Artists at a glance
THE SIGHS OF MONSTERS
WIVES OF FARMERS
These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and are reviewed here by Fresh On The Net’s Biff Roxby of Debt Records this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
31HOURS – Confidence is a Handshake
What a way to start our 209th batch of Fresh Faves! The hypnotic and spacious Confidence is a Handshake is a beautifully put together piece of music. 31hours have been around for nearly four years but the last year has seen a burst of activity from the Oxfordshire based prog-pop five piece; two singles, two EPs as well as two Fresh Faves appearances (Fresh Faves Batch 200) within twelve months is a serious achievement.
The arrangement and production of the track is no small achievement either. The use of the stereo image – in particular the space between drums and percussion and the gentle movement of synthy sequences from left to right and back again – is a key ingredient in making this track so beguiling. Crystal clear vocals are used sparingly and sit beautifully in the mix. Nothing is overdone and nothing is underdone, it’s all cooked just right.
Put on some headphones, lie down and drift away.
Next gig: Oxford – Oxjam (venue TBA), October 15th
ALBERT MAN – Not Yet Just One More
German-Mancunian Albert Man, now based in London, has been on the FOTN Fresh Faves before with another song from his debut album – Cheap Suit. It’s testament to the pervasive quality of his songwriting that twice now he’s been selected by our wonderful weekend voters.
Not Yet Just One More is an instant foot tapper and wastes no time in building the energy. It’s a fantastically written song that toys with its audience, managing two swift and bristling choruses (…are they choruses?) within the first minute only to break it down and build it all up again. The breakdown is expansive and well arranged and serves to build expectation. When the energy returns with the staccato piano chords it’s joy time. I actually experienced glee as it dropped back into the is-it-a-chorus [hmm, a refrain, possibly? Ed.] A great tune that’s as succinct, playful and delightful as its cheeky ending.
Next gig: London – Servant Jazz Quarters, September 14th
BLOXX – Ur Boyfriend
If band names were allowed in Scrabble, Bloxx would be a good 42 points on a double word score. The band members Ophelia, Taz, Paul and Moz would also help you get rid of those pesky Zs. New single Ur Boyfriend came out just last week and is their third single in four months (don’t we have some productive bands this week!?).
I love the reversed guitar riff as part of the intro. There’s also something quite special about just drums, bass and vocals as with the first verse of the song. It’s a difficult thing to pull off but in this case the solid and engaging vocals of Ophelia Booth sit beautifully on the space left by the rest of the band.
Considered and abstemious use of distorted drum loops and synth textures really add to the instrumental arrangement. This is a band that sound far more experienced than their years (or lack thereof) would suggest.
Next gig: London – Proud, Camden, September 24th.
FLORENCE GLEN – Spread Them Eggs
The title track from her debut EP, Florence Glen’s Spread Them Eggs has some real charm to it. Its gentle opening belies the song’s intensity. The arrangement is well crafted and intriguing. All round musical legend Geoff Gascoyne was drafted in on double bass for the EP along with the drums of John Park whose military music background really shows the choruses where the previously brushed snare becomes a bloody great cannon of a thing. It’s bold and it works.
The acoustic guitar, bass and snare rhythms play beautifully against each other in the verse and everything comes together for an all-in chorus. Florence Glen’s vocal performance is brilliantly natural and assured with some lovely rhythmic patterns. There are lovely subtle moments of electric guitar with a good dollop of tremolo that really shines in the verses and gives the choruses a sweet thickness of tone.
Great writing and vocals, hugely experienced players and a very astute production. Thumbs up!
GOAN DOGS – Devil Inside
A prominent cowbell is never a bad way to start a song and in this case the song only gets better. Five piece alt-rock outfit from Bristol, Goan Dogs were first featured on the Fresh Faves way back in 2012 (batch 29). That was before my time and the song featured then is no longer available. Four years can make a hell of a difference to a band and their sound. I’d be intrigued to hear how Goan Dogs have changed in that time.
Whatever they did sound like they certainly sound polished now. In Goan Dogs everyone’s a singer and the band provide wonderfully rich vocal harmonies to compliment the lead vocal. The judicious use of some Casiotone and guitar FX/noises really help to light up the track and keep its flavour varied.
Devil Inside brings to mind a well dressed gunslinger from the American Frontier (a la Gene Hackman in ‘The Quick And The Dead’) walking like the Mr Soft character from the late ’80s Softmints advert, helped by the cinematic arrangement that’s suave and ever so slightly wonky.
