Welcome back! The first inbox of 2017 was a bumper package of 186 songs – our moderators managed to whittle it down to 25, and these Fresh Faves were then singled out by our readers over the weekend – and are reviewed here by Fresh On The Net’s Richard Dowling this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
BLEDIG – If Love Was Linear
Art can never escape the influence of the environment in which it is created. Surely, then, the now-crashing, now-ebbing emotion of Bledig must have its origin in the coast of Brighton where creators Richard Brincklow and James Purvis reside.
Ethereal piano and an analog blast begin the journey. Searing synth stabs pierce the soundscape like lightning. A robotic voice soliliquizes on the nature of love. Love can be uplifting, we are told, yet the music is dragging us down into a maelstrom. Eventually the synths sputter out leaving the delicate piano line, the calm after the storm.
On drums, James stakes his claim to a punchy groove that navigates us through the torment. Musically, Richard makes us experience the ups and downs of human relationships, emerging at the other side, unscathed but marked by the experience; wiser.
CALLUM PITT – You’d Better Sell It While You Can
A bouncy piano and acoustic guitar intro, a reverb-drenched falsetto vocal hook… this song has more fresh ideas than a lot of bands manage in their whole careers. And the clever arrangement just keeps on surprising, with drums announcing a sing-a-long chorus and a gritty electric guitar pummelling you into submission.
What is it that Callum Pitt is urging us to sell? I don’t know… but our listeners and voters did buy into an earlier version of this song which appeared in Fresh Faves 166 way back in ’15. [We do ask artists not to submit the same song twice – so Callum, we look forward to hearing your next original offering in 3 months time! Ed.]
The earlier version was unavailable at the time of writing so I can’t say which I prefer; Pitt the Younger or Pitt the Elder? Anyhoo, you can’t blame him for calling attention to what is a great song. See him live soon at upcoming shows on Feb 10th at The Cluny in Newcastle Upon Tyne and March 3rd at The Finsbury in London.
GALLERY CIRCUS – The Flood
Brothers making music = lazy journalistic comparisons to Oasis. I won’t be going down that route, not because I’m a principled believer in the purity of the Fourth Estate but because after a reasonable amount of online research I wasn’t able to find out which brother – Daniel or Graeme Ross – did what.
Their Soundcloud page describes them as “a unique and abrasive rock outlet”. The Flood is a clear manifesto of their aims. Rasping guitar, thick bass and fat drums back up the urgent tones of the singer who displays an impressive range, from growly bass to haunting falsetto.
Even more impressive is that the record stays true to Gallery Circus being a musical duo – drums and guitar – yet still offers all the impact and power you’d expect from a full band. If this record captures half their energy, it’s no wonder they are being hailed as one of the UK’s most formidable live acts. Hopefully they will be playing more live dates soon.
GRADE A – Time for Tea (Lee)
In their own words, “Grade A is an act from London, specialising in tantalising tales and bleeps”.
This gentle groove is based on the legend of a bootleg copy of There She Goes by The La’s featuring Lee Maver’s mum calling him for tea. And it is this mixture of the sublime and the ordinary which Grade A do so well.
The rough-around-the-edges vocals float over a charming swirl of beeps and blips. I don’t know why, perhaps it was the general surreal air of the project, but the whole thing made me think of this as a Goon Show for the 21st century.
Some bands strive to fill stadiums, while others try to fill souls. Grade A are the latter type of group, but if they wanted to I’m sure they could sonically alter our universe enough to achieve both aims. Maybe they could even do it before tea-time.
HAWK – Take It
The effortless ease with which Julie Hawk’s crystalline, yearning vocals swoop down on the listener made me immediately jealous.
But Hawk are not just a vehicle for a gifted singer. The rest of the band – Matthew Harris churning the guitar, Chris Handsley pounding the Bass and Sam Campbell slapping those drums – are all equally skilled at playing for the benefit of the song rather than their own egos. For this reason, Hawk is more than the sum of its parts.
