Fresh Faves: Batch 452

Tony Njoku

Artists at a glance

BLACK LILYS
DOM CLARK TRIO FEATURING RASSI HARDKNOCKS
DUST IN THE SUNLIGHT
FURRY HUG
JIM PEARSON
L.O.E
MAYA YENN
THE SILVER LINES
TONY NJOKU
YELLOW SAM

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.

So summer officially arrived in the UK this weekend and a fittingly bright Listening Post has been pared down to ten Fresh Faves thanks to our ever-discerning readers. If Fresh On The Net’s moderators act like a kind of cabinet, our readers are sort of a cross between the all-important backbenchers upon whose judgement and approval we depend and the voters whose support is decisive. Oh wait, that doesn’t quite work as an analogy, does it, since we actually care what our readers and voters think! Oh well, we are blessed either way (and I am blessed to have the privilege of writing these reviews) with another ten well-chosen Fresh Faves.

BLACK LILYS – Woman Wolf

From Lyon in France, Black Lilys have a busy time ahead with a European tour that takes in France, Germany, Scotland, England, Belgium and Hungary. They have been played on BBC Scotland and October saw the release of the album NEW ERA. The duo describe their music as Indie Pop Folk but, judging by Woman Wolf, there is a synth-driven element to their sound too. Their approach is clean, concise, economic. No crowded rooms, empty wine bottles or overflowing bins on their watch!

Woman Wolf is in triplet time with popping staccato synth providing the impetus, while harmonised vocals dominate. The female vocal is distinct and full of character like Charli XCX in a mash with Chrvches while Regina Spektor throws a few ingredients into the pot. After a stop-start opening and transparent backdrop, the song gathers momentum with repeating vocal overlaps and a compelling minor-key hook set against a sound world that feels vivid and translucent. Not a note wasted.

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DOM CLARK TRIO FEATURING RASSI HARDKNOCKS – Dubaway

From London via Lancashire the Dom Clark Trio are Dom Clark (Guitar/Trumpet/Vocals); Conor Cotterill (Bass Guitar) and Emmanuel Moreno (Drums). They recently played The Bedford and look like they are keeping busy with dates all around the capital. Airplay includes BBC Radio Ulster and our own Tom Robinson’s BBC Introducing Mixtape show on BBC Radio 6 Music.

Dubaway is something of a throwback to the early days of Ska and Bluebeat becoming important to the identity of an emerging multi-racial Britain. A time of skinheads with sideburns, Northern Soul hubs in Lancashire towns, and politicians who generally obeyed their own laws! Well perhaps that is a rose-tinted picture of what was a pretty tumultuous time, but anyway, the first reference that popped into my head on hearing the opening of Dubaway with guitar and bass in unison and Rassi Hardknocks’ echoing spoken word sloganeering was Double Barrel by Dave & Ansell Collins (funnily enough the theme tune on one of my podcast shows). Dom’s trumpet improv is stylishly understated and could equally be straight from an eighties Specials track, but there is a fresh timelessness about this music, and they play it with love, craft and polish. The closing Cheers Mate is a nice touch too.

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DUST IN THE SUNLIGHT – Same World, Different Eyes

Not only is Dust In The Sunlight what might follow shadowy figures as they scarper from secret parties in Downing Street but it is also the name of a London-based duo. They have had support from BBC Introducing and glowing reviews from the likes of Clash magazine and Record Of The Day who compared them to Royksopp, The XX and London Grammar. They have also had a recent review in Under The Radar who premiered their live video.

Same World, Different Eyes does have echoes of The XX in the resonant picking notes on the guitar and nimble female-male vocal harmonies courtesy of Annie Rew Shaw and Billy Wright. It has a folkiness about it too. There is a clever dynamic contrast between the floatier feeling in the verses and the stronger beat and descending chord structure in the chorus. Shades of London Grammar jamming with The Staves. As it develops, the harmonies become lusher and there are some lovely suspended fourths and seconds that add a richness to the overall musical language.

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FURRY HUG – Room In England

Furry Hug is Jack Mee from Liverpool, and he makes a lot of somewhat whimsical and quirky music including a unique alternative theme to Coronation Street, songs about people skills, and easy peeler oranges! He performed at Future Now in 2021. He has also been played by Dave Monks on the excellent BBC Introducing Show in Merseyside.

