Artists at a glance
LUKE JAMES WILLIAMS
These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by Fresh On The Net moderator, and BBC Introducing in Devon and Cornwall presenter Sarah Gosling this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
Æ MAK – Too Sad To Sing
Think of the best day you had at the fair when you were little. Full of excitement, too many feelings bursting out, probably a lot of bright colours, sunshine and sugar. That’s the sensation given off by Æ Mak on Too Sad To Sing. First, we have the amusements: The gentle twinkling xylophone for the bright lights; the gambolling hi-jinks of performers and carnival-goers provided in the synths and time-warp sensations of some of the effects, effects which pull the listeners perception in and out as our attention is drawn to other elements; the fireworks of the trilling synths as they “phoop phoop” their way through the chorus’ precursor. Then, the candy floss of Aoife McCann’s tricksy vocal. Go one way and it gathers substance about it, becomes smaller, lower, harder to consume quickly; it needs a second listen, no bad thing. At another it becomes sweet ephemera, wisping off as McCann’s vocal does in the top notes. All of this with a contrasting sadness, one which has her saying that she’s simply “too sad to sing”. There’s a dynamism and acceptance of this sadness though which fans of Lykke Li and Robyn will recognise. I like the idea that a sad nanny wrote this song in a moment of lament while playing with the childrens’ instruments. It’s an oddball delight, and I’m now most certainly going to listen to more of their stuff – if they’re good enough to support Django Django and Tune-Yards, they’re good enough for me.
ALEXIS KINGS – Velvet
My genuine first note for this track from 5 piece Alexis Kings was “sexy-ass indie rock”. Can you tell I like it a little bit? Firstly, man does it have groove. I would not like to see the sway a group of inebriated revellers would get into with this track, particularly with lines like “let’s make it electric baby, this night’s for two”. Secondly, it knows just when to speed up, when to hold back, and the endearing strain of frontman Brendan Aherne’s vocal pairs perfectly with the gorgeous guitar licks. The whole feel of the song manages to straddle a line which is a little Half Moon Run, a little Blossoms, and a little something entirely unique. Two questions though. One: Is the line at the end of the chorus “in my ying-yong”? Two: Does anyone have an over the counter cure for an ear-worm? I seem to find myself in need of one after this track. Hooks a plenty.
CALM – Vivid
Some tracks manage to feel inordinately cool from the opening bars. This is one of them. Sounding so chilled that the pitch changes might be a direct result of the singer spinning away from the mic while he lies prostrate in an office chair, the appropriately named Calm do a sterling job of making effort and skill appear effortless. The whole track undulates and rolls, picking up the speed and pulling through the climbs like an actual rollercoaster, and not just because I’m lazy with my metaphors – I really do mean it. The best bits of nineties indie and catchy brit-pop bangers coalesce to make the second ear-worm in a row this week. What are you trying to do to me you nifty Indie kids.
JON SAMSWORTH – Coconut Heralds
Apparently in a former incarnation as a film score composer, Aylesbury’s Jon Samsworth sat down in the cinema only to discover that all of his music had been removed from said film. Not one to be perturbed, Jon has taken the skills one can assume are involved in the job of being a film composer – painting a picture with sound, facilitating a mood and providing a narrative without the privilege of words – and used them to his own advantage in a piece he describes as “unusual”, known to us as Coconut Heralds. This piece seems as though it is split into chapters, leading the listener through a movement from heraldic trumpeting (excited about coconuts?), to the gentle aural caress (less creepy than it sounds) of the string bridge, then once thoughts are gathered, back through a collage of sound as we are led by tones of previous strains into the crescendo. My one issue? No coconuts.
KING NO-ONE – Out Of My Mind
King No-One, I’m going out of my mind trying to nail down who you sound like. There’s a definite dash of Arcade Fire, Blossoms, Oasis, and basically all the good, melodic and anthemic bits of every Indie rock act you’ve ever loved. What makes King No-One really stand out though, is the snap and intent in this track. The whole sound is so tight, so definite, that you find yourself being carried along deeper into the revolutionary world of King No-One. Yorkshire born and bred, the four-piece sound like they have found their authentic voice, and have done as the great recent bands have done – think Idles – and are turning it into the art they feel they deserve; in their case, stadium filling. Certain lines are real lyrical stand-outs too – I’m a particular fan of “now I’m on my seventh wife, yeah I still don’t have a life”. King No-One are resting on no laurels. As they say in their bio, “no one is king. We are all born equal”. Viva la revolution chaps.
