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Photo of Stuart Murdoch from his Twitter account

Got any good ideas? Inbetween-mas is sometimes good for inspiration. I’ll give you fifty quid for a good idea. I saw this tweet from Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian, one of my all-time indie heroes, a serial tweeter with 36.8k followers yet ultra cool in following precisely no one. Invest in a struggling live music venue, I suggested. Well, he liked it but I am still waiting for the £50. Actually I was deadly serious. Small live music venues are the lifeblood of the music industry and yet are being left to fend for themselves as the business focuses on streaming and legacy acts while obsessing over social media metrics.


Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett showed the way when he opened London’s Omeara followed by its larger capacity cousin, Lafayette. Both seem to have reasonably prospered supporting a mix of established and breakthrough acts despite all the pressure from energy costs, inflation, licensing concerns and all the other post-Brexit, post-pandemic crap. I should add that I am not singling out Mr Murdoch in this respect but my solution is for those artistes who are sitting on a pile of money gained through their art - some massive, some less so – to consider adopting a grassroots music venue, or opening a new one to replace one we have lost. It is a campaign I hope to work on in some small way in the coming months.

Photo of Paper Anthem by Laura Rakauskaite

Today’s Fifty3Fridays kicks off the new year with a series of acts several of whom are vying for spots at the diminishing stock of live music venues. Paper Anthem is no stranger to these columns. The project of Fayetteville, Arkansas native Joseph Hitchcock, Paper Anthem is now London-based fronted by Joseph on lead vocals, guitar and keys and completed by the cosmopolitan line up of Romanian bassist Carlo Haltrich, Nottingham’s Joe Spoors on drums and Lebanese guitarist, Noor Harajli. The band has a new EP, A Victimless Crime, which consolidates the stellar singles it has put out over the past year or so with two new recordings to create a vibrant 6-track collection.

“When You Know (You Know)” closes the new EP in memorable style. Written about a close friend who sadly did not reciprocate Joseph’s own romantic feelings, it has a bittersweet ring to it as he tries to verbalise the depth of connection. The song gives sense to the EP title too: “It's a victimless crime to think you could be mine.” I have always thought that there is something of Barenaked Ladies in Joseph’s flair for melodic phrasing and frequently fast-paced diction alongside a clear love of classic British pop. It is a particularly winning blend which reaches a definite peak in this EP. Highly recommended – find it on all the usual platforms including Spotify here.

Another band with a track record for strong single releases in 2023 has consolidated them in a new EP entitled Lost Soul. Southend-on-Sea’s The Trusted has added two new tunes - "Gimme Your Devotion" and “Lost Soul” - to complete a selection of five distinctive and earworm-worthy songs. The band rarely stands still musically, always seeking to expand its dynamic and add further colour to a core indie rock palette, whether it is the challenging 5/4 time signature of its last single, “Burning The Night” or the metaphysical imagery of “Marrow”.

"Lost Soul” continues The Trusted’s impassioned journey through the human experience, linking arms with the overlooked and the outsiders in society in a raw and poignant reminder of our shared struggles in life. As ever the band brings together melodic phrases, strong choruses and dynamic musicianship with an overriding sense of momentum. Its music is immersive and compelling throughout. Again, you’ll find Lost Soul, the EP, on all the customary platforms including Spotify while London fans will be able to see The Trusted when the band headlines a special night at The Bedford, Balham with support from Retropxssy and Francesca Guerra on 1st February.

The admirably named Amateur Theatre Group is the aegis of Londoner Andrew James Murphy who works ‘more as an open collective than a solo performance or traditional band’ with the backing of his enduring friends and musical collaborators, Davy and Iain Berryman. Highlighting that good things come in threes, ATG is back in these columns for a third time now with a three-track EP, wake up, doldrums, released on New Year’s Eve. Andrew moved to Wales from London circa 18 months ago and says he tries to walk four or five miles a day, during which he does a lot of thinking and writing – recording into a voice note if something comes up – and listening to a lot of mixes. The verdant landscape seems to seep into his music.