Next gig: London – St. Pancras Old Church, October 12th.
LOST IDOL – Blue Lotus Eyes
Lost Idol is the musical nom de guerre of DJ, broadcaster and producer James Dean. Also a co-founder of the Cookshop record label and brains behind the awesome Hot Mud Club nights (London, late nineties) James is a busy man and one that soaks up the influences that his eclectic musical lifestyle provides. This eclecticism really comes across in his genre-spanning electronic work under the Lost Idol pseudonym.
Sumptuously squelchy whilst crisp and with hypnotic chord progressions, this is a perfect example of James’ finely honed writing and production style.
I often forget that two part vocal harmonies can be immensely gripping and effective when done right and Dean has achieved just that in Blue Lotus Eyes. The vocals are imbued with a soothing quality by the vocoder effect used and it just provides the icing on the electronic cake that is this song.
If you like this, Lost Idol’s first album for six years is due out this week (September 16th). Boom!
Check the links below for details on where and how it can be purchased.
SYKES – Younger Mind
Julia, Kristian and Will, also known as Sykes are a London based electro power pop trio. Younger Minds is the title track from their third EP (fourth if you include their remixes EP).
The track starts immediately and authoritatively in top gear with a big guitar riff, fuzzy bass and big drums that really get your head nodding. All of a sudden a very neat breakdown strips back to vocals, synth and finger clicks to then build up step by step into another big riff. It’s a deftly crafted piece of pop with some tasty little production moments. There’s no messing about or hanging around with the arrangement of the song, it moves quickly and effectively between sections both dynamically and tonally.
I can imagine the song being an excellent contender for sync licensing, particularly for some high octane sports but it also stands up as a serious contender for top level radio playlists and ‘commercial success’…whatever that means these days.
Next gig: London – Borderline, September 25th.
THE SIGHS OF MONSTERS – I Hear Drums
London based The Sighs of Monsters are (currently) a four piece band having welcomed a keys player since they last appeared on the FOTN Listening Post. As they say themselves “The easy answer to ‘What sort of music do we play?’ is ‘art rock’, but in truth we do what we think the song needs”. In the case of I Hear Drums there is desperation, sadness and hope in the subject matter of the song and this really comes across in the arrangement.
The story is told over a backing of insistent, pulsating bass and drums joined by some dreamy synth pad coating and some lovely Balafon/Xylophone in the lead up to choruses. And what would a chorus be without some gloriously 80s-esque drum fills to punctuate them?
‘I Hear Drums’ is a taster of the material form The Sighs of Monsters forthcoming sophomore album ‘Lie’.
TYNE – Somebodies Something
Debut single from 18 year old Tyne who regular FOTN voters and readers will remember as regular submitter GraceSarah who first appeared on the Fresh Faves two and a half years ago (Batch 100… then later Batches 175 and 185). Well, she’s had somewhat of an ‘industry’ makeover – all of her previous material has sadly disappeared off the face of the internet, she’s had some press shots done and is now signed to London label 37 Adventures. Grace is a prodigious talent and it’s fantastic to see that she’s getting the support she so richly deserves.
The single that marks Tyne’s debut is produced by London based producer and remix artist Sound of Fractures. There is certainly less of Grace’s all round musical talent on show here than with previous submissions, but her vocal is a commanding one and Sound of Fractures production is amazingly slick and assuredly radio friendly. Somebodies Something is a great downtempo pop song featuring some reliably sophisticated lyrics.
Goodbye GraceSarah, hello Tyne!
WIVES OF FARMERS – Modern Song
Wives of Farmers are a four piece (occasionally five) and ‘are all from different places, but would consider ourselves a band from Cornwall’. Despite the name they are in actual fact not the brides of agriculturalists as the wonderfully gruff, whiskey-worn vocals confirm. The band have been together under different names for nearly ten years now and have a wealth of material to show for it, all available through their Bandcamp.
WoF have been described as ‘one of the great lost Cornish bands and this track is evidence of that. Modern Song is an offering from the band’s latest album Excellent Happiness Forever – a brilliant album title.
Relentless from the outset, the track maintains this awesome energy throughout with only a short moment for respite. Thumping four-on-the-floor drums and rolling guitars create a real momentum which allows the vocals to drift as they do without affecting the pace and groove of the song. There’s nothing flashy here which is a good thing and every part of the song feels as though it is exactly as it should be. A wonderful finish to this week’s Fresh Faves.
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.