Artists at a glance
THE DEATH PARTICLE
Well, what a joy to be reviewing the Fresh Faves in what, from the outset, has been such a strong week for new track submissions. So if you should be able to make time to do so, I recommend checking out the long list. There are so many gems there and we could only put 25 of them through to the Listening Post. In the meantime here are the ten that our ever-discerning readers have chosen to be this week’s Fresh Faves. PS: If you can be in the Merseyside area this weekend, Fresh on the Net Live arrives in Liverpool with a cracking line-up of new music artists. Details here.
ANNIE DRESSNER – Fly
Annie Dressner is a New Yorker who relocated to the UK seven years ago and has so far remained here. In that time she has released two studio albums, been played on BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music and the Caffe Nero in-store playlist which, I can tell you since I know those responsible well, is mainly drawn from new music artists. She has also appeared at festivals including Brecon’s Green Man and the Cambridge Folk Festival. Her live itinerary is pretty extensive and she continues to appear on some hallowed stages.
The song Fly is uptempo Folk-Pop with strumming guitar, quiet beat and other instrumental sounds appearing here and there while Annie Dressner’s strong, edgy voice dominates, sometimes adorned by harmonies as she delivers a simple but sweet melody with a rueful undercurrent. “I don’t wanna fall down” she sings in the chorus and later “I’m gonna grow some wings and fly”. Well, she is certainly soaring above the low clouds with this engaging track.
ASKIES – Subject To Change
I frequently find myself commenting on the astonishing amount of new music talent coming out of Leeds these days. Askies are one such example. Relentlessly gigging all over the UK, they have picked up plaudits and support from BBC Introducing in West Yorkshire and in Denim + Leather for their music which, they say, “… bridges the gap between explosive UK alternative rock” and a “… jangly indie groove”.
On Subject To Change we are treated to a warm mid-tempo alt pop mood in which the almost Country-tinged double-stopping (in thirds and fourths for the musos amongt us) guitar figure recalls Cowboy Junkies and the baritone register semi-croon vocal has a melancholy dreaminess. There are shades of Bombay Bicycle Club, Mystery Jets and no doubt other, better comparisons. The broken chord guitar jangle, melodic bass and clever drumming lends this such a mellow vibe and melodic strength that really makes me want to listen again.
CALM – Carpe Diem
South London’s Calm only formed about a year ago so it is to their great credit that they have wasted no time in getting themselves played on BBC Radio 6 Music and receiving praise from the likes of Little Indie Blogs. They are playing live at Notting Hill Arts Club this week (Thursday) and it’s free entry. As they wryly note their name may be Calm but there is little that’s calm about their energetic music.
Carpe Diem is a comment on the complacency and short termism that continues to threaten the future of our planet both politically and environmentally. The title itself translates as giving very little thought to the future. The song arrives on an upper register guitar figure and tough drumbeat before the rest of the band kicks in behind a male vocal that reminds me a little of Richard Ashcroft mixing it with Tim Wheeler. Behind that passionate delivery sits a tight and powerful band, their disciplined playing keeping the lid on a simmering saucepan of bristling energy. It’s melodic, powerful and comes at you with intent. No complacency here.
JUNODREAM – Nobody Wants You
With their video featured by Clash Magazine and a mini-tour ahead that takes in parts of the English North and Midlands, London-based quintet Junodream are moving ever closer to realising the dream that started out when they met “… in a Geography lesson” aged 13. They are self-confessed cynical introverts with a “… self-deprecating British humour” offset by an element of romanticism. Previously based vaguely around the Andover area, they are managed by Rocket Entertainment and are clearly getting themselves amongst it as far as the live music scene goes.
Nobody Wants You starts with a whole heap of pretty guitar jangle which sets the scene, nodding (whether consciously or otherwise) to the C86 (and earlier) generation of bands as further emphasised by the lower register vocal croon that could almost be Baz from the Farmers’ Boys, perhaps after spending an evening in the company of Richard Hawley (or should that be the other way around? Oh well!). Production is loud, emphasising the band’s driving energy which sits well against such sweet melodies and guitar arrangements. Pure Alt Pop joy.
K ANDERSON – Well Groomed Boys
K Anderson is a singer-songwriter born in Scotland, raised in Australia and living in London. Along the way of that extended round [part of] the world journey he has developed a highly personal style of writing which he defines as being from the ‘too much information’ school in which he sees comparisons with John Grant, Ani Di Franco and Jens Lekman. His first single was an acoustic track with Theremin and he has had a rave review from TheLineOfBestFit for his album The Overthinker.
