Between Monday lunchtime and Thursday morning any artist is welcome to send us one track here at Fresh On The Net – and all our moderators, including me, will listen to every track. Last week we all heard 157 tunes from our inbox, then jointly picked our 25 favourites for our Listening Post. Additionally I earmarked my own favourites from that longlist for future radio airplay – last week’s inbox can still be heard in full at https://soundcloud.com/freshnet/sets/inbox227.
Then it was the turn of visitors to our Listening Post here at Fresh On The Net to have their say over the weekend. Each of them voted for their five favourite tunes – resulting in this list of Fresh Faves. This week the privilege of reviewing them falls to me – you can hear all eleven tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
AAYUSHI – An Update
We open with a single which at 3 minutes 16 seconds is pretty much a perfect pop length, released at the end of last month via Bandcamp. Performing simply as Aayushi, 20-year-old Birmingham musician Aayushi Jain is inspired by artists such as Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith and Neutral Milk Hotel. Her stated mission is to write “delicate, lyric-oriented music” and this simple guitar-and-vocal recording An Update achieves exactly that. Many of our Listening Post visitors voted for this track as one of their five favourites over the weekend – and its 2000+ plays on Soundcloud demonstrate the growing public appetite for her music. It’s great to see an independent UK artist reaping the rewards from such a fiercely DIY approach to music making. We wish her every success.
CAMELIA SPRITZ – Lilac
Sarah Griffin grew up in Rotherham, and at age 12 was on Funhouse with Pat Sharp. “We lost” she remembers. “I got a consolation ghetto blaster. It broke.” Her inside leg measurement is 30 inches and she’s a fairly good juggler. She also used to drive a very old VW Caddy called Tina Head-Turner until today, when she broke down. The van that is, not Sarah.
We first encountered her music a year ago when the BBC Introducing Mixtape featured the excellent title track of her second solo album The Beloved. For the past two months Camelia Spritz has been her new music project with Monmouth-based producer Tom Manning. She writes songs for their forthcoming album on acoustic guitar – then the two of them build up from there, flagged by many cups of tea.
All of us at Fresh On The Net know how much love, care, time and creativity has been invested in every track that arrives in our inbox. So if a track doesn’t float my boat, I usually try to pass on some helpful information about the music rather than criticising it. After all it’s only one man’s opinion, and me not liking something doesn’t mean it won’t sell by the bucketload.
Actually Sarah’s singing is as distinctive as ever on Lilac, the production is crisp and clean, and loads of our readers placed it in their personal Top Five last weekend out of 25 tracks on offer . That’s the whole point of The Listening Post – the results aren’t just one person’s opinion. The people have spoken.
EMILY LOCKETT – It’s Just Love
Emily Lockett describes herself as a 15 year old aspiring musician from Biddulph, who began guitar lessons at age 5 and also plays the ukulele, clarinet, recorder and piano. Since Emily’s favourite music artists include Bruno Mars, Justin Beiber, Meghan Trainor, Train and Sam Smith it’s no surprise that It’s Just Love wasn’t written with the BBC 6 Music demographic in mind. But these are early days yet – and while her current music may not appeal to me personally, our moderators embrace a wide range of tastes and ages and this was Emily’s second appearance on our Listening Post in two months.
And (get this) we’re not only talking about a gifted and ambitious musician, but also a generous and bighearted one. Trusting that her own music would speak for itself, she turned up this weekend and vote for five of the other artists on our shortlist – in the true spirit of Fresh On The Net. This displayed a greatness of spirit many fellow musicians might do well to emulate. Sure enough the enthusiastic support of many readers ensured that It’s Just Love gained Emily a well-deserved place in today’s Fresh Faves.
FIGMENNT – Home
Always good to hear new talent from my old stomping ground of Teesside. Stockton oufit Figmennt consist of Joe Garratt, Matthew Henderson-Newbury, Kenan Pearson and Danny Blackburn. They describe themselves as purveyors of “fuzzy dream pop” and in Home (released as a single last December) we have a record that does exactly what it says on the tin. My mate Bob Fischer has already played it two weeks running on BBC Tees – and forwarded it to Huw Stephens over at BBC Radio 1.
Joe’s a strong vocalist and they’re clearly a powerful live band. So although this early single covers rather too familiar territory for my own taste, that doesn’t particularly worry me: we all start somewhere. The Beatles and Stones covered Chuck Berry and Tamla Motown records before going on to become two of the biggest bands of the last century. Hopefully Figmennt have the potential for far more adventurous and innovative work in the coming months and years. I look forward to hearing it.
JoANNA LEE – The Real Thing
What an absolutely stunning performance. Remember the way Ed Sheeran holds audiences captivated alone on stage for 90 minutes with nothing but an acoustic guitar for company? Well JoAnna Lee – full name JoAnna Lee Sousa – doesn’t even bother with the loopstation, yet achieves something similar here. It’s only when you strip things right back to voice, guitar – and nothing else – that true, genuine, gobsmacking talent stands out from the crowd.
