FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: A TIME TO REFLECT
In a week which saw Boris Johnson appear before the Privileges Committee inquiry into whether he is incapable of understanding the blindingly obvious, there is a certain irony in that Thursday marked the third anniversary of the UK’s Covid lockdown. Yesterday we were invited to join the Marie Curie-inspired National Day of Reflection to remember those who died during the pandemic, support people who are grieving and share a common connection with others. On that note, a bit more reflection and less self-serving in our politics would be a good thing.
The legacy of the pandemic is still unfolding along with its wider ramifications for society. I sense there is more to come and no true going back. Sadly, I can’t see us going back on Brexit any time soon for all the self-inflicted wounds that vote has brought, though at least the sensibly pragmatic Windsor Framework is a step forward towards solving the impasse in Northern Ireland and has sparked a kind of better dialogue with Europe. With several members of the ERG joining forces with the DUP on Wednesday to vote against the framework, might I suggest a new organisation could arise from this unseemly union: PURGED, itself an aptly self-fulfilling title.
Reflections are so integral to many songs that using this notion as a bridge to our first act this week is a wee bit lazy. Nevertheless, I am pleased to welcome back Guildford’s The Lunar Keys to this column. Successive single releases by the all-star four-piece have been featured here since our first encounter through the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition in 2020. I still think this band has a natural home in festival fields across the land and deserves to have its lyrics sung back to them in the spirit of the best of indie rock. Its latest release ticks those boxes once more.
Out today, “Life Is A Dirty War” reflects on facing up to life’s challenges without surrendering to them despite the extra weight carried by being in a bad relationship. Warlike imagery abounds amid the fighting talk while a down and dirty riff links the verses and choruses in memorable fashion. It is accompanied by a particularly artful video too. For previous releases, The Lunar Keys have supported a variety of good causes, donating cash in exchange for radio plays and reviews. This time round, the band has pledged to play a free show at a college location in their hometown as a big thank you to all its key supporters. Should be a great night.
Next, a tale of two Hannahs, both of whom have featured in this column though a while back. I last wrote about Surrey-based singer-songwriter Hannah Scott after she released “Untangling”, a beautifully emotive reflection on the reality of uncoupling from a relationship. The song found its way onto Hannah’s second album, 2021’s Drawn to Darkness, after which she went on to be awarded FATEA Magazine’s Female Artist of the Year 2022. Hannah is now back with a new EP, Ancient Lights, named after the Tudor house she grew up in, christened by her father to signify its leaded-light windows. Its five tracks rekindle some of Hannah’s early material which she revisited after two close family bereavements and the period of quiet which pandemic lockdowns brought about.
“Skimming Stones” from the EP has its origins in 2007 following a commission to write three ‘river themed’ songs in her home county of Suffolk. She is unsure what happened to the other two now! A musing on taking time out to find solace in nature and indulging in a modest pleasure, the song flows organically simply propelled by Hannah’s gentle fingerpicked guitar and the deft touch of cello from her long-standing collaborator, Stefano Della Casa. Vocally she is warm and inviting, her tone a soft caress yet able to scale heights with confidence. You’ll find the full EP on the usual platforms and it is well worth your indulgence.
Our next act, Leeds native Hannah Trigwell, has always struck me as someone who works exceptionally hard to make her mark as an independent artiste, combining a hand-on approach to marketing her music with a strong commitment to the environment. Since starting out busking on the streets of her hometown at the age of 17, Hannah has built a significant online presence with Spotify and YouTube play numbers that would be the envy of quite a few signed acts. Her three Cover Sessions albums have been especially popular with her serial interpretations as intimate as they are polished. Hannah is equally no slouch when it comes to her original songwriting.
“Wasted Love” is the title track from Hannah Trigwell’s new EP which you’ll find on all the key platforms. It’s a song title that could lead you down a few rabbit holes as the lyrics play on the words ‘wasted’ and ‘love.’ It is no ode to a failed relationship though but rather a paean to her dear cat, Lilly, who died in November 2019. And some wine. In Hannah’s words, “it took a long, long time to feel okay about her not being around and it took a long time to write this song!” There is something really uplifting about the song despite its sad context and this is much to do with Hannah’s invitingly soft, at times breathy vocal with its signature rises and falls. Her sense of melody and how she plays with the timing of delivery of her lines adds further nuance. This is indie-pop with true marks of distinction.
Photo of Augustine by Rassmus Bjornson
Now we turn to an artiste entirely new to me. Augustine is a Swedish songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. His moniker is inspired by Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange's track of the same name, the video to which he had on repeat while working on the first songs of his debut EP. Augustine has just returned from playing his inaugural show in the US at the SXSW music festival in Austin and unsurprisingly found it a “truly amazing experience.” Having released a debut album in 2021 which went on to receive two Swedish Grammy nominations, he has been working on a follow up in between touring Scandinavia and Europe.
The quirkily titled “Mary Cookins” is the first taster from the new collection. Augustine randomly labelled the file when he began working on it as a demo and the name just stuck with him. You will hear a different Mary – Poppins – referenced in the lyrics but I am not sure we read Julie Andrews into that. The song is a warm, freshly served fusion of dream pop and disco soul topped by Augustine’s glowing falsetto as he contemplates his fretful feelings brought on by worrying too much while simultaneously trying to dispel them. An open-ended final couplet seems appropriate for this nostalgic yet attractively unconventional song: “I don’t care about anything / or do I care about everything.”
Photo of Alicia Blue by Tammie Valer
Our final trip today takes us to Nashville, Tennessee home of Folk-Pop singer-songwriter Alicia Blue who relocated to the country Mecca from her native Los Angeles to work alongside songwriter and producer Lincoln Parish (ex-Cage The Elephant). Having waxed lyrical about Alicia’s material previously in this column I now need to correct a little wrong from our 13 January 2023 issue (yes, paraskevidekatriaphobia struck that day). Anyhow, having announced that Alicia’s EP, Inner Child Work Part 2, would be out in January I now find that it did not land until last Friday. To celebrate here is the marvellous “Picasso Blue” from that very same EP. There is a similarly titled Part 1 EP too and I recommend you buy them both pronto.