Artists at a glance
THE BOHEMIAN EMBASSY
THE KING HEAT ENSEMBLE
CHARLOTTE LLOYD-BUTLER – Shoreline
Like the ocean itself, here is a song that never stands still, ebbing and flowing so naturally that the changes of tempo and intensity, punctuated by jabs of guitar, somehow never jars. Throughout, Charlotte Lloyd-Bulter’s ethereal voice glides above it all.
It’s rare to hear a track as accomplished in the art of shapeshifting as this. Too often you can tell exactly where something is going from the outset, and many tracks that attempt a musical curveball either run out of ideas halfway through, or quickly end up in ruins. There is not a bit of that here.
Charlotte Lloyd-Butler is a 20-year old singer-songwriter originally from Newbury, but currently living in Falmouth. Shoreline is part of Charlotte’s In The Morning EP, which is out now.
DRANG – Lucky You
These tracks are reviewed alphabetically, but there couldn’t be a better contrast between Lucky You and Shoreline. This gets into the groove and stays there, only taking a brief pause to fire a withering look at its target before charging onwards.
While South London duo Drang cite the Shangri-Las and, er, Pete Townshend’s boiler suit in their bio, Lucky You delivers a blistering earful of social commentary worthy of anything from the punk era, but very much for today. By saying and doing exactly what it needs to, and no more, it’s no surprise Lucky You topped our poll this week. The track will be released as a single on February 10.
ELLA JANES – Travelling
If everyday reality is all bit too, uh, everyday and real for you, then Travelling offers pure escapism. It’s not only a song, but a musical photo album, presenting snapshots of precious moments, wondrous scenery and mesmerising starry skies.
Ella Janes is from London, and Travelling is one of five tracks from her new Live EP, out now, and you can catch her performing in London, Birmingham and Germany over the next few months.
FENNE LILY. – On Hold
Fenne Lily’s On Hold was a popular track with both our voters and moderators this week. It’s about finding love when she thought all was lost, and there’s a real sense of intimacy here; it’s delivered as delicately as you would handle a broken heart that’s on the mend, and is charmingly understated in its production.
From Britsol, Fenne Lily is no stranger to our Fresh Faves, with this her fourth appearance in the last year, but each time her profile seems to have grown. Our Derv saw her at the Eurosonic Festival in Groningen last month, and describes her as “all kinds of everything: quirky, folksy, emosh, witty, boho and also quite theatrical.”
On Hold is the title track of her debut album, which will be released on April 6th, and she’s just embarked on an extensive tour of the UK, taking in London, Bristol, Cardiff, Southampton, Brighton, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and Birmingham, plus Dublin and a number of dates in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.
GIZMO VARILLAS – Losing You
Just as you should never judge a book by its cover, you’d be wrong to think Losing You by Gizmo Varillas was a typical song about love and loss. The lyrics address Maribel, who’s lost her daughter to violence, lending those syncopated claps and tickled ukulele almost uncharacteristic poignancy. It turns out that Losing You is a response to the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016. Gizmo explains “the song just flew out of my mouth, word for word. I used the name Maribel as a way of putting myself into the shoes of one of the Latin mothers who lost their child.”
Gizmo Varillas is from London, but was born in Santander on the north coast of Spain. He’s moved back and forth between the two countries over the years, but says the UK’s grey skies provokes him to write sunny tunes — evident here despite the dark subject matter. Losing You is taken from his next album, Dreaming Of Better Days, which can be pre-ordered now and will be available on May 28.
MATT STOCKL – I Exercised Myself To Death
As our own Debs pointed out when she selected this track, it’s not entirely clear how serious Matt Stockl is being with I Exercised Myself To Death, what with its very obvious references to Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues and Maggie’s Farm. “I ain’t working out on Muscle Farm no more!” he protests. Matt has appeared in our Fresh Faves a number of times over the years, and we’ve learned not to take his work too lightly.
So sure, it’s hard not to see this as at least a little tongue-in-cheek, but once you start to think about what he’s saying, you can go all kinds of places with it. Taken literally, it could speak of the pressure on young people to have perfect bodies, even if that means using steroids to the detriment of their health, or perhaps even as a broader commentary on how little has changed in the 50 years since Dylan’s originals, and we’ve been running ourselves ragged for no good reason.
Whatever the case (and we don’t need to know the answer), Matt released this track in time for an Independent Venue Week gig last week, and will be supporting TV Smith at the Rising Sun Arts Centre in Reading on March 30.
ROE – Wasted.Patient.Thinking.
“I’m done with your messed-up loving” sings Roe in her latest single, Wasted.Patient.Thinking, which is about escaping an abusive relationship. There is plenty to admire here: lyrically, it’s full of gems, while the sparring guitars and synths augment her spiky delivery, which leaves you in no doubt that this is someone who’s had enough.
Roe is from Derry, 19 years old, and has been strongly supported by Dan Hegarty at RTE 2FM, where this track has been playlisted. According to our Derv (again), she played four separate gigs at Eurosonic and “blew the sox off everyone”. It’s not hard to see why, and this track won the hearts of Fresh On The Net moderators and listeners alike over the weekend.
You can catch Roe at Output Belfast on Feb 8, and she will be playing a gig with Ailbhe Reddy in Dublin in March. Doubtless we’ll be seeing a lot more of her as the summer festivals get underway.
SARA – No Conditions
Although released on Christmas Eve and referencing that night, No Conditions by Sara manages to sound perfectly appropriate even in the cold half-light of a February afternoon. With only a muted piano and vocals, it somehow manages to convey both warmth and bleakness at the same time.
Sara is a 21 year old from Hemel Hempstead, who says she’s “trying to make something meaningful”, and it looks like she’s succeeding.
THE BOHEMIAN EMBASSY – We Are All Animals
The Bohemian Embassy are a four-piece from Bath / Bristol, and We Are Animals wastes no time in making an impact. I’m really not a fan of comparisons, but this track sounds like what might happen if you put The Pop Group and Interpol into a blender and added a generous splash of hot sauce.
I don’t know if that’s entirely representative of the band though — there’s a sampler for their album of the same name on Soundcloud, and it’s clear they draw on a range of influences in a way that makes them sound both familiar and brand new. Certainly this visceral energy must make them an absolute riot live.
THE KING HEAT ENSEMBLE – Landslide
Landslide is a charming, bluesy tale of emotional walls that become so tall and defensive they collapse into ruins, and how those ruins can be used to establish proper foundations. Honestly, I’m doing it no justice whatsoever, just click the play button.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about The King Heat Ensemble, but I can tell you that Landslide is taken from their debut EP, Songs, which will be released on March 4.
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.