FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: BACK AT THE BEDFORD
So, Tuesday evening saw me at The Bedford in downtown Balham ostensibly to see Maya Lane whose fine new single, “24F”, we featured last week. She was one of five acts to take the stage at the iconic gig room, performing two songs in each half. It was a reminder of so many positive things: an intimate venue with a great sound system and engineer working it, an ebullient host in Tony Moore, an audience who followed his plea to ‘pay attention’ and cut the chat completely while the artistes performed and five disparate, gifted acts who were a mirror to the depth of talent among largely independent and grassroots musicians.
Tony Moore was his usual exuberant self and opened the evening with a rather nice song he said he co-wrote with Julian Lennon. A claim to fame indeed. Our Royal Displeasure (usually a band but tonight solo with a guitar and mini box of tricks) opened the first half and closed the show with his unusually structured songs and entertaining asides. I couldn’t find anything about ORD online though. It was hard also not to be taken with the charms of Mitzi Irish who has just moved to University in London from Cornwall. At just 18, she came across as a highly promising performer, with mellow vocals capable of choice crescendos, rounded songs and fluent guitar work.
Unsurprisingly, Mitzi does not have much available yet on record but the four songs she played tonight are usefully demoed on SoundCloud; this one, “Time To Go”, was especially apt to the occasion of moving away from home to the big city.
Emma Zeck, a country style singer from Texas who is over here to record an album at Abbey Road no less, impressed with her passionate, powerful vocals while Midlander Lauren Anderton offered a more chilled jazzy and soulful style to provide a nice contrast. Which leaves me with Maya Lane who was all I expected and more. Alongside her latest single, she treated us to three as yet unreleased songs. All struck with immediacy and were delivered with grace and a cool panache. I especially warmed to “Bump Into Me” with its Laurel Canyon vibe and memorable chorus. They all worked perfectly stripped down with her acoustic guitar accompaniment while vocally she moved from soft warmth to a surprisingly powerful tone. The new ones are not available yet so here’s another from Maya’s 2022 debut EP Childish Games.
You can watch the whole show on The Bedford’s YouTube channel as it was streamed live to the worldwide web in customary fashion.
Photos from The Bedford by Kevin England
L-R: Tony Moore . Emma Zeck . Mitzi Irish
Lauren Anderton . Maya Lane . Our Royal Displeasure
From live music to the recorded variety now. Over the year, Fifty3 Fridays regular Alex Hall has continued his steady output of heartfelt musings allied to the kind of tunes you can’t dislodge from your mind (not that you’d want to of course). In April he brought the showers with “Raining” while in June he delivered the nostalgic 80s pop sound of “Take You Back”. He even snuck one out under the radar in August with the intriguing title of “16-Bit Dream” and duly departed for a trip to America. Today we get a new one which maybe Alex has been keeping on the back burner.
Ah, yes indeed, here it is… “Backburner”. Alex describes the song as part of a “new era of material which hits somewhere fresh between cinematic soul, dark 80s and alt-pop.” If those are too many labels for you, try a mix of Qunicy Jones-esque guitars, nostalgic 80s bell synths and ominous synth bass. The falsetto chorus he employs has a particularly strong hook as he unfolds a brooding tale of two people at a crossroads. Leaving things on the back burner suggests an open ending or will it be the start of a new affair? Playing out into the night with an 80s homage saxophone, there is a touch of the pop mastery of George Michael about this song and it would be no surprise if Alex Hall soon follows in his footsteps into the mainstream with this increasingly impressive output.
Following on fairly seamlessly from Alex Hall’s “Backburner” is a new song by Southend-on-Sea’s finest, The Trusted. The band’s latest single is I think one of its strongest so far as the four-piece continues to build an enviable repertoire of memorable songs. It is hard for bands broadly mining the indie rock seam to create a sufficient point of difference about themselves but The Trusted is surely on the right track. Its songs increasingly deviate from the more formulaic indie stuff with fresh takes on its signature style to complement the lyric content, always keeping the delivery melodic and the sentiments sincere.
“Marrow” is intense lyrically, the central conceit “I need you to annihilate my sorrow / be my blood, be my marrow” reminds me of the imagery of the metaphysical poets; almost a John Donne speaking to his muse. It is love unrequited and straying into obsession, seeking to be inseparable from another’s very being. “The song embodies the essence of exaggerated affection, restlessness and unyielding devotion” lead singer Tom Cunningham adds. To temper such raw emotions, “Marrow” brings a new wave throwback vibe via its chiming synths and rich melodies to contemporary production values. Marvellous.
We cross the ocean to complete this week’s Fifty3 Fridays where we find a Northern California native now residing in San Antonio, Texas, Emily Whitehurst aka Survival Guide. The leftfield moniker suggests an unconventional background and indeed Emily trades in electronic indie-pop, coming from punk roots when she fronted the Californian band Tsunami Bomb for several years as ‘Agent M.’ “Music is crucial to my survival,” Emily explains, shedding some light on her solo project. “Survival Guide is one woman trying to shape her own place in this world as a musician." She has a full-length album, deathdreams, due for release on 19 October and here is the third single from it, simply titled "Pie".
“Pie” sees Emily giving advice to her younger self, depicting herself in the accompanying video, strewn with spoof ads, as a 50s hostess whose world starts to unravel. Its lyrical message warns young women to steer clear of the darker things that can beset women in music. Sonically, it balances the bleak subtext with bright, layered instruments topped by her dreamily drawled vocals. Hearing this song made me delve deeper into the world of Survival Guide and I equally loved her earlier single from the upcoming album, "Lady Neptune", which once more couches a darker narrative this time with a soaring vocal over sparkling 80s synth lines. Another great video too.