top of page

FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: FRESH FAVES FOUND FAVOUR

Rather implausibly it is already Easter and time to take a welcome breather. It’s been a hectic time for new music and me, not least because of Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition judging, while in January I was kindly invited to join the moderator team at Tom Robinson’s Fresh On The Net, the independent music blog he founded in 2009. It’s a supportive space for artistes to try out their music on a broad church of music enthusiasts. Each week we listen to up to 200 new tracks submitted by acts of all styles and genres and democratically decide on 25 of them to form the week’s Listening Post for readers to appraise and vote for their favourites.

 

This creates a list of 10 tunes which are designated Fresh Faves and one of us gets the chance to review all ten to accompany the announced list. For the first time it was my turn to sit in the reviewing chair and take a deeper dive into an eclectic selection; some I had initially favoured but others that I grew to like just as much. I’ll highlight four of them here and, recognising the dilemma of deciding which to include, of course advise you to check out all ten on FOTN here. Coincidentally I had already reviewed one of the Faves – Broken Bear’s “Awfully Civilised” - in last week’s column.

It has been hard to keep Barbara off the Fresh Faves radar [or this column] as the band’s singles have proved consistently popular since the Black Mirror-inspired “BRB” was first unleashed in February 2021. No Streisand tribute act, Barbara comprises Brighton brothers, Henry and John Tydeman, who together with their sterling bandmates reproduce its glorious recorded sound vividly and splendidly live. Barbara has supported some seminal names from the pop world from The Divine Comedy to Haircut 100 live and in April join Paul Weller on his sold out UK tour.

The brothers share a love of 60s and 70s style and music and “Mein Fräulein” brings together so many of those charming Barbara eccentricities we know and love from its episodic song structure to the musical theatre of its lyricism. An opening drum roll immediately gives the song a Cabaret feel as a tale unfolds of a 30s flapper-girl and her weakness for the man in lederhosen and knee length socks. There is so much to admire as you get to know the song with repeated plays – the humour, the nuances and brilliantly choreographed musical digressions. It really is all here.

Comfortably topping this week’s voting chart is York native Bonnie Milnes who works under the aegis of Bonneville. A first-time Fresh Fave in early December, Bonneville celebrated the release of her debut album, New Lady, on Friday and has lined up some tour dates across her home county to support it. Drawing inspiration from her home town experiences, growing up and maturing while dealing with the ups and downs of relationships, she displays a sensibility in her writing akin to country music.

“Chimpanzee” is a track from the album, delivered by Bonneville in a warm, soft country drawl that echoes the lilt in the melody and embellishes the song’s simple acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment. The lyrics speak of being lost in new surroundings with a yearning for someone left behind: “I need to rejoin the human race now / I’m like that chimpanzee they shot off into space somehow.” It’s a tender, offbeat reflection on feeling lost and confused which I’m sure will resonate with many. Well, it did with Fresh On The Net listeners.

Previously an Eclectic Pick on FOTN, Tim Head aka Faithful Johannes describes himself as a Sincerity Rapper, a badge that sits so well when you listen to his naturally poetic flow.  Based in Durham, his work has received support from BBC 6Music and his local BBC Introducing network. He was shortlisted in the BBC’s Words First spoken word competition in 2023 and I particularly liked the way Electronic Sound magazine likened Faithful Johannes to ‘The Alan Bennett of Hip Hop’. Very apt indeed.

The single “Ultra Deep” is the first collaborative release between Faithful Johannes and producer Neocia with whom he is working on a new album which will be his third, to add to a bunch of past EPs and singles. It is set to a leisurely beat supported by keyboards and embroidered by a sweet and gentle melody. The words are something else as the artiste effortlessly blends cosmic references with everyday observations. They really transport you to his child’s vision of the universe and how it all changed after NASA’s release of the Ultra Deep Field image, a tiny speck in the sky containing 10,000 galaxies. Simply magical.

Our next act is also new here. British indie singer-songwriter Freddie Dickson majors in darkly romantic songs realised with his trusty Fender Jaguar and inspired by artistes from Nick Cave to Sharon Van Etten and Portishead. He moved from London to Berlin in 2018 and finished his second album Blood Street there. With its vibrant music scene and noirish underbelly, the city seems naturally on his wavelength. Freddie’s latest venture sees him joining forces with German songstress Kat Koan.