LUKE DE-SCISCIO – Lament
It’s a bit annoying when an artist describes their track better than you can ever hope to. Of Lament, Luke De-Scisio wrote that it’s “a smokey autumnal hymnal atop a hypnotic beat and a bed of feathered guitars”. Well err, yeah actually. What I can say though is that I’m a very big fan of this song. Firstly, anyone who writes that their sole influence is “the outdoors” is good in my book. Secondly, this song is just truly charming in a rugged, heartfelt way. There’s something wholesome about it, but not remotely pious. It’s the same feeling you get from a wooded stream at different times; one day it might be a tranquil flow through a tame faucet, at others a raging torrent, sweeping away the bank as it goes. The vocals are haunting and impassioned, and the addition of a layer of electric drum tsk’s keep the track grounded as the melody soars. Like a new Jose Gonzalez but with a bit more solemnity beneath the surface, Luke De-Scisio seems to be the new man on the engaging, honest acoustic frontier.
LUKE JAMES WILLIAMS – Rabbit Hole
What I like most about this song is that it feels like it might never tire. At its very core its unrelenting; the guitar part is a repeating strain, the vocal feels like a spokesperson for warm folk, telling tales around the campfire until dawn. What is a simple song structurally is made complex by the intensity and intention which forged it. It feels like he may have written the track while in something of a crisis, not of self, but for someone else, the sort of emotional encounter which leaves a person in need of creative catharsis. The thing with Williams though, is that he actually succeeds in making art from it. A veteran musician, Luke James Williams has most certainly found his market with his new EP being recorded at home (peak folk), but then mastered by Josh Bonati of Sufjan Stevens, Tallest Man on Earth and Mac DeMarco fame, taking him in one fell swoop frombeing the guy who sleeps under his hemp jacket for love of the festival, to the biggest yurt in the glamping field. This is someone I can’t wait to hear more from.
MAYFLY – Breathe
There’s something remarkably chilling about Mayfly’s Breathe. I don’t know if it’s the glacier pure vocals, the space between sections, or the purity of the soundscape, but the whole track actually manages to feel like that first refreshing breath of winter air after a night in a dry heated box; both shocking and reviving. With vocals not dissimilar to those of London Grammar’s Hannah Reid, the simple melody takes a backseat to the soliloquy of song provided by Mayfly’s voice. This is a song which understands balance. The music is used sparingly to complement the vocal, until it builds itself into a platform from which to launch it. Effects are used wonderfully to add to the eeriness, sounding at times as though a voice from somewhere behind is advising us that “I am better off alone”. In her BBC Introducing bio, she writes that her dream is to write a song as good as Robyn’s Dancing On My Own. Mayfly, writing authentic, heartfelt electro-pop is no mean feat. I think you’ve nailed it. Cue the Robyn support slots methinks.
ROSIE CALDECOTT – Underground
There are some vocals which you feel like you could listen to all day. Not perhaps because they reach particularly lofty heights or are the purest you’ve ever heard, but perhaps because of the tone, the place from which they come. That’s what I think about Rosie Caldecott. The Oxford singer-songwriter says that she’s considerably influenced by Kate Bush, Laura Marling and This Is The Kit, but I think two crucial artists have been left off the list; Agnes Obel and Oh Land. The way she makes the music feel like a timepiece – somehow organic and immediate, making heard the silent count of the earth – and how her vocal lilts through the empty spaces, striking the seconds between the notes, makes the song feel very vital. Something about the whole piece leaves me thinking of fairy tales. It has the sort of dark whimsy that Hansel and Gretel would almost certainly put in their new alt-folk track, were they to have one. The crack and smile of Rosie’s voice are fantastically endearing, and I quite simply like this track a lot.
SEADOG – Words Sometimes Fail
You know how I said Luke James Williams’ track was unrelenting? I second that here. Sounding distinctly Elliot Smith-y not only in vocal tone but the quaint yet crucial way it’s delivered, the insistent drums force the listener to pay attention throughout, demanding constant consideration in a way Smith sometimes didn’t quite manage. Brighton-based musician Mark Benton, AKA Seadog (along with “an ever-changing cast of musical friends”), has made a perfect late-nineties vibe dream-pop track, which I can’t wait to see in the next nostalgia movie in the vein of The Breakfast Club. Just imagine this over a happy-sunny-days-teenagers-frolicking montage; just the right amount of pathos packaged in sunbeams. Bravo Seadog.
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.