the world for this kind of melodic rawk – this Mouses’ track was in the top 3 of the LP tracks. I’ll be frank with you though – not one female voter gave this track the nod.* Definitely one for the ‘boyz’ and wow did they love it. Hollywood to the FOTN boyz is like a big sirloin steak to the hungry carnivore – something meaty and firm, a challenge with plenty of bite (we’re going medium-to-well-done here), a champion of the a la carte that they can really get their teeth into, the bloody taste of which they will relish. Personally, I’m more of a Hake kind of gal. However, I can see the need for a menu to have variety, and that dear friends is what Fresh on the Net aims to bring you each and every week.
Hollywood got rave reviews from Clash and DIY, and Mouses themselves have been busy love-bombing UK festivals. More recently they dropped in for a cosy one with BBC Intro up in Newcastle. The pair have a series of events lined up over the coming months, including this track’s official single launch. You’ll find all you need to know here.
(*Other little known fact, less than 1/5 of this week’s voters were female. Come on girls, get the finger out! [Ew! Ed.] No point in shouting for equal rights if you’re not going to exercise them!).
MY PLEASURE – Hello
“You say Hello I say Goodbye”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a certain handsome devil of a Mod declares a penchant for certain songs, you can be guaranteed that only on a Blue Mooned Tuesday in the Year of the Flying Pig of the Pink Tutu variety will I ever concur. Alas, this is an overcast grey-skied manic Monday and unless you can count a sulking cat of the schizoid variety then today is not that day.
HOWEVER, let’s work with what God gave us. So, My Pleasure (sounds like the title of self-help sex book don’t it) is an ‘Hull born weird pop musician’ and he’s just released his new EP, Party Popper.
(N.B. You wouldn’t believe what searching for ‘My Pleasure’ pulls up on FB – the word ‘promise’ was involved…)
However, I found our man and wow, hark at this: ‘A terrific piece of observational pop music with a wry sense of humour’ – Steve Lamacq AND ‘A work of genius’ – Alan Raw, BBC Intro. Good on them and good for MP aka Lewis Young.
Hello is like an updated cover of Jilted John’s Gordon Is a Moron with the lyrics rewritten by John Cooper Clarke. It’s all very late ’70s with its disdainful less is more guitar playing, barely bothering percussion and half spoken vocal.
If you like your music with simple chord arrangements and a bit less singing more spoken word, then this will be right up your street. As for the ‘genius’ element, well, I’ll let you make up your own minds. EP Party Popper is out now and can be ordered here.
NST – HVN
Next up we have NST with HVN (huh?) and I feel like Lady Luck is really spitting on me this week. NST is I know not who from somewhere unknown in the UK. Do everyone a favour and do the bio thing man – mystery is one thing but an unknown entity is totes uncool.
NST ‘does’ psychedelic fuzzed up hip-hop/funk. His/their track HVN (no idea) could be the 2016 theme tune to Starsky and Hutch (think Huggy Bear) should they decide to get back together, crank up that old orange and white Mustang and do the do once again on them there US mean streets.
I must admit to being slightly perplexed (or maybe too sober) to be able to aptly describe this one. A bit electronic here, a bit disco there and a lot pump up the jam everywhere else, this is one for alternative club luvvers (not the hands in the air, circle the handbags types!). It’s pretty hard on jammin’ hip-hop house lite with plenty of squelchy noises and synth on acid. And as much as it pains me to admit it, it’s a bit of a grower. Other than that… #noidea
PALE FIRE – Paradise
Back to more familiar territory with this one.
First impressions – it’s a bit Big Country with all those blurry, noisy interwoven guitar chords. Cue flicking over to investigative mode and discovering, ‘quelle surprise’ that Pale Fire hail from Glasgow. Not tarring all Scots with the same BC brush but surely there’s a modicum of influence has seeped through into the strings there boys – yes? YES?
If indie-cum-rock is your thing, then Pale Fire’s Paradise (as opposed to the more billowy electronic version offered up by Ekko) will ring your bell and tickle your pickle.
This is my kinda music with its strong armed guitar and defiant vocals. The guitar rush is so strong on this track one almost imagines an horde of guitar players dominating one corner of the recording studio; a kind of tartan-army-blistering-electro-string section. Thumping percussion fit for a marching band and a call to action vocal round off this searing sonic tour de force. At 5m49s it’s a tad indulgent but if you like your amps, you’ll have this on full blast to the end.
Pale Fire say on their Twitter page that their eponymous debut album ‘flies the flag for the next generation of Scottish indie rock’. It must be a source of great comfort to Stuart Adamson et al to know that they have worthy successors to the indie-rock throne to which to pass on the golden plectrum.
Pale Fire – the eponymous album – is available now on Bandcamp and I’d wager that it’s worth an invest! Details here.
ROBOT//ALIEN – The Tiring Days of Mr Sunshine
We’re back in the retro-land of late ’70s working class England with RoBoT//aLiEn, who didn’t give a passing thought to any future music reviewers when deciding on a name! Seems to be a he (singular), sounds like a them (plural). Who am I to know?
This track is called, cough, The Tiring Days of Mr Sunshine and there, under the track on the SoundCloud page are the words – ‘I don’t love you anymore’. I could say the same lad(s), ‘cept the ‘I never loved you anyway’ words of Andrea Corr would probably be more appropriate. I jest.
