Artists at a glance
ALT BLK ERA
THE KITE SOCIETY
I seem to have an uncanny knack of reviewing the Faves in a week when there has been drama in the political world! Mind you, perhaps that is just every week these days! Amid all the resignations, indictments and other falls from grace, our awesome readers have been voting for their ten favourite tracks from another strong weekend’s Listening Post. Time to unseal the gold envelope and reveal their choices.
AISHA BADRU – Move
Returning Fresh Fave Aisha Badru has been receiving some glowing reviews lately including NPR plus We Are Soul and Makers And Mystics (both of whom interviewed her) as well as being featured on Folk Radio. The New York Nigerian-American singer-songwriter publishes little about herself, preferring to focus on the songs and her live dates. She describes her music as “soulful indie-folk” and, as well as having received great reviews from a string of prestigious media including Clash, Afropunk, Lines of Best Fit and others, she has amassed millions of streams and has more than half a million monthly listeners on Spotify alone.
Move is not an order issued to a disgraced former Prime Minister, but the title of a song that kicks off with Aisha’s slightly breathy but distinctive vocals accompanied by single piano chords. When the beat kicks in, we get four-to-the-floor kick drum, synth bass, reverberant keyboard chords and Aisha’s dexterous vocals holding centre stage. Reviewing Aisha in Fresh Faves 477 in February, fellow mod Poppy noted that her “smoky, intimate voice feels all the more personal for the spare and delicate guitar notes that frame it, adding up to a soulful piece of indie folk as warm as it is introspective”. Those words also neatly summarise her performance on Move. It is essentially a great pop-dance track with folk leanings, topped off by a memorable tune and an accomplished vocal performance.
ALT BLK ERA – I’m Normally Like This
Nottingham-based sisters Nyrobi (19) and Chaya (16) are ALT BLK ERA and they are ready to trash a few stereotypes and misconceptions. I note, from one of their Instagram posts, that they appear to have been accused of “cultural appropriation”. It is time that term was exposed for the racist nonsense it is. Music is the property of all people, and we all take influence from any spectrum of sources. Nyrobi and Chaya list The Prodigy, Stromae, Ashnikko and Rico Nasty as key influences. I would suggest they are also taking inspiration from a healthy variety of other sources too that may or may not include the likes of Sleater-Kinney, Skunk Anansie, Straight Line Stitch and Savages (and no, not just bands whose names begin with S!).
Visually their image is stylishly gothic with vivid use of black and white in relation to themselves (make-up, nail polish, clothes, hair etc.) and their artwork. They have been featured by BBC Radio 1 (Rock) and have support from BBC Introducing in the East Midlands not just through airplay, but in a live showcase happening later this month in Nottingham.
I’m Normally Like This is fast, sizzling Alt Rock with theatrical leanings. After a warm synth and spoken word intro, it explodes joyously into life. Like the man who resigns only to discover no-one knew of him in the first place, the impact of this sudden change could catch you off guard! The bass and drums are powerful and they piledrive forward while the guitars snarl and sneer. Vocals switch between calm spoken word/rap and gritty upper register melody. The lyrics reinforce the simple message of “I don’t give a damn if they like it / I’m normally like this”. It’s a track on which they succeed in harnessing their anger and frustration to create an irresistibly infectious and invigorating track from which there is no hiding place. ALT BLK ERA exude alternative star quality. We could be witnessing the early stages of one amazing journey.
ASYA SATTI – Down Daddy
Swedish-Sudanese London-based artist Asya Satti is a returning Fresh Fave. She is influenced by travelling between and soaking up the cultures of the UK, Sweden and Egypt. Reviewing her in Faves 475 in February, fellow mod Oldie Rob praised her for risking controversy by singing Sudanese Pop songs traditionally associated with male artists. Clearly she is not about to be cowed by the traditionalist lobby. No letters of resignation being issued here!
Down Daddy offers an unusual blend of laid back Jazziness with Eastern (or possibly North African) vibes and a rhythmically fluid and organic instrumental backdrop. Asya’s vocals are agile, dynamic and full of individual character. The arrangement and production are clever. On the one hand, there is an almost ‘live’ feel that enables every sound to be clearly heard. At the same time, the continuous adding and removing of nuanced sounds and ideas keeps events moving. Stylish, sophisticated and soulful.
