FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: BETTER LATE
There are weeks when it all runs like clockwork – actually, not that many of those – and weeks when the wheels fall off. This has been one of them so without any further ado here is today’s Fifty3 Fridays, even if you have to turn your clock back 48 hours.
Let’s open today with Blue Lupin, a new name on the UK indie scene but one who made a big impression on Fresh on the Net listeners last week when her new single attracted the most votes in the Listening Post, thus joining the ranks of the week’s Fresh Faves. The alter-ego of London-based singer-songwriter Joanna Wolfe, Blue Lupin is a collaborative creative project whose diverse influences are cited as Radiohead, Big Thief, The Japanese House, My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and Warpaint, plus films and TV such as Cinema Paradiso and Twin Peaks. There is a transatlantic connection in that Joanna’s early demos found their way across the Atlantic to Nashville producer Owen Lewis who continues the televisual link via soundtracks for True Detective and Nashville while Joanna also co-wrote with Joseph Hammill from Cattle and Cane on her first batch of songs.
“Surface of the Sun” features guitars and vocals recorded in Joanna’s London bedroom before further instrumentation was added remotely in Nashville. The song is characterised by shoegazy guitars and driving beats over which Joanna’s flexible vocal adds dreampop textures. The unexpected downturns in her topline melody create a suggestion of darkness in keeping with a toxic relationship tale. The energy she brings to it all is quite cathartic while the way the song comes to an abrupt stop seems an apt ending to an affair. “Surface of the Sun” is only Blue Lupin’s second single and intriguingly is quite different in feel to her September debut release “Soak”, a song more closely nailed to a cinematic dreampop mast. Blue Lupin is now working towards a full EP release in March 2023, an event which should continue to surprise and envelop.
A newcomer to the big smoke having recently escaped two years of bedroom lockdown in a stormy coastal village in the east of Ireland, Paddy Hennessey sounds like he could from a racing dynasty but actually is a singer-songwriter and producer who works under the nicely evocative aegis of Echo Northstar. Paddy tells me that North is a name that has been in his family for generations while the band name was just one of those which sounded right and reflects how the project feels to him. His musical ideas can start on an instrument, a laptop or via his voice notes app while he also explores new ways into a song through collaboration with other artistes he admires.
Like Blue Lupin, Echo Northstar has just released his second single, “Silent Fears.” Paddy describes the song as the act of “letting go of what you hold closest.'' It reflects his leaving an old life in search of something new. The song has an 80’s muted veneer, with ghostly synths buttressed by an insistent drum beat. Vocally, Paddy soft tones glide in and out throughout, imparting telling lines or adding textures almost as an extra instrument. A full EP from this impressive new artiste, Things I wish I could Say, should land in the New Year. Meanwhile, here as a little bonus here is Echo Northstar’s debut single from July, “Someone Else.”
Now to something that does exactly what it says on the can. London rock duo The Pearl Harts has a second album Love, Chaos due out early in the new year and has previewed it this week with a single tellingly entitled “More.” The band has been plying its brand of high-octane rock for almost a decade now and the new album represents its first new material for three years. With a wild defiance and DIY attitude about them, Kirsty Lowery (lead vocals, guitar) and Sara Leigh Shaw (drums, vocals) enjoy a natural chemistry which comes across live and on record.
“More” is wryly described by a YouTube listener on the band’s page as ‘Elon Musk’s theme song’ and, whatever your thoughts on that, it does seem a song absolutely tuned into our times. It hits out at societal expectations – do more, be more, expect more - as much as rampant consumerism and is delivered with a tongue-in-cheek swagger. “Interestingly, the point we observe is that the people who have the most always feel like they are entitled to more. Whereas those who generally feel like they need more are told they have too much” the pair expand. Bridging garage guitar riffs with modern pop beats and acid vocals, “More” leaves you wanting, well, more.
Back in February I curated a night in downtown Balham at that iconic hub of emerging music, The Bedford, which played host to outstanding sets from three acts: Barbara, Blánid and Detweiler. Hailing from Northern Ireland and now London-based, Blánid impressed hugely that evening. Her remarkable voice drew audible gasps from the audience at times while her original songs were individual, characterful and beautifully accompanied alternately by graceful keys and finger-picked guitar. Now just over a year since the release of her last single, the delightfully nuanced “Dead Men Dancing,” it’s a great joy to hear a new one from Blánid.
The prosaically titled “Bad Decisions” belies the perhaps downbeat expectations it sets up from its sombre, meditative opening. The song, co-written with fellow Northern Irish songwriter Ciaran Lavery who contributes a willowy vocal underpinning to Blánid’s stately lead, is wonderfully dramatic, building to a glorious, emotive intensity. There is then a graceful and unexpected bridge leading to a choral coda that is spectacular and unpredictably uplifting given the song’s underlying theme. “I wanted to write about the exhausting and seemingly deterministic experience ofself-destruction, the inescapable feeling that you are destined to fail and the overwhelming shadow that a depressive state can cast” Blánid explained. “But there is a beauty and broken joy in it, even if this can’t be seen when you’re in the throes of it.”
The ability of Blánid to convey such personal emotion in song and infuse it with dignity is a rare gift indeed.