Once again we have democracy in action: our team of FOTN moderators listened to all 192 tunes in last week’s newly re-opened inbox then picked their 25 collective favourites for you, our readers, to choose from. These Fresh Faves are the ten tracks that all of you liked best, and it’s my pleasure to review them for you below…
DIVISION ORDER – Higgs Boson Bop
No idea who Division Order is, and Google yields no photos of her/him/them/it on Facebook or anywhere else to even give us a hint. However it’s instantly clear from the moment of hitting “play” that what we have here is the 21st Century spiritual successor to The Flying Lizards. An fun, feelgood, lofi retake of classic US pop music – that manages at the same time to sound completely contemporary and not take itself too seriously. With the important difference that instead of mangling an iconic Tamla standard in the name of art, Division Order have gone ahead and written their own brand new sixties hit that surfs the waves of particle physics at a perfect pop length of 2.18. And yes it’s been uploaded to BBC Introducing, which means it’ll go straight on the radio next Monday. That’s the way to do it.
HOT SAUCE PONY – Fenced In
“If I have to, I’ll turn you in.” One of the week’s most popular tracks arrived hotfoot from the powerhouse of Brixton Hill Studios – perhaps the funkiest creative hub to be found anywhere in South London. Fenced In by Hot Sauce Pony has huge energy, great vocals, swaggering attitude – and that authentic wall of fuzz noise that 8 out of 10 guitarists tend to get so catastrophically wrong. These first two tunes this week are are not only great tracks but – crucially – they’re both around two minutes long.
Radiohead and Mogwai notwithstanding, it’s nearly always better to leave listeners reaching for “replay” than to have them lose interest halfway through and hit “next”. Fenced In – with its 125 seconds of shouty high energy fuzz – was a perfect way to wake up this morning, but at five minutes it would have been unbearable. When great new artists like this are competing for attention, less is almost always more. And yes, this track too will go straight onto my BBC Introducing Mixtape this coming Monday.
JIMBODENI – Why Do We?
Lincoln producer and songwriter James Brining – trading as Jimbodeni – posted this only 15 days ago and already he’s had airplay from Jono Brine on BBC Introducing In Lincolnshire and an admiring comment from FOTN moderator Robjn to say “I am always impressed by your vocal range. Haunting but hip too”. It’s hard to disagree – Jim has a pure choirboy falsetto with the kind of precision and control likely to turn Jimmy Somerville green with envy. Supported by delicate arpeggiated electro production, this track elbowed its way past fifteen other contenders and proved itself effortless to be one of the ten best loved tracks among our readers this weekend.
K.O.G & THE ZONGO BRIGADE – Yehowa
Freshmod Chris Bye says Sheffield’s K.O.G. & The Zongo Brigade are a great band and from everything we’ve heard to date it’s clear that he’s right. They already featured in our Fresh Faves this April, and made their first appearance there as early as February 2015. Disgruntled electro fans occasionally complain that we feature “too much” white indie guitar music, but that’s simply because a huge number of white indie bands and songwriters send us music each week. We can only pick from whatever tunes actually arrive in the inbox each week.
So vigorous Afrocentric music performed by a storming live band is always going to go down well here – it makes such a great contrast to everything else in the pile. In all honesty though, this particular tune isn’t KOGATZB’s finest work – just take a listen to Turn Up The Music or Heroes to hear the standard this band is capable of. Yehowa sounded to me like a bit of a rap sandwich: the virtuoso filling in the middle was tasty as all hell, but the doorsteps of African sourdough either side of it struck me as a bit stale and stodgy. Still I bet gigs by this band are an explosion of hi-energy grooving and pyrotechnic vocals. In fact there’s a heartening increase in African-inspired music coming out of the UK. Check out Max Reinhardt’s Mixtape tip a couple of weeks ago for the excellent Kongo Dia Ntotila
MATT STOCKL – This Machine Eats Optimists
Matt Stockl is a longstanding favourite here – this will be his third appearance in our Fresh Faves, with three additional BBC Mixtape appearances to boot. And as an artist who regularly turns out fine original writing to this standard, no surprises there. With its twist on Woody Guthrie’s famous This Machine Kills Fascists slogan, this tune instantly went into my “yes” pile on first hearing and clearly had the same effect on our readers.
That said, this does sound to me more like a first class demo rather than a final radio mix. The arrangement is a little longer than it needs to be and Matt’s jangly fingerpicked electric guitar – fine though it is – gets a bit wearing after the first three minutes. I’d love to hear This Machine Eats Optimists in the hands of a producer like Ethan Johns or a Gerry Diver who could surround Matt with sympathetic musicians and capture the song in the form of a warm, spontaneous live performance. Truly organic songwriting like this deserves truly organic production.