BELLZZZ – No Shoes Girl / Succession
Bellzzz is, I think, an 18 year old singer-songwriter called Elizabeth and is based around Hitchin and Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire, although her precise home town is nearby Baldock. The Soundcloud blurb informs us that she enjoys writing songs and is into tattoos. She has been supported by BBC Three Counties and has been getting out and about playing gigs around the county and in London. A recent Instagram clip shows Bellzzz performing with a full band. There is a snippet from the Three Counties Introducing show where No Shoes Girl/Succession was played and the presenter explains that the original song had been No Shoes Girl and then Bellzzz had realised it fitted perfectly with the music from the TV show Succession.
No Shoes Girl/Succession is a thoroughly imaginative and very smartly produced slice of semi-Gothic Alt Rock with cinematic tendencies too, especially on account of the Succession strings theme that loudly appears periodically against the slow but punchy instrumental mix, chromatic upper register keyboard themes and distinctive. expressive vocals. As the intensity builds, like a leader caught breaking his own lockdown laws, you realise there is nowhere left to hide! Dark, dynamic and delightful, this is, in the words of the BBC 3CR presenter, “goose-bumping”.
CLAUDIA FENOGLIO – Alaska
Claudia Fenoglio began writing and recording seriously in 2019, enjoying immediate BBC Introducing recognition. Since then she has added rave reviews from the likes of Launchpad, Wonderland and New People. Surprise, surprise, she is another exciting talent from Leeds, unofficially the Northern English Capital of New Music, and you can find the ticket link for her next show there (11th July) in her Linktree.
Whenever I see the name Alaska, I’m reminded of a joke by a fictitious comedian in an old Harry Enfield classic in which he describes his friend’s home as having been “in a terrible state, a terrible state! It were in Alaska!” Boom Boom! Well, even after watching the touching and highly commendable video for this track (directed by Lucy R Jones), I am not sure of the title’s significance here.
Anyway, this Alaska is a dreamy, reverberant track that sits somewhere between the guitar-driven singer-songwriter Alt Pop of Phoebe Bridgers and the more autobiographical style of Laura Marling. The chord sequence (I – IIImaj – IV – IVmin) is actually similar to the Hollies classic The air that I breathe but there all similarities end. This track is thoroughly contemporary; smartly produced with plenty of gentle guitar jangle while Claudia’s rueful but commanding vocal takes centre stage. The combination of melancholy melody and shimmering chords is especially engaging. The lyrics are reflective and tug at the heartstrings. Before you know it you are as trapped as an indicted ex-President! Compelling listening.
DISCO MARY – The Once & Future Me
Described by none other than Steve Lamacq as an “Indie Supergroup”, Disco Mary are London-based Dutch Electro-Pop artist Charly Haze (Charlot Henzen), signed at 15 with an impressive ensuing CV of big name support slots; Kev Sherry of Attic Lights and fellow musicians Rachel Grant, Nicole Gardner and Michael Beattie. They also have a “rotating band of collaborators”. Confusingly, their socials are dominated by the release of a completely different song and I have been unable to unearth any information confirming who Nova is (moreover which Nova it is as there are a great many artists using that name). The band’s Instagram page describes them as a Scottish Indie Pop band while their website elaborates with the words “… Groove-based indie pop meets Motown soul revue mish-mashed potatoes shot through with the finest electro delicacies, all washed down with a pint of slacker funk”.
Once & Future Me is funky in a syncopated manner. Rapped verses give way to melodic hooks and harmonised vocals. The instrumental backdrop is sparse in the verses, a bit of slap bass and consistent beat accompanying the vocals while synths play on and off and picked notes come and go. In the middle of the track, we get reverberant harmonies and a brief dreaminess before the translucent electro-funk elements kick back in. There are plenty of twists and turns here but no misleading of the house! This is smart, savvy and swinging Pop. Echoes of recent Laura Mvula in a jam with NZCA Lines while Nu Shooz drop by with ingredients. Catchy and cool.
GILLIE – Llawn
I have had the pleasure of reviewing the Welsh singer-songwriter Gillie for the Faves previously and have blogged about her in Trust The Doc too. She grew up in “the wilds of Carmarthenshire” and has lived in London and Wales. The new single has already been played by Jack Saunders on BBC Radio 1 and by Huw Stephens on BBC Wales. Meanwhile Gillie and her band have been taking their live set out to Sweden, London, Wales and elsewhere. She has also worked with our own Fresh On The Net mod Del Owusu (aka Platinum Mind), raising money and awareness about mental health through a virtual festival called “everyone + everything”.
