FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: IT’S GROUNDHOG DAY
February 2nd is of course Groundhog Day, an event popularised by the 1993 movie though it dates back to 1887. I have been trying to watch a live stream on USA Today. No sign of Phil yet but I just watched a band with serious beards appear to belt out I know not what as there is no sound. Now a bunch of twelfth graders are singing silently while a manic patriotically dressed front man occasionally attempts to host it all. Ah, the sound has come back on but the singing has stopped. Now there are fireworks… and a huge crowd. It looks cold there and it’s gone quiet again.
Punxsutawney Phil will shortly emerge before the multitude gathered at Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to witness if the world’s most famous groundhog sees his shadow, or not, and so predicts another six weeks of icy weather, or conversely an early spring. What’s all this got to do with music you ask. Not a lot I confess, although if you are planning to emerge from your burrow don’t beat a retreat till you’ve listened to today’s song selection.
Late news: Phil says it’s going to be an early spring.
Photo of Charm of Finches by Jeff Andersen Jnr
We start down under with the adorably named Melbourne sibling duo Mabel and Ivy Windred-Wornes, aka Charm of Finches. The sisters have a fourth album, Marlinchen in the Snow, due for release on 19 April and a month or so later will be setting out on an extensive UK tour. Many of the songs were written on tour in 2022, exploring themes of travel, the sense of home and belonging and the fragility of distanced relationships while the album was recorded with producer Daniel Ledwell in Nova Scotia in the depths of winter. That fairy-tale snow-bound landscape seems to have imprinted itself firmly onto their music.
The new album is heralded by its opening track “Clean Cut” released today as a single. The accompanying video is something of a cinematic treat. The sisters directed the song’s enigmatic video alongside designing and sewing all the costumes while turning a Melbourne warehouse into a haunted dolls museum for the video shoot. It is a moodily captivating song inspired by Ivy’s break-up while the pair were touring Europe in 2022, highlighted with filigree guitar and beguiling strings while the drums add a certain momentum to it all. The duo’s harmonies are of that fine intuitive kind that blood relationship brings. Perfect.
Due for release the day before that of Charm of Finches is an album Northallerton, North Yorkshire singer, guitarist and songwriter George Boomsma modestly describes as ‘my first sort of professionally recorded one.’ George also plays guitar with Birmingham-based folk star Katherine Priddy and I remember how well the pair meshed on Glastonbury’s Acoustic Stage two years ago. George is developing into an impressive songsmith in his own right and his self-released album will be followed by a short tour with dates in Middlesbrough, Birmingham, London and Tenbury Wells.
Previewing the album, his new single was voted as one of the Fresh Faves on Tom Robinson’s Fresh On The Net last week. “Cashmere Grey” has the feel of the heyday of classic electric folk with some delicious chord modulations and a nicely refined band sound. Lyrically there is a sense of sadness running through it which is countered by the warmth of melody and a togetherness that the ensemble brings to it. It smacks of coming to terms with a loss and finding a way forward. A consummate piece that augurs well for the full album.
Joining George as one of last week’s Fresh Faves was Bristol-based singer-songwriter and collaborative musician, Stevie Toddler. She learnt to play classical double bass as a child and played in orchestras, moving on in her teens to pick up a bass guitar enthralled by the sounds of Radiohead and Pixies and begin to develop a solo project. She has also played as a double bassist, bass guitarist and backing vocalist for disparate outfits from classical to afrobeat while nurturing her solo output.
Stevie’s teasing, jazz-inflected single “Wake Me Like” is from a forthcoming album Last Time Forever which will see a release in May. It is an arresting song from the opening bars with gossamer vocals playing over inverted keyboard phrases. It continues to keep you on your toes as it moves through exquisite phases culminating in an unexpected coda with synths and horns doing battle. In Stevie’s words the song is about “when you wake yourself up by falling in a dream.” The song’s imaginative arrangement conjures up that dream world perfectly. Should you be Bristol way, you can catch Stevie with her full band at the Thunderbolt on 22 February. She will then be in Germany in March and is keen to secure a couple of small solo shows while there. Venues please note!
GLASTONBURY EMERGING TALENT COMPETITION 2024
A final call to unsigned UK and Ireland-based acts from across the musical spectrum to enter the competition for a chance to play at this summer’s Glastonbury Festival. Entry closes at 5pm on Monday 5 February 2024 via the Glastonbury website here. To enter, acts submit one original song, plus a link to a video of a live performance in any setting from rehearsal space to concert hall. For further inspiration, let’s unwind to 2015 when the competition winner was a 17-year old Declan McKenna with “Brazil”, a song which took a pop at FIFA corruption in awarding the World Cup to Brazil in 2014. Coincidentally he is playing two shows down the road from me at Pryzm on 8 February playing songs from his new album, What Happened to the Beach?, and no doubt reprising “Brazil”.
FIFTY3 FRIDAYS SPOTIFY PLAYLIST JANUARY 2024
Finally… 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. Not just that, but with the application of chronology too! Our Fifty3 Fridays Spotify Playlist January 2024 includes all 22 songs from the month’s Fifty3 Fridays. It opens with the brilliant “When You Know, You Know” by Paper Anthem, reaching a beautifully voiced conclusion with “Places You Are” by Hallworth.
Follow me on Spotify at TonyHardy53 for 37 of these monthly playlists plus others to devastate your synesthesia.