FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: CAREFUL WITH THAT SWORD, PENNY
You might have clocked the absence of a Fifty3 Fridays last week. I blame the King. Had it not been for the Coronation, there would have been no call for a Bloomfield Road Street Party and I may have had enough time to produce said column. Then again, the good folk of the Spring Grove area of Kingston would have missed the opportunity to watch a stellar line up on our live music stage comprising Dan Sealey, march, Andrew Maxwell Morris, Out of the Red and PlanB (not the alter ego of Ben Drew in case you’re wondering, but our legendary rock covers band).
So, overall, a good result and some fine music both at the Abbey and St John’s Church where our rained-off stage had to relocate. Congratulations next to Sid & Doris Rocker of Neasden who correctly identified that today’s headline is a limp reference to Pink Floyd’s “Careful with That Axe, Eugene.” Kudos to Penny Mordaunt about whom politicos of diverse shades of opinion rightly eulogised. Enough said, this week’s edition is something of a catch-up so it is on with the music.
Dizzy is among my favourite bands in the world. You may recall me gushing about the 2020 album from the Canadian four-piece, The Sun and Her Scorch, and then, following a hiatus, the two great singles, “Barking Dog" and “Birthmark,” aired in the past six months. Dizzy has just announced that album no 3 will be out on 18 August and will be touring it across North America this autumn. Before that the band is over in Europe for some shows this month, including a sold out one at London’s The Waiting Room on 24 May. Unfortunately, I will be in a different waiting room at Kingston Hospital a few hours before the gig!
The previous singles trailing the new album have seen lead singer and lyricist Katie Munshaw in an unsettling, anonymous mask reflecting on themes of identity and upbringing, pain and liberation. The mask, and eventually the head, comes off for the video to Dizzy’s latest offering, “Open Up Wide”, paradoxically a song that sends up the demands of the music business while becoming something of an indie-pop earworm itself. As ever, Katie can conjure a killer line or two: “Insert the stanza that makes them weep / Remove the prose that means anything.” Now try the get the tune out of your head too.
While in catch-up mode, let’s stay with the D’s – indeed now a double D in the shape of Debris Discs, the alter ego of Derbyshire-based lo-fi cinematic artiste James Eary. Debris Discs has a debut album in the works entitled Post War Plans and in April shared a further single from it. James describes “Losing the Matriarch” as the counterpoint to his earlier release of “The Worst Sight That I’ve Seen So Far” which I featured in January. Rather than the imagined memories realised through reading his Grandpa's Second World War letters, the new song is as much inspired by his own reflections and experiences.
The imagery in “Losing the Matriarch”, evoking memories of ordnance factories, ginger beer and apple pie, reflects the WW2 theme which will be the glue throughout the album. However, the song goes on to explore loss from a more personal perspective in which musings on war resolve to a full embracing of peacetime, as life goes on. The songwriter imagines what happens once the family loses its matriarch yet musically there is a lightness emanating from the glorious synth-driven melody which counters the piece’s more serious tone. “In my head it's almost like a disco track” says James coyly. “Not a dance floor filler per se, more one for the awkward feet shufflers hanging by the bar.”
Our third D is for Denney. Whenever I hear Emma Denney’s music, I marvel that it is less than four years since she raised her head above the musical parapet, finding the confidence to showcase her work publicly. Originally from Hampshire, she settled on her surname as a single moniker as her friends had always called her that from an early age. Having built an impressive collection of songs and begun to play live, Denney took a break last year to holiday and work in Thailand. Now back in the UK, she has moved north and re-trained as a software developer, though is now ready to get back to playing live including a gig at the Didsbury Arts Festival in June. The equally good news is that we have some new music from her!
A gift that Denney possesses is the ability to put herself in others’ heads fictionally and write although she is uncovering pages of her personal diary. “Closure” isn’t about her or anyone in particular. Rather, she is exploring how it must feel to have broken up with someone to whom you still feel attached. So, the song is written as though it happened to her, extrapolating how it might feel about “this thing we're calling closure.” Lyrically it is full of trademark Denney nuances, while her fragile, die-away vocal tone once again complements her fine sense of melody and structure quiet beautifully. “Closure” is the first song that Denney has fully produced herself, with the help of her friend Tom Vernon on guitar. It’s a song she can really take pride in.
I have been captivated before by the storytelling of Norwich multi-instrumentalists and songwriters Christina Alden & Alex Patterson and especially how well they lace contemporary tales into the oral folk tradition. Following the release of the duo’s beautifully conceived 2021 album Hunter, Christina and Alex returned in November with a single “Etta’s Song”, written for their daughter. A second single has now followed and it is fitting that this latest work has its origins at a time close to their daughter’s birth.
“The Starless Sea” is a contemporary folk tale inspired by the novel of the same name by American author Erin Morgenstern which Christina read while relaxing in the bath, trying to stay comfortable in her latter stages of pregnancy. The writer’s story of love overcoming rough seas struck a chord with the singer as she contemplated her new journey of motherhood. As Christina says, the song is “a love letter to the novel itself and a thankful nod for being an escape each time I delved into its pages.” Her pristine vocal delivers her lines with tenderness and subtlety, peppered with the duo’s close harmonies, while Alex’s violin weaves in and out in spiral patterns over a web of intricate guitar work. A wonderfully evocative piece.
It’s already May but Fifty3 Fridays readers will have heard a great deal of march of late as the alter ego of London-based singer-songwriter, Kitty O’Neal has featured often in these columns, not least because I chose her as one of my three acts to put through to the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Longlist this year. Increasingly prolific, march has added another song to her impressive canon of recordings with “What Does That Make Me?” As ever this is an intriguing song that seems to draw its lyrical strands from disparate sources yet unite them into a questioning whole. Really lovely.
Photo of Hannah Scott at the Sound Lounge by Simon Weller
Having followed her music since I came across her second album, Drawn to Darkness, I was pleased to finally catch Hannah Scott live when she appeared during a Record Store event at the Sound Lounge, Sutton in April. Accompanying herself on guitar, the Surrey songstress opened her short early afternoon set with the title track from that album followed by a mix of older and newer material, including one brand new one, “Lines”. She has a confident, relaxed style on stage but it is her relatable songwriting combined with vocal clarity that really wins through. Her tone blends sweetness with strength so she can switch from delicate moments to power through a chorus. Her heartfelt tale of a down-to-earth separation, “Untangling”, summed up Hannah Scott’s all-round prowess admirably.
APRIL SPOTIFY PLAYLIST
A regular feature of this site is the monthly Fifty3 Fridays Spotify Playlist. The latest one includes all the songs in order from April’s Fifty3 Fridays if they are to be found on Spotify, of course. Unfortunately, the splendid “Something Happy” by the joyful collaboration of Paul F Cook & The Happy Somethings isn’t there so I have substituted the first song I ever heard by the latter mentioned Midland maestros, the lovely “Sweet Little Sad Song”. Equally “Hung Me Out To Dry” by the majestic FONN is also absent though you have two other FONN tunes to which to tickle your toenails.
Finally, “Stranger in the Water”, the song entered by Glastonbury Emerging Talent finalist Cordelia Gartside is represented by another marvellous track, “Blue”. This song neatly concludes our Playlist which coincidentally opens just as beautifully with “The Real Thing” by Kate Walsh. To compound the connection, Cordelia is currently working with Kate’s longstanding producer, Tim Bidwell.