FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: THE CHALLENGE OF THE NEW
At the end of a month of Fifty3 Fridays largely devoted to live music, it’s back to the recorded variety today. Forgiving the ever so slightly weird cover shot above which could be captioned 'In Search of a Label' or perhaps something racier, choosing what to feature here is always a challenge. I hear lots of new, original material that I would gladly bring to your attention and equally new songs from acts I have previously featured which are just as good, or offer even better showcases for their talent.
Let’s begin today though with something new to me. Once again, I have the good offices of Fresh on the Net’s weekly Listening Post to thank for introducing me to the delightful Florie Namir. FOTN is a great platform for new music and so supportive of independent artistes. I commend the site to you wholeheartedly.
Photo of Florie Namir by Ariella Bersan
Once in a while you come across an artiste whose innate musicality and sheer élan refreshes your dull palate with a perfect mixture of charm and elation. Tel Aviv-born Florie Namir is a much-travelled singer-songwriter and pianist who blends American jazz vocal stylings with classic pop music influences to create a sound with signature written across it in bold. With a second life as a classical composer and a decade spent in Boston, MA where she completed her PhD, Florie relocated to London, announcing her arrival with an effervescent introductory single, "Mornings".
This went on to win the 2020 UK Songwriting Contest – something I actually hadn’t heard of so I really should get out more - in the Jazz category. Nostalgic, whimsical and joyful in equal part, “Mornings” makes you feel like you’ve stumbled onto the set of a pre-war movie to be introduced to the heroine and whisked off your feet into her personal orbit. Now with a fan-funded, full-band EP due for release at the end of November, she has shared a taster in the shape of “Piece Of My Soul”. This song has a much longer pedigree as a simple piano version was originally on a one-off 2012 EP. Newly and fully reimagined, it is a song that is both musically and lyrically inventive.
Her love story opens with a third person chorus and switches to first person in the verses, adroitly representing both parties and their mutual infatuation. Florie succinctly described it as “a kind of textual duet” between the male in the choruses and female in the verses. It’s a clever device that neatly eclipses a literal interpretation that could arise from employing female only pronouns. The song revels in the joy of the moment with the songwriter seeing the glass half full rather than swigging any bittersweet. Vocally Florie Namir’s underlying sweetness of tone is balanced by bustle and swagger, while the heady concoction of jazz, swing and even a touch of Samba rhythm is as playful as it is proficient and captures the mood of the song perfectly. And as for that gorgeous jazz saxophone coda, well!
Next, making a welcome return to Fifty3 Fridays, is another London-based singer-songwriter, Blánid. We first encountered the songstress, originally from Northern Ireland, in April via her impeccably voiced debut single, “Fool’s Gold”; a song of unrequited love that feels as fresh and heartfelt today as on its very first play. Blánid only began writing original material fairly recently, in the summer of 2019 in fact, and has clearly opted for a quality first policy by spacing out her releases with a view to putting out a full EP in late Spring next year. She is back now with a fine new song titled “Dead Men Dancing”, another to find favour with FOTN Listening Posters last weekend.
Rather than describing the scene at a wedding disco (thanks Dads), the song actually takes its cue from a scene from the 80’s comedy film, Airplane 2, when a character sees two dead men waltzing outside a spacecraft. Blánid explains: “Though the moment is comedic, the image seemed to have an awful majesty about it, and it stayed with me for a long time. Much later on when I was writing about a situation I was in, it struck me that me and this other person were like those two men dancing. We were rotating in stasis, trying to pretend that everything was fine when really, we were suffocating.”
Set appropriately in waltz time, “Dead Men Dancing” is an imaginative take on the relationship gone wrong with some marvellous lines delivered by a vocal with real substance, highlighting a rare blend of delicacy and strength. It’s such a well-constructed song, seemingly effortless, yet full of delightful nuances and a wonderful bridge beginning “What’s left of a waltz when the heartbeat is gone?” which puts me in mind of the artfulness of Gabby Young. Here we go, one, two, three. One, two, three. One.
A third act to make it through to the latest FOTN Fresh Faves is another who should be familiar to that rare beast, the regular Fifty3 Fridays reader! We first became acquainted with Southend-on-Sea’s The Trusted via the arresting sounds of the four-piece band’s impassioned, anthemic single, “Criminals”. Following this mid-year with the energetic yell of “Rebel Song” showed this was no flash-in-the-pan band but one with a strong chance of one day getting a festival crowd to sing the words back at them, given an even break or two. The latest offering from The Trusted, “Vellichor”, though had me reaching for my Susie Dent lexicon.
An invented word, I’ve seen vellichor described as ‘the smell of old bookshops’ or more poetically as ‘the strange wistfulness of a used bookshop’. In The Trusted’s context, it is more about the feeling the word carries. “‘This is a song about nostalgia. It’s about using the past as a drug to combat the pains of today. Vellichor in this context represents the smell of old emotions and the passing of time” lead singer Tom Cunningham explains. Musically, “Vellichor” also seeks solace from the past, with a retro feel mixing electronics and guitar alongside driving bass and topping it all with a memorable hook. As always, the frontman’s melodic vocal and clear diction shines through too as he lyrically muses on the passage of time and dissatisfaction with his lot.
Time being somewhat at a premium today, let me leave you briefly now with new songs from Fifty3 Friday favourites, IMOGEN and Sarah Proctor. IMOGEN released her stunning audio-visual EP, Bloodbag, this week after a sold-out launch show at Bermondsey Social Club. Here’s her most recent single from the new EP, “Sleeptight”; a powerful perspective on the reasons that women are not believed, while also imagining those victims haunting the unbelievers. It completes a great run of memorable songs accompanied by stunning visuals.
IMOGEN’s fellow native North East Englander, Sarah Proctor, is now based somewhat distanced from Bermondsey in Los Angeles. A regular here since we first highlighted her exquisitely crafted single, “The Breaks” back in February, Sarah has now released another striking song, “Not For Me”. Inspired by real moments in Sarah’s life, it centres around unrequited love and self-discovery, delivered in her signature mellow yet impassioned vocals. Its story and core message are also beautifully captured in the video below.