FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: FRESHLY SERVED
Last Saturday we remembered the twentieth anniversary of 9/11; a descriptor that doesn’t feel right in so tragic a context. If you ever needed an example of how sorrow may turn to elation in 24 hours through a different kind of experience, the very next day we witnessed a seismic occurrence in women’s tennis with the amazing victory of Emma Raducanu at the US Open Tennis. It was great to welcome back Fresh on the Net's Listening Post after its summer break too. Our first two musical choices come from the weekend’s FOTN Fresh Faves and we open serve with a song aptly titled “Never Saw it Coming”, which could equally be an epithet for the recently demoted Dominic Raab.
Photo of Poster Paints by Kat Gollock
Glaswegian duo, Poster Paints, bring along impressive individual pedigrees with guitarist Simon Liddell having form via Frightened Rabbit and Olympic Swimmers while vocalist Carla J Easton has played with Teen Canteen and The Vaselines as well as releasing solo music. The pair put out a debut single in May on the locally-based Olive Grove Records, the forwardly titled “Number 1”, and has followed up now with “Never Saw it Coming” which perhaps we should have, given the potent promise of the duo's opening gambit.
Listening to “Never Saw it Coming”, you are struck by how well the two musicians gel and complement each other. Carla Easton’s sweet melodious vocal phrasing brings a classic indie pop vibe with it. She is in fine company with a tone reminiscent in different degrees of her fellow Scots, Clare Grogan of Altered Images and Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser. Simon Liddell’s dexterous guitar work meanwhile adds a shoegaze flavour while drums are struck to give a full textural quality to proceedings. Overall, there is great depth to the sound that Poster Paints portrays. Lyrically, loss is a bedfellow to fond nostalgic memories. Melodies may be left unsung but there is always “Another day for new beginnings.”
Photo of The Islas by Allen Key Media
Having initially acquainted ourselves in July with the exemplary four-piece, The Islas, via the opening gambit of “Absence of You” from its forthcoming six-track EP, Oblivion, we are pleased to report that the Norwich indie rock band has gone on to release the full works. The EP is very much a product of the pandemic written in isolation and referencing the end of a seven-year relationship amid anger around the death of George Floyd and patriarchy within our home government. The youthful band brings an earnest touch to its lyric messaging while trading in melodic, rhythmic tunes. Here is the title track which caught the ears of FOTN Listening Post followers at the weekend.
Lead singer and songwriter Nathan Baverstock channels emotions around feelings of political impotence on the title track, “Oblivion”, while as the song develops there is an Oasis feel to Ross Allen’s guitar sound and phrasing in the choruses which contributes an anthemic quality. Written in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, “Oblivion” closes a rich and diverse EP with Baverstock wrestling with guilt and embarrassment at the notion of privilege and the ignorance of others’ suffering that can come with it. It’s pretty heavy stuff but sonically equally epic with the potential to uplift. The full EP is refreshingly varied which highlights an emerging band able to mix things up and not stick rigidly to a singular indie rock style.
The daughter of a Scottish musician though born and raised in Monmouthshire on the Welsh/English borders, you imagine singer-songwriter Ailsa Tully to embrace a wealth of cultural influences. Her highly individual brand of music seems to fall somewhere between folk and electronic music, further coloured by choral music inspirations and field recordings from the natural environment. She has released a small number of singles over the past two years leading up to a nicely rounded four-track EP, Holy Isle, which appeared earlier this month.
The title track takes its name and inspiration from Holy Isle which can be seen from the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, itself with family associations going back generations. The artiste was even named after another island south of Arran, Ailsa Craig. “Holy Isle”, the song, unfolds from gentle stirrings, building slowly through quite blissful harmonies to a near cacophonous climax before retreating through an extended coda. There’s a hint of anger at the unravelling of a close relationship echoed in the music build and even ironic indignation in the closing mantra: “I’m sorry I let you down” but it is tempered by the sense that love still lives on in one form. Indeed, she reflects on a break-up across the EP with something closer to fondness than the resentment that often follows such events. The central impression is of an artiste at peace with herself and able to instil this sense in her listeners.
From Scottish isles to Penelope Isles. I have been meaning to write about the Brighton-based band since hearing the fine contributions of lead singer, Lily Wolter, in both solo and full band guise to the magnificent 2021 double album, In Quiet Moments, from Lost Horizons. Centred around Lily and her brother Jack and including new band mates, Penelope Isles has announced a second album, Which Way To Happy, due on 5 November, a follow up to 2019’s well-received debut, Until the Tide Creeps In. The first taster of the new record came in July with the grandiloquent single, “Sailing Still”.
Penelope Isles will be undertaking an extensive UK tour this November/December. One of the highlights undoubtedly will be hearing “Sailing Still” performed live. Sharing musical values you might associate with Bella Union label mates, Lanterns on the Lake, the song builds from quiet intimate beginnings via orchestral saturations and powered by big cymbal-heavy drums into something quite stunning and visceral. The travelogue collage video shot by Jack provides a perfect and personable accompaniment. It might also inspire us all to get out more.
The latest foretaste of the album comes in the form of “Iced Gems”, showing a different side to the band, building to a warm simmer rather than a show stopper. Lily’s words flow in a stream of consciousness fashion, emptying her mind of a raft of images despite which there lingers a memory of someone she can’t quite get out of her head. I’m not entirely sure what Iced Gems she references, unless they are the tiny iced biscuits loved by children still. It’s all very warm and graceful, beautifully textured by delicate keyboards and mostly anchored by a persistent drum machine beat.
Photo of Marissa Nadler by Nick Fancher
We finish up this week with another Lost Horizons collaborator and Bella Union stable mate, Marissa Nadler, who stopped me in my tracks recently with her single, “Bessie, Did You Make It?”. Compared to Penelope Isles, the Boston native is something of a veteran having just announced her ninth studio album, Path Of The Clouds, due out on 29 October. Much of the songwriting on the album was inspired by her binge-watching episodes of the US TV series Unsolved Mysteries when quarantined, while the pandemic also afforded her the time to learn to compose on the piano. The dream-like ballad “Bessie, Did You Make It?” takes its cue from one of those mysteries; unusually, in this tale, it’s the woman who survives.
Available in the US via the Scared Bones imprint and in the UK through Bella Union, the latest taster from the album is “If I Could Breathe Underwater”. With its layered harp, lyrical guitar, fluid basslines and pulsing rhythm, it’s a song quite different in feel and narrative to “Bessie”. Here the singer considers the possibilities of superhuman powers: “As a lyrical device, I married those powers with events in my life, wondering if and how they could change the past or predict the future” Nadler explains. These ideas are nicely transported into the visual realm through the exploratory video. Though visually unified underwater, the diversity and distinction of both songs augur extremely well for the main release.