The pair began to write together after Kat reached out to Freddie on Instagram during lockdown, finding a connection that became firm friendship. “Time Alone” is the product of this writing liaison and a sultry atmosphere is immediately set by the opening spoken lines which dissolve into silken allure. A signature guitar figure features heavily in the track as the illicit affair is teased yet it remains shrouded who quite is driving it. There is much in Kat’s vocal delivery that puts me in mind of Anne Gilpin of Morton Valence and, for those familiar with that band’s work, the mood of the song would decidedly fit into Bob and Veronica’s world.


So, that’s just 4 out of 10 stellar songs which formed the week’s Fresh Faves. Check out the remaining tracks, and my thoughts on them, from Broken Bear, India Electric Co, Liz Hanks, Remorae, Self Help and The Silver Lines on the Fresh On The Net site HERE.


To round off today’s column we switch attention to live music and two memorable shows over the past two days.

Photos of Olly Hite at The Pheasantry, Chelsea by Kevin England


Wednesday evening saw South Coast piano man Olly Hite hit the Steinway, no less, at one of those iconic Pizza Express London music venues, The Pheasantry in Chelsea. The building dates from the mid-1800s and, oddly placed betwixt a shop and a bus stop, is fronted by a surprisingly grand Grecian arch which shields an extravagant Louis XV façade. The basement restaurant provided a perfect, intimate space for the flamboyant hatted and barefooted troubadour to show off the full range of his keyboard skills and his array of tender ballads to all out pop bangers. His connection with an audience live is a pleasure to see and his songs were consistently greeted with affection and even a benign tolerance when he forgot the words to what was developing into a lovely cover of Bowie’s “Life on Mars.”

I’ve said before that Olly Hite could make a decent living tributing the likes of Elton John and Billy Joel but his original songs which form by far the bulk of his set comfortably hold their own in most company. From the confessional spirit of “Lioness” with its contrastingly comical back story about setting up a piano in the sea for the video shoot to the exuberance and sheer fun of “Pitstop Baby”, Olly held the full restaurant in the palm of his hands from start to finish. It was something of a marathon 22-song set, during which he invited the audience to take a loo break! Entertainment you could hold in for sure.


Photo of Starsailor at St John’s Church, Kingston by Banquet Records

 

I have record store and concert promoter extraordinaire Banquet Records to thank for Thursday evening’s musical fare. We are indeed lucky to have them on our doorstep in Kingston alongside the lovely ambiance of St John’s Church as a setting for live music. A full house had gathered to welcome the Wigan warriors of Starsailor perform a short set to promote its brand new album, the sixth after a 7 year hiatus. The four-piece opened with the reflective title track from the LP, Where the Wild Things Grow, and went on to deliver an eight-song set split between the new one and its first two classic records going back over two decades.

James Walsh’s vocal with its emotive range and understated vibrato delights throughout the set, despite the odd cough in between songs or even phrases suggesting strain. His acoustic guitar underpins the songs while the ensemble playing of bassist James Stelfox, Ben Byrne on drums and keyboardist Barry Westhead knits everything together perfectly. There was an admirable sense of dynamics; where to keep things retrained and where to exercise a burst of virtuosity. The way James dropped an octave for a stripped back version of the plaintive debut album track, “Alcoholic”, worked exceptionally well. I guess the biggest testimony was that the new, unfamiliar material sat so well with the familiar early stuff. The set closed with the anthemic splendour of “Good Souls” from 2001 debut album Love Is Here. Fluent, beautifully flowing music – it rarely gets much better.


Commentaires


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:

Sun 21 Apr: Jewelia, The Lexington, London N1

Tue 23 Apr: Silk Cinema + Maya Lane, The Half Moon, Putney, London SW15

Thu 2 May: Andrew Maxwell Morris + Hallworth + Paper Anthem, The Bedford, Balham

Sat 11 May: Emily Barker, Banquet Records, Kingston upon Thames

Fri 17 May: Katharine Priddy, Union Chapel, London N1

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

  FOLLOW FIFTY3

  • Twitter B&W
  • Spotify Social Icon
  • LinkedIn Social Icon

 RECENT POSTS

bottom of page