These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by Debt Records’ Artistic Director Louis Barabbas this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
In the approach to the festive period, we have received a number of Christmas and holiday themed tracks, every single one of which can be listened to here.
ADAM LEONARD AND INVADERBAND – Not Alan Rickman
A song more concerned with what isn’t than what is – an ambitious breadth of subject matter if ever there was one, pinioned in position by the empty outline of an unwelcome absence, bristling in its elegant wrongness. I don’t know whether this track aims to mark the passing of a great talent or simply to refine the dim glimmer of a reflected legacy through an angular surrealist artrock prism, but one thing I am sure of: it is not Alan Rickman.
The debut Invaderband album will be released via Tectona Grandis on 6th January 2017.
DEAD DAYS – Don’t Mean
I remember in the early 2000s there was a spate of American university campus films that always centred on the plight of some hapless student trying to dig his way out of a sticky situation, usually involving a road trip and often featuring a girlfriend/ex-girlfriend who does nothing except raise her eyebrows and drape pastel sweaters over her shoulders. In the third act there tended to be a montage showing the hero remembering happier times (prefacing the inevitable moment in which both he and the love-interest simultaneously share the same witless yearning for togetherness).
This is the kind of song that soundtracks such a moment – the instant one realises there’s nothing that can’t be solved with a grand gesture, groundless optimism and lots of shouting. The hurt is fresh yet the happy ending is near… but not so near that you won’t get completely soaked running through the rain towards it.
Dead Days consist of Travis Marc, DC and James Mattocks.
GRAHAM GRAHAM BECK – Action Man With A Giraffe’s Head
Graham Beck paints a compelling picture here, one decidedly ripe for these confusing times. As narratives go it is neither linear nor helical, but rather caught up in its own catoptric mechanisms. Though perhaps a little too long for a subject matter bound so tightly to a single momentary reveal, as mood pieces go it raises some poignant questions concerning both identity and expectation – two universal concerns many of us spend entire lifetimes wrestling with, to no satisfactory edification. I must go deeper, for this track comes from the brain of a man given to performing in various masks and helmets (resembling anything from rabbits to fig rolls) so I can’t help but wonder, action men and giraffes aside, where is HIS head at?
HEZEN – Oil Fire
An incandescent track with a gloriously slow burn (I ask no pardon for the pun), Oil Fire would be a fine pick for a more emotionally ambitious Bond opener. Sara Hezen exhibits a masterful grasp on her material, the incendiary vocal performance growing out of beguilingly muted embers. I admire anyone with the self-confidence to keep a song’s full power dammed up for the majority of its duration – the final release is so much more affecting as a result. I also enjoy that little fizzing anti-break just before the three minute mark in which we catch a naked glimpse of the track’s digital innards, as if the song were unpicking its own seams, daring us to unpick our own.
JON PARKS – I Don’t Want To Fight Anymore
There are fewer things sadder in our human tendency towards domestic suffocation than the moment where one finds oneself dreaming of what once was, instead of what could be. In this simple song of everyday complication Jon Parks opens the curtains upon just such a moment, buried in the aftermath of a relationship gone sour. His positive intent should be enough to solidly categorize this neat little pop song as optimistic and upbeat, yet is the desire to return ever as bold as the desire to move on? Is this longing for an end to conflict a step towards real peace, or is it the white flag of surrender?
K.O.G & THE ZONGO BRIGADE – Rain
I first came across this nine-piece Afro-Fusion band when they made the shortlist for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition a couple of years ago. It wasn’t until this track, however, that I really appreciated the unique combination of participants which makes up KOG&TZB, drawn as they are from two very different locations: Accra, Ghana and Sheffield, UK.
The subject of rain is a popular song motif across all genres and nations, but its treatment very much depends on the location of the performer – in one place the arrival of rain may be a relief, in another a dreary default. Here we have a band bursting with diverse weathers, musically at ease hopping from one elaborate thundering groove to another, reveling in the changes rather than merely showing off. Quite the breath of fresh air.
LIONS OF DISSENT – X Y Z
Lions of Dissent describe themselves as a creative collective rather than a band: “an outlet for imagination, ideas, spontaneity and collaboration.” It is an ethos I support – the stance of bands is all too often a combative one, the stale old ‘us against the world’ cliche. Whether it be empty marketing spiel or authentic progressive vim I welcome LoD’s inclusive angle – if 2016 has taught us anything it is that building walls and living in bubbles leads to dire situations.
I’ve not mentioned the song they’ve submitted, my verdict is unimportant (living in Manchester has caused me to become somewhat desensitized to the charms of this species of spacey swagger rock) but I do applaud their idealism and hope more groups start to challenge the way they perceive and position themselves.
THE BIRDMAN RALLIES – Sungold Shelters
Much like the intro to this song, the lure of nostalgia can creep up on us without fanfare. By the time I heard the dreaded words “back in the day” and my emergency rose-tint filters locked into place I was already half a minute in, too far gone, I’d breathed too deep. You’d be surprised how many submissions FOTN receives where singers go on about how great things were when they were younger – like the hold music for a Brexit chatroom.
Fortunately The Birdman Rallies are wiser than many of their peers and share my retro-scepticism. They know the past is past, that we pick and choose what we recall, polishing up the rough edges and smoothing out the tricky inconsistencies when we should equally focus on the imperfections: “sometimes I’d like to go back there but then I remember the kids talk shit”. Yep. No amount of dreamy sunsets can make one’s teenage years entirely glamorous.
When prodding the slumbering bear of memory one must always use a stick long enough to afford us a suitable head-start when the beast wakes up wanting to devour us whole.
The Birdman Rallies are based in North Yorkshire and are made up of Daniel Webster, Adam Westerman, Ash Johnson and Emily Rowan.
WE WERE STRANGERS – In The Inbetween
Usually when a singer-songwriter starts to work with other musicians the effect on a song is one of general magnification – the groove is bigger, the riffs are more pronounced, the sentiment is more obvious etc. But Stefan Melbourne’s new project We Were Strangers is notable in that, with the help of this new ensemble, he has achieved a kind of contextual amplification, as though the song sits adrift on a lake, part shrouded in a clinging mist, but instead of zooming in for a close-up and blowing all that mist away in the process, Melbourne’s collaborators widen the lens, revealing just how big the lake is, just how alone the song is, just how far the mist stretches. It is quite a feat of orchestration and acutely sensitive to the themes of this moving work.
WREKIT88 – Yamato Superstar
Like some great prowling Sasquatch groping its way through the thin spaces between shelving stacks in an endless archive of musical interest WREKIT88 is a wonder of the internet. Not content to just put a “Singer Wanted” sign in their local music shop Welsh songwriters Chris and Neil have created this project as a way to reach out to vocalists all over the world, crossing genres and languages, collaborating remotely in a spirit of limit-pushing and simple enjoyment. Indeed there is a certain circuitous pleasure in this particular track since singer Van Wyck is a connection that came through this very website (via my fellow moderator Ludwig Janssen). After what has been a largely fraught few years politically such cross-border creative alliances are so valuable. This is what artists are supposed to do: connect – not just with audiences but with each other. Yet so many only build private temples to their own egos. Well done WREKIT88 for creating music in such a spirit of playfulness and togetherness.
Thanks to everyone who has submitted one or indeed many tracks during 2016, and to all who have contributed their ears and opinions! See you all next year for even more awesome new musical discoveries. The dropbox will reopen on Mon 9th January. Team Freshnet x
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.