Anyway, the line IDLYA is repeated ad infinitum throughout the track so much so that I’m convinced that it actually IS the title of the song. As for the track itself, it’s a bit in the mode of Squeeze when they were having their ‘Up the Junction’ moment. It has that same in yer face, life’s a b**ch vibe. Yet the real key to RoBoT//aLiEn is the lead vocal/lyrics combo – Jarvis Cocker eat your heart out.
I’ll be honest and admit here and now that I didn’t give this track a passing thought when I was moderating the Dropbox. But now that I’m actually energetic enough to pay attention to the sarkily crafted lyrics, I am lovin’ this piece of northern scorn. Musically intense, percussively insistent and vocally derisive, this arse-kicker is a stripped back take on Pulp with rockier edges. It’ll be interesting to see where life takes RoBoT//aLiEn… (who needs to update his/their FB page).
THE ACADEMIC – Mixtape 2003
Having already namechecked The Strokes up above (points cursor at Mouses), I now find myself back in NYC guitar fuelled American rock-popper territory with this sonic blitz from The Academic. Except, and here’s the really cool thing, The Academic are not American. They are in fact, Irish. From Mullingar no less (gawd, I can hear the screams already …. NI-ALLLLLLLLLLLL).
Mixtape 2003 is a frenergetic jangle with a thunderous chorus, brimful of energy, dynamic positivity and the buoyant, boisterous verve of youth. I can just picture this lot on stage – bouncing around like energiser bunnies, giving it plenty of welly and generally having the time of their lives. Plenty of darned good guitar playing going on here, the drummer is full of beans and the singer can hold a note, knows his breath control and where to pack his punches. Pretty good combo I’d say.
I didn’t vote for this song, never mind cop that the lads were Irish, which only goes to prove that there is no territorial bias on FOTN (I didn’t even know Ekko was Norwegian until tonight – you don’t tend to notice these things when you have nearly 200 songs to work through).
However, my interest has been piqued and I’ll be curious to see how these dudes, who have already amassed an impressive 13k following incl. Dan the Man Hegarty on Twitter, will take their music to the next level. ‘Mixtape 2003’ is out now and the band have a plethora of live dates lined up through to October (sadly I’ve missed all their Dublin dates and will be out of the country when they play Timoleague – what was that I said again about Lady Luck?)
THE BIG SUN – Barbarossa
Cute, kitsch, quaint, kooky, angelic, delightful, fun, young. These are my thoughts as I listen to the opening bars of Barbarossa.
Is this a musical Barbarella for the 21st century perchance? Er, possibly not. As one moves further away from the cutie-pie intro into the more dense and scratchy forestry of the lyrics, a bitter sap begins to rise. Kalashnikovs, Camel cigs, blood, Algiers, mountain tops, dashed dreams. And that’s only the tip of the shrapnel laced sand dune.
Musically The Big Sun have crafted an infectious, sugar coated, perfumed pop song with the pre-requisite standards – catchy hooks, strong melodies, tinkley sparkley sounds and addictive rhythmic beats. Vocally we’re in Lily Allen territory – youthful cheeky girl next door type with a hint of Lun-dun goes Hackney dipped in mid-Atlantic honey. Now, lyrically is where this gets interesting – what I wouldn’t give to see the full lyrics (I can’t quite make out all the words but I’ve given it a fair stab). This is pure tongue-in-cheek side swiping dressed up in a froth of angel delight. Its sheer simplicity is its strength and its left hook vocals are the killer punch.
The Big Sun is a ‘Nottingham Singer/Songwriter. Graphic Designer. Potty mouthed student and all round knob.’ For her sense of humour alone she gets my vote. Wolf in sheep’s clothing … iron fist in velvet glove. Call it what you want, this is this week’s winner of the FOTN Clever Clogs award. Who said pop was puerile?
The Big Sun has had her music featured by BBC Intro Nottingham and man about new musicville, Huw Stephens. The new single is shooting through the airwaves as we speak – I think we can say with 100% conviction, #watchthisspace
YASSASSIN – Social Politics
Rounding things off this week and keeping with the ‘killer with a female touch’ vibe we have Yassassin (Q: what does Yassassin mean? Killer of Y – Y Chromosomes – Men?).
Yassassin are four blondes and one non-blonde all based in London but originally from the diverse shores of Italy, Sweden and Australia. There are historic connections to LUST, Loaded and Bonfire Nights in case you’re giving their photos a double take.
Social Politics is their first single and is on release via Enate Records. It’s pretty neat indie punk pop with a bit of a ’60s vibe and an international flavour. There’s a host of influences going on here – Republica, Camera Obscura, Lush, and Sleater Kinney to name a few.
This is nowhere-leaning, leave me alone for god’s sake, indie-grrrl power with a fun and modern twist. Its outward looking, forward thinking, get over yourself message, is telling you to ‘follow the light and open your eyes… and…screw social politics’ which made me laugh, out loud, a lot. I don’t see it as an attack on politics but moreso a dig at screwed up political systems and the cultist state of uber political correctness that we seem to have mired ourselves in the western world these days. Open to correction gals!
Straightforward melody lines, choral harmonies, punk aesthetics, anarchic riffs and a touch of blusher. Colour-pop neo-punk with poppy riot grrl frills around the edges. This isn’t music for sticks in the mud; this is catchy, two fingers to ‘pc madness’ fun stuff. Music to have a laugh to and with. And if you don’t believe me, check out their cheeky video filmed around the streets of Soho. Link here.
These girls pack a tight outfit and their album, on which they are currently working in studio with Dave Allen of Mode fame should be a good ‘un. New live dates coming soon … keep one eye on their FB page.
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.