FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: IT’S JUST NOT CRICKET
What’s this? Indie-rock band stops play? If you haven’t heard of it, The Hundred is a marketing exec’s idea of how to make cricket more exciting by reducing the great game to 100-ball matches between eight teams representing seven cities – weirdly London gets two - with parallel men’s and women’s versions. Now my very first time at an Old Trafford test match, aged 11, saw Ted Dexter and Ken Barrington bat all day for England at a snail’s pace. Since then, I’ve always opted for the chess-like focus of the red ball five-day game over any new-fangled white ball cricket.
That was until I switched on BBC2 on Wednesday evening and found the Welsh Fire Men (expect silly names) being extinguished by the Southern Brave Men at the end of their innings. This was followed by the nice surprise of watching The Big Moon provide half-time live music before the Fire were suitably doused in a nine-wicket drubbing. Now you tend to get heritage acts and tribute bands snaffling any post-match slots that might be going at sports stadiums. Hurriedly researching the matter, I find that The Hundred has engaged BBC Music Introducing to offer live music at all 68 matches. Result!
Playing its latest single, “Wide Eyes”, the London outfit was in fine shape vocally and instrumentally. I remember seeing The Big Moon at Glastonbury in 2017 and being suitably charmed by their camaraderie. The four-piece was certainly on an upward curve until the pandemic halted live music and seriously limited physical contact between members. Remember those long days of Zoom. Singer-guitarist and songwriter Jules Jackson had a baby last summer too just as venues were opening up.
“Wide Eyes” shows that The Big Moon is out again, still packing a punch with a song that celebrates a timely sense of reconnecting and reaffirming bonds. Ahead of its third album, Here is Everything, due for release on 14 October, the band will be undertaking a short UK tour from 19 to 28 September.
With Glastonbury coverage taking up two Fridays last month and August being something of a silly season in music, the rest of this week’s edition of Fifty3Fridays is a bit more of a catch up on things missed in July. We’ll start With Sun, the affirmative moniker of singer-songwriter and poet Alice Hale, who has featured here previously. Last autumn, she released her beautifully restorative song, “The Waiting Room”, in support of mental health. The Forest Hill based artiste, who is joined by her guitarist partner Stu for live appearances, has now returned with “Thirteen Weeks”, a poignantly personal song which deals with the aftermath of her first miscarriage.
Alice describes “Thirteen Weeks” as being “about my journey with grief and finding peace within that grief.” She has the rare gift of being able to voice such painful emotions with such a compassionate tone that the cathartic almost becomes soothing. With no instrumental preamble, her vocal leads the song from the start and the rise and fall of her fine topline melody is neatly accentuated in the passages where the guitar follows it note for note. The lovely strings accompaniment is nicely judged and never overcooked. In all, Alice has produced a song of pure loss with the power to touch anyone, whether they have suffered a personal bereavement or not.
Photo of Maya Lane by Melody Berkery
In a similar way to With Sun, young London-based singer-songwriter Maya Lane has been judicious in her choice of single releases. Earlier this year, we encountered the delights of her remarkably mature debut single, “Still The Same”, and its more playful follow-up, “Childish Games”. Ahead of her debut EP expected in September, she has provided more evidence of an assured, blossoming talent with the warm and mellow “When You Need Me”.
The song simply expresses love for her younger sister, whose arm had been twisted to appear discreetly in the accompanying video, with the desire to protect and nurture foremost. Alongside, there is a recognition that things won’t always work out well but the singer will always be there for her. In a wider context, Maya says that this song “has also evolved into a metaphor for women supporting women, especially within the music industry.”
Growing up in a missionary family, London based singer-songwriter, Tina Boonstra, spent her formative teenage years in Liverpool but only really began to find her voice as a performer on the London open mic circuit. I was reminded of her flair for songcraft when she made the longlist of this year’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition. Tina’s music is not easily labelled as it seems to skirt genres. On the one hand, something in her vocal phrasing reminds me of HAIM; it’s in the way she shoehorns the words from lines that should not really fit. Equally, she has a real depth and passion running through her work.
On her latest single, “Martha”, Tina considers the twists and turns of life alongside female relationships and how life rarely seems to go the way you expect. We don’t quite know who Martha is and are unprepared for the tragic twist in her tale. All of this is mitigated by an empowering, anthemic chorus with the invitation to “Keep your head up, girl”, drawing on strength through everyday sisterhood. “Martha” is one of those songs to revisit as you get more and more from it on repeat listens and you won’t dislodge that chorus quickly.
Photo of Poster Paints by Kat Gollock
I’ll leave you with two other songs from that clutch of July releases I missed. Firstly, the Glaswegian pairing of guitarist Simon Liddell and vocalist Carla J Easton aka Poster Paints. “Falling Hard” is the third single from a forthcoming self-titled debut album and the duo, with able band support here, conjure an indie pop meets dream pop melange with a hint of classic Altered Images to it.
Photo of IAN SWEET by Christina Bryson
I have been a fan of Los Angeles based Jilian Medford aka IAN SWEET for quite some time so it’s always a pleasure when new material comes our way. If you are new to her music, I’d advise checking out her 2021 album, Show Me How You Disappear. Last month she released a follow-up EP, Star Stuff, and shared this visualiser for a track from it, “Die A Million Times”. The song shows more mainstream leanings than much of her last album which will hopefully bring this underrated artiste to the attention of a wider audience.
JULY SPOTIFY PLAYLIST
A regular feature of this site is the monthly Fifty3 Fridays Spotify Playlist. The latest one includes all the songs in order from July’s Fifty3 Fridays as long as they are listed on Spotify, of course. Which they are this time. It opens with “Pathetic” (don’t be put off by the title) by the wonderful Francesca Guerra and concludes 41 songs later with Charli XCX and “Lightning”. 2 hours 42 minutes of listening bliss in all.
Here it is. Please feel free to share it and join the select few that actually follow me on Spotify at TonyHardy53. You can access all the past monthly playlists here too.