Room In England is a tongue-in-cheek comment on the horrid petty nationalism that spews out of the tabloids and certain offices around Westminster. In a sense it could be the soundtrack of Pritti Patel’s and Dominic Raab’s (and assorted other figures’) worst nightmare given that the chorus suggests “There is always room in England”. The lyrics take us through various low-income life tales of modest aspiration (or perhaps desperation would be the better word). Jack succeeds in making his points with a punchy poignance, and without losing his sardonic humour. Great observationist pop.

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JIM PEARSON – Tinseltown

The Wirral’s Jim Pearson is a stalwart supporter of Fresh On The Net and an experienced artist who performs both as a solo act and a member of The Scaredy Cats. A recent recipient of support from Merseyside Radio and featured on Tom’s BBC Introducing Mixtape show on BBC 6 Music last October, he toured nightclubs extensively in the eighties as a drummer before returning as a folk singer-songwriter many years later, and carving out a whole new career for his music.

Tinseltown starts with piano arpeggio figures and Jim’s voice mixed dry; setting out the story and melody. As it develops we get more instruments, flashes of vocal harmony and the full, rather sad tale of a young woman’s attempt to break into an entertainment world dominated by sleazy men. Any uncanny resemblance between this story and the behaviour of certain members of the royal family and US political establishment are, of course, entirely in my head! Anyway it’s a compelling tale, and a reminder both of Jim’s ability to write organic songs about real life and of his distinct, engaging vocals.

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L.O.E (LAST OF EDEN) – People Like People Like Them

Hailing from Leeds, a city with a seemingly bottomless well of emerging musical talent, L.O.E (which stands for Last of Eden) say their music “…tries to capture and reflect triumph, victory, heroism, anguish and struggle throughout society. Not as a political stand, but to hold a mirror up to humanity.” They are the same band who were previously known as LØE. They have been featured in The Barrier, Manchester Rocks and The Progressive Aspect, and Tom Robinson played them on BBC Radio 6 Music when he stood in for Gideon Coe in August 2021.

People Like People Like Them has something of Public Service Broadcasting about it, with the dramatic (especially at the end) retro spoken word sample set against an instrumental backdrop of melodic and creative guitars, bass and drums (and possibly some keys at times) interplay that rises to some crunching, crashing crescendos. Interestingly Radio X once compared them to Public Service Broadcasting in a mix with Mogwai which is not a bad shout (and not bad influences either). The track is very much a metaphor for the times, our spoken word commentator gradually losing the plot, exasperated like an ethics advisor charged with advising a leadership that has no ethics, until he finally wants us to scream blue murder from our windows into the streets outside. Will anyone listen? Maybe not to the guy screaming from his window but the track should get plenty of attention for its cleverly configured instrumental arrangement and deft deployment of dynamics.

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MAYA YENN – Better Luck Next Time

UK artist Maya Yenn has been getting attention from BBC Introducing in the East Midlands and has won an award from the British Independent Film Festival for a recent video. She has also been interviewed by RGM and last month saw her supporting IORA in Liverpool. According to her Soundcloud blurb, Maya’s “…unique sound places feathery, gossamer vocals front and centre of a moody, alternative-pop backdrop tinged with shades of contemporary R&B.”

Better Luck Next Time is a song for the 148 MPs who tried to oust the PM! Ha ha OK, I’m lying. It is actually a tale of a guy so focused on his work that he insists on finishing it even as his plane is going down over the Atlantic! The song grabs my immediate attention with its opening multi-tracked harmonies before giving way to a relatively sparse synthpop-infused track, with octave-jumping bassline and Maya’s vocals — soft but distinct with shades of Lorde in a jam with St Vincent while Grimes adds spices. Sounds come and go with an appealing fluidity and, at times, her vocal harmonies bring Laurie Anderson to mind. Inventive, imaginative pop, meticulously arranged and delivered with an indubitable sense of style.

