Fresh Faves: Batch 456

Artists at a glance

AGENT STARLING
DEAD ANYWAY
FLEDGLING
LAZY HABITS
MAYA LANE
ME FOR QUEEN
SKINNYBOY TUNES FEATURING MILSKY
THE JOJO MAN BAND
TINA BOONSTRA
VENUS GRRRLS

These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by Fresh On The Net’s Del Osei-Owusu this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.

The summer holidays have begun and Team Freshnet are off into hibernation for six weeks. Don’t get up to any mischief now! I must say this week’s Listening Post and Faves put a smile on my face, you lot really know how to deliver! Make sure you check out the full inbox, it’s never easy to narrow down from almost 200 to 25 to final 10, but I can say we truly appreciate you.

By the way, I have my radio show in association with The Songbird HQ at Islington Radio so artists are more than welcome to email me with tracks for consideration. Keep it radio friendly!

So.

Pre flight check list complete.

Keys in the ignition.

4 lit and in the green.

Let’s go.

AGENT STARLING – Valley To Mountainside

One thing I like about Fresh On The Net’s inbox is that you never know what you’re going to get. You will always get surprised. You can never accurately tell which way it’s going to go, and that’s the beauty of an independent music blog. The ten that we close out the summer with are all thought provoking and the first track to open this Fresh Faves is no different, and while I’m listening to this, I hear a bit of folk, a bit of prog rock, Celtic… it’s all there. And it’s dizzyingly good!

3/4 time, a flute, fiddle, a bass riffing away, and vocals drenched in reverb and sung in a round, I feel like I’m in a time warp – a tv show from the 60s and 70s, or maybe lying in the grass in Greenwich Park watching the clouds go by and making shapes… This is something isn’t it?

Very dreamy.

“Valley to mountainside
high up and look down at
sea salt to ozone and
fly out and don’t look back”

This is all sung in a round!

Agent Starling is Quentin Budworth on Hurdy Gurdy, Lou Duffy-Howard all other instruments and vocals, except violin by special guest Dexter Duffy-Howard. According to their gorgeously designed site:

“Quentin and Lou both have strong musical provenance. Lou was originally in recently reformed prophetic UK Indie band Red Guitars and has gigged and recorded ever since, currently heading up psychedelic rock band Loudhailer Electric Company. Originally part of Suns of Arqa, hurdy-gurdy specialist Quentin is the force behind world fusion medieval rave band Celtarabia. Agent Starling are preparing to tour in 2023.”

For some reason I have deja vu around them but I just can’t think why, maybe they are time travellers, and they are evoking the multiverse with their sound, whatever it is, it’s definitely left an impression on me.

Official | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

DEAD ANYWAY – None Of It

I had a feeling that this would do pretty well. They always do with good reason! There is so much going on that I can talk about here. First of all, the loops deployed here are very cleverly disguised and mangled – is that the remains of the funky drummer beat that I hear chopped up and mangled? Good. Clyde Stubblefield and James Brown would be proud of this moment.

The horn stabs are sweet! This is old school hip hop, with a 21st Century twist, lots of things grabbing your ear if you know exactly what you’re listening for, I love Kate’s voice here, she’s doubled it up and pitched it up by a fraction, then in certain parts of the track it’s put through different processors – sounding distorted, through an answerphone filter… this is all very creative!

Love the solid bass sound on it, as well as the guitar, all round it’s just a banger!

This one gets my inaugural chef’s kiss badge.

Dead Anyway are from Gloucestershire, Kate Arnold and Marc Symonds have known each other since the 90s and 2000s, and started working together after a chance meeting at a gig in 2019. They’ve been releasing EPs quietly, recorded during lockdowns, and have recently put together a live band with Marc on drums, I’m actually really excited for them!

Official | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

FLEDGLING – Superheroes

Ahh my favourite topic. Superheroes! A summery tune from Fledgling, but the rather cryptic Secret Artist is making me want to do some investigating and unmasking, because you know… that’s what happens in superhero stories.

Well played Fledgling. Well played.

The vocals are nice and wispy, over instrumentation that bounces at a great little pace, with bells being played in the background, it got my foot tapping.

My standout lyric on this is “We’re no superheroes, but you were mine that day.”

The key to a good story is for the storyteller to draw their audience in, and in this one line alone I want to know more about how this came about.

By the way, being a bit of a pro when looking for background info on bands I found out who the secret artist is, I won’t ruin it for you, but it’s actually in plain sight.