Llawn is sung in Welsh and literally translates as “full”. It represents a change since her last Faves appearance, her instinctively folky and mystical style mixing with repeating electronic themes, shuffling beat and a contrast between the sparser verses and the dynamism of the chorus with its bendy guitar and bright keyboards. But of course it has Gillie’s unmistakable voice, singing in such a lyrical language, leading the way. Another top tune from this talented artist.
MUMBLE TIDE – Hotel Life
Bristol duo Mumble Tide are Gina Leonard and Ryan Rogers. They have been the recipients of support from BBC Introducing in the West and they gig regularly across the UK. In the opening months of 2023 alone, they played a list of dates stretching from their home in the West Country to Folkestone on the South Coast, Norwich in the far East Anglia and Hebden Bridge in the North. They may not have a big radio profile but these two clearly have a strong following. That is further evidenced by their 145K monthly Spotify listeners.
Hotel Life brings together an agreeably unusual selection of synth, bass and drum sounds that drive breezily along as the accompaniment to Gina’s vocals which are quietly yearning in the verses but rise up into a dynamic, expressive chorus. The hook is answered by a synth counter-melody that emphasises its importance before Gina’s voice repeats it in echo form across the final stretch of the track. The fluidity of the ideas as they appear and disappear underlines the thought that has gone into this track. That combination of attention to detail and strong melodic flavour adds up to a tasty dish of stylish contemporary Pop.
PROJECTOR – Chemical
Is there ever a week when we don’t have a band or artist from Brighton in the Faves? The latest to emerge from the enormous well of talent in that fine town is the band Projector. They have fine festival pedigree with multiple performances at The Great Escape plus Latitude, Rebalance and some hot support slots too. This very track, Chemical, has just achieved airplay on BBC Radio 1, BBC 6 Music and BBC Introducing in the South. Projector also have management and a booking agent in place and are playing their first headline UK tour.
Chemical is uptempo, punchy but also quite minimal in its use of guitar playing riffs in combined single notes and bass complementing the process over energetic drums. More snarl than a Bojo loyalist discovering she’s been snubbed in his honours list! Bassist Lucy Sheehan takes the lead vocal, delivering a striking melody in a distinctive alto range voice that matches the guitar in unison much of the time while guitarist Edward Ensbury first adds low register spoken word and then doubles Lucy’s vocals an octave below. Drummer Cal Marinho drives the track forward, punctuating each section with fills and switches. This is more melodic and less fiery than some of their recent offerings but the intensity is still there when they shout together and the interband chemistry reaches fever pitch. Their expertise in shaping events to keep the song unpredictable and to utilise their dynamic range lifts this up a notch. A masterclass in how to turn a very good song into a great track.
THE KITE SOCIETY – Cult Of The Sun
Donald, the creative force behind The Kite Society, hails from the South of England and currently resides in Oxford. Inspired both by classic sixties pop such as the Beatles and Beach Boys, Psychedelic and Garage Rock music (Velvet Underground, 13th Floor Elevators maybe) but also by the angst-ridden Grunge of Nirvana, he has had local BBC Introducing support and his Instagram page introduces us to the new members of the band. The Instagram link on his Soundcloud page is broken but the current one is included here. While another Donald contemplates the decline of his own bizarre cult, this Donald is concerned with a whole other phenomenon, that of his obsession with UFOs.
Cult Of The Sun is built around robust, punchily played guitar chords with correspondingly crisp bass and drums while Donald’s voice is tracked in the chorus, providing a subtle contrast to the verses. The two and three chord patterns accompanying an appealing melody bring to mind They Might Be Giants in a jam with Willie J Healey while Gengahr bring chops. Reviewing The Kite Society in Faves 459 in September 2022, my fellow mod Steve Harris noted the music had “loads of energy, oodles of attitude and it’s great fun”. The same is true of Cult Of The Sun, The arrangement is kept simple and organic and is punctuated by small shifts, a brief drop-out here, an extra layer of jangle there and the use of different effects on the vocals. Catchy as hell and exuding a positive energy, this is an absolute gem of a track.
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.