Artists at a glance
THE DEEP BLUE
Welcome to the penultimate Fresh Faves before our summer hiatus. Not for the first time, as chaos erupts all around us both at home and abroad, I have found myself enjoying the refuge of so much new music. That included spending the latter part of the week at two gigs, both of which included Fresh Fave artists in the line-ups. It is heartening to see the role this platform plays in our extensive grassroots music community. As this group of ten tracks reminds us, our readers play a key part in that process too. So, with that thought in mind, here are my reviews of the tracks you chose this weekend.
AZU YECHÉ – Gone Are The Days
Now four times a Fresh Fave, London-based artist Azu Yeché is a highly regarded live performer who has toured with Lemar and taken his Soul Afrikanah EP and live set out to venues all across the UK. Not surprisingly he has had support from BBC Introducing and he is an artist I have featured in my Trust The Doc blog.
Gone are the days is a light-textured, syncopated slice of African-influenced Soul in which picking guitar, fluid bass and solid beat provide the foundation. Azu’s agile, appealing tenor-range voice immediately captivates and the multi-tracked harmonies that follow are goose-bumping. A sweet organ figure adds another shade to an already bright, sunny chorus, rounding off an uplifting, heartwarming track.
B. HAMILTON – Don’t You Ever Hide Your Face
The history of B Hamilton, from Oakland in California, USA, is a little hard to piece together since there appear to be different versions of events. The band seems to have started out as a bedroom project in 2010. Their Soundcloud page describes them as Ryan and Raj so I’m not sure who Joseph is although he is very much namechecked in their Instagram posts! In other posts B Hamilton is described as being Ryan Christopher Parks. Does Raj know? Spotify appears to confirm this. Well anyway, he/they appear to be keeping busy with live shows and gathering the numbers on socials.
Don’t Ever Hide Your Face is fast enough to be labelled Presto in classical speak! It resembles a kind of hybrid of Surf Punk and Synth Pop with frantically popping and staccato synth figures, big bendy guitars and vocals singing an octave apart. There is a familiarity about the hook that I am struggling to place (although it might actually take a small chunk of the bridge from Cliff’s We don’t talk anymore! That is where any comparison with Cliff Richard ends though!). It is, on the one hand, something of a throwback to the mid-eighties era of Paisley Punk and US Indie but with enough contemporary sounds to keep it up to date. The melody is infectious and there is an agreeable energy about the whole thing.
CHRIS BRAIN – Golden Days
Emerging out of the Folk scene in Leeds in 2022, Chris Brain has already released one album with another on the way. He has also wasted no time in securing great reviews from the likes of Shindig, Yorkshire Post and the Daily Express. He now has an extensive UK tour scheduled for October.
Golden Days, with its descending finger-picking acoustic accompaniment and major key melody follows a long lineage of Folk-infused singer-songwriter fare that stretches back to artists I remember from childhood like Clifford T Ward, Ralph McTell and Berni Flint. But music like this never really dates and always has a strong and dedicated following. His voice is expressive and warm and the skilfully played guitar sits well with the melodic strength of the song. Eloquently done.
DAVID KOFI – Feel Good (Live)
I first came across London composer and keyboard wizard David Kofi when he was fronting Juices And A Drum while also pursuing a solo career. Fresh from performing and recording live at the Royal Albert Hall with a mouthwatering cast of musicians, he has been picking up the plaudits and giving interviews. Before the RAH gig, he also released the excellent Kokoro.
Feel Good provides a welcome opportunity to experience David’s musicianship and that of his bandmates. The music is classic Jazz Fusion. It is timeless. Music where you can lose yourself in the dreamy, ethereal echo of the Rhodes piano and gawp, wide-eyed at the breathtaking quality of the playing. That includes some sumptuous sax improv before David’s keyboards take the limelight and we are treated to his deftness of touch and innate ability to invent on the spot at such a high standard. The bass and drums are also fluid, inventive and dynamic. They capture the essence and energy of their live performance but you will still wish you’d been there!
ERNOLD SAME – Living Thing
Ernold Same’s Twitter profile lists their location as ‘elsewhere’ but, it turns out, elsewhere is actually Bristol. They post very little though so I cannot tell you much about them, except that there is a video in their Linktree bio. Their Spotify profile is more forthcoming, explaining that the band is the brainchild of ‘DIY stalwart’ Chris Barrett, working with producer Connor Jones. There is an EP set to follow on 15th September.
Living Thing begins with a gently swinging figure, chords altering around a root bass while Chris’s voice is lowish register and reverberant. The laid back verses are contrasted by the fuzztone guitar and key change of the chorus which ups the intensity. In a sense, it reminds me a little of Beck in a jam with Kurt Vile while Willie J Healey drops by with wine. There are some delightfully unexpected changes and nuanced dynamic and textural drops. Refreshingly individual and full of creativity.
