Fresh Faves: Batch 330

Gizmo Varillas

Artists at a glance


These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by Fresh On The Net’s Steve Harris this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.

BROTHER ZULU – Ice Cold (feat. Zoe Kypri)

Brother Zulu open our Fresh Faves with the irresistible Ice Cold. It’s been a while since I’ve heard a track as bold and restless as this; it switches directions so often it could make your head spin, if you weren’t too busy dancing it off, that is. Had that not been done so well, it would be infuriating to have the groove snatched away from you at a moment’s notice, but it’s never far away, and somehow they completely get away with it.

While they haven’t been going long, and this is Brother Zulu’s first appearance on our Fresh Faves, they have already made quite an impression on the rest of the world, appearing at BBC Music’s Biggest Weekend last summer, and most recently showcased at BBC Introducing in London’s Summer By The River event in the capital last week.

The band consists of lead singer Max Tuohy, guitarist Alex Hillman, bassist Noah Nelson and drummer Youssef Abdelkhalek, and are produced by what sounds like their fifth band member, keys player and classically trained flautist Lawrence Ajadi.

Ice Cold is out now in all the usual places, and you can next catch them at Weyfest Music Festival in Farnham next month.

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The central conceit with these reviews is that you, dear reader, can’t just click the play button and decide for yourself what a track is like, or what it’s about, forcing the writer to come up with a description that does it justice. However, you can click play, and should you do that for this track then you’ll either be impressed or distressed by the racket that ensues, but I’m betting it won’t just wash over you.

Wipe the blood from your ears, listen again a little more attentively, and Not Yr Man appears to be about what it means to be a “man”, or rather the kind of man who likes fighting, watching sports and, er, gaslighting, and now the racket is transformed into a social commentary on toxic masculinity. I also want to award top marks for the line “Let me be your Northern Rail, I wanna let you down!”. All this confirms that punk is not dead.

I can’t tell you much about Courting, except that they appear to be four lads from Liverpool, and Not Yr Man is out now.

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GARLANDS – Wolves & Foxes

Wolves & Foxes by Glasgow three-piece Garlands is an energetic slice of melodic indie-pop, taken from their current EP, Animals.

Garlands are Gordon Harrow (vocals, guitar), Darren Mackay (Bass), and Stef Blair (Drums) and if, like me, you’ve heard this and you’re trying to put your finger on something familiar, then according to their bio, Gordon has previously worked with Ken Stringfellow (Posies, REM, Big Star), which might help explain the 90s Alt Rock-tinged vibes emanating from the speakers.

That said, this is no tribute to a bygone age. Wolves & Foxes sounds fresh, albeit conjuring the thought of sweaty performances at the kinds of venues that would smell anything but fresh, but equally could go down a storm on a stage in a muddy field, so I hope we’ll be hearing more from them in future.

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GIZMO VARILLAS – Out of the Darkness

Gizmo Varillias is an old acquaintance of ours at Fresh On The Net. His tunes – usually lively, sunshine-drenched beauties – often mask something darker or more serious, and as you might be able to guess from the title, this track is no exception. Out Of The Darkness is the first track to be released from his upcoming third album, and apparently set the tone for the whole thing, about overcoming issues such as depression, anxiety, stress and mental health, and it was one of the most popular tracks on our Listening Post over the weekend.

Now living in London, having moved from Spain by way of Cardiff, Gizmo Varillas has been supported by BBC Radio Wales, Amazing Radio, BBC Radio London, and BBC Radio 6 Music, as well as having his work featured on Netflix productions, and EA Sports’ FIFA 2019 no less.

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RYKARD – The Explorers

It’s not often an ambient electronic instrumental makes our Fresh Faves, but it’s not hard to see why The Explorers did, presenting an ever-changing landscape of sonic imagery that really triggers the imagination.

I can’t really tell you much about Rykard, apart from “electronic musician from Preston”, but I can tell you The Explorers is the first track to be taken from Rykard’s new EP, Explorers Vol.1 (the first in a series of four), which will be released on July 12.

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SADIE HORLER – Washed Up Mermaid

At Glastonbury on the weekend, Sir David Attenborough stood on the Pyramid Stage to thank the crowd and festival for going “plastic-free” as part of a wave of public awareness about plastic pollution in our oceans since Blue Planet II (and to plug a new series, of course).

Here, Sadie Horler presents what I think might be our first Fresh Fave on that subject, which like all songs about issues and politics, no matter how worthy or relevant, would fall flat if the music wasn’t up to scratch.

