Artists at a glance
B OF BRIZ
LIFE AQUATIC BAND
It’s been quite a week. We’ve had high-level resignations amid accusations of political bias and bullying, horrific human rights abuses and wars raging around the globe, a powerful nation whose electoral process is rapidly resembling a fairground freak show, and a royal coronation that is raising serious questions about life at the heart of the British establishment. No wonder many of us frequently feel the need to run for cover and seek refuge in the things that continue to make us happy. Thankfully one such thing is music and, as a Fresh On The Net moderator, I have the privilege of receiving an inbox full of new tracks by talented artists every week. It is an even greater one to be able to review the ten tracks that make it through both stages and are chosen by our readers to be their Fresh Faves. As this batch shows, they never let us down. Coffee’s ready, so without further ado…
ADAM HOPPER – Green Man
Manchester’s Adam Hopper has been getting out and about with live dates across the North of England in the run-up to releasing Green Man, which he says is inspired by “… the wizardy old bloke” he used to live near! There is also a video up on YouTube now. He is wasting no time in gathering interest, having made the New Talent list for Glastonbury, and supported some names that will be familiar to our readers.
Green Man bounces into life. Syncopated beat supports squelchy bass playing in fifths. A honky tonk-ish piano plays arpeggios while the vocals have a little of Liam Gallagher in a mash with Jon Power. The first half of each verse sees the keyboard drop out and rejoin before a harmony-backed chorus that is catchy and uplifting. Simple but effective devices resulting in melodic Alt Pop that wears a wry smile.
B OF BRIZ – Containing It
Bristol rapper B of Briz lists a range of influences on her website that immediately make me want to pay attention, including the likes of Little Simz, Kae Tempest, Akala, The Fugees, The Streets and many more. She is described as “a masked rapper” who, as a woman on the internet, needs a degree of “pseudonymity”. Already recognised as a “future sound of Bristol”, she has worked with the upcoming artist Genevieve Leavold whose work has provided her cover art. Amazing Radio have been among those who have picked up on her music and, if you are reading this on the day of publication, she was on this morning’s BBC Introducing Mixtape with Tom Robinson on BBC Radio 6 Music.
Having reviewed Containing It already in the new edition of Trust The Doc, it is a pleasure to have another opportunity to talk about this track. The undercurrent of crisp beat and bright synths provide a spacious, translucent canvas for B of Briz’s thoughtful commentary on the world around her, both human-made and natural, and how she relates to it. Shades of Akala and Kae Tempest for sure, but she has very much her own style as this exciting track demonstrates.
CHISARA AGOR – Hold On To Your Love
Returning Fresh Fave, Peckham’s Chisara Agor is a multi-discipline performer whose work involves music, theatre, film, dance and visual art. The new single has been picked up and played by BBC Radio London’s Introducing Show and the BBC was also involved with the presentation at the ICA of Chisara’s The Air We Live In, a music, film and visual art installation drawing attention to environmental concerns, commissioned by Sound UK. Their reputation continues to grow so expect to see and hear more in 2023.
Hold On To Your Love is another track I recently reviewed in my blog. The title may hint at a piece of classic Soul but it is actually a song about standing against the toxic culture of hate threatening to engulf our social media platforms and holding onto the positive feelings that are better for us. Chisara casts this important message amid syncopated rhythmic configurations, extended chords, contrasts of dynamics, timbre and texture and a captivating vocal arrangement. As the atmosphere builds in intensity, we get a kind of jazz metal guitar break just to add to the sophistication and musicianship the track exudes. Like everything Chisara writes and records, this is of the highest quality.
CUTTY – Shut Up
Hull-based duo Cutty are perhaps a reflection of how young artists are approaching their careers with a focus on using Instagram and Tik Tok as their platforms of choice. They have been getting out and playing live and were recently featured on the BBC Introducing Show in Humberside. Cutty are Amy Precious (Vocals & Artwork) and Kev La Kat (Instruments & Production) which strikes me as a good division of duties.
Shut Up grabs me from the outset with a funky bassline accompanying Amy’s distinctive, tracked vocal as other sounds come and go, the reverb increasing and decreasing but the overall picture remaining translucent. Some lovely chords and synth melodies add to the atmosphere as Amy’s voice rises up to introduce new themes and counter themes. And then it all deconstructs quite quickly at the end. Sassy, swinging, highly contemporary and cleverly produced, it’s easy to see why it went down so well with our readers.
ĠENN – A Reprise (That Girl)
As we see week in, week out at Fresh On The Net, Brighton is both a limitless source of exciting new music and a magnet to musicians seeking excitement. ĠENN’s (pronounced Jen) Twitter profile describes them as “The sisterhood of psychedelic textures”, which sounds like a great place to be, and a glance at their upcoming live dates reveals they are already performing across the UK and Europe. They have had support from friend of FOTN, the amazing Melita Dennett on the BBC Introducing Show in the South of England, and the video for this track, which includes guest vocals by John Newton, already has well over a thousand views on YouTube.
