FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: JULY SPOTIFY PLAYLIST
On the first Friday of every month, I publish a Playlist on Spotify which includes all the songs I wrote about in this column over the past month. Ergo, the latest one covers those from the month of July. I usually bury this at the end of the column and forget to tweet it, or when I do I get exasperated as I can’t fit in all the artiste names within 280 characters. So I have to make it a thread. And then get despondent as next to nobody follows me on Spotify anyhow.
Spotify image by Alexander Shatov
In a ground-breaking move this week I have tweeted the latest Playlist (yesterday) and promoted the feature to the top of the article. So… our Fifty3 Fridays Spotify Playlist July 2023 includes all 23 songs in order from the month’s Fifty3 Fridays. It opens with “Crave!” (with a !) from the mellifluous Frankie Morrow and reaches a fitting conclusion as we remember the magnificent Sinéad O’Connor RIP with “Take Me To Church”.
Follow me on Spotify at TonyHardy53 for 31 of these monthly playlists! [Some chance – Ed].
Photo of Joseph Hitchcock by Liam Maxwell
Now to today’s selection. Since hearing the album The Year You’ll Never Get Back two years ago I have been a major fan of Paper Anthem, the musical vehicle of Fayetteville, Arkansas native Joseph Hitchcock. Joseph kindly wrote a track-by-track guide to that stellar record which I published here in June 2021. Relocating to London later that year, he has been active working on new material and putting a band together under the same name. The gigs are starting to flow in and London locals can catch Paper Anthem at The Spice of Life, Soho on Friday 11 August. The international line-up comprises Joseph on vocals, guitar and keyboard alongside London-born guitarist Jack Taylor, Romanian bassist Carlo Haltrich and Nottingham’s Joe Spoors on drums.
The new band has announced itself via a single, “Malus”, released this week. The title plays on the genus of apples and the word’s association with something bad, a touch of malice. “Don’t eat the apple” Joseph implores in the bridge. He is reluctant to confront the Tree of Knowledge and find that his heart’s object might reject him. The blend of math rock, pop punk and alt. rock that drives the song is a perfect companion to the sugar rush of lyrics as Joseph explores his frantic feelings over and over until inertia wins. Joseph’s move to London was motivated by the many British bands who inspired Paper Anthem’s sound; one that with his bandmates he is shaping anew. “Malus is available on all the usual platforms including Spotify here.
Photo of Sarah Buckley by Andrew
The good folk of Fresh on the Net are taking a well-earned summer rest now so the Inbox for new music submissions is closed until 4 September. I have FOTN to acknowledge for introducing me to the music of Sarah Buckley from Cork, Ireland. Each week you can vote for your favourite tracks from those chosen by FOTN moderators to form the week’s Listening Post. In addition, the site flags a link to the full inbox containing all that week’s submissions. It was here that I stumbled on the alt-folk singer-songwriter and was quickly captivated by her new single, “Always Trouble”, the first track from her forthcoming EP, Wind Chimes, due out in October.
“Always Trouble” tells the tale of a difficult character coming into your life and the fallout that ensues. The song is seasoned with the voice of experience, presenting introspection with a wise, knowing core. There is a maturity of expression coursing through the song that is nicely complemented musically by its brooding atmospherics while Sarah’s vocal has a lovely piquancy to it. Sarah’s musical journey should continue to aid her development. As well as gigging extensively in Ireland, she was recently chosen to take part in the Creative Moves Europe project and through this was able to spend time working on her music this summer in a different environment, that of Berlin.
Continuing the Fresh on the Net link, our next guest artiste actually narrowly missed being voted a Fresh Fave last week but, like Sarah Buckley, he submitted a song that I thought really stood out in what was a strong week for entries. Any regular readers here will of course be well-versed in the charms of the musically prolific Midlanders Happy, Jolly and Joy, collectively known as The Happy Somethings. Happy also has a solo sideline going into the guise of Happy As You Like and this week I am pleased to offer a small moment in the sun to this equally worthy venture via the release of a new song from the pen of Happy entitled “You Might Think You're In Heaven”.
Rather than an unlikely pretence of narcissism, “You Might Think You're In Heaven” seems to me to be about the duality of life and a call not to dwell on the negative stuff; a kind of a measured carpe diem. Happy enjoys a well-chosen turn of phrase and employs some choice imagery while the sharp- edged guitar and touch of bossa nova to the backing couch his words perfectly. His voice has its odd wavering moments but these add to the wistful note he strikes when considering how to accept your lot, change what you can but not stress over what you can’t better. The song is available on Bandcamp as a free download. However, as it is Bandcamp Friday today when the site’s usually modest fees are waived, it is a perfect time to make a small donation which will be gratefully received and put towards making new music. Stay Happy.
From the Midlands to North Shields on Tyneside next where we find a band new to me, namely Hector Gannet. The five-piece takes its name from an ill-fated trawler which capsized in the North Sea while attending a stricken oil rig in November 1968. Hector Gannet’s musical incarnation gained attention after writing and performing music to accompany vintage footage of the North East heritage of shipbuilding and fishing for a BFI project in 2017. Since then, the band has toured widely, supporting the likes of Sam Fender and, appropriately, Sea Power, releasing its second album, The Land Belongs To Us, earlier this year. Last month it followed this with a new three-track EP, Emmanuel Head, comprising the title track with live versions of two earlier singles.
Working both solo and with the full band under the aegis of Hector Gannet, singer-songwriter Aaron Duff has a softly resonant voice able to rise to muscular crescendos all of which seem perfectly matched to the rolling, chiming textures of “Emmanuel Head”. The transportive song was inspired by an escape to a place of personal significance, a striking white pyramid day marker on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on England’s north east coast. “The song is as much about our connection with each other as it is about any personal fondness for a particular place. It’s about getting away from it all, to where we are without distraction and where, for a while, the land belongs to us” Aaron explains. It is a song that undoubtedly takes you there too.
Finally let’s escape the British showers and head to California, home of the lo-fi indie rock duo of songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Bethany Cosentino and guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno aka Best Coast. The band is currently on hiatus while Bethany explores a solo career with saw a debut album released last week entitled Natural Disaster. I have a little history here, after seeing Best Coast, perform at Brighton’s Great Escape Festival in 2010 which I reported about for Consequence (ofSound). Anyone with too much time on their hands can still read about 24 hours of The Great Escape here.
A solo record is the chance for an artiste to break out of a style of music they have successfully engineered for themselves in their band life. Bethany Cosentino seems to shifted away from the reverb-soaked punk pop of her Best Coast days to embrace song styles from classic country and pop rock that she grew up with in the nineties. The title track, “Natural Disaster”, hits climate change head on but when she sings “And hey if we’re all dying / Then what does it matter?” it is not a call to give up but rather a rallying cry around “We’re a natural disaster.” She picks up this theme again more directly in the final verse and makes her concerns relatable as much as tangible, acknowledging the work of Evergreen Action in the closing credits on the video.
As a postscript, for those who are maybe unfamiliar with the great work of Best Coast I’ll leave you with the marvellous, tongue in cheek “When I’m With You” which was the first song I heard from the band. You can find it on the duo’s fine 2010 debut album, Crazy for You, and it sounds as fresh today as it did a decade and more back.