Artists at a glance
FOGGY CITY ORPHAN
M W S
SHE MAKES WAR
THE VEGA BODEGAS
So as my friend and fellow moderator Kerry keeps reminding us, it’s the season finale of Fresh on the Net before the inbox closes for the month of August. BUT Fresh On The Net itself does not close, so keep logging on as there will be articles and blog posts about new music and related topics. This week saw another bumper crop of fine tracks across a wide and interesting range of genres and scenes. And after picking twenty-five genuine stand-out moments for the Listening Post audience to decide upon, these are the eleven Fresh Faves you have chosen. Yes eleven as we had a tie for tenth.
Once again, to those artists who either made the Listening Post but not the Fresh Faves or who didn’t make either, don’t be downhearted. You may be surprised if you knew just how many great tracks come within a whisker of being selected but narrowly miss out. There is so much talent out there and these days we get submissions from across the globe. So keep sending your finest recordings of your finest tracks and hopefully it will be you appearing in the Fresh Faves someday soon.
Æ MAK – Love Flush
You might think this name points Eastwards but au contraire (or something); Æ Mak are from Dublin and their striking original style is announced with considerable glee from the opening bar of the song. We are treated to a quirky but catchy combination of engagingly unusual female vocal laced with harmonies and a light-textured lively synth-dominated accompaniment. We love originality and individuality at FOTN and this track has both in abundance.
So too do the new music media in Ireland (love them, that is) including no less than Hot Press (which I used to read in the eighties, yes I really am that old!) who gush “.. the ideas bursting from every tune they’ve unveiled so far show that they’re impossible to pigeonhole… a force to reckon with in the months and years to come.” Warm words indeed. The band has been busy playing the festivals circuit and supporting the likes of Warpaint, building a following as they go. They also played Latitude this year and their Facebook page lists a full-on schedule of gigs, mostly but by no means exclusively in Ireland. Things, it’s fair to say, are looking up.
BRYDE – Fast Awake
I was fortunate to be writing the Fresh Faves reviews when Bryde made the cut previously so it is a pleasure to be reviewing another of their evocative, intense tracks. This one is more uptempo, blown along by breezy guitar, legato keys and lightly funky(ish) drums leaving plenty of space for singer Sarah Howells to stretch out in terms of her distinct alto voice and layers of close harmony.
This track arrives only a fortnight after the band from Milford Haven recorded a Maida Vale session for BBC Radio One’s Huw Stephens. That is particularly exciting not least because it is a reminder that success here at the Fresh Faves can be a genuine springboard. Clearly Bryde have not looked back since their appearance here earlier this year. With a firm infrastructure around them and a sound that veers between vulnerable and forthright, topped by Sarah’s distinct voice, Bryde may well be on the verge of a very exciting period in their history.
CHLOE JOSEPHINE – Once More
I have been aware of Chloe Josephine for a while as she records for the excellent Portsmouth-based label Mayfield Records, and she is a seriously impressive young singer. Here she has teamed up with Mayfield’s spiritual leader and keyboard wizard Dominic Elton to co-write a beautifully organic soulful and typically (in relation to Dominic) jazz-tinged ballad. The confidence she shows in delivering a track like this where the voice is so exposed against a minimalistic backdrop speaks for itself. So too does her decision to take on quite a retro vibe but lend it a contemporary edge thanks to her vibrant singing style.
Chloe has made the interesting and admirable choice to sign with Mayfield and work with their excellent house band (and having worked with them myself within the past two years trust me, they are the Stax of Pompey) rather than chase a major deal in poppier territory. This has enabled her to nurture her rangey, soulful voice and develop a maturity beyond her years. Once More is Exhibit A in the case for her defence in making such a choice. She has excellent people around her who will act in her best interests and provide a pristine professional platform for her talent. Exciting times ahead.
