I had the honor of being a guest moderator for this past week’s Fresh On The Net, an independent music blog founded in 2009 by renowned BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Tom Robinson (you can check out the blog here). The mission of the blog is to help independent musicians find new listeners, and independent listeners find new music. Since its creation, Fresh On The Net has amassed a team of volunteers made up of music enthusiasts of all ages, and representing a broad range of tastes. I was invited to participate by one of the moderators tobisonics, a British-born and now Luxembourg-based electronic music producer and composer in his own right, who’s music I’ve previously featured on my blog a number of times.
Each week, Fresh On the Net creates a new inbox, or “Batch” along with a successive number, for artists and bands to submit a song for consideration. The inbox opens Monday morning, and remains open until 200 songs are submitted or by Wednesday evening, whichever comes first. The entire inbox is posted on the site as a Soundcloud playlist, so that artists and music fans can listen to the submissions. The team of moderators listen to every single track, and each one chooses their five favorite songs, as well as any additional tracks they especially like. After the total scores are compiled, the top 25 tracks are published as a Listening Post on Friday morning. Anyone can vote for their five favorites from that list of 25 tracks. Those votes are compiled Sunday night into a Fresh Faves list of 10 tracks, which are then reviewed by one of the site’s moderators the following week.
For this week that I participated – Batch 438 – there were a total of 170 songs submitted, the majority of them by British artists and bands, as to be expected. It was a daunting task to listen to all 170 songs, and I have to say I was blown away by the high quality of the submissions. I went into this expecting to hear a few gems amongst a sea of mediocrity, but found exactly the opposite, as there were literally only four tracks I did not care for out of 170 (one of which was ultimately among the 25 finalists, so what do I know?). As EclecticMusicLover, my music tastes are both pretty broad, and fairly open-minded, meaning I generally like a lot of the music I hear.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of artists and bands I follow included in Batch 438, of which there were nine when I began listening to the submissions. As I listened to each track, I clicked on the artist or band’s Soundcloud page, then checked their Twitter, Facebook or Instagram accounts to learn more about them. To show them support, I “liked” their submitted song on their Soundcloud page, as well as their tweets about the song on Twitter, even commenting in cases where I really loved their songs. Well, that resulted in me gaining ten new Twitter followers!
To honor all the artists and bands that follow me who submitted songs for Batch 438, I decided to write this post and share their music. Because there are 19 artists & bands represented, and both my time and readers’ attention spans are limited, I won’t write a review of each song. I will simply name each artist in alphabetical order, along with a line or two about them and the Soundcloud link of their song. A few of these songs were my personal picks, but I won’t identify them, as I don’t want anyone to feel left out.
Alex Lipinski – “Long Way To Go” – Alex has been making music for several years, and counts Liam Gallagher as a fan, even singing Elvis Presley songs with him in his kitchen! “Long Way to Go” is from Alex’s forthcoming third album For Everything Under The Sun, and I loved it at first listen. Alex is a new follower of mine, and I’m a new fan of his!
Art Block – “Pilgrim” – Art Block is an alternative folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from East London. A prolific musician, he’s been making beautiful music for several years, and has released multiple singles and EPs since 2015. We’ve followed each other on Twitter for over three years, and I’ve previously featured him twice on this blog. “Pilgrim” is a heartfelt tribute to his parents, who passed away many years ago, and features a lovely string arrangement by Jay Chakravorty, who also produced the track.
Barbara – “A Perishing Of Cherished Things” – Barbara is the music project of charismatic brothers Henry and John Tydeman, who are based in Brighton and Hove. Their sunny, uplifting sound is an anachronistic blend of – in their own words – “a bit of 70s US AM radio, a dash of English music hall, the effortless catchiness of a Broadway musical, a sprinkling of sequined power pop, luscious Disney strings and glorious golden harmonies. This past November, I reviewed their delightful song “Rainy Days in June”, and their latest single is every bit as charming.
Branwell Black – “Lay On Me” – Branwell is a beautiful young singer-songwriter, producer, dancer and model who creates mesmerizing alternative electro dance-pop/rock. Born in Oxford, England, raised primarily in France, and now based in London, Branwell’s strong creativity and imagination are evident in his exciting music. I reviewed “Lay On Me” just last month.
Chief Springs – “La Cienega” – Leicester six-piece Chief Springs was one of my new finds as a result of my moderator gig, and I couldn’t be happier! From what I can tell, they began as a two-piece, but expanded to six members a few years ago, and have been releasing music since 2020. I really like their melodic post-rock sound, and loved their latest single “La Cienega” at first listen.
Dictator – “Candlemaker Row” – Drawing inspiration from such acts as Gorillaz, Primal Scream, Alt-J, London Grammar and The XX, Scottish band Dictator create fantastic atmospheric alternative rock. Their submission is the Post Coal Prom Queen Remix of their hauntingly beautiful song “Candlemaker Row”, and it’s positively stunning.
flakebelly – “Trouble Don’t Heavy My Load” – flakebelly is a Scottish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, whose pleasing, eclectic sound is influenced by such varied acts as Syd Barrett, Miles Davis, The Smiths, Radiohead, The Beatles, The Cure, Led Zeppelin, Bert Jansch, Elliott Smith, Robert Johnson, Joy Division, Daniel Johnston and The Clash. “Trouble Don’t Heavy My Load” is a delightful and upbeat folk song of encouragement.
