Artists at a glance
EYESORE & THE JINX
SOLID STATE ORCHESTRA
Welcome to the latest reviews of the Fresh Faves as chosen by our ever-discerning readers from what was a stellar Listening Post this weekend. In the past few weeks I have been giving some lectures to the students at ICMP (where I work part time) on tackling the long-time problem of grassroots music artists and those supporting them tending to spend their limited budgets on services that inevitably fall short of both their needs and their expectations in terms of impact. The focus has been on how it might be possible to combine, in short, artist development and proper release planning with wider multi-media promotion, live exposure and social media activity. Within that context, I have been seeking to introduce new generations of budding artists and entrepreneurs to the importance of Fresh On The Net. If any of them choose this week to check out what I am banging on about, they cannot fail to be impressed by the quality of new music they will find. So what a pleasure and privilege it is for me to review the ten tracks our readers have voted for. Here goes.
ALEIGHCIA SCOTT – Do You
“Wales/Jamaica had a soulful reggae baby” says Aleighcia Scott’s Instagram profile and the evidence suggests that is a pretty accurate strapline. Aleighcia is actually a BBC Radio Wales presenter and the station has A-Listed this new single. She is also taking her band out to some tasty gigs and festivals and achieving international playlisting. The single has already topped the iTunes Reggae charts and there is a video you can check out on YouTube.
Returning to that opening statement, it does seem like Aleighcia is embarking on a one-woman revival of Old Skool Reggae, even down to the swirly strings figure, reverberant vocal sound and general arrangement. Do You is melodic and buoyant. Lyrically it deals with a classic theme of [possibly] unrequited love and heartache. It leads with the hook and has the feel of a track that could easily have been released on Trojan in the early seventies save for the more modern and spacious production values that give it a contemporary edge. Either way it is lovingly constructed and executed.
BANGBANG – Without You
A comfortable winner of the New Trax Poll on my Trust The Doc Radio show this weekend, London’s Bangbang are Ryan (an artist I blogged about when he used to record as Leeveye) and Criz. Currently undecided about when they will be ready to gig (which I hope will be at one of my live events), they are busy recording a catalogue of tracks. Their sound is based on a hybrid of influences that lean into Synthpop, Disco and Acid Jazz and clips on Instagram show they are already able to produce a snappy live version of what they do. It will be well worth experiencing when they unleash it.
Without You has octave-jumping Disco-style electro-bass, appealingly extended and jazz-infused chords and fluid use of contrasting timbres providing a punchy, spacious backdrop to Criz’s almost ethereally agile vocals. The hook is instantly engaging and there are some tasty, unexpected chord changes and subtle rhythmic configurations that immediately lift the track up another level. Imagine perhaps if Sugar Candy Mountain were to jam with FKA Twigs while Jhelisa brought the wine. Yeah, you’re right. They sound nothing like any of those acts! Better to just listen and enjoy.
CAITLIN LM – Evergreen
Manchesters’s multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Caitlin LM has been on my radar for a while now and I have blogged about her in Trust The Doc previously. She recently played at the amazing Sage, Gateshead as well as getting around the UK generally with gigs in York, Salford, Bristol and Birmingham in February, all with a full band. 2022 was Caitlin’s year of re-emerging and regaining confidence after losing both parents in 2019 and 2020 and spending much of lockdown and beyond in hibernation. A lot for such a young artist to shoulder, but she seems to have coped by being continuously creative, and 2023 looks like being a seminal year for her.
Nowhere is this more perfectly captured than in the frankly stunning and ethereal beauty of the song Evergreen. From the moment her reverberant and otherworldly voice floats onto centre stage with the hauntingly beautiful descending melody and carefully chosen sequence of electric piano chords, it is obvious that this is something special. Layers are added piece by piece, quiet beat and upper register jingle semi-quavers, more percussive elements and deep unobtrusive bass tones underpinning the arrangement. The addition of vocal harmonies enriches this experience and her flute solo is goose-bumping. Everything about this track makes me want to keep listening to it on repeat. A masterclass in how to utilise nuances and subtle features to turn a really good track into one that is as good as anything you will hear on the A-List of BBC Radio 6 Music right now. And no, that is not an exaggeration.
EYESORE & THE JINX – An Ideas Man
Although they seem somewhat shy about sharing their location on any of their social media pages, it transpires that Eyesore & The Jinx are based in Liverpool. Recent recipients of airplay from Lammo on BBC 6 Music, this is apparently their first new single “for some years”. So they have certainly returned with a bang. In May they will be practically on my doorstep playing at The Music Room in New Cross, South East London as part of a tour that also takes in venues as far and wide as Wrexham (as part of the Focus Wales 3-day festival), Barrow, Leeds, Moorthorpe and Stockton. In 2021, they appeared at Sound City, a festival in their home city of Liverpool.
An Ideas Man places a vocal that is mostly spoken word with occasional passages of melody plus a sardonic lyric to a guitar-dominated Alt-Post-Punk backdrop that has shades of Do Nothing in a mash with Yard Act while The Fall add spice (and spikes probably). The simple but effective guitar melody that plays off against the vocal works well and the whole track is driven by an agreeably punchy energy.
FEVER – Long Ago
Fresh from supporting The Clause on the Northern dates of a UK tour and getting support from BBC Introducing in Yorks and Humberside, life looks pretty exciting for Fever right now. In November they performed a track with the Hero’s Youth Orchestra at the Albemarle Music Centre. They are signed up with SJM Concerts for management and International Booking Talent as their agents. So they are in good hands and have plenty of momentum behind them. Their Soundcloud links go straight to their record label but fortunately I dug out all their own links and they are included here.
