Fresh Faves: Batch 337

Ida Wenoe

Artists at a glance

ALBERT MAN
EVER
HOOFA
IDA WENØE
LAURA JAMES & THE LYRES
NEW WOLVES
RIA MORAN
ROBBIE THOMPSON
SKINNYBOY TUNES
SUGARCANE

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

Well, back again with the privilege of reviewing this week’s excellent Fresh Faves. It has been quite a week; one in which we have seen some of the best and worst examples of how human beings are capable of behaving towards one another even at the highest level of government. At least we have great music though and, in their consistently characteristic manner, our dedicated and discerning Listening Post readers have once again selected ten top tunes. I’d better get on and review them then! First though, a small piece of advice to artists. It is so much easier not just for us reviewers but also for potential fans to find and follow you on social media and get into your music if you include the relevant links on your Soundcloud page. Just click profile and follow the instructions. It is worth the few minutes it takes.

ALBERT MAN – I Need To Confess

Manchester-born and London-based, Albert Man has been a busy boy (or man maybe!) having played a mind-boggling twelve festivals in the summer of 2017 as well as curating one of his own. The previous year he supported Muse at the O2 and has somehow managed to get played on BBC Regional Introducing shows that are neither Manchester nor London. And that, my friends, is a potted version of his recent history as there is more. I also know that he will be appearing at the Music Makers Festival at the Half Moon in Putney this coming weekend.

I Must Confess kicks off with staccato piano chords and voice in Daniel Powter territory but progresses into a shuffle-time singer-songwriter pop track which, if this is genuinely autobiographical, informs us that Albert’s childhood was far from straightforward and possibly not very happy either. He talks about walking around the house in his sister’s dress and killing a hamster as well as telling us that “Since I was five years old / I’ve been told / The devil is coming for you”! The descending chord pattern is one that recalls a long lineage of songs from Peggy Lee to Hozier and from Ray Charles to Pixie Lott. There is certainly a good dose of dry humour here coupled with a catchy choon. He sings it well too.

Official | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

EVER – Indigo Sky

London-based artist Ever has the catchy slogan of “Small Girl, Big Songs”. Well I wouldn’t want to comment on her size (especially based on a few pics!) but I can certainly confirm the “big songs” part of that equation. There’s a touch of Enya about her clear, distinct tone and layers of harmony floating above a swirling evocative backdrop. Her melody writing seems as effortless as her singing.

There’s maybe a little of Rita Ora there too although this material has greater substance. In that respect the music sits somewhere between the kind of epic pop that might sit comfortably alongside Chainsmokers or other more interesting mainstream acts and the more mystical alternative universe of Julia Holter and co. She records for indie label Yada Yada Records (who also have recent FOTN artist Kwassa on their roster) and she has had support from BBC Introducing in the South.

The song Indigo Sky has a sad story behind it. Ever wrote it when grieving for the loss of someone very close to her heart. She says she “… imagined the horizon beyond the waves, so calm, hopeful and infinite”. This, she explains, gave her great comfort and is the central message of the song which has a beautifully uplifting and reassuring aura. How wonderful to have turned such a sad event into such a touching and tranquil piece of music. And it is made all the more so by virtue of the perfect balance of sounds (beat, additional percussion, synths, piano and voices) and Ever’s voice which is unique, full of character and appealing in a way words cannot easily convey. I think you have probably gleaned that I rather like it!

Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter

HOOFA – Frustrated Love

Hoofa’s Souncloud blurb describes them as a London Alt Rock band, a point I will return to. They have played to packed venues and festival stages and have had BBC Introducing support as well as airplay from Amazing Radio. They also plan to release five singles by Summer 2020 of which I think Frustrated Love is the first.

I highlighted the reference to Alt Rock only because this particular song doesn’t seem to me to fit that badge. My first thought, upon hearing both the synth-dominated intro and the male singer’s agreeably husky tenor voice was that it reminded me of 1980s bands like Talk Talk and Furniture. It has an epic quality and when he rises up the range, he sounds uncannily like a young Julian Cope (so another 80s reference!).