On A Reprise (That Girl), a spoken word vocal plays off against snarling guitars and persistent bass and drums that remind me a little of Elastica in a mash with Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. When the rhythm switches to triplets, the vocals intensify and rise up the register. This is energetic, exciting and full of dynamic contrasts made possible thanks to the obvious inter-band chemistry.
LIFE AQUATIC BAND – Hello, Good Morning!
With glowing endorsements from NME, Gigwise and Pink Wafer, not to mention support from Help Musicians UK, Life Aquatic Band are in a good place right now. Geographically speaking, that good place is Sheffield, heartland of South Yorkshire and a place I very briefly lived in many moons ago. Talking of which, the band has also had support from BBC Introducing in Sheffield with Christian Carlisle.
Hello, Good Morning! is a jaunty affair, introduced by two guitars playing an almost Latinesque figure. Next a rapid-fire vocal is set against an understated instrumental backdrop that begins to fill out with a repeating bass figure and onbeat drums providing the foundation for melodic guitar figures before the band takes off into a more intricate workout. There’s a quirkiness to the vocals and backing vocals that follow and a good deal of thought has gone into developing the song while introducing a plethora of individual instrumental features. Entertaining and engaging.
MOBY DICKLESS – Birdman
Manchester’s Moby Dickless have handily provided a little video bio on YouTube that reveals they are Sloth, Maria and Fred and they have set out to create something unique which they define as “Post-Bop Trip Hop”, an intriguing idea for sure. Spring has seen them get out on the road and now they have the single out and interest gathering.
According to the band’s Facebook page, Birdman refers to someone who likes birds a little too much! It kicks off with a semi-spoken word vocal, syncopated beat and ambient noises. The lyrics tell of a man who had birds in every room of his house but still wanted more of them! The drums and bass kick up a Punk-Funk hotpot while the guitars pick and stab. When the band gets into full swing, their interplay is intricate and fluid. There are echoes of Do Nothing in a jam with Pozi while Home Counties bring chops. This is utterly joyful, expertly executed and very impressive.
PRIMA HERA – Michigan
Sheffield’s Stef Williamson is Prima Hera, and she has been going down a storm on my radio show this year, first with the haunting Lynchian atmosphere of Sidecar, a Fresh Fave in January when it was reviewed by Del. Now she is doing so again with this similarly brooding tale of love broken on the rocks of Michigan’s highways. She has also been picking up the plaudits from other indie music media including Get In Her Ears, Sam Liddicott, Mindies Blog and others not to mention my own Trust The Doc blog. A couple of weeks ago she played her first gig in four years, a lovely snippet of which is on her Twitter page.
Deep synth tones and delicately delivered electric piano accompany Stef’s rich alto voice as she sets out this tale of torn hearts and lonely lovers. It evokes images of Edward Hopper paintings and grainy Film Noir reels. The atmosphere she creates is melancholy but oddly disarming while her distinctive vocals serenely shred our emotions. A dark cinematic masterpiece.
SWIM WEAR – Know Me Better
If Brighton is Southern England’s bottomless pit of new music talent, then Leeds is the Northern English equivalent. One of the first things that strikes me looking at Leeds band Swim Wear’s live itinerary is how sensibly they are spacing out their gigs and playing different geographical locations where ticket sales for one gig will not dilute another in the same period, whereby they are getting themselves in front of audiences far and wide; not an easy thing to pull off, but it’s where the mutual support of grassroots artists can be very effective for all concerned. They released their debut EP in October 2022 to coincide with a headline show in their home City. In short they are doing everything right and it will pay off for them if they keep at it.
In the meantime we have new track Know Me better. Frantic hi-hats count the band in and then we get some goose-bumping guitar jangle playing against a solid bass and drums foundation. When the baritone-range vocals come in plus chanted wordless unison hook, it adds to a classic aura of epic Alt Pop that could be China Bears jamming with Ash while Gengahr throw in ingredients but with the sonic ambition of Everything Everything. The production is loud and spacious and the sound is big, bright and rich in colour. If this doesn’t lift your spirits, I don’t know what will.
TUGBOAT CAPTAIN – Like Caroline
London quartet Tugboat Captain are a band I have written about previously, including the last time they were Fresh Faves in January. I mentioned then their triumphant gigs at The Cavendish Arms and Pretend and rave review in Indiefjord. April saw them return to the Cavendish as well as the Moth Club, and they play Village Underground on 6th June. I am delighted to see that Like Caroline is a “loveletter to South East London” which is where I live, perform and promote live music. I think we may be having a conversation about gigs soon!
In the meantime Like Caroline continues Tugboat Captain’s penchant for placing retro influences in the context of their sophisticated contemporary Pop template. Some sumptuous woodwind-like sounds mix in with thoughtful guitar jangle, busy bass and cleverly punctuating drum patterns. The vocals have echoes of Paul McCartney and the vocal harmonies are quite lovely. All this is reinforced by an imaginative arrangement and innate understanding of how to use contrasts of dynamics and textures. A gorgeous synth melody leads the track into the sunset, while the glory of the multi-voiced chorus is left ringing in our ears.
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.