Artists at a glance
PLATINUM MIND FT. JFLAMES
THE JOJO MAN BAND
It’s me again! Since my last reviews I have learned that inciting a riot by vigilantes and stealing classified documents represents a potential career path to the Presidency of a large, affluent democracy. Closer to home, it turns out that lying repeatedly, breaking laws you implemented and imposing economic misery on the people gets you considered for a fast track return as PM despite resigning in disgrace a few months earlier! Thankfully, here at Fresh On The Net, no such craziness rules our roost and, with the future of BBC Introducing hanging in the balance due to spending cuts, this platform for new and emerging music is needed more than ever. So thank you to our always reliable readers for picking ten top tunes for me to have the privilege of reviewing. Coffee’s served so here we go!
BARBARA – Waiting Outside Alone
Brighton’s brotherly band Barbara are well known to me, having been regulars on my Trust The Doc radio shows on Exile FM and 365 Sounds. They are also returning Fresh Faves. This year saw them tour the UK and win Track of the Day on BBC Introducing in the South. In October they supported Nature TV and before that they achieved a stated ambition by supporting The Divine Comedy, a band who could certainly be cited as a possible influence on their style. They are getting noticed everywhere they go and that is no surprise given how lovingly they have honed their unique sophisticated retro Pop and whimsical songwriting over the past couple of years.
On Waiting Outside Alone they also demonstrate a talent for intelligently dissecting the disgraceful state of British politics (or more specifically of government – wait, did I mention something about that in my intro?). Being Barbara, this is carried out within the context of bouncing, buoyant piano chords, clever guitar melodies in thirds and fourths, a tune you will not be able to dislodge from your brain and lush vocal harmonies. Reviewing this in my Trust The Doc blog, which will be out on 30th November, I mentioned hearing echoes of 10CC, Paul McCartney, Ben Folds and even a hint of Supertramp. I perhaps should have said Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy too. But they are able to present such influences in a contemporary context thanks to the freshness of their sound and spaciousness of their production. Another classy, engaging track from a band who really are quite special.
EDWARD GILD – The Walker
With no links on his Soundcloud page and little presence on social media, it is tough to get much information about Edward Gild. His Bandcamp blurb says his music comes from “… deep within the misty hills, rolling and green” but he stops short of telling us where these hills are situated other than in the UK! The Walker, it turns out, is one of three tracks on his EP Holding and was released in August.
The song is built on an attractive picking acoustic guitar figure consisting of two chords. Edward’s voice is quite deep and distinctive. There are echoes of a young Leonard Cohen with a hint of Father John Misty. The track continues in the same vein with just the one guitar but he uses some subtle rhythmic devices to alter bar lengths and keep events moving. The playing is delicate and dexterous and the melody carries this home.
ERIN BLOOMER – Wasted It On You
20 year old Erin Bloomer released her first original track at 15 and has more recently given interviews to Notion and Famous Birthdays. Growing up in East Sussex she was featured on a well-known track by Rasster and Imanbek. She has had subsequent support from BBC Introducing. In her interview with Notion she recalls singing along to her dad’s Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd records (not references you hear often at Fresh On The Net!) and she cites Lady Gaga, Queen, Rihanna and others among her diverse influences.
Wasted It On You is an uptempo Pop track with quick 4/4 programmed beat, unison bass and synth parts playing staccato. Erin’s voice switches between a slightly mockney style in the verses that brings to mind Lily Allen in a mash with Lauran Hibberd while the multi-tracked and overlapping (call and response) vocals in the chorus are poppier and demonstrate the different timbres of her voice. It is punchy, perky and perfectly compact pop with attitude and energy.
HANA LILI – Solitude
Living in “a small town in South Wales” (I wonder which one, I know quite a few being from Valleys stock), Hana Lili has been enjoying a highly productive 2022. She is a regular on BBC Radio Wales and has been appearing at various festivals. She was a Fresh Fave in May when it was also me reviewing. A couple of trivia facts about Hana: Welsh is her first language, and she is classically trained on the flute.