Let me be clear though. This is not retro pop. The sound; big spacious production and resonant backing vocals (echoing and mirroring the lead), is very contemporary and the song is powerful, melodic and executed with energy and musicianship. A big thumbs up from me.

Official | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

IDA WENØE – Change Me A Little

Ida Wenøe records for Integrity Records. I am loath to criticise the label, because I know what great people and true supporters of new music they are, but they are another who submit tracks via the label’s own Soundcloud page. This means all the links on the page are to the label’s social media, not the artist’s, so we have to go digging elsewhere to find them. Fortunately, in this case, Ida’s website has her own social media links on it.

Having found those I can confirm that she is an artist based in Berlin who is currently four dates into a six-date tour of Denmark. She has had praise from Clash magazine who described her music as “… bewitching acid folk with a deeply personal edge”, while The Guardian’s Paul Lester also gave her a rave review.

Change Me A Little finds her singing with just strumming guitar at first, drums then joining in. Vocally it has shades of Heather Nova and Cat Power. Stylistically it is slightly rockier though, and her voice has enough individual character to mark her out as an artist pursuing her own vision; one part contemporary Folk-Pop, another part tipping its hat to retro Americana. The dynamics of the song lift it up a level and this affords Ida Wenøe the opportunity to showcase the nuances and timbral contrasts in her vocal range. All these elements combine to produce a track of undeniable quality.

Official | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

LAURA JAMES & THE LYRES – After You’ve Gone

Laura James & The Lyres are based in London but Laura, for a young artist, already has quite an amazing history. Originally from Cumbria in the far North West of England (for those who weren’t sure!), she released two Folk-Pop albums aged 15 and 17 on her own label before teaming up with her band The Lyres for a 2011 EP The Bed of the Brook. She and the band then spent time in Liverpool and played a range of festivals, receiving support from BBC Introducing and playing the likes of BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend and Sound City.

Wind the clock on and there has been a third album and appearances on a bunch of national and regional shows with support from such luminaries as Bob Harris, Emma Walsh and Louder Than War.

The 2019 incarnation may bear the hallmarks of maturity and experience, but on After You’ve Gone Laura’s original pop sensibilities remain prominent and her vocal style, which is contemporary and bright, underlines that element of her sound and the strength of the melodic content. At the same time, the organic make-up of the band and the blend of instruments takes the track into more conventional Folk territory. The spacious production complements the song well too. Top marks all round.

Official | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

NEW WOLVES – Influencer

I can’t find any information about where New Wolves are from but they have had some great reviews in online journals and some (undefined) national radio play. It also looks like there was a break in their progress forced on them by illnesses and other events beyond their control but everyone is fine now and they are ready to launch their music on the world once again.

Influencer has an appealingly retro synth-based backdrop accompanying a low register male vocal that is joined by higher ones in the chorus. The melody is strong and infectious and the little breakdowns and sudden return to spacey echoing synth figures provides a cool contrast. The buzzy synth tune that introduces the song could be The Strokes guesting with Hot Chip. There’s a little of the poppier end of Kraftwerk about it too. Refreshing and individual, it’s a great way to announce their return to activity.

Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

RIA MORAN – You’ll Stay Down

Ria Moran is a piano-playing singer-songwriter with a love of music built upon interesting chord progressions. I can’t find confirmation of where she is from or based but I do know she studied at the University of Leeds and has an EP called Moving into the light on which, as with You’ll Stay Down, she has enlisted the services of some really fine musicians.

You’ll Stay Down has a lovely slightly stuttering funkiness and a strong infusion of jazz harmony which I imagine is very much where Ria is coming from. The guitar solo by her friend and producer Tom Excell is goose-bumping especially if, like me, you worship at the musical altar of Steely Dan and their multitude of fellow travellers. The song and Ria’s voice are very soulful and her effortless agility around the registers is lovely to listen to. In short she is a consumate musician and talented writer to boot. If all her material is this good, we are in for a treat or twenty over the times ahead.

