FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: SELECTIVE VOWEL REDUCTION SYNDROME
Having had a career of sorts in marketing, at times I fret about the ethics of trying to convince folk that they need something they can really do without. Marketing might also stand accused of creating so much choice that consumers simply get confused and ironically bypass your finely chosen words and strategies. Then you get the couldn’t-make-it-up branding stories; the countless research and design hours spent on a project that ultimately ends with the current logo being rendered in italics. Now we have an exercise in all lower-case selective vowel reduction, abrdn, which is the cool new name for investment company, Aberdeen Standard Life.
Rather than ‘a burden’ we are told to pronounce this as, yes, Aberdeen. Just don’t hold your breath for innumerable Tik Tok videos, accompanied by c-shntes, celebrating a new dnce craz. Meanwhile here is an artiste who opted for a change of branding not that long ago yet no vowels have been unnecessarily sacrificed in its conception. March is the stage name of London-based artiste, Kitty O’Neal. Feeling a little pigeon-holed in classic singer-songwriter space under her birth name, she chose a moniker that would leave her freer to progress in any direction. Rather holistically, the name March reflects her roots from her birth month to her parents’ forenames.
March has an independently-funded debut album, All of the Above, in the pipeline and her latest single, “Never Ruin”, is a particularly fine foretaste. A brittle love song reflecting the early stages of a relationship, it swings from fragile verses to energised choruses, affecting a sense of denial about some of her feelings. Instrumentally it is restrained yet always inventive with guitars and keyboard creating nicely interweaved melodies which provide a perfect backcloth for March’s dew-soft layered vocals. Currently studying an MA in songwriting at ICMP, London, March clearly takes her art seriously and is also working on a parallel album-length project themed around lineage and identity.
So, we move from stage names to birth names. We first introduced you to Glasgow singer-songwriter, Bethany Ferrie, a couple of months ago via her stirring ballad “Bones”. Not one to hang around, she is back with an equally strong follow-up single which continues the big sound she is cultivating with her producer, Ross Griggs. Aged just 23, there is a maturity and depth to the Scots songstress’s work that belies her experience. While she first picked up a guitar aged 10, she has only been writing in earnest over the past two years or so. That growing maturity could not be more evident than in her latest song.
“This Is Where I Leave You” is especially poignant and Bethany says it feels like it has been ten years in the making. “It deals with a lot of grief that I’ve been holding since my dad passed away when I was very young and, at the time, I had no way of processing that kind of thing” she explains. The song reflects her younger self, adjusting to no longer having someone around she expected to be there for her whole life. It then moves on to express a perspective that is closer to the one she has now. The emotion she brings to the song is heartfelt yet anchored by a positive assurance in life going forward.
It’s back to monikers next and across the pond to Burlington, Vermont where we find Gordon Goldsmith aka The Young Love Scene. In the great tradition of fellow bedroom indie musicians, TYLS writes, records and produces everything himself where he sleeps, though he confesses that he has also sung and played guitar on a cruise ship in Sydney. His debut album, Holy Punch, is due out on 10 September and represents a recovery from the burn-out he experienced seven years ago after releasing an EP, the quirkily titled Haypenny Hashcandy, under his own name.
From the clever invention of its title to the song’s super-fast, condensed delivery, “Sunnycide” is a total breeze; as flawless a three-minute pop rock single as you are likely to come across. TYLS struggles to remember exactly how he conceived it, beyond feeling inspired by The Ramones that day. Trance-like, he quickly assigned it to his computer and that energy of the moment comes across loud and clear. Whether he will ever ‘find the kind of game-changing true love that makes you clean up your act’ is a moot point. The ironic delivery is because he is unsure that he ever will. While we await the full album, you’ll find “Sunnycide” alongside a clutch of other songs – some rocky, some mellow and bluesy – on TYLS YouTube among other channels.
Photo of Peakes by Nick Porter
Our penultimate stop today is Yorkshire, the home of Sean Bean and the tea and also the base of electro-pop trio, Peakes, who first met while studying at Leeds Conservatoire in 2017. The band comprises vocalist and main lyricist Molly Puckering, Max Shirley on keyboards and drummer Pete Redshaw. Its soundscapes operate in a rarefied space immersed in weightless, dreamlike textures, at times distanced but with an underlying warmth. After releasing a third EP, Pre Invented World, in June 2020, Peakes are now back with the band’s first new music of 2021 in the shape of the single, “An Infinite Divide”.
The band describe the infinite divide as “the chasm that grows between our real selves and our projected selves when we choose to exist online.” Examining the modern fascination with condensing lives on-screen into show reels and flattering tales, the song hints at the outcomes these behaviours impose on relationships and our ability to connect on a more genuine level with others. I especially like the line “We fold ourselves smaller every day”; a neat expression of something that is designed to do the opposite. Musically the track is cleanly layered and nicely balanced with dynamic flourishes that lend it a grandeur while Molly Puckering’s pure vocal brings an added touch of euphoria to proceedings. The beauty of it all is hard to deny.
Today’s selection of artistes shares something in common in that I first encountered their music via that fine receptacle of independent music, Fresh on the Net. The weekly Listening Post is a veritable treasure trove. Working across a broad contemporary folk canvas our final act today, Flo Perlin, is a gifted singer-songwriter from London with Iraqi and Belarusian parentage. She has a new album out today, Characters, which is very much informed by her heritage, fondness for travel and innate gift for storytelling. It is a record that touches on a raft of experiences referencing her upbringing and identity and which solidify in calm self-reflection.
She took the Jewish Baghdadi side of her family as the inspiration for “Baghdad”, patching together visceral recollections to help picture the life her family had, the life they left and a life, maybe her own, that could have been lived. It is rich in tangible imagery from to tea, honey and sweets to worn, torn feet. “Back in Time” is an equally compelling song. Flo Perlin has the ability to take you to the place she imagines, in this case to the North London house surrounded by woods where she spent much of her childhood playing in contrast to children today where outdoors play is now far from the norm. In her quiet asides on these songs, Flo’s phrasing often recalls Laura Marling while her enchanting vocal delivery is individual, sweet-flavoured and lilting.