Take it Away is a rousing, passion-fuelled song that tips a Kangol hat to 90s rock, with an audible influence of The Cranberries, but ultimately goes much further, soaring into bluer skies and promising that this is definitely a band to watch for the future. Thankfully, it’s also one you can, and should, enjoy now.
Their EP, entitled She Knows, is out April 2017.
JOSH SAVAGE – Whisper In The Snow
Ambient style guitar. A quick intro. Then it’s right into the meat of things. Perhaps it’s the cold that makes Josh Savage unwilling to hang around. I enjoy artists who are confident enough in their songwriting to achieve more with less.
And Josh has every reason to be confident. Twinned, male-female vocals (with the equally luscious voice of Alice Pearl) curl their way around a gorgeous melody. The charming arrangement, with glints of the epic, really held my attention, growing and developing all the way to the climax.
Josh’s bio reveals that he actually sang before he spoke, lulling himself to sleep as a baby! I think we are in the midst of musical genius, as did the commentators at the Listening Post, and I truly hope he gets the wider audience he deserves. You can make that happen by checking out his work in the links below.
PURS – Girl In
They describe themselves as shoegaze, but the raggedy guitars and splendidly droney vocals with warm harmonies reminded me of The Dandy Warhols. That said, the London girls and boys of Purs sound more authentically sunshiney, if that’s possible in rain-kissed Blighty.
Girl in Love is a face-hugger of a tune that, once it’s hooked you, won’t let go. It’s nearly four-minutes long but after those honey vocals kick in the song slides by and before you know it you’re hitting the repeat button. Which is not to underestimate the guitars, bass and drums, all grinding so well together and locking into a groove that doesn’t let up in your mind until long after the song has finished.
Girl in Love? Yes, I nearly am.
THE CHEAP THRILLS – Same Old Faces
Splintery guitars, distorted vocals – this has all the markings of classic brit-rock vibe. But wait, there’s something Oriental in that guitar riff. There’s an element of innocence in that grungy voice. The Cheap Thrills are not just some generic rock band following in the well-trodden Blur/Oasis path.
And I’m not alone in sensing something different, The Guardian described this band as a “tumble of garage rock and nifty turn of phrase” adding “they’re a blast live too.”
Same Old Faces builds and builds, not just capturing emotion but spitting great gobs of it all over the listener. I have to say I was mighty impressed and particularly enjoyed the phrasing of the vocalist. After listening to this who wouldn’t want to crucify the sun?
The band is made up of Lewis Pike, Anton Eager, Terry Eaves and Callum Fitzpatrick. They come from Liverpool. I don’t know where they’re going, but it’s somewhere cool.
TOAST OF BOTSWANA – Drifting Sand
There is a huge difference in the number of fans among artists submitting to the Listening Post. Some have thousands, others have a handful. Cynics may think we favour bands with an already impressive base of followers. Truth is we’re just looking for good music.
Enter Toast of Botswana.
Let’s face it, nothing beats the joy of discovering a group in their infancy. With around 100 plays at the time of writing, Drifting Sand is a pure gem that deserves to get hundreds of thousands of listeners.
The name of the band had me thinking this could be some type of novelty act, but the moment the crinkly guitars chime in over a menacing bass I was won over. A piano tinkles in the background, a subtle touch that shows this group really pay attention not just to the songwriting, but to the arrangements too. The vocal reminded me a little of Nico with the Velvet Underground.
But really any comparisons with other groups would have me standing on, er, unstable granular material.
YOUEL – Your Youth
Is it electro? Is it indie? Youel define themselves as both but on the available evidence Your Youth shows that if anything they are a great pop band, waiting to be discovered by the mainstream audience.
Formed by Poppy and Viv, Youel are probably not the first to mix danceable tunes with an indie sensitivity, but off the top of my head I can’t think of another band doing it with such charm and lightness of touch.
This is just a great pop song with the delicate vocal tottering above a naive electronic drum and a jangly electric guitar. The overdriven bass storms in on the chorus giving the whole arrangement both power and dynamics.
Live videos of the band more than demonstrate that even though they are a duo, they are capable of delivering a polished, full sound for the punters. Find out for yourself at Camden Assembly in London where Youel will be playing on January 28th.
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.