Artists at a glance
When I last reviewed the Fresh Faves, in January, I reminded readers about the ongoing campaign here at Fresh On The Net to protect the future of BBC Introducing, which was threatened due to cuts to BBC local radio. The Beeb have since issued a statement, which appears to confirm that the service itself is safe and will now broadcast 20 new BBC Introducing shows, appearing twice a week (with an Artist of the Week slot too), across 39 radio stations. They also say “new bands and artists will feature prominently in the new ‘Local to me’ section of BBC Sounds”. This is tentatively good news although we need to see a bit more detail. You can read more about it here. In the meantime, well done to everyone who got involved in the campaign. Whatever the exact shape of this modified service, it shows the BBC has listened to our collective voices. So, on that upbeat note, let me turn my attention to the privilege of reviewing this weekend’s choices by our amazing readers.
ALICE OFFLEY – You’re My Favourite
We begin with a name familiar to me and probably to a lot of our readers too. Swindon-born Alice Offley comes from a family of working musicians, and has been honing her multi-instrumental and writing skills since she was very young. A distant relative of the great Dusty Springfield, she says her influences are ‘Old Skool’. She has been out on several tours and retains a busy live schedule and, no surprise, she has been the recipient of BBC Introducing support.
You’re My Favourite is trademark Alice Offley. The funky guitar playing in its upper register has echoes of Prince jamming with Nile Rodgers, while the sparseness of the mix and the harmonised vocals are in a similar ballpark but with echoes of Janet Jackson in a mash with Lizzo (and probably quite a few other classic references subtly lurking in the shadows). It has a pristine punchiness that is really appealing, while Alice’s expressive and slightly intense vocals dominate against the backdrop of fired-up funky guitars and persistent beat. Old Skool, but with a fresh perspective, this is a great way to kick off today’s ten top tunes.
BRODIE MILNER – Hedonist
Hailing from Yorkshire, Brodie Milner has already had regular support from BBC Introducing both at local and national level, with praise from the likes of Emily Pilbeam (BBC Introducing) and Charlie Ashcroft (Amazing Radio) as well as airplay from Tom Robinson and Steve Lamacq. He has also managed to land support slots to some impressive names, most notably BC Camplight and Katy J Pearson.
Hedonist sets an amusingly sardonic lyric about all the things he has given up caring about, and why, to a driving guitar-dominated Alt Rock track that in some ways looks back to The Stooges and maybe a little to The Cramps, while his highly distinct vocal style reminds me somewhat of Future Islands. It is fair to say that this is a lot different to the last track of his that I reviewed back in September 2021, duly underlining his versatility. The energy he conjures up, founded on a neat fuzzy guitar riff and clever dynamic contrasts, is infectious and invigorating.
CHIEDU ORAKA – Helly Hansen 5
At least his third time as a Fresh Fave, Chiedu Oraka is an artist I have written reams about over the past few years, including here, in my Trust The Doc blog, and even for Angry Baby back in 2018. The self-styled ‘Black Yorkshireman’ has been defining a Hull-based Hip Hop and Grime sound throughout that time; rapping in a Humberside accent about life on the North Hull Estate, throwing down the gauntlet to all the poseurs and part-time street level musicians out there. He is a master storyteller, working with producer and friend Deez and others to hone his highly recognisable sound as his reputation continues to grow, helped by BBC Introducing support both locally and on Tom’s 6 Music show. I keep banging the drum for Chiedu because he is an artist who deserves to be given the platform to take his unique approach out to the wider world. With close to 45K monthly Spotify streams alone, he is clearly reaching a lot of people these days though so watch this space.
It is about two years since Helly Hansen 4 so this track brings an update. Lyrically it is vintage Chiedu Oraka. He questions the legitimacy of claims being made by other rappers, setting out his stall as someone who lives the life he talks about in his tunes. Staccato synth tones and tough beat accompany his free-flowing delivery and the track is short, pithy and powerful. Still the Prince of Northern Hip Hop and Grime.
COUPDEKAT – Superglue
Kat Reilly is Leighton Buzzard-based Coupdekat, and she is another artist familiar to Fresh On The Net readers, having been a Fresh Fave on at least two past occasions since November 2021. I also know that she has worked with my friends at the excellent Shootfirst Agency, and she has played some successful showcases at London venues in recent times. She has had support from BBC Introducing on Three Counties Radio and her reputation continues to grow.
Superglue is characteristically quirky and buoyant Alt Pop. The beat is fast and almost frantic while synth chords (in a I & IV major 7 format) accompany Kat’s tracked energetic vocal performance. Little melodies appear and disappear behind her. Her delivery has shades of Lily Allen in a jam with Alice Phoebe Lou while the style leans towards a contemporary take on Synthpop. By keeping it simple, she forces us to focus on the hook which is endearingly infectious while the fast-paced feel of the track suits the lyrical theme of “I can’t help the way I feel … I’m stuck to you / Like Superglue”.
ESSIRAY – Mr Perfect
Dublin’s Rachel Murphy is Essiray. She cites 90s Pop as an influence, and there are elements of the poppier end of the R’n’B spectrum in her sound. She has been picking up airplay, and has received interest from Ireland’s long-time music journal Hot Press. In January she performed at the Next Big Thing Festival and she has been gigging regularly, growing her fanbase in Ireland.