So who is Fledgling?

Fledgling is former Holloways frontman, Alfie Jackson’s project, with an aim to create music in collaboration with other artists. 

What sets Fledgling apart is that it is equal parts artist, label, playlist and online magazine.

Fledgling will help artists thrive away from the cold limitations of traditional record label structures.

A noble goal.

Official | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

LAZY HABITS – Coming Around

If their track Waves slapped harder than Will Smith, this song’s so hot 40 degrees doesn’t even come close…

After Lazy Habits was on the Fresh Faves a few months ago I was compelled to check out their album, and it made me wonder why they didn’t submit this first.

Whoever did their marketing is smart!

From the beginning, it’s got horns, Rhodes, piano, drums, claps, and bars that are characteristically pure fire, and Lazy Habits are in no way lazy about what they do here, they are TIGHT!

The bit that got me dancing comes in two sections, 2:01 where there’s a drum solo – toms and kick, really lifting it up. But there’s a second section at 3:00, which is slightly swung, knowing Lazy Habits it’s likely this is where the element of having two drummers comes in really handy because boy…. This is bloody awesome.

This is why Coming Around is my track of the week.

Call out to Questlove. You had Blue Lab Beats support you. I DOUBLE TRIPLE drummer dare you to book Lazy Habits.

I’ll be the dude in the front with the sign saying “I TOLD YOU SO!”

Lazy Habits are a London crew, rocking two drummers, a horn section, and they’ve already caused havoc in my head with their bars and beats, they cite The Roots (all hail the mighty Legendary Roots Crew) as their influences their CV just tells me that this isn’t where the story stops… having collaborated with some industry heavyweights including DJ Premier, Reeps One, Dizrali, Baby Sol, Hackney Colliery Band and Joshua Whitehouse.

Go check out the album.

Official | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

MAYA LANE – When You Need Me

Lovely acoustic flavour from Maya Lane, guitar and strings…

This starts off with birdsong, which matches this sunny Sunday morning, and then a beautiful guitar accompaniment under Maya’s strong folksy voice, and then there’s the warmth of the cello, there’s something I’ve never been able to put into words properly when I hear strings but this just evokes the goosebumps…

There is an octaved piano part that wanders in for a few bars but it’s all part of Maya taking you through her story, and boy does she tell it well.

Let’s have a look at the lyrics.

“And I wish you could always stay like this,
I’d keep you safe from bad things,
People who break you down,
Break your heart,
But I know I can’t so

I’ll be here when you need me,
My sister please believe me,
Cause life won’t always be easy,
But I’ll be here when you need me.”

Given that the summer holidays have begun, and friends are parting ways to begin new lives in September at new schools and universities this is quite a poignant lyric, and really stands out to me.

Maya’s songwriting is incredible. I’m a big fan.

She’s been on my radar for quite some time now, Kwame Kwaten of Ferocious Talent put her on my radar, and like I’ve always said about Kwame, when he sends you music you LISTEN.

Maya Lane is an 19 year old singer songwriter from London. She is emotionally mature beyond her years and a natural storyteller. Her acoustic pop/folk style draws influences from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Kacey Musgraves, HAIM and Joni Mitchell. Check out our interview from earlier this year.

Official | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

ME FOR QUEEN – Toothbrush

This is surely a callback to when we were on lockdown. “I brushed my teeth for the first time in who knows how many days.” Seems like an eternity ago doesn’t it?

The lyrics are introspective, and could easily be the thoughts of any of us at the time when we were keeping ourselves busy by making things we weren’t ever going to use again, or learning skills that we will never admit to having as a result of the last couple of years. It can also be seen as a jibe – well not quite a jibe more a kind of pointed statement against single use plastic, and given the way the world is this is what’s needed. Laugh about the first line if you must, but the truth is there.

Me For Queen is Mary Erskine, Tom is a fan, she describes herself as a maker, shaker, singer, songer and she also works in the music industry as well as the world of music theatre – she also treats her fans to a song a month via ko-fi.com, which is really cool.

Official | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

SKINNYBOY TUNES FEATURING MILSKY – Beat Of The Drum

Skinnyboy Tunes drops a sweet reggae groove on this for Milsky to ride in on with some really soulful harmonies, and this tune really delivers – summery dub vibes that are really infectious, the saxophone playing a gorgeous but simple melody through this and organ characteristic of reggae songs doing its thing – this has summer festival vibes written all over it! I love the drums on this. I have featured Skinnyboy Tunes on my show before and will happily play this too.

