Artists at a glance
AMISTAD – Human
This five-piece from British Columbia have been around for six years, yet they look so young I can only assume they met via inter-womb telepathy. From the track’s pace and punctuation right down to the in-vogue inflections of the vocal delivery Amistad are very much a band of our time. But it’s a precarious position to be so relentlessly current, such a du jour assemblage can date an unwary artist mercilessly. And yet there is an emotional thrust at work here that is undeniable, packed with fears of wasted opportunity, of passing time, “not enough passion, not enough days”, an evergreen sentiment we can all relate to, interspersed with the odd pleasing synth stab thrown in like a sidelong Eric Morecambe camera glance.
My tastes in production style have no power to rob a band of their essentialness — look beyond the capable branding and textbook indiepop veneer and you’ll find a lot of truth.
Their new EP Talk Peace To A Wolf is out now.
FALSE ADVERTISING – Scars
Like all the most enduring grunge bands False Advertising know the importance of a pop hook and they’re certainly not coy about showing it. Pop leanings aside, Scars sounds like it was sung with a permanently curled lip. This smacks of a band that should be heard live and loud, with the regular accompaniment of smashing pint glasses littering the higher registers. Loudness is something we are all in danger of forgetting when music is so often doled out to us via some polite little playlist with simpering algorithmic suggestions popping up all over it like pustules on a teenager. This is a jagged little track with a venomous chorus, bristling with the sort of comforting angst that can transport the listener right back to adolescence, whether they want it or not.
GINGERSNAPS – Phat Kids
I have one rule about reviewing music: don’t make assumptions about who or what an artist is influenced by. Nothing in life is ever that simple and this species of smug detective work often ends up making both parties look cheap. I must admit, however, there’s a particular artist I really want to mention here (and notice from Ginger Snaps’ Twitter feed that I’m not alone) yet also suspect this song’s air of cushiony familiarity to be a very knowing one. But none of that matters, this track is upbeat and fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The production is deliciously retro right down to those little bubbly quirts of psychedelia that bring to mind a flatulent Twiki The Robot (in a good way).
Ginger Snaps is a new project, only a few months old as far as I can gather. The ingredients are all there but I can’t shake the feeling he’s playing it safe — still, safe doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable.
Phat Kids also features Organised Rhyme Family.
HOO HAS – Hanna
Oh man, you had me at “Discarded little waitress slip shows a little history”. I mentally chewed on that image for a long time.
A big dollop of well deployed muscly sleaze oozes through this whole song. A trait I find surprisingly compelling, even if I do wonder if I should take a bath after listening. To suggest the chorus treads a fine line between two very different potential advertisement tie-ins could be interpreted as an artistic dig but in these troubled times I’d say take the money and run. I’m a sucker for a good posse-chant and the verses conjure up tableaus seen through fish-eye lenses full of swaggering insouciance filmed in neglected London backstreets hinting at rows of pawn brokers and betting shops just around the corner (though in reality it’s probably Topman and Costa). I’m glad there are songs like this lurking down the odd alleyway, kicking the stick away from the occasional grandma.
The Hoo Has’ debut EP is out on 29th July.
JAMES DEY – The Yawn
You’ve got to be careful being too poetic in a song, people might think you’re showing off. But James Dey traverses this landscape with assured deftness. The opening line here really is quite sublime: “The yawn of an ageing day blinking out the last few seconds of leaving light.” What can one say to that? I’d be tempted to just stop the song right there, warmed by the afterglow of a perfect sentiment.
It’s been over a decade since Dey’s last album and it’s refreshing to note that the long interim has not stacked up a looming clutter of artistic intentions evinced in so many comebacks. Rather there is an elegant sparseness to the instrumentation, the drum beneath the finger-picked guitar acting like a simple heartbeat or steady tread throughout.
Also worth noting: it’s not often one hears the word “woozy” in a song.