When I reviewed Hana’s track in May, I said it reminded me a little of “…Beabadoobee in a jam with Arlo Parks while Phoebe Bridgers adds chops” whereas, on Solitude, I would say the Phoebe Bridgers reference is the more relevant one alongside a dash of Paul McCartney (whom PB recorded with on the Reimagined III album) and maybe a little of Ailbhe Reddy too. The song is built around a scalic melody that is doubled by a picked guitar while the verses are equally striking. As a harmony vocal arrives in Verse 2, it is really spine-tingling. We then get a mid-section that, along with that verse and chorus, absolutely underlines what an acute ear Hana Lili has for a really captivating melody (or three in this case) coupled with the perfect chord combinations, hence the McCartney comparison I guess. The more I listen to this track the more outstanding I realise it is.
OLLIE DIXON – Harbour
Devon-based ‘Ambient Folk’ singer-songwriter Ollie Dixon is a busy lad, currently touring although finding time to pop in and record a session for BBC Introducing in Devon & Cornwall. New single Harbour has been named as a ‘Hotly Tipped’ track by the Bristol-based BBC Introducing in the South West. Ollie also supported serial fresh fave Bryde at the Barrel House in Totnes and, prior to that, was playing festivals in England and Wales.
Harbour is quite an epic piece (4 mins 58 secs). It kicks off with picking acoustic guitar and bendy lead guitar playing single notes, while Ollie’s distinctive double-tracked vocals set out a mystical melody. There is a distantness about the reverb effects on all of this. It reminds me a little of Bon Iver in a jam with Fleet Foxes plus a dash of Andrew Bird. As it develops, long legato tones and subtle harmonies begin adding colour and texture to the mix. There is a mid-section where everything slows and the otherworldliness is emphasised as enigmatic sounds drift into play. This is a track that can genuinely be called evocative. The detail and imagination in the arrangement, along with Ollie’s endearing vocals, lift this up a notch making a very good song even better.
PLATINUM MIND FT. JFLAMES – Black Swan
So this is what happens when a current FOTN moderator teams up with a former one! Two friends of mine and fellow South East London residents Del Osei-Owusu aka Platinum Mind and Josh Johnson aka JFlames have collaborated on a new track. It is by no means the first time these two have worked together. JFlames, who works frequently with his brother Ruinz Ason, has been building a reputation and following for some time with his reflective and observational brand of UK Hip Hop. I reviewed an album of his for Fresh On The Net a few years ago. Platinum Mind, as well as being a radio show DJ (Songbird Sessions, Islington Radio) and blogger, is a writer, producer and artist, particularly known for his lush keyboard skills which are very much in evidence here. They are two artists with strong pedigree and track record.
I was instantly taken with Black Swans. The lyric is honest, thoughtful and emotionally charged. Watching the black swans flying together in the mornings, JFlames sees a metaphor for what human beings could achieve if they placed a greater sense of importance on unity and solidarity. Against his lyrical flow, Del provides repeating extended piano chords and sumptuous strings, somehow adding weight to the combination of sadness and hope that underpins this track. Everything about it oozes quality. Total class.
POPPY PRESCOTT – Man Walks Into A Bar
Hastings’ Poppy Prescott has been gathering quite a reputation for her live performances which include support slots for Keane and Barbara Dickson and an appearance at the legendary WOMAD Festival (an event I will get to one day!). Her Bandcamp blurb says her songs “…explore the beautifully ordinary parts of life and growing up”. Certainly, as we will see, she is a good story-teller.
Man Walks Into A Bar may sound like the beginning of a stand-up comedy routine but actually it’s a tale of a man walking into a bar when Poppy is hoping she will be playing her best song. The story then takes some twists and turns, perhaps taking a slightly whimsical but partly empathetic look into elements of human behaviour. This is played out against picking guitar which, as the song develops, is duly embellished while Poppy’s earthy vocals are adorned by some quite exquisite harmonies. This is another very good example of how to combine innate songwriting skills with clever arranging and the use of fluid and unexpected changes that really lift the track.
