Artists at a glance
DEAD NAKED HIPPIES
BUD SUGAR – Gambia
In addition to making what they call ‘Afro-Codhead Skank’ this Hull five piece (‘codhead’ is slang for a Hull native) have a lot going on. Their online game is deep – they’ve etched out their own little universe featuring genuinely fun vlogs (a rare sighting!), and clever but funny music videos which present them as a gang of loveable, humorous rogues it would be so much fun to be part of, but these guys are clearly serious about engaging with their audience. How many artists present ‘An epic 5 day online and interactive accompaniment’ as a countdown to the release of a single as Bud Sugar did last year? For Gambia, the second song taken off their vehemently consistent Vampire EP, they have started a GoFundMe page to get the band to Gambia to film a video for this track about which they’ve said ‘A single mum’s desire to have her mixed-raced kids know their heritage lead to this uplifting song and the birth of an epic adventure!’ – the kids in question being two of the band’s members. Clearly, they have phasers set to ‘epic’ and have imbued this joyful ear worm with all the excitement and vibrant colours of their videos and live shows.
CLOUD – Higher Understanding
Omar Walton-Jeffers, aka Cloud, is back for a second time at FOTN and this time took an even bigger bite of the votes than he did with his track Luxuria earlier this year. Higher Understanding treats a vintage soul sample in a delicious underground 90s hip hop style while Cloud flows above, touching on some of the most vital issues of the moment, as well as diving into the personal. He throws out observations on the political left/right divide and social segregation in media, as well as perception of time in the face of these extremes, but also works in some lyrics about how familial relationships effect the social. Cloud’s wasting no time – this comes off his Dedication To The Cause EP that was released a couple of months ago, but already he has uploaded another three track set called Lost which continues the 90’s-school vibrations. Sumptuous.
DEAD NAKED HIPPIES – Guillotine
‘Bar brawl’… ‘sharp as a knife’… ‘wall of sound’… ‘driving guitars and booming percussion’… These are descriptions of this trio from sources such as DIY or Metro and, yes, these adjectives are appropriate. Indeed, the band’s bio speaks of how they ‘thrashed into life in late 2016’. But I’m going to get weird on everybody and talk about how, while Guillotine is as fatally sharp as its namesake and features a driving, ceaselessly forward-lurching groove even before the assault of distortion announces the arrival of the chorus, it’s the sense of space and dynamics that really makes this track special. Lucy Jowett’s clarion voice perfectly plays over top the gut-kicking instrumentation (one or two of those higher bellows are dead ringers for Björk) and it certainly won’t hurt the Dead Naked Hippies’ prospects that she jumps off the screen as much as her voice leaps out of the speakers. Judging from their other tracks, this could be considered almost a ballad. A ballad that glasses you and insults your mother, but still…
ELIZA SHADDAD – My Body
It takes one line for Eliza Shaddad’s voice to stop you in your tracks. Sold. Maybe it’s the seeming effortlessness of her delivery as much as the mist-filled tone of her voice but, even if this isn’t your kind of thing, Eliza’s vocal is undeniable. So it’s unsurprising to learn she’s gotten love from various radio and online wigs both big and small, and had support from a lot of formidable music press. The special thing about her, evidenced clearly on My Body, is that while she is, as one music mag rightly proclaimed, ‘nakedly confessional’ with all the intimacy and vulnerability that phrase suggests, she simultaneously embodies a confidence and strength that further draws you in. If I tell you that something about this puts me in mind of early Suzanne Vega – the gentleness of vocals interplaying with a guitar groove – it’s important to also say this straddles that retro flavour with very contemporary decibels.
JERRY WILLIAMS – Left And Right
The wonderful randomness of the music submitted to FOTN and the stories behind them never stop being a delight. Take Jerry Williams. Were you to blindfold yourself and listen to what feels like a high-kicking upstomping country-twinged banger (patent on that phrase pending) with Jerry’s crystal vocal sparkles, knowingly cheeky lyrics and all round rabble-rousing flavour, would you guess she was a 21 year old Portsmouth native who studied classical guitars and considers herself a purveyor of indie pop? I’m guessing that no, you would not (though I could, of course, be wrong). In fact, Jerry has three EPs under her belt already and Left And Right is a taster of what to expect from her forthcoming album. Fun, sassy and sharp as a high-kicking up stomping country banger button, but leading the listener to question the boundaries between so-called ‘country’ or ‘indie’ of whatever other pre-conceived notions one has of a young woman wielding a guitar and microphone.