Gomrund – “Remove Disease” – Self-described genre-fluid knob-twiddler, maker of bleep-bloops and remixer ordinaire, Gomrund creates an incredibly eclectic range of music that truly transcends genres and styles. Though we’ve followed each other on Twitter for a while, I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t explored his music very much. Hearing his song submission as part of this exercise has made me realize the error of my ways, which I’m now working to remedy. “Remove Disease” is five minutes of wonderfully trippy hip-hop for our earholes!
Holy Coves – “The Hurt Within” – Hailing from Anglesey Island in North Wales, psychedelic rock band Holy Coves was formed in 2005 by Welsh singer-songwriter Scott Marsden. The first single from their forthcoming third album Druids and Bards, “The Hurt Within” is brilliant, with a gorgeous soundscape of moody psychedelic guitars and driving rhythms, and I love Marsden’s powerful vocals.
HULLAH – “Chasing Trains” – HULLAH is a strikingly handsome London-based writer-producer, sound designer and half of the electro-pop duo Futuretape. According to his bio, he creates music “inspired by a passion for nightlife culture and stories from the queer community, and wrapped in the sonic flavours of trip-hop, 90’s house and synth-pop.” His submitted track “Chasing Trains” is breathtaking, with airy industrial synths, sparkling keyboards and captivating vocals, and I loved it the moment I heard it.
The JoJo Man Band – “Love” – London-based The JoJo Man Band is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Nick Woodgate, with assistance by Tim Maple on guitar and Accy Yeats on guitar. Together, they make a quirky and upbeat style of what they call “semi-psych alternative pop”. Their submitted track “Love” has a fun, bouncy cadence that calls to mind the 80s hit “Our House” by Madness, only more psychedelic. I like it a lot!
Lee Switzer-Woolf – “Bat Roost” – Lee Switzer-Woolf is a singer-songwriter from Reading, and “Bat Roost” is from his debut album Scientific Automatic Palmistry, which he released February 7th on All Will Be Well Records. It’s a pleasing folk-infused alt-rock song about mental well-being, at the end of which Lee ponders “When I lose my mind. We will be happy.“
Morganway – “Come Over” – Female-fronted six-piece Morganway are based in Norwich, and play an arresting brand of Americana rock. Since the release of their debut self-titled album in 2019, they’ve garnered widespread critical acclaim and a growing fanbase. Their latest single “Come Over” is a powerful and bluesy stunner, with fantastic guitar work and gorgeous six-part harmonies.
Native Tongue – “CROW’S NEST” – Native Tongue is an alternative rock duo based in Bournemouth and Brighton, and from what I’ve been able to determine, consists of Nathan Evans on lead vocals and guitar, and Arron Bennett on drums. “Crow’s Nest” is from their debut EP Hiding In White Light, which they released last month, and is darkly beautiful and haunting. Nathaniel’s enchanting vocals remind me a bit of Robert Smith’s, and in fact, the song sounds like a song The Cure could have recorded.
NAVE – “Let Me Be You” – NAVE, aka Nathan Evans, is a prolific songwriter, music producer and multi-instrumentalist who creates gorgeous music incorporating elements from an array of styles and genres including alternative electronica, rock, ambient, trip-hop, orchestral and dark wave. He’s also a member of Native Tongue, profiled above. NAVE recently composed the music score for the British indie film English Dogs, and is currently working toward syncing his music on more upcoming TV/Film projects. “Let Me Be You” is from his EP This Is Hell, which was released in December, and is a dark and mesmerizing track.
Noodle Beard featuring Hannah Reem – “Deception” – Okay, I’ll be honest and reveal up-front that this gorgeous song is my favorite out of this entire batch of 170 tracks. I was immediately struck by it’s mysterious cinematic vibe, and in particular Hannah Reem’s vibrant soulful vocals that remind me of Shirley Bassey. Based in Portsmouth, producer and composer Noodle Beard makes trip-hop and ambient chilled music, and Hannah Reem is a popular personality in the Portsmouth music scene. “Deception” is Hannah’s second collaboration with Noodle Beard, and is about infidelity and the emotional complexities of making painful choices. The song is fantastic, and would make a great James Bond theme, no doubt about it!
Shyer – “Lame” – Hailing from Cambridge, Shyer are songwriting duo Amanda George and Zak Tysoe (although from what I can tell, they began around five years ago as a four-piece). Their infectious style of indie pop rock has won them airplay on BBC 6 Music’s Fresh on the Net and BBC Introducing Mixtape, as well as on Amazing Radio, and in July 2018, they won ‘Best Indie Act’ at East Anglia’s NMG Award. “Lame” is from their new EP Still Life, released on February 25, and is chock-full of fuzz-coated jangly and twangy guitars and driving rhythms, highlighted by Amanda’s resonant vocals.
Steve Peck – “FXpective” – Steve Peck (aka St3v3L33) is a prolific composer, producer and saxophone player from West Sussex who makes fascinating and eclectic instrumental music incorporating a dizzying array of elements ranging from house, trance and techno to blues, jazz and dance. “FXpective” is a trippy, brooding affair, with spacey industrial synths and crunchy percussion, over which Steve overlays bleating sax notes. It’s a brilliant track.
Young Decades – “Man On Mars” – Last, but certainly not least, is Young Decades, a favorite of mine who I’ve previously featured three times on this blog. Comprised of James Tidd (vocals), Scott Harvey (guitar, keyboards), Liam Downey (bass) and Lee Cameron (drums), the various band members are scattered about the Midlands and North West England. Their music is melodic and beautiful, characterized by exuberant cinematic synths, driving rhythms, stellar guitar work, and James’ soaring impassioned vocals. I’ve loved every one of their songs, and “Man On Mars” is yet another in an unbroken string of superb singles.