Official | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter

ROBBIE THOMPSON – Above Us All The Devil Is Laughing

Sheffield singer-songwriter Robbie Thompson says his work is “… often concerned with existential themes of love, meaning, loss, choice, anxiety and authenticity”. Above us all the devil is laughing follows a similar ethos, dealing with the daily anxieties and struggles of meaning, existence and the odds being stacked against us in an era he calls “Late Capitalism”. Influence-wise he suggests we think “Leonard Cohen meets Richard Hawley”. He is gigging regularly around the North of England (from Manchester to Halifax and elsewhere).

Well that last comparison is definitely a good shout on this evidence although I would say there is more than a passing hint of Bruce Springsteen too. The song is built on a refreshingly classic rock guitar riff (the one that, depending on key, retains the tonic bassline and slurs up to the subdominant and back, apologies for that muso speak!). He sings in a passionate and slightly gritty voice. The melody is engaging and the whole organic feel of the track really suits his writing style. Honest, down to earth and thoroughly enjoyable stuff.

Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

SKINNYBOY TUNES – Campfire

There isn’t much information out there about SkinnyBoy Tunes. No links on his Soundcloud page, a personal Facebook account but no artist page, and his website is under development. I did see on his Twitter page that he was previously playing in a band for 16 years and he is from Norwich. There are a good few releases available on his Bandcamp page including The Norfolk Campfire Tapes EP from which Campfire is taken. He talks about memories of being around the fire with his friends. Intriguingly I listened to another track and discovered it was in Latin-influenced Jazz territory with piano and trumpet in prominent roles.

Why, you may ask, is that intriguing? Well only because Campfire is entirely dominated by picking guitar playing repeated figures over more conventional keyboard chords, the keyboard occasionally doubling the guitar, all sitting atop a very lightly funky programmed beat. The musicianship is accomplished and there is an evocative soundscape that brings to mind travel through vast open spaces. This would make great library music (i.e. music for use in soundtracks etc.). And, in case you were wondering, I am a big fan of soundtrack music.

Official | Soundcloud | Twitter | Bandcamp

SUGARCANE – Shambala Mess

Sugarcane has been invented and developed by former Mr Hudson Bass Guitarist Robin French who, in that role, toured with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Kanye West and The Police. He has also pursued a successful career as a scriptwriter creating and writing five series of award-winning Cuckoo, some high profile stage works and his current project, a film about Iggy Pop and David Bowie. He has also teamed up with a successful actress (and singer) called Antonia Thomas to form Sugarcane, a ‘Caribbean Samba Band’.

With a cool multi-ethnic line-up of musicians, Robin has created something really unique that stands apart from other current trends and yet feels very contemporary and vibrant. Their voices combine well to deliver an appealing melody set against lilting Latin undercurrents and sweet Caribbean flavours. Their YouTube video of another track has them playing in a forest and it suits the vibe so perfectly. This is music to lose yourself in. Beautifully done.

Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp

So that’s it for another week. Thanks to all the artists who submitted tracks and to all of you who voted. Keep loving new music. xxx

Sugarcane

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.

Ida Wenøe photo by by Zarko Ivetic
Sugarcane photo by by Siâni Siâni

Neil March

Neil March is a Composer & Artist with a PhD and Masters in music composition from Goldsmiths University, who has pursued careers in the contemporary classical and pop worlds, and has been supported by BBC Introducing, for whom he performed with his live ensemble The Music of Sound at Latitude in 2017. Read more.

4 Comments

  1. Sue

    Great reviews as always Neil! And a fab final playlist.

  2. Thanks Sue. Kind words as always xx

  3. Charlotte

    Really like the sounds of Ida Wenøe, thanks for the introduction!

  4. That’s great to hear Charlotte but those thanks are really due to our Listening Post audience that voted Ida into the Fresh Faves in the first place. 🙂

Write a Comment

*By clicking Submit Comment you agree to allow Fresh On The Net to store your dataPrivacy Policy