Skinnyboy Tunes is a Norwich based producer, with a fair number of tunes on Bandcamp, and he’s brought in Milsky – boy her voice is breathtaking… I’m wondering if he’s still contemplating putting an EP out on 8 track.

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp

THE JOJO MAN BAND – The Sky

The Jojo Man Band, aka Nick Woodgate is back, with an acoustic number really short and sweet, clocking in at 1:33, there are some synth strings that sit under the guitars and Nick’s vocals and then broken up with an electric guitar, my favourite bit though is where there is a lovely acoustic soul. What a joy to listen to as always.

Nick is constantly creating as evidenced by his Bandcamp in the past, he’s also got a stunning version of “She” that I can highly recommend!

When I first came across Nick, his bio made me chuckle. His music at the time was described as a cross between a barbershop quartet and a rusty piano going down four flights of stairs.

That is some exact science.

When I launched my radio show this year, his track It Will Be was what opened it up, because the pure energy of that song just got me grooving, this is the opposite end of the scale, it’s a thinker and definitely worth 1:33 of your time.

Official | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

TINA BOONSTRA – Martha

Now this is quite unique in many ways. I don’t know where to start…

First of all, it evoked a big response from our regulars on the Listening Post, and in Tobi’s own words, it broke his heart.

Let me see if I can do this song justice by giving it a fitting review.

First of all, Tina’s voice is low in pitch, and relatively quiet when it starts out, but she really opens up in the chorus, letting loose a fire in her belly that challenges you to keep your head up.

That’s it. This is the one.

In a world where 40 degree heat, monkeypox, and a war is all going on in the space of 7 months, this is a message to all of us.

Tina Boonstra has an interesting background, she grew up as a songwriter in a missionary family, she really found her ground on the London open mic circuit.

Featured on Spotify’s New Music Friday, BBC Introducing London, Hoxton Radio and Sounds Magazine her, latest EP is described as “a collection of moving, honest, brave songs that will school its listeners in empathy and introspection.”

Official | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

VENUS GRRRLS – Violet State Of Mind

Big rock number? But of course! What I like about this song is the gutsy vocals upfront in the mix, and the fearless chant in the chorus, this is ballsy, and Venus Grrrls are not afraid to show what they have – the power chords really bring this song to life, and the dirty guitar so-

Oh wait that’s it??

No guitar solo? Well there’s the beginnings of one before it gets cut off.

No fair.

But this is short and sweet, and I guess that’s all you need.

By the way, hi hats open, big drums always a win for me. Love the bass playing on this too, but that voice is something else….. what a way to close out the Faves!

Venus Grrrls are a quintet who describe themselves as an ethereal and tenacious girl band from Leeds.

Ethereal.

Good one.

Official | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

Venus Grrrls

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.

Me For Queen photo by Angelo Valente
Venus Grrrls photo by Tash Koziarska

Del Osei-Owusu

Del is a songwriter, producer, keyboard player arranger and musical nerd from South London, Del comes from a gospel music background but listens to anything, everything and nothing. Read More

9 Comments

  1. Louise Toal

    Great reviews, Del and congratulations to all the artists, on what was one of the most competitive of inboxes.
    Have a wonderful summer break everyone, I know I’m ready to take a breather.
    L x

  2. Great reviews as always Del, Lovingly researched and brought to life by your descriptive writing. Congratulations to all the artists. A great high on which to head into our summer break. 🙂

  3. Nice flight of words Captain Del — the runway is cleared to land!!!

    Congrats ALL!!! Superb Faves – stunning music!!!

    The Listening Post full of incredible music; & some brilliant inbox suggestions/recommendations from Mr Robinson & Kerry JK; plus we also stumbled on some other excellent tracks from this batch..what a triumphant celebration of music & creativity!!!

    Enjoy a well-earned & ace summer break everyone: a lot of work by a lot of people goes into making FOTN the most exciting place for discovering new music.

    Leo Slayer (guitar strangler for Junkyard of Silenced Poets)

  4. Lovely review Del- spot on!
    Was an honour to be a guest moderator this week- what a lot of excellent music came through to my ears.
    Have a great summer break 🌞

  5. Swanky reviews! Dare I say, uber swanky.

  6. Thanks everyone! The inbox reopens on my birthday! hahaha

  7. Great set of Fresh Faves to take us in to the summer break, and expertly reviewed by Del.

  8. Have a great summer break everyone! Nice to meet y’all!!!!!!!!

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