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THE SILVER LINES – The Itch

Birmingham quartet The Silver Lines are not messing about with their live itinerary. With June gigs in the Cotswolds and Derby, August sees them fly out to play three dates in New York before returning via Great Yarmouth and Kidderminster. They have also been playing festival stages and clearly are gathering momentum as an exciting live band. And they have had airplay from BBC Radio 1, BBC 6 Music and Radio X. Now they have The Itch but worry not, it isn’t a condition picked up from sitting on Boris’s knee while toasting a drunk colleague, just the title of their new single.

The Itch is semi-rap, semi-spoken word set to a sassy funk-edged slice of Alt Rock. Shades of Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Red Hot Chilli Peppers mixing it with the likes of Pottery and Working Mens Club. There is a sardonic humour that infuses the lyrics and the jerky, funky upper strings guitar figures sit somewhere between Prince (c 1986) and Talking Heads. Hmmm. Well that’s a lot of references. But anyway it’s a cool track with a mid-tempo groove and a good hard edge.

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TONY NJOKU – Lotus (feat. Anna B Savage)

Londoner Tony Njoku is no stranger to Fresh On The Net, and he has also featured regularly in my own Trust The Doc blog. Managed by Hoof Management, Tony played two stages at The Great Escape last month, and last year, straight from leaving Art School, he played at Green Man. He has also appeared on the BBC Music Introducing Mixtape with Tom on BBC Radio 6 Music.

Teaming up with Anna B Savage, he hits us with a characteristically inventive and genre-defying track in Lotus. It builds from opening piano chords and octave-apart vocals singing a melancholy tune while daunting sounds appear and disappear. Even the identifiable notes sound like they are mixed with gunshots. Fuzztone guitar plays a dark melody, while ambient sounds crackle and cackle against surreal synths in suspended animation. At times it has the aura of an unsettling dream, like waking up free from harm in London only to discover you have been put on a one-way flight to Rwanda perhaps. The ideas are vivid and strong though; a measure of Tony’s confidence in his ability to place the sublime against the fluid. His and Anna’s voices are a perfect match, soulful and ethereal, guiding the song forward despite what the backing track may throw at them. It is impressive, innovative and impossible to switch off. My track of the week at every stage of voting and reviewing.

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YELLOW SAM – Early Earnest Humans

It so happens that Yellow Sam, from Cork in Ireland, has been on my radar for a couple of months with his submissions to Fresh On The Net. I have struggled to unearth much information about them, except that this latest track has been picked up by Postcard Elba for their Wordless Wednesdays feature and in my Trust The Doc blog for consistently fascinating tracks.

Early Ernest Humans (as opposed to fruit-picking robots where earnest migrant humans were once allowed to live and work) provide the inspiration for Yellow Sam’s latest offering. In one sense, it is an electronic ambient track built around buzzing synthesisers, spoken word samples and repetitive drone figures. But then it also utilises guitar and melodic features (such as switching between a minor 7 and major 10 and using stripped down configurations of chords in different inversions) that take this into eighties Electro-Pop and Post-Punk influenced territories. In these respects it recalls the likes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) and New Order although, in terms of overall sounds and style, it is not like either. It is a fascinating hybrid of ideas, presented in a fresh and engaging manner. A great note upon which to wrap up another weekend’s choice cuts.

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Dust In The Sunlight

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.

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.

13 Comments

  1. Sue

    Great reviews of a fabe bunch of tracks as usual Neil – and agree, Leeds certainly is a bottomless well of emerging talent!

  2. Louise Toal

    Excellent work, Neil and well done to all the artists too! X

  3. HW

    Awesome written reviews, nice to read while listening to the tracks.

  4. Nice work as always Neil. Lots of love and sunshine 😎

  5. Ah thanks Sue, Louise, Hannya & Chris for these kind comments. And yes, well done to all the artists. A great selection by our readers. 🙂 x

  6. Nice work Neil congrats to the artists!

  7. Ah thanks Del. 🙂

  8. Ah thanks Marina. 🙂

  9. Really great eclectic fresh faves batch I’m kicking myself I keep missing the weekend short list (what happened to Tony’s track)? Thank you Neil for the write ups.

  10. Ah thanks Mark. If you mean Tony Njuko he is in the list. 🙂

  11. Delighted the LOE track got through – another cracker from that band… and thanks Neil for the information about the band name tweak

  12. You’re very welcome John and thanks. 🙂

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