Fortunately, Washed Up Mermaid is sonically exquisite, and the lyrics — which do not shy away from including words such as “microplastics” — really hit the mark. “What have you done?” she asks, warning “never turn your back on the ocean.”

It is remarkable, then, that Sadie is a mere 18 years old, and hails from Exeter, with plenty of support from BBC Introducing in Devon & Cornwall, as you can imagine, and is appearing at a raft (see what I did there) of festivals across the Southwest of England in the coming months.

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These tracks are presented alphabetically, but it’s funny how they sometimes run into each other, stylistically or thematically. So, to keep both themes of environmental awareness and atmospheric folk running, I can start by telling you that that Londoner Sam Brookes recently performed at Extinction Rebellion events in London and Bristol.

Numb II is taken from his Tempus EP, which was released in May and promoted by a tour of venues across the UK. According to the blurb, the EP reworks some of his critically-acclaimed album Kairos’s songs with the help of producer Laurence Love Greed and some of the UK’s finest session players. Sam has previously worked with a range of artists, from Scott Matthews and Lucy Rose to Newton Faulkner and Basement Jaxx.

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Hearing the words “Here comes the rain again” will always trigger something in me, because I was alive in the 80s and Annie Lennox’s vocals still ring in my ears, so it’s personally alarming to think that Shiraz Hempstock, who’s 17, would’ve been born almost twenty years after the Eurythmics track was recorded.

This is not a cover or a tribute to that as such, but rather the line sets the scene. Like all good pop records, it’s not complicated or challenging – it burbles along quite agreeably – and at 3:12, Rain would fit onto a 7” single admirably. However, despite the chiming synths and programmed drums, there are plenty of production clues that set this apart from an actual 80s recording, so it’s not a pastiche either. That said, the EP from which this is taken (available to hear on Spotify) includes a number of remixes that mostly sound far more contemporary.

Supported by BBC Introducing in Hereford and Worcester, with plays on BBC Radio 1, BBC 1Xtra and Jamie Cullum’s BBC Radio 2 show, Shiraz recently played on the BBC Introducing stage at Hay Festival to a packed audience, all of which bodes well. So I won’t be surprised if we end up hearing more from her in the near future.

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SPEELBURG – Headlights

If, like me, you enjoy music that’s a bit on the wonk, drizzled in quirk, then Speelburg has all your wonky, quirky needs covered here from the opening line.

“Crash-landed on the rings of Saturn, to try to break the same old pattern, moving on is hard when you’re out of this world…”

What’s it about? Not sure really. Don’t care either. It just sounds great! The relaxed tempo never quickens, but there is a rap in the middle that demonstrates an unexpected mastery of flow.

According to his bio, Speelburg is Noah Sacré, an American / Belgian singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who was raised in France, but now resides in LA, and Annie Mac recently made Headlights Radio 1’s “Chillest Record of the Week”, which in my opinion, was thoroughly well-deserved.

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YVONNE MCDONNELL – I’m Not This Layer Of Skin

Yvonne McDonnell says I’m Not This Layer of Skin was written three years ago to “challenge the shallow portrayal of women in the media”. Listening, I was struck by how the lyrics — available in full on this track’s Soundcloud page, but loud and clear in the mix — are powerful and quite devastating really, almost a tale from birth to death.

London folk artist Yvonne says she takes inspiration from the likes of Janice Joplin, Joy Division, Nina Simone, BRMC, Johnny Cash, Tracy Chapman, Joan Armatrading, Perfume Genius and Nick Cave, and while lists such as these can often do little more than cause a skeptical eyebrow to rise, somehow I can hear a little of them all in just this one track. Quite something!

Not sure what the future holds for Yvonne, but according to her Facebook page, new material is coming soon. Be sure to send that our way!

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Sadie Horler

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.

Photo of Sadie Horler by Matt Austin Images

Steve Harris

Steve Harris is an independent app developer living in Swansea, Wales. A passionate music lover, his hobbies include not working and pretending to understand science. Find him on Twitter: @steveharris. Read more about Steve.


  1. Fantastic reviews Steve and informative as always. I had no idea Sadie Horler was only 18. What a mature track and so original. Thanks for your characteristically thorough research and eloquent reviews.

  2. Steve Harris

    Thanks Neil!

  3. Derv

    You’ve nailed the art of music reviewing Steve. As ever, you’ve put your own charming, inviting and relaxed style on them. Kudos my friend xxx

  4. Steve Harris

    Cheers Derv!

  5. too busy to do the listening post what with traipsing around Glastonbury (brag brag)….
    brilliant set of tunes here…. particularly liked Rain, Out of the Darkness and Wolves & Foxes. Ta very much.

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