Artists at a glance
ALEX BONE & NILE RODGERS – In Dream
Established names have occasionally made guest appearances on tracks we have featured on this site – Ce Ce Peniston and Tony Allen have both appeared recently, to name two. This is actually a part of the fledgling artist’s journey; if you are sufficiently active in any artistic community, at some point you will come into contact with the people who inspired you and, if you are willing to work for it, opportunities arise to work with and learn from them.
That’s not to say that saxophonist Alex Bone is a rank beginner. He is a Royal Academy of Music graduate, won the 2014 BBC Young Jazz Musician award and has performed in the Promenade concerts, while as a producer he has commercial remixes for Kylie and Danii Minogue under his belt. And for this collaboration he has summoned forth a giant, none other than Chic legend Nile Rodgers lends his trademark funk chops to a tasty cut of jazz fusion in the vein of David Sanborn or the Yellowjackets. Rodgers takes first solo on the track, tagging in the leader for a searing, uplifting take tumbling around expressive harmonics and sweet licks. The post-production electronics are deployed inventively and atmospherically (is that a cheeky touch of Emu midi conversion at the tail end of the sax solo?) without taking away from the dynamic live jam grooves generated by the band. For me, the unsung hero of this track is bassist Joe Lee, who treats the lively bass riff with tasteful skilled improvisation that never feels in danger of crashing out.
Come for the guest star, stay for one hell of a band.
AZU YECHÉ – Somebody
A welcome return for the soulful Azu Yeché, whose sultry tones last graced our Fresh Faves back in Batch 350. Somebody is a lush wash of layered guitars, piano, organ and choral harmonies over a hypnotic drum and percussion groove shredding the 6/8 time signature into pretty patterns. The song at the centre of it all has everything you could ask for – catchy melodic verse leading to anthemic chorus; singalong “woo-hoo-hoo” rendition of the tune on the bridge leading to plaintive breakdown and rollicking final chorus and lingering piano noodles marking the end of the party, until you give in to the urge to hit repeat.
A feelgood treat.
DELILA BLACK – Accountability
Hailing from London via New York and her native Haiti, Delila Black asks us to “imagine KD Lang, Grace Jones and Jack White at church, then at fight club”. It’s an apt image; her style combines Lang’s assured honesty, Jones’ performative mischief and White’s bare bones roots credentials into a package dripping with eccentric charisma, musical groove and defiant strength.
Accountability sets Black’s laconic wit against a formidable backing band of seasoned players including steel-guitarist-to-the-stars B.J. Cole. The lyric rains blows on an unidentified excuse peddler, asking “does accountability come one day to everyone but you?” – insert politics as you see fit.
“The world has changed and I don’t want to go back to ‘normal’,” she insists. I don’t believe normal was ever on the cards, but I look forward to revisiting the resort she’s building on ‘electro-mountain’.
DENNEY – I Could Be Better
Hampshire’s Denney (not to be confused with the Teeside DJ of the same name) has apparently “spent a while getting lost in Asia.” How she came to do so and where her adventures on the largest continent took her are not explained, but she is now safely back in Blighty making music of the “soft and mellow variety”. This is her second trip to the Fresh Faves, having last appeared in Batch 386 with a track that Marina Florence found “tragically beautiful”.
I Could Be Better also explores the topic of accountability and “blame culture in any type of relationship”, but from a more self-reflective perspective. An apology song demanding reciprocity (“I could be better, and you could to”), the arrangement realised by producer Sam Ray is sparse, tasteful and atmospheric to accentuate the raw emotion of the singer, rising to just the right level of symphonic drama as the song demands.
HEALTHY JUNKIES – Hiding On Venice Beach
London punks the Healthy Junkies have been a regular highlight of our inbox for some time now and have risen to the Fresh Faves on two separate occasions, in batches 319 and 345, when our lovely editor Steve Harris compared them to a “flaming arrow that hits its target right in the bullseye” (right, ed?). Centred around guitarist Phil-Honey-Jones and ferocious French vocalist Nina Courson, the band bring a tasty brand of glam-punk honed around a serious live touring CV and a catalogue of fine songs.
Hiding On Venice Beach comes from the more gothic end of their ouvre with a style reminiscent of Bauhaus or Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – screaming guitars, satanic keyboards, freaky orchestral percussion and sultry spoken word vocals erupt over a relentless snare drum attack, the sort of thing I pillar danced to regularly in Leeds basements. I do wish it stuck around a little longer, though – the 1:26 runtime feels a little stingy for a track such as this.
MYLO MOTT – When You Wanna (feat. MYTBE)
A trippy chillout dreampop collaboration between two Manchester artists, Mylo Mott and MYTBE. MYTBE had a natter with our own Del Osei-Owusu earlier this year, and provides initial main vocal duties before shifting into a laconic duet over a lilting groove reminiscent of Air or Royksop, with ringing guitars, a haunting synth flute riff and a creatively shifting dub bass line. The harmonies are lush, with tasty interplay and overdubs between the two performers building as the encounter unfolds. Think Black Box Recorder’s Facts of Life filtered through cerebral electronica.
THE C33S – Benzodiac
A banging twin reverb guitar riff ushers in a helping of rollicking Cramps-style retro surf garage punk, described by Andy Page in the listening post comments as ““Nasty pounding skankabilly”.
“Run for my life or I head for the pills,” begins The C33s’ Cav Green, followed by a bunch more memorable lines of dark narcotic maelstrom. “Tornado brain has plans to kill time and space all free will / museum brain has closed its doors”… “third eye for an eye until you sleep too much”… all linked with an intoxicating chorus hook delivered by Green and drummer Judy Jones and capped by an infernal organ hook towards the end.
VARDY – Hypochondriac
Derbyshire’s Vardy is a one-man band, playing all the instruments in a tightly recorded rock style with nutty wit and an over the top sense of fun. There’s a framing phone call to an exasperated doc, an earworm of a verse hook and a cheeky reference to Lord Rockingham’s XI’s Hoots Mon (“there’s a tooth… loose… inside my mooth”).
YOUNG DECADES – Sinner
A searing piece of anthemic pop rock in the vein of Talk Talk or the Adventures. Young Decades hail from Manchester (via Liverpool), this project apparently representing something of a reboot from their previous work as COLOUR, itself a band some ten years in the making. The long game is paying off, because this is a band with serious chops. Singer James Tidd delivers a soaring vocal backed up by swirling synths and some fine guitar counterpointing by Scott Harvey. The composition is perfectly formed with just the right amount of twists and turns to keep things interesting amidst a distinctive verse and chorus that would grace any festival stage, were it not for current circumstances.
YVA – Hype Machine
Hype Machine is the title track from the debut concept EP of London artist YVA, “a prayer, a satirical sacrifice to the new gods of social media”. I love a good concept piece, and this is exactly that: an operatic electronic journey like Kate Bush rebuilt as a Fritz Lang android and sent on a path of discovery through a dystopian cyber landscape. “How much will we give away for something that doesn’t really exist?” she asks in the spoken word intro to the EP. Set aside twenty minutes, a pair of headphones and a dark room and check out the whole thing.
Hype Machine itself waxes lyrical on the desperation and fickle nature of social media celebrity. “Show them my true face as I post in disgrace, it doesn’t matter”, declares our attention-hungry protagonist, before realising that “Truth is just a slave turned from sacred to inane”.
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.