FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TOM
So, this week let’s start by raising a glass to that amazing supporter of new music through many channels including Fresh On The Net and BBC Radio 6 Music, Tom Robinson. His ‘Never Too Late’ 70th Birthday Tour reaches London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire tonight for its final stop. Twice postponed in successive years due to the pandemic, I’m sure a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday will be delivered tonight ahead of Tom turning 72 now this coming Wednesday.
Tom has some great guests lined up tonight including TV Smith, Emily Barker, Ian McNabb and Lisa Knapp and I expect will be playing all his signature songs of old along with some cuts from his first new album in two decades, Only The Now. Can’t wait, but meanwhile here’s the first Tom Robinson Band song I ever heard and I won’t tell you how long ago; “2-4-6-8 Motorway”, the ultimate ode to driving home after a gig. Hope to be singing along to this one tonight.
Photo by Melody Berkery
Earlier this year I was delighted to give a little space to “Still The Same”, the debut single from young London-based singer-songwriter Maya Lane, who then just 18 I remarked was already showing a maturity beyond her years. I loved her country-flavoured vocal on the song and she has continued to deliver on her latest single, “Childish Games”. The new song, co-written with producer Jonathan Quarmby, is the title track from her upcoming debut EP due later this summer. Dreamily melodic, it just seems to glide on by, powered by the singer’s gentle yet assured vocal command.
Maya lists Joni Mitchell among her key influences and there is a strong 70’s flavour to the video that accompanies “Childish Games” which imagines a coming-of-age retro fashion event as a children’s tea party, replete with a modest food fight that respects the likelihood that all those Gucci outfits needed to be returned to Angels or wherever. Lyrically she wrestles with the familiar evolution from teen to adulthood and how relationships are fractured as friends change and mature at different paces. There is a nicely judged tone of resignation in her silky vocals but also a sense that she has come to terms with such things and has taken charge.
Channelling a much different vibe, but one she seems in equal control of, is London native and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne raised Lizzie Esau, whose musical references seem to reside firmly in indie rock territory and sit favourably alongside the likes of, say, Wolf Alice or Soccer Mommy. Like Maya Lane, Lizzie developed a love for songwriting and performing very early, nurtured within a creative family with an artist mother and musician father. Listening to the clutch of singles she has put out over the past 15 months or so, there is a broader palette to her work too with influences from modern pop, singer-songwriter and hip hop.
Voted by Fresh On The Net listeners last weekend as a Fresh Fave, Lizzie and her band unleash “The Enemy” via an attention-grabbing, ringing guitar opening. Semi-spoken verses vie with a full-on sung chorus to build a storming, festival-ready anthem, layering an individual and emotive take on familiar indie rock tropes. There is a raw edge to her ode to the outcasts in society: in Lizzie’s words, the song is “about someone who doesn’t fit in or work well in school and so is pushed a future they don’t want or feel they have control.” She probes how in turn this leads to rebellion and frustration which is often relieved by over indulgence and ends with “a sense of hope and going against what is expected.” Strong stuff.
Over to the USA next. Last July we featured the bedroom indie pop of Burlington, Vermont native Gordon Goldsmith aka The Young Love Scene via the breezy vibe of his single, “Sunnycide”. His debut album, Holy Punch, came out last September. A stop by TYLS YouTube channel reveals a broader canon of songs some rocky, some mellow and bluesy which all demonstrate an artiste with a lot more up his sleeve. Gordon is currently gearing up to release a new EP sometime in the next few months but in the meantime has put out a new song that shows off another side to his burgeoning craft.
Gordon wrote “Bluebird” last spring after a familiar and much-loved member of his community back in Burlington passed away. “She was the kind of person who could make anyone feel special, with the kind of smile that could light up a room” he explained. Though he didn’t know the lady that well, the news of her passing greatly resonated with him and the song pretty much came together on a long walk along a beautiful local trail. “To me, that song is about and for all the beautiful people that we lost during the pandemic” the singer added. Gordon delivers it with a lightness of touch befitting the context and it has an underlying note of celebration about it which adds to its charm.
In a sense, the next song acts as almost a companion piece to “Bluebird” as it was inspired by the last days of someone close to the lyricist. We first met up with Brighton-based trio, Bledig, who comprise keyboardist Richard Brincklow, vocalist Hannah Boulton and drummer James Purvis in February after I heard the band’s single, “Misericorde”. The new song is another step towards the full album, to be called Universe Arrangements, that Bledig has been working on over the past 3 years. The band produces highly immersive and thoughtful music blending elements of jazz, post rock, progressive rock and 90’s trip hop iced with ethereal vocals.
“Not My Will” was written by Hannah Boulton while her Gran was dying and not too long after Richard Brincklow’s own father died. She describes it as “a feeling of looking down at yourself at your funeral”, a depiction that aptly compliments the otherworldly mood of the music. Richard sees it as being about “a moment of acceptance before shuffling off.” Lyrically the song combines deeply personal musings with a universal notion of death while sonorous piano and stately background drums add real gravitas. Hannah’s siren voice decorated with spectral harmonies leads you to a place of acceptance with a measure of reverence and reverie about it. Beautifully emotive.
Photo of Have You Ever Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS? by Joona Paavola
We conclude this week in Finland with possibly the silliest and certainly one of the longest band names I have encountered. As John Peel might have said if they had been around when he was, this is the Have You Ever Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS? The Flower-Garage Finns (now that’s a label you don’t see that often either) are made up of are Ekku Lintunen (keyboards/synths, backing vocals), Susse Stemma-Sihvola (bass, lead vocals) and Janne-Petteri Pitkälä (drums). The trio has an album out next Friday entitled Maine Coon and has shared the third single from it; the economically titled “Troglodyte”.
Troglodyte is one of those words you think you know but have to look up just to be on the safe side, even if it won’t help you with Wordle. I associate it with The Lost World or Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. The song “Troglodyte” starts with 30 seconds of ominous noise before a bright synth riff kicks in. It is a curious mix of anthemic pop hooks, singalong choruses and an extended instrumental passage. There is even a hint of prog in the long keyboard solo which comes in midway through the 5 minute plus track. It is accompanied by a suitably mad and at times disturbing video. I’m not sure what it’s all about but I loved it all and you won’t forget the band name in a hurry.
I STAND WITH UKRAINE