JOSEPH HAMMILL – Infant Hercules
Temporarily breaking away from the siblings he plays alongside in the much lauded folk-pop band Cattle & Cane, Joseph Hammill’s debut single was inspired by William Gladstone who, on a visit to Middlesbrough in 1862 spoke of the place as an ‘infant of England’s enterprise’ but ‘if an infant, an infant Hercules’. Initial response to the single has included the lyrics of the song being printed on the inside collar of every Middlesborough FC shirt – somewhat of an honour! But then Joseph’s debut is as powerful as it is intimate, ranging from a supple, poignant beginning to an epic mythical-esque anthem. Joseph’s vocal delivery rides the waves beautifully and brings the emotion of the lyrics to the fore. Pretty much an all round stunner.
KIDSMOKE – Patterns
This quartet’s bio says their shimmering brand of dreamy indie-pop has seen them make waves in their native North Wales, but that’s a bit of an understatement seeing as how they’ve received raves in The Sunday Times and had a song included in an episode of Black Mirror directed by Jodie Foster, no less. Patterns indeed shimmers in a dreamy way but these hooks are immediate and industrial strength. Kidsmoke know how to pair an extremely catchy riff with equally catchy lyrical refrain (an art in and of itself) and make that seem deceptively straightforward. They mention The Smiths, The Beatles, Wild Nothing and Real Taste among their influences, but I’m going to say (possibly to the band’s utter befuddlement) that I’m hearing shades of Prefab Sprout, especially in the middle eight – and that is a compliment indeed. Patterns is total summer sun music. Add top-down convertible ride and mix to taste.
KNUCKLE – The Dole Years
This was definitely one of the standout submissions this week. Perfectly named Knuckle play ‘Deluxe Garage Blues’ which means song titles like Baby I’m A Dickhead, My Girlfriend Is A Werewolf or this two minute twenty second paean to The Dole Years and all the waster behaviour that title might suggest. This Yorkshire trio don’t leave much of a trail of information on the internet other than that they’ve opened for, amongst others, Little Barrie and the odd photo or video displaying a reassuringly anarchic sense of humour (a live from the bedroom song video should always start by the drummer looking directly in and holding the viewers’ eyes and eating a banana). This, as with most of their Strangers And Freaks EP it’s taken from is heavy, rude and a skinful of fun. Best to get up late on a weekday, listen to this and then go back to sleep.
M3ON – In The Woods
Is trip hop considered a dirty term in 2018? If so, maybe it’s time we stop and remember just how fantastic, genuinely involving some of the music that fell under that moniker was. That’s what In The Woods got me thinking. Sounding fresh and forward-facing while recalling the moment of artists like Portishead (and if I left it there this would be extremely lazy journalism, but wait) or the lesser known but very much worthy of your investigation Mono or Coco And The Bean, M3ON manage to combine an aural acid trip (chicken scratch distortion, open string guitar desert windstorms, dubbed-out delay) with delicate female vocals to deliver a song strong enough to stand on its own for a purely acoustic rendition if it had to. All we know about M3ON is that he (there is an obscure image of a man in a flatcap) is a former synth player with UNKLE and that he made In The Woods with vocalist Hattie Cooke. They do their thing in ‘sunny Brighton’ so it’s interesting to juxtapose this darkly, trippy (there’s that word, again!) complex soundscape with the idea of eating chips on the beach. Both are delicious.
TOMMY ASHBY – Bowlegged
This week finishes on a truly beautiful track, one that may have you leaving FOTN, in Tommy Ashby’s words, ‘bleary eyed and breathless’. Raised on the Scottish pub sing-around culture, he describes his early musical experiences as immersive and natural and, not coincidentally, Tommy’s music is very immersive and feels joyfully natural. While the influence of the American roots, blues and country music he imbibed in his youth is apparent in his work, so is the ‘agrestic simplicity of his hometown life’. Lyrically, Tommy plays with both the literal idea of bowleggedness as well as using it as a metaphor for existence and, worry not if that sounds heavy, it works beautifully. It is not just any song that can fade into the sound of rain without coming across as pretentious or annoying. In the case of Bowlegged, with its sparse, intimate arrangement and plaintiff vocals, it feels natural and just somehow right.
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.