Momentum is definitely a word I would associate with Fever’s music too. Long Ago was a track that leapt out at me on first listen when I was moderating tracks. Fast, loudly produced and driving from the outset, this is the kind of epic Alt Pop that could be Everything Everything in a jam with Maximo Park while there are echoes of The Killers too. Overwhelmingly melodic, infectious and uplifting, you would surely have to be quite a misery guts not to be carried along by the waves of optimism flowing from this track!
PATIO GAS – Digging Your Own Grave
Formed at school in Stoke-on-Trent, Patio Gas describe themselves as a “Power Pop Trio”. They have an album launch party set for April in their home city and will be playing in Sheffield later this week which is also where they recorded their latest single. They have been interviewed in City Music Scene and on their local BBC Introducing show. 2023 looks like being a transitional year for them.
Digging your own grave addresses the sense of being bogged down and somehow unable to walk away from the life and world you inhabit. The vocal is mostly spoken word against crisp beat and a figure based around two crashing chords. It reminds me of Do Nothing (second mention for them this week!) in a jam with Fontaines DC. There is a contrastingly melodic chorus that goes into a major key and later in the track, we get some appealing interplay between guitar and synth while the drums punctuate each shift. It is all smartly done and underlines the tightness and easy interband chemistry that has built up from having played together since they were so young. Inventive and fresh.
PHOENIX RISE – To This Broken System
Susannah Gill is the Cardiff and London based artist Phoenix Rise and she seems to have pitched her tent firmly on TikTok where her music and videos mix with political messages of solidarity with striking workers and such-like. She also addresses issues around anxiety and mental health awareness. Her Bandcamp page explains that, having lived between London and Cardiff throughout her life, she has: “… developed an alternative and industrial sound that fuses rap, indie, rock, R&B, and electro punk”.
To This Broken System is uptempo with an insistent undercurrent of beat and light textures while Phoenix Rise’s rapid-fire vocals dominate, setting out her stall as she dissects and dismantles the current corrupt and capricious conduct of our excuse for a government and provides a soundtrack to the dysfunction that characterises how we now live. It is energetic and energising; expressive and fresh. Ultimately her message is a positive one of “Stand up, stand up, stand up/To this broken system”. Joyful, playful and impactful.
PRAWNS – Wolves
Norwich’s Prawns seem a little social media shy which they may want to attend to if they want people to be able to connect with their music and story. There is a really strong live session clip on their Instagram page of another song that suggests they have the potential to be a great live act. They are South African singer-songwriter Cara Knox (Vocals & Guitar) and Gregory John Madge (Guitar & Keyboards) whose solo material presents him as a virtuoso classical and mediterranean-style player. Clearly a duo it would be intriguing to know more about.
Wolves finds Prawns in synthpop territory, sparse syncopated synth-bass and single electronic kick initially accompanying Cara’s dexterous and distinctive vocals. Stabbing synth chords and picking guitar fill out the mix along with vocal harmonies in the chorus but the verses stay very translucent. There is a nod towards some subtly jazz-infused and funkier influences too. Smart, contemporary and catchy.
SOLID STATE ORCHESTRA – Only Girl In The World
I would love to tell you more about Liverpool’s Solid State Orchestra, but they have posted next to nothing on social media or Soundcloud. So all I know is that this is their second single and both feature Eva Layne on vocals. The singles follow a similarly striking style based on Bacharach & David and other classic Light Music and Sophisticated Pop writers of the nineteen sixties.
Only Girl In The World was another track it was impossible to ignore at moderation. Lush strings and keyboards playing in waltz-like triplet time accompany Eva’s breezy, agile performance that brings to mind such unlikely names as Petula Clark, Sandie Shaw and Eartha Kitt. Perhaps there might be a hint of Kathryn Way and Sarah Cracknell too though! The melody is so classic it could actually be a Bacharach original and the harmonic language is lovingly crafted and cared for. In essence, this is pure nostalgia but there is no disputing that it is done with a tonne of style and expertise. Lyrically it also suggests a tongue-in-cheek humour that suits the upbeat mood of the track.
WINACHI – For You I’d Kill Ft Natalie Wilde
Returning Fresh Faves Winachi have been building a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic for a good while now. They presumably won’t be taking sides in the Wars of the Roses since they operate out of both Warrington (Lancs) and Leeds (Yorks)! But theirs is a panoramic musical vision in any case. Sonic Bandwagon’s Nigel Carter has described Winachi as follows. “Experimenting like Dr FUNKenstein on acid with a multitude of styles, they throw electro, rock, soul, hip hop, indie and dance together to create a Molotov cocktail of infectious, funk drenched anthems”.
On For You I’d Kill they have collaborated with Natalie Wilde, a soprano vocalist from Los Angeles, on a track that is phat and phunky with solid bass, percussion and drums, funky guitar chords and picked staccato notes plus reverberant keyboard figures. Male vocals take the lead but Natalie’s distinctive octave-double-up soon becomes prominent too while harmonies fill out a catchy chorus. The vibe is Old Skool. Shades of Stereo MCs in a mash-up with Phats & Smalls while Flying Lotus adds chops. But of course, it doesn’t actually sound like any of those artists. Winachi are carving out their own unique style and, once again, they bring us high quality funk-driven entertainment.
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.