MERE CHILD – Not Good Enough
Powerful, emotional vocals from Mere Child – the solo project of Brighton artist Aimee Herbert-Smith. When songwriting is born of genuine, lived experience and performed accordingly, you can tell it within seconds from the kind that is written and released with a weather eye to daytime radio and the pop charts. “I’m not sure I’m good enough” – God knows we’ve all been there, but not many of us have dared to lay it out for the world at large such vulnerable candour.
Personally though I loved this tune despite the production rather than because of it. Four pounding minutes of that repetitive drum pattern and all that fashionable sucky compression added nothing to the emotional focus of Aimee’s performance. According to her Facebook page these songs are performed live with just one acoustic guitar, and it would have been great to hear Not Good Enough raw and stripped down in that format. Once again, less can be so much more.
RED RUM CLUB – Everybody’s Friend
Whereas this track from Liverpool’s Red Rum Club would mean almost nothing without the astonishing drumming of Neil Lawson, which sits tightly integrated into the very heartbeat of the band’s sound. The playing, performance and production are top notch, though personally I prefer rather more grit in my musical oyster. These lyrics are pretty tame and the songwriting pretty formulaic compared to many other tracks here and, for me, Everybody’s Friend ends up as less than the sum of its parts, despite the great musicianship and glossy production. But then I’m not their target audience – and this record has already caught the ears of Chris Hawkins, Dave Monks and our very own Big Jim Cambo. Red Rum Club have also built a sizeable Merseyside following and proved to be one of our readers’ favourites this week. We wish them well.
RRYRRY – A Short History Of Davids
Another outstanding and challenging piece of leftfield pop music from selfstyled “Classical Composer / Popular Songwriter” Harry Perry under his unpronouceable nom de Soundcloud of rryrry.* The extraordinary text spoken by the robotic voices is by his poet friend David Nash and can be read in full on the rryrry Soundcloud page. Harry’s track This Is The Salon was one of my favourite records of 2015 and yet A Short History Of Davids is utterly different – it’s always refreshing when a much-loved artist sneaks up and startles you with something totally unexpected.
Harry writes: “David Nash is my friend, my dear friend. He is a superlative poet and I am honoured that he doesn’t seem to care about what I do with his work. I love this poem and have a handwritten copy framed in my room, for some reason I thought I’d robotisize it and place it over a dance beat. I think it turned out rather well. My sister disagrees.”
*And as it happens rryryy is pronounced “ree-ree” and references the last three letters in both Harry and Perry. Who knows what he’ll do next? Whatever it turns out to be, it’s guaranteed to be a great listen.
THE HOUSE OF JED – I Eat Earthquakes Like You For Breakfast
New artists deserve exactly the same consideration as old favourites, on the basis of what comes out of the speakers. Trying to fairly evaluate 150-200 tracks a week, it’s always best to listen blind. Lie in bed half asleep with your earbuds in, answer some emails with Soundcloud in the background, or put it on the kitchen speakers while you’re washing up. And no, expensive production doesn’t make a crap song sound better: you can’t polish a poop. As we heard with Division Order, a great idea will always jump out from the background and grab your attention, no matter how basic the recording.
It took about 25 seconds for this to creep up on my subconscious, then another twenty (plus a couple more chord shifts) to make me stop what I was doing and listen with full attention. An effortless, irresistible groove, wonky harmonic twists and lyrics to make you gasp and grin. And that’s when you cheat and peek – and find it’s our old friend Jarrod Gollihare trading as The House Of Jed. There’s a good reason why – even blindfold – we keep picking his material out of the hat: the man is a genuine original.
THE SLOW REVOLT – Lean
Alphabetical serendipity has saved the best for us till last. From the effortless opening chords it’s clear we’re in the hands of a serious music artist. The fresh and atmospheric Lean by Joe Mirza’s The Slow Revolt was far and away my favourite among the entire 192 tracks that dropped into our inbox last week.
Lean offers three minutes and twenty seven seconds of pop perfection that grooves, flows and sits bang in the pocket – while simultaneously shaking hands with your ears. Joe Mirza has both the instrumental precision of a Tom Misch and the melodic dexterity of a young Metronomy. If there was any justice in the world this would go straight onto the 6 Music playist next week for heavy rotation. But then, as we all know, there’s not much justice in the world.
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.