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FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: BACK FROM THE BREAK


Fifty3 Fridays is back from a short holiday, coinciding with the return of Fresh On The Net after its own summer break. Since it was launched by BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Tom Robinson in 2009, the site has become a beacon for independent musicians, aficionados and listeners alike. It has developed into an active and supportive community, introducing writers like myself to emerging artistes and providing a regular stream of great new music; far more than I can feature in this humble weekly column.


Photo above of Horsey Gap, Norfolk – a beautiful home for seals


After missing a couple of Fridays and as I play catch up, this week’s Fifty3 Fridays is a little less in-depth and more of a digest. Appropriately though the first three songs all featured in last weekend’s FOTN Listening Post; two of them notching sufficient votes to be named Fresh Faves.

First stop is North London, now home of Northern Ireland native, Blánid, whose music has graced these columns since I first alighted on her eloquent single “Fool’s Gold” in April 2021. She followed this steadily with two more recordings to ready acclaim and I am now delighted to feature “Tourists”, a further addition to her to date small yet ever impressive canon. Blánid tells me that she already has a couple of albums sketched out and is excited to begin recording next spring. She is also about to undertake a UK tour as support to the iconic US singer-songwriter, Judy Collins. Tour details can be found here.

Blánid originally wrote “Tourists” during lockdown and went on to collaborate with singer-songwriter Christian Burns who added a new melodic section. The piece developed into two sides of a tale of unrequited love blended into one song. When it came to production, she appended a further lyrical section about the transience of others passing through one another's lives; a theme reflective of the chosen song title. The poetic lines of “golden tourists passing through our summers” are voiced almost as an undercurrent. When they appear again at the end of the song, they merge with the lovers’ lament to bewitching effect. Swirling amid a soundscape of cascading organs and low drones, the vocal layers combining Blánid and Christian’s voices create a bittersweet melange as they consider the irony in leaving people behind while being left behind themselves.

Photo of Maya Lane by Melody Berkery


For our second Fresh Fave we move on to another who has featured previously in these columns - London-based singer-songwriter Maya Lane. She released her debut single, “Still The Same”, when aged just 18, yet displaying a mellow maturity which has become something of a signature. A year on from her 2022 debut EP Childish Games, Maya has returned with a new single, “24F”, accompanied by a home video style travelogue. The plane ticket might say Nice to London but the film content is pure Nashville, documenting her writing trip to the celebrated Music City earlier in the year.

“24F” offers a window-seat perspective on her past, exorcising uncomfortable memories and putting them in perspective by consigning them to the past. There is a soft exhilaration in the way she voices the refrain “I got a real good view from up here” which underpins this sense of release. Musically the song feels more akin to classic Laurel Canyon territory than country with the Nashville video footage more marking her progress in time rather pointing to a specific direction. As Maya herself notes, “It feels really special to be able to look back at my Nashville memories, paired with this song and see how far I’ve come and how proud younger me would be.”

Our third choice from the Fresh On The Net Listening Post takes us to Edinburgh via Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. “Chapters” by Scottish songstress Rosie H Sullivan did not quite garner enough votes to make it to Fresh Faves but is equally worthy in my view, one indeed enthusiastically shared by the good folk of FOTN’s Signal Committee. Rosie released a debut EP in February, 123° East, a title that links her native island to the mainland town where she spent her teens, with songs reflecting the changes and transitions in her life. The theme of change is continued in her latest single, “Chapters” and it simply bristles with positivity, warmth and charm.

A change of mood now as we move on to a familiar name around here, the alt-rock pairing of Laura Callaghan and Paul Smart aka Broken Bear, hailing from just down the road from me in Tadworth, Surrey. The duo has unveiled the third instalment from its impending EP, Follow My Leader, in the shape of the roundly titled “Hurt People Hurt People”. The new track positions vulnerability and fragility as inescapable parts of the human makeup, acknowledging that our actions can often reflect our own pain; a cycle that can begin to be broken through understanding and empathy: “It stops with me”. Broken Bear is fast developing a dark, melancholic style that makes its songs recognisably its own and this is arguably the band’s most impressively complete song to date.

Photo of CHVRLI BLVCK by Dave Snocken


Back in March I really fell for the emotive lyricism of New Forest resident CHVRLI BLVCK when I first heard his single, "Why Did You Go?". His latest song, “Fallen Apart”, continues the expressive unburdening at the end of a relationship, taking it to a new level of raw pain while signalling a sense of coming to terms with it all. From the foreboding tranquillity of the song’s opening build to the measured reading of the ‘charge list’ and soaring blues as peak awareness is reached, Charli’s prodigious voice takes him and us through a cathartic mill. The production speaks of hours at the coalface perfecting the sheer atmospherics. It ends with almost a matter-of-fact note of resignation: “Soon I’ll forget ya / And you’ll forget me too.” Somehow, I feel we won’t forget how he got there.

Photo of Sarah Buckley by Andrew


It was only last month that I chanced upon the music of Cork, Ireland alt-folk songstress Sarah Buckley via her fine single, “Always Trouble”, the first track from the forthcoming EP, Wind Chimes, which is expected in October. Sarah has quickly followed it with a second bite entitled “Puppet Show” and has created the accompanying visualiser herself using phone videos and an AI creative lab. (At last a good use of AI, he said in Luddite mode.) In spinning a tale of misplaced trust recalling a relationship that went awry, Sarah’s warm, characterful voice glides through her lines inviting you in to share her story in a reassuring way. Now that is quite an art in itself.

Photo of The Rolling Stones by Mark Seliger


We will close this week with a band that doesn’t need the publicity, not that I am able to offer that much! While we were safely in Norfolk last week, the world learned that, following the cryptic newspaper teaser campaign for Hackney Diamonds decoded by many, The Rolling Stones have a new album due. If you’ve got the odd 23 minutes 55 seconds spare, you can watch the live interview here with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood by Jimmy Fallon at the Hackney Empire, in which the band talks about its new record, the first studio album of original material since 2005’s A Bigger Bang. Actually, it’s a good watch.

The 12-track album will be out on 20 October and is previewed by the single “Angry”. Opening with a classic Stones riff in “Start Me Up” mode, the lyrical lovers spat is played out tongue-in-cheek style while the tune quickly worms its way into your mind. You may recognise Sydney Sweeney, the lady in the red car, from Season 1 of The White Lotus among other things. Her rock chick role in the video may be over obvious but she’s enjoying the ride for all she’s got and would clearly eat those rock-togenarians for afters. Girl power and great use of billboards too.




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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

UPCOMING GIGS 

 

Selected dates in the London area:

Thu 23 May: Jon Allen, The Bedford, Balham

Fri 24 May: Grace Cummings, The Lexington, London N1

Thu 30 May: Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Greenleaf  Church, London E17

Fri 7 Jun: Goat Girl, Disco Room - Pryzm, Kingston

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

banquetrecords.com: See the Events page for all live shows in Kingston

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