GENERATION FERAL – Newborn Adult
There seems to be a touch of confusion over the artist name here with Soundcloud and Instagram displaying the name GenFeral and everything else listing it as Generation Feral — the name the track was submitted under. She is Izzy Lydamore, a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter based between Cardiff and Essex (which is basically two opposite sides of the UK map!). Kae Tempest and Fiona Apple are among her influences and she has had support from BBC Introducing in Essex.
Newborn Adult starts with a bright ukulele and synth-led figure while we get a spoken word intro to set the scene. Izzy’s style is to veer between singing and speaking. The backdrop is dreamy, with sax joining the fray before bass and drums toughen things up. Lyrically it is part stream-of-consciousness and part anthem. Ukulele chords act as a glue between contrasting sections as she continually introduces surprise changes like the catchy little sax melody that comes in halfway through. We always hope to hear tracks that are original, individual and confident in their uniqueness. Newborn Adult is all those things.
JESSIE REID – Every Stranger
London-based singer-songwriter Jessie Reid is originally from Shropshire (in the English West Midlands for those who aren’t sure). She is a serial Fresh Fave and has had enthusiastic backing from Chris ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins and our own Tom Robinson on BBC Radio 6 Music. Her busy live itinerary includes headline shows and prestigious supports that underline how well her career is going. Every Stranger is inspired by losing a close friend and discovering that so many strangers on the street begin to look like that friend.
The song takes seconds to grab my attention with its organic guitar-picking backdrop and Jessie’s soft but assured multi-tracked vocal harmonies taking centre stage while long keyboard tones add subtle colour. Her ear for melody is highly evident as she skips about the register and picks up the energy and pace. Musically this is in broadly similar territory to the likes of The Staves, First Aid Kid and I SEE RIVERS perhaps with Phoebe Bridgers and Hot Left Pole adding some ingredients too. But her sound is her own and, when you hear her deliver a song so touching and of such depth, it is easy to see why she already has such an impressive following. Stunning.
PAUL GOODWIN – Somebody New To Be Scared Of
Born in London but now firmly bedded down in Cambridge, Paul Goodwin is the embodiment of ‘Have Guitar, Will Travel’, playing his ‘heartbreak songs’ all around the UK as well as the USA, Canada and France. His website needs a bit of updating since it talks about a forthcoming album due in 2016 (!) but he has certainly been picking up some good reviews. Fresh On The Net’s regular readers will be intrigued to discover he is married to serial Fresh Fave, Annie Dressner. He has also recently recorded with my friend and fellow ICMP lecturer Polly Paulusma.
Somebody New To Be Scared Of kicks off with Dylanesque harmonica and strumming guitar chords over an uptempo bass and drums bedrock. Paul’s voice is distinctive; unmistakably London-English and expressive, emphasised by a certain Michael Caine reference. The song is jangling Folk leaning towards Americana. Midway through, we get a tuneful guitar solo playing off against colourful organ before one last chorus to underline the appeal of its infectious melody. Thoroughly enjoyable stuff.
STRANGE FLESH – Very
I had the great pleasure of reviewing Strange Flesh last time they made the Faves in December 2022 and they ended up on my radio show and in my blog. The band, from Brooklyn in New York, have roots in South London. They had just bagged their first airplay last time around so it is great to see how their career is progressing. This month they hooked up with my mates Project Blackbird as support on a date on the latter’s US tour and they have had more airplay and reviews in recent weeks.
Very is characteristically dark, disarming and dystopian. Style-wise it sits somewhere in the grey area between Electro-Punk and Alt Rock. Varrick’s spoken word vocal is teasing, taunting with a sardonic aura and a glint in her eye while Ed focuses on constructing a dazzling array of electronic beats, bleeps and buzzes. As the intensity slowly builds, they bob and weave like virtual boxers, skipping and punching their way to another glorious victory. Cool as anything.
THE DEEP BLUE – Something Good
Manchester’s ‘Indie Folk Girl Band’ The Deep Blue were Fresh Faves in December 2021 when it was also me who had the pleasure of reviewing them. I said then that, given how quickly after their debut release they had developed such ‘… a degree of individuality and sophistication’, the future looked bright. Wind the clock on a year and a half and they have been notching up the festival appearances and touring the UK. With over 5K monthly streams on Spotify alone, they clearly have momentum.
It is rare that we have a track in the faves that is entirely a capella but that is what we have with Something Good. It speaks volumes for the confidence and chemistry within this talented quartet that they are able to swoop and soar with their unaccompanied harmonies, switching in an instant from one clever chord to another while their voices seem to so effortlessly gel and they pull us into their aura of otherworldliness. A fittingly fantastic finale to another week of top tracks.
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.