On new single Well Groomed Boys he has opted for a full band sound with a guitar figure that has shades of Keane and Coldplay although the song is nothing like either. The lyrics are in the story telling camp and contribute to a semi-conversational style of singing which is slightly gritty in a first-thing-in-the-morning kind of way. The chorus juxtaposes a busy quickfire three-note hook against gorgeous resonant guitar.
MARTHA BEAN – Along The Lonely
Fresh On The Net’s regular readers will know that Martha Bean has quite a history of making our Fresh Faves and being featured on the BBC Introducing Mixtape. The artist described recently by Graffiti Vibe as ‘Folky Indie Songstress’ has already had Along the lonely played on BBC Introducing in Nottinghamshire. She certainly has been active on the live scene in the past but the live dates listed on her Facebook page are quite old. She also recently became a mum just as, according to her Twitter page, she was about to finish work on a new EP.
In the meantime we have this fine song which is more singer-songwriter than folk for me (if I may make such a distinction). It has a bouncy semi-shuffle feel and the combination of sounds is almost cinematic. Her voice rightly takes centre stage and the hook of “You make me feel so good along the lonely” which repeats numerous times is instantly infectious. Sophisticated sensitive and savvy Pop, done with style.
MAYFLY – Selfish
With her new single described as “… an infectious slice of Alt Pop that bares sharp teeth” by Balloon Machine and now chosen by our discerning readers, this London-based 22 year old purveyor of ‘sad alt-pop’ may be feeling a little less morose as she contemplates the emotional and aesthetic impact her stirring song is having on fans of new music.
Selfish Girl is in triplet time and motors along at mid-tempo driven by staccato synth and programmed drums. It is unclear whether this is autobiographical. I would guess not given references to wealth and Princesses but only Mayfly could explain exactly what lies behind the tale of this particuar ‘selfish girl’. What I can tell you is that the clever way the repetitive riff is offset by vital nuances and harmonic features is really agreeable and her fragile but agile vocal is genuinely goose-bumping. Genre-wise it’s more synth pop than alt pop but it’s a little of both. Either way I love it.
MEMES – J.O.B.S.
MEMES are a continuously hard-working live duo from Glasgow with a liking for frantic punky Alt Rock infused with socio-political commentary and a dose of welcome humour. They retain a busy schedule of gigs mainly around Scotland’s two largest cities but they have also appeared in London and elsewhere. They are getting their music onto internet radio stations and now they have won the approval of Fresh On The Net fans too.
J.O.B.S starts off bemoaning using the wrong colour pen to fill in an application form before becoming a general moan about work getting in the way of life, all delivered in frantic semi-spoken words and chants of “Jobs Jobs Jobs J – O – B- S” while the music is uptempo Post-Punk at its rockier edge. It isn’t quite Sleaford Mods on speed! But shades of Idles in a jam with the Sultans of Ping! Anyway, it’s refreshingly in-yer-face but laced with plenty of humour too.
NORTH PARADE – Kind Of
North Parade have no links at all on their Soundcloud page but with some online archaeology I uncovered their social media pages. They are from Birmingham but, I think, named after a street in Oxford where, I note, they are playing a Xmas gig so perhaps some connection with that city. Their new single Kind Of has already been hailed as an ‘indie classic’ by Radio X’s John Kennedy and they have had praise from other media too.
Kind of is uptempo, driving energetic Alt Rock with the roaring guitar, bass and drum soundwall of Sports Team or Foals but the verses are funkier and the chord play in general is particularly inventive and combines with some simple but sweet slurred guitar melodies. Vocally imagine a young Feargal Sharkey in a mash-up with The Walkmen. The chorus is instantly infectious and the song is so well written and imaginative, this deserves a tonne of airplay. It is, for me, as good as anything on the current BBC Radio 6 Music playlist.
THE DEATH PARTICLE – Sunlight Here I Am
Wrexham act The Death Particle (aka TDP) are regulars at our Listening Post but their Soundcloud page has no links, possibly because they are not big fans of social media. Either that or I just haven’t searched hard enough. Nevertheless I did uncover these other pages. They are a band I have blogged about though and they are the brainchild of composer Herald B Cattie who amasses fine instrumentalists to help him realise a musical vision that seems to sit somewhere between the Free Jazz/Post Bop of Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane and the sparse but rich contemporary art music of Marc Anthony Turnage and Helen Grime.
Sunlight, Here I Am kicks off sitting in and around one chord but with fluid parts played by saxes (left and right of the mix), what sounds like a harp adding glissando, busy double bass and controlled but occasionally explosive drums. The playing increases in intensity as the piece builds and the soundscape becomes less translucent, eventually with the whole thing coming to a quite sudden finish. The impression is of music composed in terms of tempo, dynamic and tonal centre but with the musicians afforded the opportunity for large elements of improv. TDP certainly capture that sense of the spontaneous and the unexpected in their unique, joyously inventive music.
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.