Artists at a glance
GRAHAM GRAHAM BECK
AMY SWIFT – Moving
Moving may be her debut solo effort, but South East London’s Amy Swift is no rookie, having cut her teeth writing and singing for a variety of artists and fronting Universal-signed electro-soul act Pacific State. “This is me, raw and unapologetic”, she declares in her official bio, and delivers the goods with a deeply evocative retro soul performance dripping with Nina Simone and Etta James-esque cool. In the era of autotune and homogenised vocal production, this is real as hell. Goosebumps real.
A great artist heads a great team, and for this track Swift collaborates with producer Nadeem, who created a rich, Ronson-esque arrangement with cool vibes, lush strings and, just when you least expect it, tasty retro synths. And that’s before even mentioning a guest appearance by Placebo’s Steve Hewitt on drums and percussion.
Swift describes the song as an “ode to heartbreak… when you know it isn’t good… but like an addiction”. Well, this track is good. Very good. And an addiction to cherish.
BIRTHMARKS – Charcoal
Also hailing from our nation’s capital, Birthmarks are Fresh Faves alumni, who our own Neil March found “consummately satisfying” when we last heard from them back in April. Now they’re back with another track from their forthcoming album And Then The Rain Stopped, due out on 18th October.
“[It’s] an introspective look on dealing with the act of separation”, explains singer Daniel Cross on the lyric notes. “Some situations are beyond repair… the growth involved to move on is painful for both sides, but necessary”. Apparently the album is inspired by the breakup of a long term relationship, but this is no mopey exercise in self-pity. This is creative electronica, detuned synths, searing guitars and an expressive vocal with shades of Julian Cope. “I know that this hurts you, but it’s all I can do!” Cross insists cooly, then painfully, then despairingly. Expressive stuff.
FLIES+FLIES – Threads
Staying in London, Flies+Flies are the audio-visual duo of singer Dan Griffis and producer/experimental DJ Jake Williams “obsessed with soundtracking empty internet transmissions, especially unsecured security cameras… that are disturbingly accessible”. They have built live shows around this theme, performing in front of the purloined footage like a voyeuristic electro Public Service Broadcasting, particularly from their bi-monthly club night “No-One’s Watching” (ho ho) at Dalston’s SET art space. The whole concept sounds terrific, well worth checking out if you find yourself in the area.
According to the duo, Threads “represents a key shifting point… where beats switch… into a much heavier and darker place”. Sharing a title with the notorious TV film on nuclear annihilation suggests one such dark place, but not necessarily the one being conveyed – it’s “left for the listener to decipher”, they state knowingly.
Musically this is lush, evocative, avante-garde and confidently sets its own pace, weighing in at a hefty 7:18 that does not feel a second too long.
FLO PERLIN – Give Me To The Sea
Hailing from – have a guess – London, Flo Perlin is a cellist, guitarist and singer songwriter with Iraqi and Belarusian heritage. Give Me To The Sea is a gorgeous neo-classical waltz built around lilting piano, rounded cello and violins and a hauntingly sparse vocal augmented with just the right amount of unison backup on the refrain of “fill me up and give me to the sea / let everything touch me”.
GLENN MALTMAN – I Am The Someone
Finally freeing us from the boundaries of the M25, Durham pianist and tv/film composer Glenn Maltman is a former Fresh On The Net moderator, regular commenter on our weekly Listening Post, and a thoroughly good egg on social media and the indie music community, so it’s great to see him through to the Fresh Faves. His music is usually instrumental, but this time he’s packing poetry, and very well done it is too. The spoken word vocal cryptically alluding to the unsung actors in historical events is accompanied by a calming piano refrain with a lush synth texture with drone and sweeps.
“Someone should do something!” was the cry. I’m glad Glenn chose to do this.
GRAHAM GRAHAM BECK – The Missing Sink
Well, here’s a thing. In my original listening notes I was thoughtfully comparing this to the old school industrial likes of DAF and Fadgadget, only to discover it to be the work of a prop comedian who has appeared on Britain’s Got More Talent two years running.
The “Man of Many Heads” Graham Graham Beck comes from the grand tradition of British eccentrica typified by the likes of John Ottoway, Frank Sidebottom and Neil Innes. Like those figures he has a foot firmly planted in psychedelia (he says Arthur Brown coined his nickname) and also packs an understated musical ability that belies his Mighty Boosh-esque surrealism and stage antics. Our proprietor Tom Robinson spoke on air of a backstage TOTP encounter with Graham “John Shuttleworth / Jilted John” Fellows, who opined that “the difference between you and me is that you take this stuff seriously”.
You know what? Forget funny or serious, The Missing Sink is a well executed piece of electro that many a poe-faced act could be proud of and that I didn’t find it at all strange on the first few listens probably tells me something deep about myself.
KIZZY CRAWFORD – Twenty Years
Cardiff’s prodigious Kizzy Crawford has spent the last few years assembling a remarkable CV, getting admiring noises from across the board, appearing in an impressive list of festival and radio slots and even getting her songs on to the A-Level music syllabus. Twenty Years demonstrates the serious skill and talent that got her there.
Deep funk with jazzy horns, moog bass and beautifully layered harmonies support a mature, intelligently written lyric with melodic and harmonic songwriting touches that reveal something new on every listen. This is a real pick-me-up track; bouncy, inspiring and coolly accomplished.
PAIGE KENNEDY – Finga
Manchester’s Paige Kennedy has produced a quirky indie track with shades of the Slits, Neneh Cherry and a diverse bunch of other influnces. Funky guitar chops – check. Kicking bass guitar/synth bassline and percussion groove – check. Punky assertive vocal rich in lyrical hooks and Tom-Tom Club whimsy – check, check, check.
Paige’s band launched the single in their first headline gig at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen on May 11th. I look forward to seeing what they do next.
PORTEOUS – Vibe With You
“From the deep and dark depths of the Essex-Suffolk border”, 20-year old Ben Porteous lists Jordan Rakei, Radiohead and Foals among his influences, has appeared as a drummer and keyboard player at SXSW and Latitude festivals with Sam Eagle, was a Producers’ Pick on BBC Introducing Essex and has been interviewed by our very own Tom Robinson for BBC 6 Music.
Vibe With You is a jazzy pop track with reggae-tinged Finlay Quaye-esque vocals and some tasty guitar textures over a swing shuffle groove.
THE REYTONS – Wide Eyes And Halos
Finally we’re off to South Yorkshire for the indie rock stylings of The Reytons, a band who boast, amongst other things, their own IPA (Great Yorkshire Brewery’s The Reyton). Wide Eyes and Halos sits firmly in the vein of the Arctic Monkeys – this is a frequent comparison in the reviews I have read, hopefully they will develop more of their own voice to escape such direct comparisons going forward and are honing their act with an impressive calendar of live appearances.
The track is a tightly executed comment on social media and image obsession.
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.