FOGGY CITY ORPHAN – Vitamins
Ooh we do like a bit of sardonic humour at Fresh on the Net and all the more so when it is presented in the context of a quirky Art-Punk piece that has energy and contrasts of mood and texture, bringing to mind a lineage of bands that may or may not include Devo, They Might Be Giants, The B52s and The Presidents of the USA. And that is pretty decent company to mix in.
Foggy City Orphans are actually from Glasgow and their apparent desire to dress in some unusual outfits recalls another Avant Pop giant from the other side of the pond, The Residents. Anyway I digress. Amusingly they describe themselves as ‘biodegradable’. They seem to be pretty active though, especially in relation to local radio outlets. There isn’t a great deal of information about them but they are an all-male quartet who appear to be gigging regularly. They won’t be everyone’s cup of tea any more so than most of the bands and artists at the LP this week but they will win true fans who get them wherever they go with such a positive, energetic approach to music.
GRIS-DE-LIN – Sprung (Clock Opera Remix)
I must confess I have no idea what a ‘Clock Opera Mix’ consists of but it sounds rather appealing, dontcha think? Anyway it certainly seems to work here, blending semi-classical string semi-quavers with synthier sounds and bright upper register female vocals that, with the ensuing echo effect and disappearing harmonies, bring the Cocteaus to mind (and perhaps Dream Poppers like Cranes and Slowdive except without the swirling, echoing guitar figures).
The Soundcloud page for this track belongs to Hamburg label BB Island, and is populated by various other artists, but the label’s website has a page about Gris-De-Lin who, it transpires, is a solo artist from Dorset described intriguingly as a ‘nautical songstress’. Does she live and write on a boat one wonders? She has also had a rave review in the predominantly retro Rock mag Uncut who are quoted as saying “Bridport Polymath serves up arresting debut… balancing strong melody with consistently inventive sonic texture.” Well yes, I can hear that. The ethereal quality of the soundscape and her tendency to subvert conventional song structure are elements that lift her music to greater heights.
She appears to be playing live in August too though possibly not in the UK. Partly thanks to the label putting themselves at the forefront of all available social media, Gris-De-Lin remains, for now, something of an enigma. But one you might find it rewarding to explore further.
M w S – Nobody
M w S are definitely making waves at the Listening Post just lately, so it is great to see they have cracked the Fresh Faves this week. Soulful Pop with a classic retro feel by female/male duo is the order of the day. M w S are London-based but they actually come from Italy. Giulia Magnani has a high voice that rises up into a razor-edged crescendo at times whilst, at other times, sounding like something of a sixties Pop throwback. The other half of the duo is Francesco Drovandi who appears to be mainly a guitarist (although piano is the more prominent sound here).
Curiously they name as influences Erikah Badu, Lauryn Hill and Etta James. But on the evidence here they do not sound remotely like any of these artists and their style is a long way from the Bone Dry Hip Hop and Neo Soul of Badu or Hill. They do also name Soul and R’n’B as influences. I would have thought Soul in the more traditional sense and also the lighter end of nightclub Jazz and sophisticated Pop. Still, style is in the eyes and ears of the beholder I guess. What matters is that the end result is enjoyable and engaging. I hope their relocation to London brings them the success they desire.
MARTHA BEAN – Slippers To A Wedding
No such identity issues afflict Leicester’s Martha Bean. Finger-picking guitar, rangey folky voice with strong falsetto and a songwriting style that is personal and autobiographical. Her sound is as organic as organic gets. Her style mixes up short rhyming lines with longer, lyrical ones which is beautifully poetic and underlines her skill as a writer both of words and music.
In terms of timing, this song is appearing on BBC East Midlands this weekend and is already released as a single. Clearly Martha is a regular on the live scene but there are no current dates listed in her gig itinerary. She has previously released an album to great acclaim from media in the Folk and Americana scene and she has had airplay on BBC 6 Music recently too. So don’t be surprised to hear this engaging melodic piece on the same airwaves in the very near future.
