Fresh Faves: Batch 236

Baltimore

These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by Debt Records Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Louis Barabbas this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.

ALORIC – It Doesn’t Matter

When I listen to Aloric‘s It Doesn’t Matter I see a bleak detail from a city scene: a partially obscured view from beneath a dripping awning on some long-trudged thoroughfare – the grimy blur of taxis and weary figures bent into the wind like Lowry stickmen, collars turned up to the rain, streetlights merging with their reflections in the puddles below. The thick air carries snatches of radio broadcasts and conversation from passing vehicles, screams in the alleyways mingling with the car horns.

The introduction of a saxophone ups the noir, its meandering tones like lamplit steam off a sidewalk air vent, then from out of its shadow returns the voice, blurred in the fog, name-checking Kharon, the ferryman of the dead in perpetual servitude to Hades. “Shame on me, for my passive mentality” it says, “shame on you…”
Yep, I hear you.

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BALTIMORE – Glow Deep

Baltimore are a band from Belgium – oh friends you are welcome here despite what many of my British neighbours might say in their froth-lipped braying about dubious sovereignty.

Glow Deep rises out from the murky depths and shakes off the slime before stepping confidently into the safety of garage psychedelia. The rhythm section remains a solid counterpoint to the floating vocals, as though they’re peering out through an aeroplane window at a singer in freefall, the song acting as a moment of harmonious intersection between healthy grooves and doomed impermanence.

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CHERRY HEAD, CHERRY HEART – So Much More

Cherry Head, Cherry Heart‘s latest offering – So Much More – is a necessary reminder that even the most trivial of relationships can be gilded by the ache of subsequent loneliness. As a species we routinely endow what we lose with a posthumous significance it probably never deserved.

“We were always talking, saying nothing, doing something or other…” The narrators can’t even remember what they did together that made their hearts soar so. And isn’t that so like most of our lives? A celebration of the repeated dreariness of assumed fondness, wallowing in the sparkling introspection of private glories and seeing our own likenesses beamed back at us in the smiles of those we supposedly care about?

Memory has alway been treacherous, nostalgia being a greater opiate than any you may find in the pockets of a drug mule. And when the golden fog clears there is neither substance to the remembering nor substance to what is being remembered: “My life is overgrown, you broke the only heart I own”. Well, maybe. But memory can’t be trusted, it’s probably your own fault.

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CLIMBING TREES – Lost

A lesson in how production decisions can completely alter the message of a song.

Released shortly after Climbing Trees‘ original cut of Lost, this acoustic version shows an attractive vulnerability not evidenced in its electric counterpart (which feels at times like the band may be looking for a lucrative TV sync deal with a satnav manufacturer).

In the world of recording, bigger is not always better – a song can be stronger by showing fragility. Studios these days have near infinite options for overdubs and plug-ins, anything is possible; but if you can peal back the clutter and uncover true feeling in a song’s nakedness then there’s real hope. Here we get a hint that the sense of being lost is not merely a geographical problem, but carries the whiff of metaphor. We can choose to view loss as a verb rather than an adjective, a matter for the soul as well as for the ordinance survey map.

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EMPATHY TEST – Bare My Soul

Nimbly bridging the uncharted gulf between a John Carpenter soundtrack outtake and a break-up sequence from the end of an episode of Girls, Empathy Test’s Bare My Soul has a welcome lack of irony despite wielding a brand of synthetic wistfulness that is undoubtedly au courant.

The crunching footsteps of murky synths, unflinching beneath a phantasm of swooping delay is the hallmark of an involved self-education in yesteryear’s future. Such production choices are often accompanied by a smug self-consciousness that would ruin the kind of personal lyrics on show here but there is an assuredness pushing through that allows the song to creep towards something surprisingly anthemic.

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JUMP THE SHARK – Pedestal

This Wolverhampton four-piece describe themselves as blending psychedelia, heavy riffs and pop melodies, but I think that particular blend could do with a few more shots of caffeine or maybe some time in a Sodastream. Votes-wise they were joint top this week so there’s much to celebrate but that doesn’t mean there isn’t also work to be done.

Their talent, chemistry and instinct for unfussy pop hooks are not in question, but they are far from alone in this skill-set. If Jump The Shark are willing to take advice from a tired singer-songwriter that has never bothered the charts, then I say push harder and take more risks. It wasn’t until I tracked down the lyrics that I realised how much venom runs through this song – let that creature out and stop trimming its claws; let it rub up against the muscles of your rhythm section, there will be more sparks. Let us feel what you feel.

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ROXANNE DE BASTION – Heart of Stone

I’m a great believer that pop does not have to always mean simple – that with broad strokes and bright colours one has as much power to explore the human condition as a nuanced piece of filtered gloom from the supposedly more intellectual corners of the creative sector.

I have met Roxanne De Bastion a couple of times, first as part of an international collaborative project run by In Place Of War and then again when I chaired a conference panel she organised in London about the DIY circuit. The combination of pop-folk singer-songwriter activity (with all those naive connotations) and board-member roles with the FAC and PPL has, if anything, sharpened the arrow of Roxanne’s creative intent. Here she explores the way our fickle society passes the same old traumas from generation to generation, whilst still not losing that lightness of touch that infuses all her work.

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SEADOG – As I Am

The bass pulls as the drums push, fording the gentle swells of this tender melody, the song leaving its breath against the window of a locked box drifting further and further away. This is the kind of tune that could’ve come from any one of the last forty years without troubling the dreams of most.

Seadog is the project of Brighton-based musician and songwriter Mark Benton. Limited edition hand-numbered 7” pressings of As I Am are available from the group’s bandcamp.

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ST. JUDE THE OBSCURE – Wonders Of Youth

I read Thomas Hardy’s Jude The Obscure when I was a teenager and never forgot it. I don’t think there is a more tragic tale of class restriction, thwarted ambition and social desparation. It hits hard and the bruises it leaves do not readily fade.

Today’s St. Jude the Obscure, however, is an Electronic Art Pop two-piece consisting of Adele Emmas and Christian Sandford (previously from bands Bird and Feral Love). Together they muster a level of dependable euphoria that Hardy’s sombre narratives were rarely capable of. Adele’s crystal voice pokes through the soft tangle of digital fronds, the euphonious creepers reaching skyward while the rhythm blossoms in an ever more ornately twisting corolla of yearning elation. I don’t think Hardy would’ve had much time for it though…

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WALKINGSHOE – Paper Moon

Emerging from a brief mist of sonic misinformation that hints at interests many folk writers might deem distinctly extracurricular, Paper Moon lands on its feet as deftly as any half-wild porch cat. At once timeless yet suggesting a modern proficiency found lacking in many contemporaries’ old-timey attempts at simple songwriting, this is a refreshingly unshowy piece that carries the weight of eternal themes – farewells, acceptance and unfinished business.

Joseph Sepka AKA WalkingShoe is a music producer from Chicago and I find it so encouraging to see “Folk / Rap / Pop” in his byline. Too many artists would consider these three genres to be as separate as oil is to water, but harbouring an enthusiasm for all these in turn (or in combination) no doubt strengthens the distinctness of each.

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walkingshoe

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.

Louis Barabbas

Louis Barabbas is a writer, performer and label director, best known for caustic love songs and energetic stage shows. He is also a member of Un-Convention, occupies a seat on the Musician’s Union Live Performance Committee, presents a weekly show on Fab Radio International and is an occasional mentor for Brighter Sound. Read his full biog page here.

1 Comments

  1. Derv

    Round of applause … Wordy magnificence m’lord Louis!

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