Artists at a glance
HUGH REED AND THE VELVET UNDERPANTS
TC & THE GROOVE FAMILY
These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by Peter Donnelly this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
It is a pleasure to deliver this week’s review of all things fresh on the music front. And, for a first timer, what an eclectic breadth of sounds Batch 447 is!
I would like to thank Mr. Tom Robinson himself for inviting me on to the platform this week – without him I would not be here. Appreciation is also in order for Mr. Steve Harris and my fellow County Down traveller, Ms. Louise Toal, for being of invaluable assistance in the run up to this week – particularly in laying out the etiquette of Fresh On The Net. Thank you all, it is a privilege to be amongst such fine musical connoisseurs.
DILETTANTE – Big Fish
In Big Fish it is the oscillating loops throughout which allow this track to be viewed through a distinctly art-pop prism. It is very much Tune-Yards-esque in its arrangement; the vocals being particularly notable in this regard. Indeed, Dilettante is something of an appropriate moniker for this artist as she conforms to it in the truest sense of the word with the track being performed with such a crisp and effortless delivery, from commencement to conclusion. Big Fish is an irresistible track for those heads already with an eye on “the best of 2022.”
The Dilettante project is headed by frontwoman, Francesca Pidgeon, from the North of England. When she leaves down her moniker, she can be seen performing as a touring session musician in her own right supporting acts such as US instrumentalist, BC Camplight, indie icons White Denim and our very own, Sir Freshnet himself. Francesca is due to release her debut album, as Dilettante, during this year, following a stop-start period, courtesy of Covid. I would like to hear much more of the same from someone who is sure to become a Big Fish in the near future.
ESSLEMONT – Brown Suits & Pale Blue Shirts
Now this is a profound piece of introspective spoken word from Esslemont. The speaker, in a distinctly Scottish tone of voice, conjures a metaphorical contrast between the shades of brown’s “muddy tone” and blue’s comforting hues and the respective emotions such shades can arouse in people: “The well pressed attire that sits rigid as the pleas of many are told.”
This deeply personal mediative soundscape is gently guided by an appropriately hushed electronic undertone – with a muted synth etching the way. It is clear that Esslemont draws on to an elusive canvas in their work which delves heavily from the literary sphere. Their own Bandcamp profile captures this perfectly: “Original Music and the Occasional Short Story.” What more could you want.
HUGH REED AND THE VELVET UNDERPANTS – P.A.N.T.S
Now, continuing with the theme on garments, let’s talk about P.A.N.T.S. Initially, when cursorily browsing through this week’s Batch, I thought The Velvet Underground had resurrected – but no, much more interesting news than that was in store. The track’s opening guitar riff which drives the song, initially evokes an evocative feel – almost as if the track is going to address a weighty topic. In a way it does, however, a few seconds in we are exposed to a track which is heavily imbued with a post-punk vitality and clearly the band’s freelance support of those such as Simple Minds and Half Man Half Biscuit is testament to those credentials.
P.A.N.T.S carries this vibe on its sleeve, despite its unconventional lyrical promotion of views as far as minimalist attire is concerned – on that front “we advocate revolution” on so they say. Therefore, for the life of me, I cannot understand how they sing that the “Daytime DJ didn’t like” this song! Its play on the outer fringes of parody is what make this piece a standout on this week’s Batch. This outfit go back along way having been on the Glasgow scene from the early 1990s leading to their coverage on BBC Radio 1 and gaining endorsement from none other than Ms. Blondie herself – Debbie Harry
The standout from this discovery is that I really want to hear more of Hugh Reed And The Velvet Underpants and, of course, see them in the flesh… well within reason, naturally.
HUI HUE – Night Shelter
For me, this song speaks to the solitary nature of the night and by association the symbolism of darkness. Whether to trust in a Night Shelter is picked apart by the voice – is it a place of sanctuary or another place which has “brought women to their deaths” and “brought darkness and burning in secrets.” In this respect, these are questions which all of humanity are pondering in a world which can often feel torn asunder by dark happenings.
Hui Hue’s acoustical musings give this track its penetrating, yet charming feel. Additionally, its moving choral accompaniment attaches a sense of optimism to the track allowing listeners to be left with an optimistic feel for future times: “Our voices are growing, our freedom is knowing, our souls can never be sold…night shelter sing for their souls.”
The penetrating staccato-styled guitar brilliantly showcases a youthful Hui Hue as an accomplished singer-songwriter, and as such this permits comparisons with contemporary practitioners of the folk/singer-songwriter sound, such as likes of Pheoebe Bridgers and Laura Marling. Night Shelter was co-written with another writer who is known to be adept with the pen, Alex Hall who has himself been hailed as “a Ray Davis of our times” and produced by Jay Pocknell who has been known to dabble in sound with artists and acts as diverse as Marika Hackman, Alt-J and James. Now, that is quite something.
Hui Hue and her burly band of musical heavyweights reassuringly demonstrates, with amazing results, that the signature sound of singer-songwriters is alive and well in 2022 UK.
