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FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: FRESHLY FAVOURED

Fresh On The Net, the independent music blog founded by Tom Robinson in 2009, is a brilliant source of new music. It offers a supportive space for artistes to try out their music on a broad church of music enthusiasts including your scribe here. Each week we listen to up to 200 new tracks submitted by acts of all styles and genres and democratically determine 25 of them to form the week’s Listening Post. Readers in turn lend their ears and then vote for their five favourite tracks.

 

The 10 tunes attracting the most votes then become Fresh Faves and to accompany the publicised playlist they are reviewed by one of us moderators. I had the pleasure of writing about the current Faves and a strong, eclectic selection it was too. By coincidence, I had already reviewed one of the Faves - Neev - in last week’s column. I am sharing five more of them here and, acknowledging the dilemma of deciding which songs to include, of course commend you to check out the full list on FOTN.

Keeping things alphabetic, we open with a new name to Fresh Faves in the shape of Leeds-based five-piece About-Faces [that enough hyphens for you?) who announced itself last July via debut single, “Under the Sun.” Comprising Sennen Ludman (guitar and vocals), Danielle Capstick (keys and vocals), Cormac Connolly (lead guitar), Nigel Ngwenya (bass) and Joseph Schofield (drums), the band members got to know each other around the local music scene, some previously playing in other bands together. The pandemic provided an unexpected impetus for the new band to coalesce.



“Learn To Surf” is the fourth single from About-Faces and commands attention from Senna’s stretched vowels on the opening lines over an increasingly irresistible instrumental build. Danielle’s supporting vocals add to the anthemic feel of the song while the lead vocal mixes things up with sing-speak passages. There is a lot in this song’s skilful construction that calls to mind The Waterboys maybe with a hint of U2 meeting at a crossroads; certainly, the lyrical intensity of frontman Sennen Ludman sits well against Mike Scott as he likens overcoming life’s turmoils to conquering the surf. The result is bold and uplifting, auguring well for the future of About-Faces.

Conversely, London-based singer-songwriter Azu Yeché is a Fresh Fave for the sixth time if my maths is correct. His music is an engaging blend of old soul, infused with uplifting gospel, folk reflection and the rhythms of Africa. He started on his songwriting journey at the age of 11 and has released a string of singles and 3 EPs over the past few years, writing songs from the heart to lift the soul. Azu is acclaimed for his live performances, supporting Lemar on his Closer tour in April and has headline dates in Birmingham, London and Leeds lined up this month.



“Leave Me Now” opens beautifully and poignantly with Azu’s unaccompanied voice signalling acknowledgement that a relationship has reached its end and finding the courage to recognise it is the right outcome. The backing voices add sympathetic choral texture as the song develops with instrumentation nicely restrained to ensure Azu’s warmly emotive vocals remain the main event. Towards the end of the song as the drums come in, he flexes those vocal muscles to soar into the high register with ease. Perfectly crafted throughout, it is a song of joy as much as sadness.

Just like Azu Yeché, Brighton’s Frances Mistry is back among the Faves for the sixth time, a real endorsement of her gift for compelling songwriting and the kind of vocal poise that gives her music a point of distinction. Frances has been a serial favourite of Fresh On The Net moderators and readers in recent years and her talents were equally recognised when she was longlisted for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition in 2022. She described the prevailing theme of her 2023 debut EP, Let Them Eat Grass, as “navigating my emotions and relationships as an autistic person as I really struggle with things like that.” Despite the complexities the spectrum adds to her life, she can be justly proud of how well she communicates through her music.



“Flower In The Garden” is the lead track from her follow-up EP, Messages. Propelled by busy drums and strummed acoustic guitar, Frances’ vocals are contrastingly beautifully relaxed with a soft delicacy underpinned by a yearning substance. Navigating the chances for romance continues to be central to her thoughts as she likens her struggle to make the right connections in life as “a flower in the garden with no access to sun.” The imaginative chord changes and deft little production touches give the song a refined individuality while everything plays out perfectly in a coda decorated with ringing guitars and layered harmonies.

Next, a band name with a nice play on words for us David Lynch fans - Mulholland Jive. Described as the brainchild of Irish musician Ben Mulholland, a multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Cambridge, Mullholland Jive perform as a 9-piece band, with a rotating roster of ‘superhuman musicians’ to bring its energetic instrumental funk-jazz-rock to life. Live shows include the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Ely Arts Festival and Strawberry Fair, plus headlines at Suffolk’s John Peel Centre and the Portland Arms, and performances at the NMG Awards while its music has been played on radio stations from Cambridge to San Francisco.



With three EPs behind it, the fourth Mullholland Jive offering, Thunderfunk, is due for release in July and I expect “Beast Mode” will be on it. I am not quite sure what to read into the title. It may not have helped by a dyslectic moment of thinking Beast Mode was the band before hearing the track and psyching myself up for a dose of heavy metal. It’s not of course. Opening with stabbed chords before brass takes up a bright theme while those root chords return at intervals to aid structure. A particularly dextrous piano solo later heralds a punchy conclusion. Mulholland Jive are playing London’s The Spice of Life on 24 July. I wish them luck in fitting on the stage.

Last but by no means least, Pulses. Actually, that should be first as the Nottingham musician, composer and teacher Chris Miles who trades as Pulses secured the highest number of reader votes this week. A glance at Chris’ Bandcamp page shows that he is highly productive in releasing music, blending a range of electronic styles to create memorable tunes to listen to or dance along. He offers frequent live-streamed performances with tracks from Pulses’ extensive back catalogue of originals and remixes. The next one is scheduled for 7 June and details can be found on Pulses’ Facebook page.



The chilled “Tribe” clearly resonated with lots of our readers at the weekend. It is a particularly bright and engaging piece, opening with a, dare I say it, pulsing beat which carries on beneath the track as clipped synth lines intersect and give sway to chiming melody lines. An organic theme takes hold while fluctuating phrases rise and fall away, a bit like breathing in and out. Really this is a very skilful and holistic track to groove along to or just lose yourself in listening. 


HEAR THEM ALL

You can check the remaining Faves – the splendidly named Combover Beethoven, Los Angeles native Dylan Bailey, Newport’s finest Eurekas, the imaginative Haiku Salut remix of Liz Hanks’ “Meer” and of course the lovely “Dianne” by Neev -  on Fresh On The Net now.


FIFTY3 FRIDAYS SPOTIFY PLAYLIST MAY 2024

Finally… for your further listening pleasure on the first Friday of each month, I publish a Playlist on Spotify which includes all the songs featured in this column over the previous month – in order, for the tidiest of minds. Our Fifty3 Fridays Spotify Playlist May 2024 includes 19 of the 20 songs from the month’s Fifty3 Fridays. Unfortunately, the enigmatic Samxday and “Fade Out” is not to be found on Spotify. The May Playlist opens with the intriguing “Coelacanth” by Paper Anthem, concluding with the lovely “Never Forget About You” from Sarah McCreedy. 


Please follow me on Spotify at TonyHardy53 to access all these monthly playlists dating back to April 2021 when Fifty3Fridays came into being.



Comments


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:

Fri 7 Jun: Alexandra Leaving/Frankie Morrow, The Waiting Room, London N16

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

Sun 9 Jun: Blanid, The Black Heart, London NW1

Mon 17 Jun: The Mysterines, St John's Church, Kingston

Thu 20 Jun: Charm of Finches, The Lexington, London N1

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

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