This week we received another stunning batch of tracks in our inbox, from which our moderators had the difficult job of picking just 25 tracks for our Listening Post last Friday. Our readers had the even harder job of picking just five each from that shortlist over the weekend.
Below are your 9 overall favourites – reviewed in alphabetical order by Fresh On The Net moderator Biff Roxby – musician, producer and cofounder of Manchester’s Debt Records. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
ADNA – Beautiful Hell
Swedish artist Adna’s ‘Beautiful Hell’ is a well crafted song. The use of contrapuntal vocal melodies helps to build the song in its early stages. ‘Beautiful Hell’ feels like it is building to something in one long crescendo using pad/string sounds and a healthy dollop of reverb – sparing but effective – but when the peak of the crescendo is reached everything falls away leaving only the pervasive guitar and the vocal remaining. I was pleasantly surprised not to hear a big chorus at this point and was left instead wanting to listen again to this haunting track. Well controlled vocals and considered arrangement.
ARCH BIRDS – Man Who Never Was
The Intro of ‘Man Who Never Was’ brings to mind the nightscapes of Sega’s 1986 title ‘Outrun’ – pixelated yet sparkling. The synth-driven style of London’s Arch Birds is meticulously put together. The side-chain compression on the big pad sound on the chorus helps to provide a wonky groove that I really enjoy. The vocals never overreach and consequently there is room for all the constituent parts of this song to sit nicely alongside each other without feeling like anything’s missing. Nicely done!
FORTNIGHT IN FLORIDA – Cameo
An interesting contrast to the previous track, but with a similar target. There is more warmth in the synth tones employed here which brings with it a more relaxed feel – a ’you can dance if you like but feel free to sit back and chill’ kind of vibe.Double-tracking vocals can be temperamental at times – not everyone’s voice suits this approach – but in Cameo, the dual (and sometimes more) vocals sit beautifully together adding the cherry on the top of this tasty electro-pop pudding.
HANNAH SCOTT – Hurricanes
In ‘Hurricanes’ Hannah Scott employs a strong and smooth vocal delivery, not relying on vibrato for intensity which is frankly a breath of fresh air. This is a neat pop production that doesn’t waiver. The arrangement is strong and suitably emotive, but perhaps it could benefit from a less metronomic performance – the song made me want to hear the push and pull of someone really getting into it. However this would only add to an already intense and emotional track. I can imagine this working well over the credits for a Hunger Games type film.
HEART/DANCER – Outro
The dual lead vocals of Linnéa Atieno and Joakim Buddee are an instant winner. It’s a sound that I’m fond of and when done well, as it is here, it’s a pleasure to listen to. Chuck in a well balanced and considered production and you have a top tune. I didn’t even mind thinking it was Christmas when the chimes and shakers cast a wintery hue on the proceedings. The percussive elements of this track are used both for rhythm and ‘dressing’ with great effect, each sound employed being considered and well placed. While present in the drum loop throughout, the lonely toms at the end of the track add a cheeky wink of a final flourish.
MARTHA BEAN – Bad Blood
The conversational and deadpan delivery of the first few lines of the vocals create a disquieting atmosphere that sets the scene for a brooding and beautifully performed piece. In particular the vocals and piano that compliment each other so well. Juicy key changes abound, particularly those in the second section of the song – which itself is a lovely change in direction from the first two minutes. There are lovely little touches to the production, such as the vocals that fade in toward the end panned hard left and right which creates a creepily intimate feeling when listening over headphones.
INAD – Blue Nue
The candy-sweet vocals of Inad (or Dani in real life…see what she did there?) are wonderful over this dreamy electronic production. They also lend an extra element of weirdness to the repeated chorus of ‘Oh you said i was crazy’ which made me chuckle. From Inad’s record ’Thé EP’ named, I’m assuming, in reverence to her love of herbal beverages, the track ‘Blue Nue’ stands out as a more accomplished piece overall. It retains an organic feel despite the wealth of programmed beats and lush synth sounds which serve to provide balance with the occasional sitar riff and guitar and bass parts.
SHORT SKIRTS – Far Side Of Mexico
Is wonkypunk-surfcore a genre? Probably. In any case Short Skirts embody just this kind of vibe. Far Side of Mexico is two and a half minutes of head-nodding action that doesn’t let up. I’d hazard a guess that these Norwegian surf-rockers would be intimidatingly energetic live. In their bio they cite Iggy & The Stooges and Ty Segall as influences, which you can really feel in this track. Touches of b-movie from the surf guitar and organ add a sense of unease to proceedings as if Bela Lugosi’s Dracula was leering over you about to end his bloodlust using only your neck and his fangs.
SUZERAIN – What Happened
‘Bloody hell’ is a much underused phrase in songwriting, so any song that features said phrase has an immediate advantage. Tight production and fast paced vocals bring a manic quality to the track that almost makes the choruses relaxing in comparison. A lovely chunky guitar sound accompanies the opening vocal lines that sets the scene for the polished piece which follows. Every element of ‘What Happened’ is just where it should be – even the Killers-esque synth line at around two minutes in – and consequently focus is never drawn from the forward movement and power of this sub three minute rocker.
PS from TR: If you’ve submitted a track that hasn’t made the Listening Post you’re welcome to re-submit it another week. If your music has appeared on the Listening Post but not in our Fresh Faves, feel free to send us an even stronger track another week.
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…