Artists at a glance
PAGLIUCA-MENA & JORGE PARDO
These Fresh Faves were picked by our readers over the weekend – and reviewed by Fresh On The Net’s Poppy Bristow this week. You can hear all these tracks in a single Soundcloud playlist here.
A LESSER VERSION – For Years Upon Years Upon Years…
Liverpool’s A Lesser Version ring in this week’s Fresh Faves with the folky guitar of For Years Upon Years Upon Years…, which lilts up and down as if to ease you into wakefulness. Matched by a warm whispery vocal, it’s all over in a minute-and-a-half, but in that time it manages to be a shaft of bright, clear musical sunlight which evokes Sing Leaf’s vernal lushness and Joanna Newsom’s whirling lyricism.
For Years Upon Years Upon Years… is taken from A Lesser Version’s second album, and they recently hosted ‘A Lesser Variety Show’ in their home city with a plethora of other acts. It’s an appropriately optimistic offering from a band who doubtless have a fine career to look forward to.
AMELIA COBURN – See Saw
The proceedings continue with See Saw, a whimsical waltz from Middlesbrough singer-songwriter Amelia Coburn. Produced with impeccable crispness by folk-loving indie hero Bill Ryder-Jones, See Saw foregrounds Amelia’s welcoming voice, which wears a sing-song nursery rhyme melody with grace.
Yet there is no airy vagueness in the vividly imaginative word-painting of Amelia’s lyrics – this feels like a theme tune to a fantasy TV series not yet written, and it promises just as much adventure. Amelia describes See Saw as being ‘a song of superstition, fairytales & a childhood fascination of travelling carnivals’, and she has already gained high praise from BBC Radio’s Mark Radcliffe. Going by this, it looks like there will be plenty more celebratory notices coming her way soon.
ANDY SKELLAM – Bluebird
Just as tuneful and elegant as this week’s first two tracks is Bluebird, a reflective acoustic number from Andy Skellam, a singer-songwriter from Bristol. Andy’s gentle, unaffected voice allows you to bring your own emotions to his words, creating a pocket of peace which avoids sacrificing thoughtfulness for melodrama.
Despite this measured tone, Bluebird deals with strong feelings. Taking inspiration from his favourite Charles Bukowski poem, Andy wrote the song in lockdown, stating ‘I tried to capture the bleakness I felt but also spoke of a quietly held hope for the future as I was soon to become a father’. As Andy alchemises these sentiments into an understated jewel, it’s ultimately this quiet hope that shines through most of all.
CLEO SIMONE – I Don’t Wanna Hurt You (But I’m Gonna)
Now, we move with a bang into an insistent disco pulse. The irresistible bass hook which anchors I Don’t Wanna Hurt You (But I’m Gonna) bobs along hypnotically, making the perfect bed for rattling cowbell, bubbling synths, and witty lyrics. The whole thing is addictively sparse and sparky, its simplicity belying the tug-of-war going on beneath its surface between cheery nightclub pep and slinky, sour darkness.
London’s Cleo Simone claims that I Don’t Wanna Hurt You (But I’m Gonna) was her attempt to write ‘a song that would make people run back to the dance floor from the bathroom’. A very bold ambition, but you try sitting still to this. She may just about have achieved it.
ELOI – Uproot
On Uproot, taken from Eloi’s new EP, Bloom Agai, the Edinburgh seven-piece announce their arrival with a smooth brass fanfare, giving way to languid melody lines all winding and intertwining into a sophisticated river of jazz. A soft, airy vocal situates it as much in the tradition of Pentangle as Dave Brubeck, its tricky time signatures adding more flavour still to this delicious hotchpotch.
However, its intricate complexity never weighs down its spry, breezy atmosphere, and the result is compellingly listenable and, yes, very catchy. It’s a song that entices you in and carries you with it, leaving you to get happily lost in its gleaming landscape.
HIERONIMO – Tears Turning Red
For those who think ‘noise pop’ sounds like more of an insult than a compliment, Hieronimo are here to disabuse you of that notion. Tears Turning Red sees the band expertly operating within the parameters of classic songcraft but, like the Jesus and Mary Chain before them, filling in the gaps with spiky garage scuzz which lends blood and bite to the hooks they so skilfully wield.
For anyone as enthusiastic about psychedelia as their songwriter, Jerome Smail, it’s a transportative triumph, as sweet as it is scratchy. There have been many attempts to synthesise the supposedly opposing ideals of ramshackle rock and sleek pop, but this one pulls it off in tremendous, and tremendously rare, style.
MINIMUMS – Away Home
If you need something to calm you down after that lively little thing, anonymous ambient project Minimums – who cite Hyrbrid, Royksopp, and Orbital as their influences – are here with just the ticket. Away Home is a lush sonic tapestry, operating within the same soothing sphere of the bands they love but embracing instrumentation of all stripes to create something as original and eclectic as it is reassuring.
From the TV-ident chime of its synthesised opening to the gently played guitar figures and lush, tasteful strings, it’s a tremendous comfort, the audio equivalent of hot chocolate. The lead vocal matches the atmosphere perfectly, dispensing the lyrics’ warm advice with easy honesty and allowing self-doubt to melt like snowflakes.
PAGLIUCA-MENA & JORGE PARDO – La Tarabita
A playful piano tinkle leads us tantalisingly into this next piece, courtesy of Venezuelan musician Silvano Pagliuca-Mena and Spanish flautist Jorge Pardo. Composed by Pagliuca-Mena’s brother Angelo and dedicated to their mother, La Tarabita is a consistently bright and engaging jazz-tango odyssey, distinctly Latin in flavour and never letting up on its spirit of discovery.
Jorge’s breathy flute takes centre stage, but over the course of its epic seven-and-a-half minutes, the intrepid musicians deploy guitar, drums, and double bass as they chart their musical terrain by dipping in and out of sparkling motifs. Headily dramatic and imaginatively rich, La Tarabita is fusion jazz at its finest.
SLO CHEETAH – Loner
Something a little punchier now from Wigan lads Slo Cheetah. Loner is a slice of full-bodied, feel-good rock dripping in boldness and confidence, the playfully buoyant half-rapped verses declaring unpretentious self-assurance in between a passionately howled chorus. They may be as untameable as the big cat in their name, but there’s nothing slow about this cheetah – this is a mission statement for a band ready to pounce.
Slo Cheetah have just begun to enjoy exposure on BBC Introducing, including national coverage on 6 Music. If they keep putting out records as rugged and yet radio-friendly as this, the hunt for success should come easier to them than most.
THE ILFORDS – Quavers
The week’s Faves have come in like a lamb, and after our penultimate cheetah, with Quavers from The Ilfords they go out like a lion. The Newcastle-upon-Tyne band set the stage with a huge roaring riff and vocals that match the lyrics perfectly, dripping with savage sarcasm directed at covert racists and trust fund babies alike.
With satirical humour balancing the brutal anger which provides the song’s engine, Quavers builds up to a repeated, hilarious lyric which surely deserves its place in the ‘great threats in rock’ hall of fame. Taken all together it’s a blistering, invigorating listen. The Ilfords claim Idles, Pulled Apart by Horses, the Streets, Courtney Barnett, and Enter Shikari as influences, and on Quavers they’ve surely done that lot proud.
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.