Artists at a glance
THE BROKEN ORCHESTRA (FEAT JOE HAKIM)
THE CASUAL SEXISTS
Hi everyone. We are back from the Easter break; the cafes and pubs are open for outdoor eating and drinking, the parks are full of people and, despite the cold weather, April has seen blue skies and sunshine. Live music is also back with outdoor gigs already happening and indoor ones to follow, under COVID roadmap rules, from mid-May. We have a way to go but things are looking up and, lockdown or no lockdown, new music never sleeps. So it is my privilege this week to review the ten top tunes chosen by our always discerning listeners from another diverse and delightful Listening Post.
CEITIDH MAC – Birds
Ceitidh Mac is Katie MacLeod, a Welsh Cellist and singer-songwriter currently residing in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Prior to lockdown, she was maintaining a busy live schedule that included support slots with the likes of Rachel Dadd, Laura Misch and Lankum. She has also developed a style that is, in essence, Indie-Folk but infused with, in her own words, “the smoky style and lo-fi studio sound” and “a contemporary electronic edge, embellished by unusual instrumentation”. This is an artist whose own roadmap is clearly marked out.
On Birds the pizzicato Cello is played almost like a cross between Jazz Double Bass and Fretless Bass Guitar complete with slides and flourishes. It sits at the centre of a sparse, organic backing track while Katie’s voice is distinct and expressive in an alto range. Against this sits a consistent, if unimposing, beat that occasionally stops to allow the track to pause for breath. Picking guitar accompanies a fluid melody and cleverly understated harmonies before Katie rises up into falsetto range to ad lib wordlessly over the climatic final stretch. Expertly written and arranged, a superb song filled with a resolute and reverberant spirit.
GILLIE – Still Dreaming
There are no links and no blurb on Gillie’s Soundcloud page but her Bandcamp page is much more forthcoming. Gillie Ione Rowland (aka Gillie) grew up in the “Welsh heartlands of Carmarthenshire”, which is a particularly beautiful and inspiring part of the world. Now living in London, she blends the influence of that idyllic upbringing with the industrial, urban atmosphere of the metropolis. This does genuinely explain the intriguing blend of organic and pastoral elements with sophisticated, enigmatic layers of voices. She is spot-on when she calls the results “hauntingy serene.”
Still Dreaming kicks off with a guitar figure that has shades of The Inkspots in a mash with early Staves before a shuffling syncopated beat and more sounds enter the fray. This also prompts Gillie’s soft lower pitched vocal to rise up in both register and dynamics, adding reverberant harmonies as the guitar continues to hold events together with its gentle picking rocking motion like a lullaby playing amid a mystical, ethereal dream sequence. The melody is alluring and unusual and the arrangement is imaginative and clever. The song lives up to its tile and certainly has dream-like qualities. A sweet and sour soundtrack to a slowly emerging post-COVID future.
GOAN DOGS – Now Or Never
Goan Dogs are a band with a track record of making our Fresh Faves multiple times. Indeed, I reviewed them back in February 2020. Hailing from Bristol, the funky five-piece call their music “Warped Guitar Pop” although, in truth, it is more like dreamy funky Pop with synth playing alongside the snappy guitars, syncopated basslines and cool drumbeats, all topped off by distinct upper register male vocals. With ten years of development behind them, they are now celebrating the impending easing of rules on live music by announcing their #CallYourMum UK tour. This, over a few weeks in October, will see them play an impressive series of gigs across a great many cities and towns of England, Wales and Scotland.
In the meantime we have Now Or Never. Swirling synth, cool guitar chops and funky bass and drums provide the palette. The lead vocal grabs the opportunity to paint colourful tunes on it in an appealing tone that has shades of J Lloyd in a mash with Everything Everything. The verses are catchy enough but the main hook is the killer ingredient. This is uplifting, soul cleansing Pop that you can dance yourself dizzy to or just sit back and enjoy. Building a roadmap to Warped Guitar Pop Paradise.
INFLEXI0N – Funk Button
A regular on my online music TV show in recent months, it is good to see Inflexi0n in the faves. The Phoenix, Arizona-based English West Midlander has been producing a consistent string of funk-gilded soulful and Deep House tracks of which Funk Button may be the best to date. Popular with dance and general new music radio shows, he was selected for the Eclectic Picks: Batch 400. This time he has gone a step further, making both the Listening Post and the Fresh Faves.
Funk Button is aptly named, evolving from a popping funky bassline and sassy beat. Repeating piano chords set the scene for a simple but infectious synth melody. The production is punchy and powerful and it all drives merrily along for a mere two minutes and two seconds. Long enough to be a floor filla. Short enough to leave us wanting more. And ideal for when dancing is allowed once more.
JACKSON MATHOD – Cretins
Trumpeter extraordinaire and ace contemporary jazz composer Jackson Mathod is no stranger to Fresh On The Net. Since graduating as a jazz student at the hallowed Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2009, he has been gaining a reputation for the quality of his work. This has seen him feature on BBC Radio 6 Music, Jazz FM, Worldwide FM and other radio stations. He has a new album out entitled Travels In A Confined Space. There is a short trailer for it on Jackson’s Twitter page. Perhaps the title is a reference to a journey through and, hopefully soon, beyond lockdown. As the presence of James Beckwith and Harry Pop on this track demonstrates, he is an in-demand musician. He was also interviewed on Solar Radio just last week and, on 24th May, he is playing the iconic Jazz Cafe in Camden.