LIZZIE ESAU – The Enemy
Newcastle-Upon-Tyne singer-songwriter, Lizzie Esau, who counts artists such as Wolf Alice and Little Simz as seminal influences, has just released her new single The Enemy’ These influences set her within that realm of DIY-sensibility which has always allowed the beacon of female artistry to stand out from the crowd. In this sense Lizzie’s voice and the tight group of musicians behind her, sees The Enemy as an authentic exposition of indie pop; a feeling often lacking in music of the indie ilk.
Lizzie Esau’s previous releases have garnered a keen following from BBC Introducing, particularly on its BBC Radio 1 platform with Gemma Bradley.
She, along with her band, which includes Joe Bennison, Shaun Chipp and Alex Barker, can be seen at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend at Coventry on 29th May and later in the Summer at Central Park, Newcastle on 7th August.
MOONPOOLS – Damaged Goods
Hot of the press Moonpools’ Damaged Goods, in terms of energy; energy is the standout commodity produced by this track. Aside, from the very firm delivery of lead tenor Marcie Nyffeler, the track has an air of raucousness which is always a refreshing addition to any music.
There is certainly nothing damaged or broken about this outfit. This is a straightforward indie-pop ballad which is a sound and concept extremely difficult to perfect. Moonpools have done a stellar job on this number.
A compilation of Moonpools’ most recent work, much of it produced over the Covid era, is in the offing and is due to be released under the Young and Aspiring banner later in 2022.
SYREL – Spring Is Back At Last
Like its title, Spring Is Back At Last, Syrel’s musical glide showcases their simple and prosaic arranging style with keys, brass and strings coalescing to produce an excellent piece of instrumental light-heartedness. This is why the track’s title is so pertinent for a season that traditionally invokes spirits and signs of rebirth and renewal.
This music would certainly not be incongruous in the musical accompaniments to a Sunday evening drama set in the countryside – forgive the indulgence, I’m thinking All Creatures Great And Small, Heartbeat even. Perhaps this is a stretch, but in my book music which harks back to nostalgia is a compliment for any musician; indeed this aura is what gives this piece such a comforting and homely feel.
TÁLTSIE – Holding Stones
The Cyprus-bred, London-based artist is another singer that is new to me. Her emotionally-charged vocals intimately showcase her classical grounding on this single, Holding Stones. Her evident mastering of the piano and its niche chordal sequences also fittingly corresponds with the maturity inherent in her voice. When I hear such fine playing it makes me wonder – why did my piano instructor not make me play like that? I guess, you either have it or you do not – TÁLTSIE HAS it and conveys that ability with purpose. It is that purpose which another reviewer has detected in her art: TÁLTSIE expresses “everything that touches her world of feelings through sound.”
Recently, TÁLTSIE has been long-listed for this Glastonbury’s 2022 Emerging Talent Competition which is appropriate for an artist who is clearly brimming with talent and future potential. She richly deserves much more exposure.
TC & THE GROOVE FAMILY – Bossfight
This latest instalment by ten-piece collective, TC & The Groove Family, fits in with their consistent trajectory of unifying diverse cultural influences in a way that leads to a finished product that is nothing other than energetically and sonically superb. This gang are one from this week’s Batch with which I am familiar having heard them played on the BBC Radio 6 Music airwaves on Craig Charles’ programme.
In terms of where Bossfight (featuring London soul vocalist Pariss Elektra) fits into the sonic scale, it is a very close cousin of Afrobeat – let’s call it Afrostep, with a conscious hip-hop fronting. Such is the beauty of a collective of this kind is that they can seamlessly transcend between genres such as jazz and dance. Under the expert production of Tom Excell, from the group Nubiyan Twist, Bossfight and indeed the Family’s entire arsenal possesses the free-style, avant-garde flair which is, by now, synonymous with those merging under the grand UK jazz banner.
After two years of being studio-bound, they will be back on the tracks of the UK highways this Summer hitting the season’s festivals such as Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here festival and Green Man. The Family will shortly be showcasing their debut album release in the month of June, on the chic Bristol label, Worm Discs.
THE GREENERS – Take Me Home
On this track, which is underpinned by a captivating bass line, The Greeners’ lyrical sentiments speak to a familiar contemporary, carefree international political climate where those at the helm, experience attests, can do as they please. The invocation of the picturesque tax haven of the Cayman Islands says it all in this regard with a rugged, comedic tone which would be difficult for any other wordsmith to surpass: “Stole my money ran away to the Cayman Islands, no I’ll never find them corporate kings, got political asylum.” A joke with a jag, I would wager.
The music boasts a feel-good fanfare bolstered by the group of musicians under The Greeners umbrella. The outworkings between trumpet and sax bring this delightful excursion to its finale where listeners are reassured, by the refrain, that “the future’s on its way.”
As far as excursions go, it is with The Greeners’ Take Me Home that I sign off from this week’s review of the Fresh Faves Batch 447 – quality every one.
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.
TC & The Groove Family photo by Sophie Jouvenaar