Like everything Amateur Theatre Group brings to the table, the music here is lovely and atmospheric. “Wake Up”, featured above, has a Lynchian feel to it, underscored by the sonorous, bassy chords as it opens. Dream-like lyrics about a car journey with a loved one carry a foreboding undertone. It is followed by “Comma”, an instrumental constructed from brushed percussion and minimalist guitar lines that weave in and out while “Doldrums” brings things to a close built on a repeated guitar pattern. A plaintive vocal sounds the need to hold on in difficult times and accept the help of others around you. The drones are especially captivating and give the piece a feel of antiquity. You can buy the EP on Bandcamp or stream on Spotify.

Photo of Charlotte Sands by Dillon Jordan

A change of vibe now and a new name to Fifty3 Fridays. A native of Hopkinton, MA, Charlotte Sands moved to Nashville when just 18 and began to build a name for herself with viral singles and collaborations. A prolific run of singles in 2023 ended in December with a 90s-inspired ballad, “blindspot” which will be followed this month with a debut album, can we start over? The electric blue-haired songstress is clearly a lover of the lower case. Charlotte strikes me as someone who defies pigeonholing; she seems to have a flair for storytelling that would sit comfortably in her adopted city while she has clearly absorbed influences from pop, punk, emo and rock along the way.

“blindspot” is a candid tale of recognising strong feelings for a good friend and the experience of “watching their life from the sidelines and having to witness them have feelings for other people.” Her voice balances power and control with a degree of vulnerability, something you imagine would make her live shows especially compelling. Indeed, she will be undertaking a worldwide headlining tour, taking in the US, Australia and Europe from March 7th ending with 5 UK shows in June including a spot at Donnington’s Download Festival and finishing rather prosaically at The Garage in London. She could stick around and play Glastonbury later that week.

Our next song is one of those random ones I occasionally like to throw into the Fifty3 Fridays mix. I came across this one as it is currently used to soundtrack an off-the-wall ad for The song is the oddly titled “Lo Boob Oscillator” by Anglo-French outfit Stereolab and dates from 1995. Stereolab were a bit of a cult band in the 90s through to the noughties and were mostly English, based in London. However, lead singer, Lætitia Sadier, is French and the song, as you will hear shortly, is sung in French. I just love the intro verses and then how it spirals off into weirdness two thirds in. Lyrically it appears to be an ode to la lune: “The moon is free I believe” is a great opening line but of course the whole thing sounds so much better in French.

Having begun this week with Stuart Murdoch and my reply to his tweet, it only seems fair to close with one of my favourite Belle & Sebastian songs. Anyone who knows me will recognise there are a great many that vie for this title but this is quite possibly unsurpassed. “The State I Am In”.

Fifty3 Fridays Spotify Playlist December 2023

Finally… on the first Friday of each month, I publish a Playlist on Spotify which includes all the songs featured in this column over the previous month. Not just that, but in order too! Our Fifty3 Fridays Spotify Playlist December 2023 includes all 27 songs from the month’s Fifty3 Fridays with the exception of those songs that form part of our Advent Calendar 2023 Playlist which I published last week. Keep up! Back to December’s Playlist, it opens with “Introduce” by the wonderful Bledig and closes with “Up” by the equally splendid Girl Ray.


Follow me on Spotify at TonyHardy53 for 36 of these monthly playlists plus others to keep insomnia at bay.


FIFTY3 champions

outstanding new music

through Fifty3 Fridays and

occasional features 


Music is a great passion of mine. In my teenage years I was an avid record collector and concert goer. Stints as a booking agent, running folk clubs, promoting gigs and even a crack at artiste management followed. While it never became my main occupation, music was always on my personal radar.


In the past 15 years I have written for leading US music website  Consequence and breakthrough  site, BestNewBands. I am a judge for Glastonbury Festival's Emerging Talent Competition and have reviewed the festival for both sites. I am now pleased to curate my very own music site.


Nothing gives me greater pleasure than unearthing great, original new music and championing independent musicians. You’ll find many of them on this site alongside the occasional legend of times past and I hope they will bring  you as much joy as they give me.

Tony Hardy



Selected dates in the London area:

Fri 7 Jun: Alexandra Leaving/Frankie Morrow, The Waiting Room, London N16

Sat 8 Jun: Bat For Lashes, St John's Church, Kingston

Sun 9 Jun: Blanid, The Black Heart, London NW1

Mon 17 Jun: The Mysterines, St John's Church, Kingston

Thu 20 Jun: Charm of Finches, The Lexington, London N1 See the Events page for all live shows in Kingston


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