FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: IT’S COMING HOME
There is a tradition of major football matches being shown on the big screen at music festivals. It has happened at Glastonbury, the Isle of Wight and many more. On Sunday at 11:00 GMT when the Lionesses take on Spain, or mostly FC Barcelona Femeni, in the Women’s World Cup Final fans at Camp Bestival and Green Man should get the chance to throw some beer in the air. Meanwhile in East London, Victoria Park is hosting a ‘super screening’ as part of the All Points East music festival. As Sunday is not a ticketed music event though, to attend you just need to sign up to the AEG Presents mailing list.
So, la mejor de las suertes to England’s Lionesses on Sunday. It’s coming home, 2-1.
Photo of Lionesses from England Football
In the long tradition of non-sequiturs favoured by this column, let us now proceed with today’s music selection. We begin with Brighton-based alt-Indie artiste Frances Mistry who releases her debut 5-track EP, Let Them Eat Grass, today. Frances has been a serial favourite of Fresh on the Net moderators and readers in recent years and her talent was also recognised when she was longlisted for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition in 2022. Her appetite for music grew from the age of ten, when she began to learn classical piano. Drawing on myriad influences, she is now creating a style of music that begins to cross genres while retaining a mark of individuality.
Frances describes herself as an “indie musician/producer & part time Nintendo enthusiast” on her Twitter page and indeed the opening song on her EP, “Subtle Compliments”, takes some instrumental inspiration from a couple of Nintendo game soundtracks in her collection. I would not have immediately guessed this but the layered harmonies and vocal topline do put me a little in mind of Lily & Madeleine and Laura Viers, both stellar reference points. The song has a beautifully relaxed feel and a sense of peace about it, enhanced by Frances’ delicacy of voice. Frances describes the overriding theme of her EP as being “about navigating my emotions and relationships as an autistic person as I really struggle with things like that.” Despite the complexities that the spectrum adds to her life, she can be justly proud of how well she communicates through her music.
Photo of Retropxssy by Kevin England
Now, from the artistry of an Alex Greenwood long pass to the tenacity of a Lauren Hemp dribble, we switch tempo and meet up again with the marvellous Retropxssy who we first encountered in April when she put on such a great show at Neil March’s Trust The Doc Live at south-east London’s Amersham Arms. I wrote at the time that ‘Retropxssy brings a heady mix of styles to the stage with punk, hip hop, electronica, jazz and pop worn on the sleeves of a vintage pink dress which evokes waitresses from those American diners from the 60s.’ Well, the dress is now back along with a blink-and-you-might-miss-it song and ace video.
“Speeding” races through one minute 20 odd seconds of raw, unpolished word wizardry duty bound to dispel anxieties and “explore the sound of being naughty.” Combining a heavy beat with an off-kilter string sample and sounds of trance styled electronica, Retropxssy breezes through her rhymes with a nonchalant air tinged with ever so slight vulnerability. A wee bit of call and response is brought in which no doubt will make the track a live favourite. “Speeding” came about when she was in a burst of writing short songs inspired by songs which experiment with structure. “It wasn’t overly intentional” she says. “I just view my songs like little poems and felt like the ideas I was exploring had reached its conclusion at that point. I felt the beat has travelled to different places too.” Meanwhile Retropxssy motors on.
To mark the release of his third studio album entitled Love & Light, Tom Speight came home to Kingston on Wednesday evening to play at St John's Church, courtesy of Banquet Records. I say ‘home’ as the singer-songwriter later mentioned that his place of birth was Kingston Hospital. Diagnosed with Crohn's Disease a decade ago when a student, Tom manages his condition with the air of someone content and grateful for his lot. On stage he fronted up as a confident, urbane performer yet with a degree of nervous energy signalled by his frequently restless movement. His longstanding playing partner, Lydia Clowes, added texture to proceedings with keyboard, bass and a little percussion along with some fine vocal harmonies.
Although I am fairly new to Tom’s material, it struck me as immediately likeable and accessible. Despite his Kingston connection, he joked that he was only expecting 30 people to turn up tonight but the decent-sized crowd was having none of that, singing back the ‘whoas’ to a spirited duo version of “Trick of the Light” from the new album and giving a rousing response to the country-flexed “Everything’s Waiting for You”. Adding set pieces – a foray into the crowd for a wholly acoustic “Joni” and bringing on a choir for his final numbers – Tom Speight kept things fresh throughout the set. Impressive and heartwarming stuff.
Opening for Tom Speight earlier in the evening was New Zealand native Marianne Leigh who is now based in London. Accompanying herself on guitar, her indie-pop songs were delivered with a strong, self-assured vocal. At times though I could not help feeling her material would work even better with a full band behind her. This song stood out for me; “I Don’t Care”, though I’m sure she does.
Photo of Sarah Klang by Kevin England
From London via New Zealand next to Sweden and an artiste who might be feeling a little down after Sweden’s exit at the hands of Spain in the Semis. I had the pleasure of seeing Sarah Klang live at Bush Hall back in March 2022. The Swedish songstress was in commanding voice that evening and it’s great to see her back with new material. She has a new album, Mercedes, due out in October and will also be back in the UK for some live shows that month. Leaving behind her twenties and giving birth to her first child, whom the album is named for, has provided the catalyst for a new cycle of songs grounded in personal yet shared human experiences.
“Halloween Costume” seems to be something of a throwback to an unhappy period in Sarah’s life when bullying was rife at school. Becoming an expectant mother took her back to that time, recalling what she experienced in intense detail after years of suppressing the memories. Lyrically candid and told in a stream-of-consciousness style, the song has a therapeutic edge to it aided by Sarah’s sweetly bruised tone. Losing herself in music becomes an exit strategy from the adolescent pain and ultimately dispels the feeling that she might go mad through the experience. And we all thought those Volvos were indestructible too.
I have taken to closing this column recently with either a recent Spotify find or a dust-off of a favourite track of yore. Today it is Twitter’s turn which, despite Elon Musk’s best efforts, is still something of an oasis for independent and grassroots acts to show their wares, people like me who write about them and those doughty souls who sustain independent radio. A tweet by fellow Glastonbury Emerging Talent Judge and music writer, Jon Kean, drew me to a live version of one of my favourite songs of all time, “Nightswimming” by R.E.M.
Now 20 years old, like many such gems, this is conveniently accessed via YouTube which allows me to embed it here. It was originally shown on Later… with Jools Holland on BBC1 in October 2003. I challenge you not to well up at the end when Michael Stipe looks so affectionately at his bandmate, Mike Mills, before his face collapses into a smile. A complete and beautiful song matched by a similar moment in time.