FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: ADVENT CALENDAR DAY 15
Most weeks Fifty3 Fridays focuses on new music largely from emerging or grassroots artistes and I have a little of that ilk for you today. However, from 1st to 24th each December I also open an Advent window every day by posting a song on Twitter, accompanied by a YouTube video. You will find them at @TonyHardy53. The songs are drawn from some of my favourites over the years. This year’s calendar opened with two Christmas songs and you will also get a seasonal one on Christmas Eve but the concept is not bound by Christmas theming, if you get my snowdrift.
Today is the 15th and so I am including today’s song and a couple from the past 14 days to give you a flavour of the whole thing. A further selection will follow next week. Before we get there though let me return to the day job and highlight some new music that has passed my desk which I hope you will savour as much as I do.
First up is Liverpool-based electronica artiste, Minimums, who headlined the inaugural Linking Up night at south-east London’s Amersham Arms last Sunday, promoted by the redoubtable Neil March aka Trust the Doc. Unfortunately, the dreaded Covid confined me to home but I have heard great reports of the show and Minimums has kindly supplied the screen shot above from the live video recorded there. Performing in a mask, Minimums operates anonymously and seems to like the idea of releasing music under a completely different identity to his assumed main output. I’ll say no more despite having a few clues to work from!
“Away Home” is first single from an upcoming 5-track EP entitled Bound. The glass-clear vocal is from London-based musician Pippa Sarratt whose perfect enunciation seems eminently suited to both the lyric content and its graceful soundtrack. She draws out the words in a beautifully elongated topline, almost caressing them and letting each drop with precision as we are taken on a journey to a kind of self-realisation. The music soundtrack is a soothing melange of lush synths, mellow strings, softly picked guitar and warm bass. As a bonus, Minimums has invited deep house artiste Siddhartha Says to remix the song and present it in a different light; a super-warm revision that the west country-based producer has executed admirably. You can listen to the remix (full and radio edit versions) above too.
Photo of Guise by Ben Morse
The next artiste, Guise, came to my attention last year via the release of her debut album, Youngest Daughter. Pop-folk singer-songwriter Jess Guise performs live as part of a London-based quartet but her new confessional single, “Wish” comes across very much as a personal, solo statement. The song is penned as a conversation with Jess’ late father who died suddenly when she was just 18, recalling precious memories and speculating about how he might have reacted to how her life has developed since then. It is a moving expression of the continuing pain of grief underpinned by the filial love that never diminishes. “Wish” might be deeply personal, yet has meaning for anyone who feels the emptiness within and is simply and beautifully executed.
Photo of Middle Kids by Pooneh Ghana
Our third selection has been hanging around my Inbox since the end of November waiting for the right time to come out. Hannah Joy, Tim Fitz and Harry Day are Middle Kids, an indie-rock trio from Sydney, Australia and this single, “Bend”, is from a forthcoming album Faith Crisis Pt 1, due for release in February. Lead singer Hannah seems to be questioning her raison d'être (“I am one bend away from a break”) in an extremely raw and powerful song. That she appears heavily pregnant superimposed against supposedly carefree young skateboarders in the video adds to the tension of the whole piece. I find it a compelling and intensely cathartic experience in song.
And now to our Advent Calendar. Here are two I made earlier, with coincidentally a down under connection to the first one.
DAY 13 LITTLE MAY - DUST
Formed in Sydney in 2012, Little May was originally a trio which in recent years has slimmed down to the duo of Hannah Field and Liz Drummond. “Dust” is from its self-titled debut EP; an empowering piece, emotional and charged with inflections that make hairs erect themselves on the back of necks. Hannah Field’s sensual lead vocal, complemented by her band mates’ seamless harmonies, is earnest and reaching and the way the song picks up momentum, not once but twice, is a prime example of how music may suddenly and even unexpectedly elevate the spirit.
DAY 5 THE CRAYON SET – MOMENT
A favourite next from 2021. Downer Disco, the third studio album in eight years from Dublin-based five-piece, The Crayon Set, was an alt-pop masterpiece. The record mixes “sadness with sunshine”; its electronic elements nod a little towards dance music while its melodies are up there with the very best in the genre. “Moment”, from the LP, is a deceptively sweet, brisk song, despite a theme referencing mild depression. Redemption comes through not giving up on life, so making the song’s light and airy synth-pop tones entirely fit for purpose.
So, to today’s Advent Calendar song. This is another antipodean gem and you can still find the full album on Bandcamp.
DAY 15 OWL & MOUSE – MISFITS
The mellow folk meets indie pop of London-based quintet Owl & Mouse was a midsummer delight in 2015. The band centred on Brisbane songstress and ukulele player, Hannah Botting, released its debut album, Departures to the delight of fans of small stringed instruments and early Belle & Sebastian adopters. “Misfits” charts a gentle path towards finding that special someone; a simple but such a beautifully stated ode that it should resonate with any generation. I haven’t heard much from Owl & Mouse in quite a while but hope they are still around. After all, bringing songs like this to your attention is what our Fifty3 Fridays Advent Calendar is all about.