FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
This week I ‘are been mostly bogged down with trying to write some kind of report about Glastonbury 2022. Expect it sometime next week as it is/was/might still be far too long and rambling [and unfinished – Ed]. In addition, my feet still haven’t recovered from the rock-hard terrain at the Festival and as we all know this has a clear and detrimental effect on your typing fingers. And brain. Trying a bit of post-truth on you there but you’re not buying it, I know.
Second thing. I’ve agreed not to mention politics but if I see another quote about all the good things Boris Johnson did or hear someone in a Wolverhampton street on the BBC describing him as a character, I might change that. On with the music.
I came across Italian singer-songwriter Francesca Guerra back in January via her lush, if scarcely seasonal, single “Summer”. With her musical roots in Rome, she moved to London to work on her original music project, subsequently graduating from ICMP Music College. Francesca draws her influences from Italian Pop and British Indie, creating a beautifully smooth, chilled pop sound. She coyly describes her music as ‘introspective pop - melancholia should be my middle name’. With her latest release though, she seems ready to join the ranks of some of the best purveyors of ‘sad girl’ songs around such as Emma Denney and Holly Humberstone.
Released last Friday, “Pathetic” reflects on familiar break-up territory. The song title may point to the lowest self-esteem but the songstress balances the mental argument about perceived failings with the positivity of self-worth. The internal struggle she voices is matched by instrumentation that builds from minimal to full blown with cleverly spaced cut backs, lending the song added drama and emotive pull. The vocal layers behind Francesca’s lead vocal which itself ranges from a soft plaintive tone to a higher range, almost detached intensity add to the emotion of the whole thing. A wonderful job done.
Having written about the Manchester-based duo of Cerys Eless, originally from Deganwy, North Wales, and Hull native Eli Thompson aka Body Water earlier in the year, it was great to catch up with them at Glastonbury and hear them perform live. More about that will be in the Glastonbury report under ‘Sunday’ [if it’s ever finished – Ed]. The pair confess to finding inspiration for much of their material in the dark side of true crime and conspiracy theories. Their past two singles were steeped in the macabre, charting an unsolved murder and the tale of an unhinged, obsessed stalker respectively.
Body Water’s latest single, “Revolution”, came out as the duo travelled down to Glastonbury and continues its partiality for ghoulish subject material. Exploring the indoctrinated minds of the Jonestown cult members and their devotion to deranged leader Jim Jones, Body Water couches its twisted tale of love in surprisingly conventional music. With shades of Fleetwood Mac and 80’s guitar sounds about it, the song is blessed with a strong chorus, a soulful lead vocal coloured by fine harmonies, and well-chosen dynamic stops. “There’s something quite sinister about dancing to a song knowing that there’s such a dark meaning behind it, but dance you will” they say and who am I to argue.
I don’t know how many of you got to hear the music of London trio, Paradisia, but if you were a BestNewBands reader you would have encountered the name many times since I first saw the band’s debut show in May 2016. It was a sad day when Paradisia decided to go separate ways in 2020 but a joyful one when I discovered the music of Silk Cinema, a partnership between ex-Paradisia keyboard player and vocalist, Kristy Wild and Raph Aletti (instrumentation and production). Silk Cinema was clearly a second project of Kristy’s as the duo put out a series of singles from 2017 and a debut album, Spells, in 2019.
Silk Cinema has now emerged with a second album, A Place in the Universe, and got the attention of Fresh on the Net listeners at the weekend when the single “Lean On Your World” was comfortably voted a Fresh Fave. The duo blend influences from indie-R&B, electro-pop, jazz and neo-soul to create an exceptionally smooth yet quietly expansive sound; indeed, just like their name implies. Subtle and laid back, “Lean On Your World” is perfect late-night listening, with beautifully voiced musings on love and moving on via Kristy’s signature mellow tone. The instrumental bridge which offers a change of pace and a compelling melody is a master touch too. We may be all searching for our place in the universe so I heartily recommend you check out the full album.
Having previously featured three singles released by Lewes-based singer-songwriter Hui Hue over the past 18 months, “Your Silence”, “Creepy Creepers” and “Night Shelter”, I am pleased to report that you can now find them together on her long-awaited debut EP, Dandelion Eyes. The record is completed by the title track in which the songstress reflects on her young sons while the song takes its name from her eldest. Hui’s work is splendidly warm and immersive and something about this latest one reminds me a little of Bridget St John who coincidentally recorded on John Peel’s Dandelion label in the late 60’s/early 70’s.
“Dandelion Eyes” is another sumptuous piece of music, accompanied by some stunning artwork. Arrangements and production are once more by admirable Alex Hall, engineered by Richard Woodcraft and mixed and mastered by Jay Pocknell. Some further good news is that Hui tells me she also has two more singles in the pipeline.
Regulars here will recognise The Kut as the alter ego of the multi-talented Princess Maha, supported by a seven-strong collective of female musicians. Having previewed her second album with single releases, “Animo” and “Satellite”, the full LP is no longer forthcoming. Indeed, it is out today entitled Grit, which is an apt name for the blend of hard rock and lyricism that Maha purveys through her music as The Kut. She is celebrating the album release with a UK tour – you can see the dates on the above flyer. Her work bristles with passion and the persistence befitting such an independently minded artiste. You can check out the full album on vinyl, CD and the usual streaming channels and I wholly commend it. Here is a reprise of the lyrical side of The Kut via her most recent single, “Satellite”. Warning – you may need an umbrella.
Not especially by design, today’s Fifty3 Fridays is almost a female only zone, with due respect to Silk Cinema’s Raph and to Hui Hue’s ace production team. It seems appropriate to close with another artiste I have closely followed since hearing the wonderful “Holds Me Down” two years ago this month, namely Caffs Burgis aka Test Card Girl. Actually, I should qualify that by ‘not quite closely enough’ as I seem to have missed the third single, from her forthcoming EP, The Fly, when it came out in May. On “The Beyond”, the song is given a fuller band treatment and really rolls along mirroring the long car journey that inspired the lyrics; time spent watching the white lines speed by and musing about the route in life we are following sometimes blindly.
There is always a refreshing strain to Caffs’ music which is simply uplifting. “The Beyond” is so well constructed, mixing folk elements with electronica, bass and grand, swelling piano lines. Caffs’ intonation with its little Northern inflections oozes comfort and a quiet calm, the lead vocal peppered with layered harmonies to emphasise pivotal points in the song. It’s a piece of music I can gladly listen to again and again.
Photo by Andrew Alcock
I STAND WITH UKRAINE