Mr Perfect has that poppy R’n’B edge with its IV – V – I – III minor key chords and syncopated beat. The close harmonies on certain but not all notes works really well, and the whole thing has a lovely lightness of texture and buoyancy helped by Rachel’s innate rhythmic sense and vocal agility. The drops in the mix are cleverly applied, underlining her producing skills too. This is engaging, reverberant Pop with a melody you cannot escape from, lush harmonies and Essiray’s quality vocals.
MARSUPIAL SOUP – Suit Up
Leeds-based brothers who originate from the South Wales Valleys, Marsupial Soup are returning Fresh Faves. 2022 saw them undertake a mini-tour of the UK and last week they played the Louisiana in Bristol. They are building their digital presence too and the video for Suit Up is picking up views on YouTube. Last year they also played at the Isle of Wight Festival.
Suit Up places a cleverly sardonic lyric, commenting on suit-wearing private sector paranoia against an uptempo Alt Rock backdrop. The vocal style is semi-conversational and the lyrics bring the song’s first person character to life. “I wear a shirt and tie / Get the job done / Coffee in the morning / And a Cinnamon Bun” they sing (with variations on that rhyme). The deeper register deadpan delivery with two-part harmony and responding guitar riff puts them broadly in the same slightly whimsical Post-Punk inspired ballpark as bands like Do Nothing and LIFE but they don’t sound like either. Suit Up presents them as smart, satirical Alt Popsters with an appealingly eccentric style.
SARA WOLFF – Don’t Feed The Birds
Originally from Bergen in Norway and now resident in Liverpool. Sara Wolff is a returning Fresh Fave, this being at least her third time. In January she opened for Rozi Plain in Chester and she has been playing a good geographical spread of venues well beyond Merseyside including The George Tavern near Shadwell in East London; a venue I have frequented in recent times.
Don’t Feed The Birds has an aura that reminds me a little of Cate Le Bon in a mash with Aldous Harding, while Jane Weaver brings the wine. A slowish chugging guitar and bass backdrop with precise beat accompanies her slightly otherworldly vocals and, as the track develops, more nuances begin to surface, adding light and shade. Meanwhile Sara’s distinctive tracked vocals, sometimes harmonised, hold centre stage and the melody locks in as an arpeggio guitar figure grows in significance. All nicely done and with a refreshing individuality.
SIDDHARTHA SAYS – Snow Footsteps
Prolific English West Country artist Andrew aka Siddhartha Says has been a regular on my radio show for several years and is no stranger to Fresh On The Net. Known for his adventures into what is probably best described as the electronic end of the House music spectrum, he is also someone who collaborates with others often and is highly regarded by his peers.
Snow Footsteps casts its wintery theme amid dreamy electronic textures with fluid but slightly hypnotic noteplay and syncopated synth chords contrasting the consistency of the crunching reverberant beat and long sweeping tones. If anything I would place this in Trance territory. Some spoken word samples appear here and there. It’s a track that builds patiently in layers, evoking vast areas of snow-tipped landscapes while also providing a vibe and aura that could be perfect both for an intimate dancefloor or an after-party chillout.
TAPESTRI – Tell Me World
Returning Fresh Faves Tapestri are Welsh singer-songwriters Lowri and Sera who met by chance at a festival where they were both performing as solo artists and have been wowing us ever since with their unique hybrid of Folk, Americana and Country, plus a tendency to perform songs in both Welsh and English. They have been building an international reputation and recently attended the Folk Alliance in Kansas City, March sees them head out on a UK tour where all the venues are in Wales except for the opening night which will be in London.
Tell Me World is in a medium fast (Allegretto) triplet time with picking acoustic guitars accompanying Lowri’s and Sera’s voices which are in harmony throughout.. As the track builds, more sounds are subtly added after the first statement of the song’s appealing chorus. For example a call and response backing vocal from the second chorus. Eventually we get an instrumental section in which the electric guitars kick in and everything is lifted up a level. There are broad comparisons that can be made with The Staves, FIrst Aid Kit and even The Roches but Tapestri are very much in their own space, bringing together a rich combination of influences and adding an element of Welsh roots music that further enriches their songs.
TYCHO JONES – Risk To My Reward
London-based artist Tycho Jones may be a new name to me, but is already achieving nearly 70K monthly Spotify streams, has had his video looming large on a public screen at Piccadilly Circus, and is playing headline gigs around the Capital. He has a striking visual image so it is no surprise that he is making smart use of Instagram and picking up good engagement. It looks like Tycho Jones already stands on the precipice of serious success in 2023.
In the meantime we have Risk To My Reward which is uptempo synth-driven with crashing guitar chords in the chorus. The II – V – I – VI harmonic sequence has a familiarity about it that I can’t quite place. In terms of references there are shades of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever in a mash with Nation of Language while bdrmm add chops. But then there is also a slight punkiness about his delivery. The melody is instantly catchy and the contrast between the translucent textures in the verse and the fuller arrangement in the chorus works well, as do the harmonies and his falsetto tones that lift everything up a notch. An energetic, engaging and enjoyable end to this week’s fine Faves.
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.