SAM WEBER – Aint It Always True
Canadian Singer-Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sam Weber, on this evidence, makes smooth sophisticated retro Pop sung in an appealing tenor register and reinforced by accomplished musicianship. And boy, does he get around? Tour dates that include Canada, USA, Norway and Sweden all the way from now until mid-October. He has had albums released in 2014 and 2016. He also takes a band of highly skilled musicians with him on the road. So someone somewhere must be funding this or maybe he is huge in Canada and we never knew. However one looks at it, this is mightily impressive especially in the modern era. Impressive too is this infectious track bolstered by sophisticated, thoughtful arrangement and polished playing.
Oddly his website has no biographical information so despite having all the key web and social media pages in place there isn’t much that tells Sam Weber’s story or offers much insight into the artist and human being behind the songs. What is clear though is that he prefers the traditional approach of analogue recording and performing with real musicians. And his live schedule is full on. More power to his elbow then.
SHE MAKES WAR – Devastate Me
She Makes War is Bristol’s Laura Kidd, a musical and visual artist who makes upbeat energetic Indie Rock with the kind of dynamic range and melodic flair that forms part of a fine tradition with its roots in the Post-Punk Powerpop of bands like the Primitives, Darling Buds and Fuzzbox and more recent exponents like Regina Spektor (who SMW names as an influence) and Dream Wife. Devastate Me is raucous, uplifting and tuneful in every area of the song. The production is loud and spacious and captures the intensity of Laura Kidd’s vocal performance.
Interestingly SMW points to more American nineties Alt Rock artists like Kristin Hersch (Throwing Muses), The Pixies and The Breeders although she also names St Vincent and Juliana Hatfield. Certainly she is drawing on a rich tapestry of guitar band music. She is also getting out and about with an Autumn tour lined up that kicks off in Leeds in early October and takes in a considerable range of venues culminating in a November gig in Bristol. It’s impressive that she is able to put together such a packed month of gigs across the English Regions. And if Devastate Me is anything to go by, I imagine her live shows are well worth the effort.
THE VEGA BODEGAS – A Complete History of Witchcraft
It’s always good to have some no-bones hard-hitting Alt Rock at the Listening Post. Enter The Vega Bodegas, spoken (or shouted perhaps) word vocals, fuzz guitar riff and power-driven rhythm section with suitably wall-of-sound production. The lack of links or information on their Soundcloud page meant having to do some google searching to unearth details about the band. It transpires they are a quartet from Cardiff, and A Complete History of Witchcraft is also the title of their new album available on their Bandcamp page.
According to a quote from WalesOnline The Vega Bodegas ‘… trip the light fantastic between surreal stand-up and unhinged Rock and Roll’ which seems a reasonable summary based on what I have heard. Their humour is certainly of the sardonic if slightly obscure kind and they play with a driving energy and interlocking tightness that is fierce and feisty. Strong stuff, not for the faint-hearted.
WHITE ROOM – Cannibal Song
The week’s most disarming title and lyrical subject belongs to a song that is whimsical and poppy in an alternative way, marked out by chromatic chord changes, spy movie guitars and moments of Beatlesesque key resolution. This is skillfully constructed guitar pop with some attractive harmonies to offset intense guitars and slightly surreal production. A switch to triplet time that emerges from the crescendo climax of that process is clever and unexpected, adding a cool coda to boot. Two bands who spring to mind as reference points are The Divine Comedy and Space.
White Room are from Brighton and, looking at the photo on Soundcloud, they are a Quintet (four men and one woman). They play Tim Peak’s Diner in September and before that they play the Ashtonbury Festival. As I write they have been playing at a beer festival in Chiddingly. So there is no slacking in the live department. Recent events have also included an interview for US radio and a gig at Borderline. They are doing all the right things and this exposure can hopefully help them along too.
Well that’s it folks. The Fresh On The Net in-box now closes for the August break but keep logging on because there will be plenty of interesting blog articles appearing during that time covering various subjects that are of potential interest to musicians and fans alike. Like I said in another blog recently, New Music never sleeps! Happy Summer everyone. Neil xxxx
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.