FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: NICE TO SEE YOU
While it is undoubtedly uplifting to uncover new music from artistes often entirely new to you each week, it is equally a pleasure to reacquaint yourself with acts you have enjoyed listening to before but with whom you may have lost touch. A case in point is Norwegian trio, I See Rivers, who I first saw play a lovely yet surprisingly feisty and humorous show at London’s St Pancras Old Church getting on for two years ago. The girls actually met while studying at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, the college founded by Sir Paul McCartney no less. After falling in love with the Welsh coastline while recording a first EP, the band settled in Pembrokeshire and now operate between Wales and Norway while touring and recording.
“Grow and Go” is the new single from its debut album, Deep & Rolling Green, released earlier this month. The song actually dates back to their stint as honorary Scousers at LIPA but it took the serenity of the welsh countryside to fully round it off. According to the band, “Grow and Go” is “about waking up in a relationship that's gone stagnant without realising how you got there, standing on the edge of letting it go. It's about understanding that everything in life has an expiry date, and that there's beauty in that as it offers opportunities to grow and evolve amidst the sadness, grief and loneliness.” The notion that growth wins over sorrow is echoed by fast-paced percussive urgings in the choruses which contrast nicely with the quieter verse reflections.
Cookery chat show fans may have spotted I See Rivers on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch recently. The trio comprising Eline (keys, vocals, percussion), Gøril (guitar, vocals, drum pad) and Lill (drums, vocals) are accomplished and versatile on record, as its 16-track album ably demonstrates. To appreciate the feel-good fun that I See Rivers also brings to a live stage though, I hope it won’t be too long before a tour can be back on the agenda.
Continuing the theme of reacquaintance, I was pleased to catch up again with Scottish singer-songwriter, Lisa Kowalski, during the week. I came across a recent review of her song, “No More Time”, and assumed it had just been released but then saw it actually came out on the singer’s birthday in February. So, let’s consider this one as a sleeper. It signals a change in style to her earlier, softer acoustic material but one that she wears very well; you think of her compatriots, Amy Macdonald and KT Tunstall, and in each case how their music developed more of a harder, commercial edge from its original acoustic roots.
Currently back at university doing online classes, Lisa Kowalski is now aiming to diversify her songwriting. Citing the vocal techniques of SZA and Jhene Aiko as styles she admires, there may even be a future excursion into R&B. Meanwhile “No More Time” takes its cue musically from the emotions she felt at the time of writing the song rather than a deliberate move to a rockier style. Referencing a manipulative relationship she left behind, the song signifies the empowerment a young woman can gain from the realisation of such toxicity. “I definitely feel powerful when I sing it and I think it has a really important message of standing up for yourself, knowing your worth and not letting anyone treat you like any less than what you are!” she says. These are sentiments that could be applied to a great many situations others find themselves in and her stance shows she is a songwriter to be reckoned with.
Back in June, on a different planet metrically speaking, I briefly referenced the phenomenal popularity of K-pop girl band, Blackpink, who premiered the single “How You Like That” and broke the YouTube record when 1.65 million fans simultaneously tuned in at 10am to hear it. Since when, at the last count, plays are fast approaching 600 million. On 2 October, Blackpink unleased THE ALBUM on the world; just 8 tracks spanning 24 minutes. Available in a bewildering number of formats, THE ALBUM gets the party started but is over before you know it, almost like someone imposed a curfew. It may be short but there are some strong dance tracks itching for nightclubs over here to be deemed viable once more; not least the self-assured banger, “Lovesick Girls”, although the video looks like it’s been edited by someone with ADHD.
The acts might be light years away from the kind of metrics enjoyed by Blackpink but nevertheless there was a bumper crop of great new tunes among this week’s Fresh Faves on Fresh on the Net’s Listening Post. This included songs from I See Rivers, featured at the top of the page, and two shining stars highlighted in previous Fifty3 Fridays, AJIMAL and Laura Fell. You can hear all the Fresh Faves HERE and enjoy Tobi’s excellent commentaries on them.
Meanwhile here are two other highlights from the Listening Post I particularly enjoyed. London alt-pop trio, BAXTR, is making more waves on the empowerment front, celebrating individuality and rejecting a judgmental society obsessed with presentation and perfection in the bright, punchy “Feathers”. A loud and proud anthem to being yourself, the song bristles with right-on spirit and manages to be as catchy as it is on message.
Striking somewhat of a different note, Creature Comfort is a five-piece band from Nashville, Tennessee cobbling the amusing label of ‘bootgaze’ to tie to its music as it melds indie rock to Americana. “Woke Up Drunk” is an intimate, break-up song softened by a glorious fingerpicked melody and decorated with lush strings without losing its hayfield roots. Frontman Jessey Clark delivers a beautifully balanced, questioning lead vocal on this song and we can look forward to a full album, Home Team, due to drop at the end of this month.