LOST WOODS – Billy Zane
I’m glad someone’s raising this issue. What did happen to Billy Zane’s career? Promising roles in seminal films of the 80s like Back To The Future and Dead Calm, giving way to deserved leading parts in 90s box office smashes like Titanic and critical successes such as Orlando and Twin Peaks. Then what? The 2000s brought only a stream of duds and a walk on appearance in Charmed. Something went very wrong. Very very wrong. And we shouldn’t be silent about it. I’m glad Lost Woods have taken up this cold case, setting their musical bloodhounds on the trail armed only with the tools and techniques used by the bands of Zane’s 90s glory days. It’s dirty work but someone’s got to do it.
Speaking of Dirty: did you know that Billy Zane was originally cast as Patrick Swayze’s character in Dirty Dancing? Alas it turned out he couldn’t dance so was promptly fired. Things may have been different if someone had written a song about him thirty years earlier. Tragic really.
MOM TUDIE – Otherside (feat. Giorgia Lo)
I’m still not good at tracking down information on producers. Bands are easy because they’re so hungry for attention. Producers tend to be more comfortable in the shadows. According to my sources Mom Tudie is Tom Mudie, a man in his early twenties who lives in South East London. Those are the facts, such as they are. But facts have never been very important in music. Shorelines and oceanic vistas proliferate his sparse online presence and I can’t help but marry this visual theme to the track’s gentle ebb and eddying, of sparkling water snaking between glistening pebbles, the occasional wave of synthesized brass breaking against the aural coastline.
Giorgia Lo’s vocal interplay is interesting here, the higher verse voice set against a lower frequency manipulation in the chorus, as if two singers (or two versions of the same singer) exist in separate temporal yet identical spatial moments, like one of Einstein’s thought experiments in which a single beam of light is observed simultaneously by one stationary figure and one moving at speed… but in this instance the focus is on music not light.
NIEVES – Roughcast
It is no small thing to put emotion front and centre in a song. Though this isn’t quite naked unfettered feeling it is certainly scantily clad. Recording artists have so many tricks at their disposal one can easily be distracted from the very real human need to express vulnerability and endurance in as bold and honest a way possible. The motif of a roughcast wall gradually losing its stones is a simple but potent one; the song builds in intensity just as the edifice gradually loses its structural integrity. I’m not going to mar Nieves’s song by attempting any deep analysis, it’s clearly personal and there’s plenty going on that none except those directly connected to it can know. Yet there is a universality here: there is hope as well as loss, along with a wearily courageous sense of continuance.
SEB KONSTANTINE – Whats Wrong With Dance Music
Though Seb Konstantine describes himself as a remixer I’d say (in this instance at least) he crosses a rare line into conceptualism and transgressive art. And like many works in the latter categories, sometimes it’s worth reading the explanatory notes to get the full picture. In his description Konstantine shows himself to be just as eloquent as the voice in his track (record producer and Shellac founder Steve Albini, interviewed recently by Mary Anne Hobbs) but far more astute. I think this might be the first time I’ve experienced a track wherein the composer is the actual full-on nemesis of the lyricist – it’s as if Professor Moriarty was venting spleen and Sherlock Holmes whipped out his violin and began accompanying.
I love how in the hands of Konstantine we see perversely what can be so Right with dance music, crafting an exuberant piece to tease at the po-faced expostulations of this inflexibly opinionated orphaned voice. What a wonderful juxtaposition of two factors completely at odds, a glorious mental-spiritual face-off. I feel I’m somehow in danger of being torn apart by a kind of musical/philosophical paradox.
SNIPPET – Falling Down
And so, at the end of this week’s Fresh Faves, I cast my eyes up like the wounded King of Rohan and utter the words “I know your face…” for here is Snippet, aka Johnno Casson, much decorated and revered veteran of these pages, both as submitter and moderator.
As simultaneously lazy and persistent as a sunny day, here we have a glimpse through Snippet’s experiential prism: rosy and peculiar yet not willfully obtuse, very much formed in the pop mould but augmented in a quietly absurdist vein, like a barbie with a peg-leg. The component parts are atypical but ultimately inarguable, played out over a rhythmic discussion between what I’m imagining to be some sort of digital gopichand and a robot doumbek.
I will say one more thing on the matter: the hookline deserves to one day become an elaborately grizzly tattoo on the bicep of some battle-fatigued avant-garde platoon commander: “Falling down beats a life of laying down.”
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.