SLANEY BAY – What If?
I seem to be writing so much lately about South West London trio Slaney Bay, another returning Fresh Fave, just lately. Just over a week ago I saw them play a superb live set as support to another former Fresh Fave who are now high fliers, Bleach Lab, at the lovely Lafayette in Kings Cross. Before that I was blogging about them and I hope you will see my review of the aforementioned gig on these pages very soon. They are a trio of Caitlin Whitley (Vocals & Guitar), William Nicola-Thompson (Lead Guitar) and Joel Martin (Bass Guitar & Backing Vocals). Their song I could love you better from their EP A Life Worth Living drew support from BBC Radio 1, Billboard, Line of Best Fit and Dork who interviewed the trio. They are fresh from playing tour supports to the aforementioned Bleach Lab and Sinead O’Brien.
What If? is the final track on the EP (which also includes LS6, a track I have been spinning on my radio shows) and is a great example of their sound. Caitlin’s ethereal voice floats above a relatively quiet intro, setting the scene with dreamy reverberant guitar and fluid bass. As the track builds, the drums and bass become more driving and their effervescent Dream Pop sound becomes more Alt Rock-oriented as Caitlin’s voice soars and swoops over the instrumental interplay. As with all their tracks, the melody is striking and unusual in an appealing way and their instinctive inventiveness is always at the heart of their style. It rounds off what, I can confirm, is a really enjoyable EP.
THE JOJO MAN BAND – I Like People
Nick Woodgate is The Jojo Man Band, and he is a popular member of our lovely grassroots music community. His tracks always get a lot of love on the Twitter thread for my radio show(s). He is also a highly supportive individual who goes out of his way to shout positively about fellow artists. Nick is, of course, the brother of Woody, drummer with Madness and Voice of the Beehive, and he has written album tracks for Madness. Nick is a prolific artist and has a new album out entitled Ethel’s Day Out. He is a serial Fresh Fave and has had strong support from BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Introducing.
I Like People is trademark JJMB with the effect Nick always has on his vocals and a tune that lodges itself in your brain. And when Nick sings that he likes people, you know he means it. The on-beat piano chords drive the instrumental track, supported by a straight-ahead 4/4 beat. The chord changes in the verse as it drops down a key are deceptively clever. There is also a simple but lovely piano break. Unlike a lot of Nick’s material, guitar plays no part in the song. A low-mixed legato organ fills out the sound and adds subtle colour. Two minutes and sixteen seconds of pure Alt-Pop joy JJMB-style.
WISE WOMAN – Storyville
Hailing from, in their words, “… the wilds of East Anglia and South Wales”, Wise Woman have been one of my most exciting discoveries of 2022. Their astonishing track Fen Woman lit up my radio and online TV shows last month and they are making waves very quickly despite that track and this one being from their debut EP which is just about to be released. On 28th November they officially launch the EP with a gig at St Pancras Old Church where they will be accompanied by a string quartet. I would urge people in London to go along. I certainly intend being there. The quartet have quickly fashioned a sound that brings organic instrumentation together with four accomplished female voices that gel beautifully in a sea of harmonies, counterpoint, call and response and other techniques.
On Storyville they are accompanied quite simply by pizzicato Cello. They use a swooping glissando effect with the voices that instantly jumps out at us. Once again a smart vocal arrangement with powerful harmonies, overlaps, counterpoints etc. carries the track along as they tell the sad story of the rise and fall of the town of Storyville, a mirror being held to the dysfunctional world we find ourselves trapped in year on year. In essence Wise Woman are a kind of Indie Folk act but they are reinventing the rules to create something shuddering and impressive as this superb track shows.
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.