And let’s face it: the field of guitar-toting singer-songwriters is very crowded indeed. Ed only achieved his superstar status through eight years of sleeping on people’s floors and playing for peanuts while he honed his craft. Well – that, and a ludicrous level of inborn talent. Could JoAnna Lee be The Real Thing? Listen to that voice for ten seconds and you’ll have your answer beyond the tiniest shadow of a doubt. She most definitely is.
LAKE COMBOVER – 2002
If Wayne Coyne had been born thirty years later in Norwich rather than Pittsburgh, chances are that this is the kind of noise he would currently be producing. This widescreen slo-mo big beat music is made with a deftness and intelligence that lifts it far above any superficial musical influences. The one-man wall of sound known as Lake Combover is the work of a certain Mr. Jason (Baldock) who is also one half of Rope Store. Unsurprisingly Lake Combover’s music is also recorded in Jason’s nuclear bunker – with its obtusely low tech setup of 8-track analogue tape and a single ribbon microphone. This latest track 2002 sounds immense – I only wish The Flaming Lips were still making records this good themselves.
LIZABETT RUSSO – Perspective
A bit of class for yo’ ass. The exceptional range and control of Scottish artist Lizabett Russo are apparent both in this outstanding vocal performance – and in the sparing application of a broad musical palette – to create her wide ranging soundscapes. Drawing on a more European influence (rather than the African-American tradition that informs much of modern music) Ms Russo carries off this playful combination of composition and performance with masterly assurance. Flamenco guitar, strings, mallets, melodeon, ukulele, ethereal backing vocals… She’s just played Celtic Connections and been featured on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction – and no wonder. This is simply world-class work, by any standard.
SERF SCHOOL – Donald Trump’s A Fockin Arsehole
The mysterious Serf School captivated us all only a couple of month ago with Council Rage – a splenetic howl of anger at Gwynedd parking services and all their works. Clearly the US presidential inauguration has done little to restore the temper of this particular artist. Here we have a musical entity without any trace of website, biog, twitter, Facebook, profile picture or even a BBC Introducing account. For once this doesn’t seem to be through shyness, oversight, arrogance or any misplaced desire to create Mystique but because when he’s being Serf School, Mattie Ginsberg self-evidently Does Not Give A Flying Fock whether anyone listens to him or not.
Honestly? This 100 second track isn’t big, it isn’t clever – but it is kind of funny. The title says it all: read that and you’ve got the whole song right there. Anyway, in the face of unfolding world events which of us wants rational, earnest protest songs? Times like these call for unbridled fury and frustration screamed at the top of your voice until your throat metaphorically bleeds. Singing along with DTAFA may do nothing to restore a stable world order, but it can relieve your feelings. It was far and away the most popular track on this week’s Listening Post.
THE LITTLE UNSAID – Tumbling Snow
Tumbling Snow comes from a forthcoming album due out on 1st April from The Little Unsaid and recorded with Radiohead engineer and film score producer Graeme Stewart. The album’s called Imagined Hymns & Chaingang Mantras and anyone pre-ordering it via their Bandcamp page gets an instant download of this track – on which the lead vocal is by band mastermind John Elliott. “These songs were all born out of a search for meaning in the darkness we all find ourselves in at some point in our lives” says John, “and for me and the band, what we’re always chasing is that magic that occurs when the music and the energy of an audience creates sparks. There’s an immense feeling of unity in those moments.” Accordingly the band plan an album launch tour in the UK this spring, followed by festivals throughout the summer.
THE PINK DIAMOND REVUE – At The Discotheque
The vocoder enjoys a long and illustrious lineage ranging from Daft Punk, Kraftwerk, Sisters Of Transistors and The Beastie Boys through to LCD Soundsystem, Tom Tom Club, Laurie Anderson, New Order, Grandmaster Flash and Dr Dre. No less long and honourable is the tradition of pop records made with a relentless drum machine and repetitive bassline – inciting listeners to take part in some dance-related activity at some appropriate location. Such as, erm, a discotheque. One really shouldn’t like this. It’s arch, knowing, calculated, brainless, smug, retro – and perhaps owes a little too much to Attack Of The Ghost Riders and Public Service Broadcasting. And yet it’s completely irresistible. Reading’s The Pink Diamond Revue is the brainchild of Tim Lane and Rob Stock who describe it as “a live band fronted by Acid Dol a model from another dimension, combining beats from today with riffs, samples and vocal harmonies from 50’s and 60’s”. You absolutely can’t argue with that.
TOURISTS – Masquerade
There seems to be a lot of Dream Pop about at the moment – helpfully described by Wikipedia as “a subgenre of alternative rock and neo-psychedelia that developed in the 1980s. The style is typified by a preoccupation with atmosphere and texture as much as melody.” This six minute slice of it comes from the Torquay quintet Tourists and once again it proved popular with voters on our Listening Post over the weekend. Fresh On The Net’s very own Flo Bannigan is a fan and you can read her warm and generous review for this single here on The Revue website. So, it seems, is Huw Stephens – whom the band quote as saying “Tourists are in fine form at the moment – I saw them at the Radio 1 Academy in Exeter and they were awesome.” They recently played an acclaimed session for BBC Introducing In Devon and an album is expected later this year.
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PS: 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.