The intriguingly named Cretins is a sumptuous slice of Latin-inflected contemporary Jazz that is melodic and exotic but makes room for rich dissonances and accomplished individual instrumental play. It nods to Southern and Central American Jazz but it also has echoes of current artists like Denys Baptiste and Kamasi Washington in the brass-wind interplay and contrapuntal elements. Nothing cretinous happening here. As the sun rises over the next stage of this unusual year, Cretins could be the perfect soundtrack to your socially-distanced barbecue.
MT. MISERY – In The Blink Of An Eye
Mt. Misery hail from Hartlepool and are an all-male trio whose debut album is due out on Prefect Records on 25th June. Already recipients of rave reviews from the likes of Clash Magazine, In The Blink Of An Eye is currently on the C-List of Amazing Radio (alongside recent faves from The JoJo Man Band and Post Coal Prom Queen) which means serious rotation on a popular new music-supporting station.
In The Blink Of An Eye is breezy mid-tempo Alt Pop with a notable dash of melancholy and an immediately engaging melodic sensibility. It is helped by appealing vocals and shimmering guitar chords as the trio combine forces to drive the track along with a light-textured pop energy. It brings to mind the likes of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever in a jam with The Pastels while The Beths officiate. A tune to turn tables of six into a following of many.
SANSHA – Home Again
Sansha has had a quite amazing career so far for such a young artist. A classically trained graduate who has played trumpet and violin (in itself an unusual pairing) since childhood, she mixes being a singer-songwriter with performing live comedy. The South East Londoner, whose real name is Francesca Lewis, has a live music CV that most veterans would look upon with envy. It includes the Montreux Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scotts, Latitude, Sofar Sessions in various regions of the UK and two Scandinavian countries and a host of other well-known venues. Not long now before she can legitimately get amongst it once again.
Without listening to more of her output, it is difficult to talk with authority about her catalogue (which already has more than 50 entries) but given some of the venues on that live list, I assume Sansha’s music veers into jazz and other territories. Well she is a trumpeter! But on Home Again we find her in melodic and slightly cinematic Synth Pop territory, her warm assured vocals fortified by some exquisite harmonies. Shades maybe of Katy J Pearson in a jam with Donna Lewis while Billie Marten looks on. This is warm, engaging but with a slightly ethereal quality too. Very nice.
SHOPLIFTER – Plastic Doll Head
Unfortunately the Soundcloud link provided with this track takes us to the record label Gamblers All Records where there are zero links to any of the artists they represent. Sadly, it’s the same story on social media. All I have been able to unearth is a YouTube video but that is just a picture of the band and the audio track. I also now know, thanks to listening to Tom’s BBC Music Introducing Mixtape, that they are from Liverpool. Shoplifter appear to be a trio of two women and one man. Not enough of them to follow the advice of The Smiths to “unite and take over” perhaps, but sufficient energetic passion for a decent try! (Apologies to readers who are too young to know what I’m on about!).
Ahem, anyway Plastic Doll Head is semi-spoken, semi-sung Punk-Pop in the tradition of Riot Grrl and more latterly the likes of Dry Cleaning and Kynsy. The lyrics poke fun at female models who acquiesce to the demands put on them by an outmoded patriarchal media and associated industry. Damning the victim maybe but the song has a jaunty, edgy energy and guitar-driven wall-of-sound approach. Loading the cannon to fire their first post-lockdown salvo perhaps.
THE BROKEN ORCHESTRA (FEAT JOE HAKIM) – Play To The Gallery
The Broken Orchestra, from Hull, are a band with serious form both for Fresh On The Net and the BBC Music Introducing Mixtape. With more than a decade’s experience behind them, they are regulars on a host of internet radio stations too and you don’t have to delve too deep into social media to see plenty of examples of the love they receive from a variety of sources. This is not my first time reviewing them either.
On Play To The Gallery they have teamed up with Joe Hakim, an artist whose Twitter status begins “Writes stuff, Says Stuff, Knows Nowt” although I rather think the third of those two-word statements is not true given the poignant but in no way punch-pulling lyrics, and his deadpan delivery which adds to their power.
This is a stark commentary on the current contradictory cultural snarl-up that seems to have engulfed a confused population; much of which is in no position to respond to the emotional blackmail being heaped on it. This is set to a backdrop of ambient synths, single bass stabs and a collection of sounds. In one sense it moves along like a gentle tide. In another, it feels suspended in motion like Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime slowed down and trapped in a loop. It all amounts to a clever paradox and manages to be both soothing and disarming; the perfect musical response to Joe Hakim’s dystopian prose. Don’t torch those face masks just yet folks!
THE CASUAL SEXISTS – Fresh Legs
Based in Brooklyn, New York, The Casual Sexists are a female-male duo whose music is described on their Soundcloud page variously as either as Dance-Punk or Electronic. They also talk of making music out of post-Brexit disillusionment which suggests a more than passing link to the UK. So too does their Facebook page which is full of references to UK radio including the inimitable Johnny from Band of Holy Joy (and sometimes Rothko) who has a show on Resonance FM.
Fresh Legs is an uptempo EDM track with a funk-edged undercurrent, pulsating beat and female spoken word vocal that loops, overlaps and repeats throughout. The main themes swoop and swirl around the crunching beat and stuttering vocals, creating an irresistible groove that ought to be filling floors across the Mediterranean summer and still might make it to a post-vax party or ten. Fun, funky and full of life. An uplifting end to another fine set of fresh faves,
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.