Where's the video gone?
Well dear browsers, the homepage has been hijacked for the annual Top 3, wherein I (Cam, from the podcast) present to you the three artists you should be looking out for, selected from all those that have been on the podcast or had a video of the month awarded them, along with a track from each of them. It’s always a difficult process to make that selection, but none more so than this year, which has seen 39 separate artists from six different countries, ranging across the whole spectrum of genres, from rock to hip hop to avante garde ambient electric. Nonetheless, it has been done - but first I want to give a few honourable mentions that came very close to the Top 3.
Shatner is characterised, more than anything, by their satirical wit. The mid-to-north English four piece rock band don’t pull any major surprises on a genre front, they do not mash reverse-reverberated hi-hats with bass-compressed wailing. They do not employ 7/13 time. But they say things with music that people have forgotten music can do - sometimes without saying it at all. Not out loud. Check out their music video for We Go Woo. In other quarters, it’s no secret we were working for a time with electronic pop trio Promises Promises. In particular, take a listen to Fabricated which we aired in September, and you will be met right away with a rhythm and a texture that is compelling and energising. They have mastered a silky smooth and engaging style of music. And finally, for your mellow evenings, Zé Vito has travelled from Brazil to Portugal to bring us the velvety comfort of warm nights, a soft voice and an acoustic guitar. Simple you might say, but the execution is perfect.
And, as the time is here, let me tell you about third place.
WeatheredMan is a one-of-a-kind project. It is the self-abasing pseudonym of a man called Simon, a 20 year veteran of Roja, the Liverpool based mariachi band. Mariachi itself is not something you hear every day, but what makes WeatheredMan truly unique is that it is a duets project - every single he releases is a duet with a different artist, usually quite a big name, of any genre you can put your mind to. What results is an addictive waiting game to see what names and what genre-defying mashups will result next. And yet each time, the result sounds utterly natural, utterly effective, and each one with WeatheredMan’s characteristic charm and levity.
The particular track on parade is Hand In My Pocket, a duet with Aaron Paul (ex-Worlds Apart) that we aired back in March. Once you’ve regathered your ears after the opening assault, the brass gives way to allow a lazy guitar riff, suggestive lyrics and a steadily enticing rhythm. The whole package is exquisitely sleazy, and is followed by the gradual rebuild of noise and chaos until the track ends as an unrestrained celebration of rock, mariachi and everything that makes WeatheredMan so much fun. His latest release (The Normalist Christmas) demonstrates his range perfectly, being a wistful mix of disappointment, acceptance and joy performed with Emma Stakes (aka Miss Stakes).
On to second place...
The ochre textures of Cut Throat Francis are an immediate giveaway that you’re listening to something you won’t find on the mainstream. Exotic instruments and keys, an irrepressible acoustic rhythm, a sense of fun in amongst a dark mystery. It’s a heady, captivating mix. It’s the result of their infusion of eastern European modes and less-than-famous instruments into their music, and their uncanny mastery of timing. They’re from Bistol, but you wouldn’t know it from the sound. Although, come to think of it, it’s not a big leap given the city’s reputation for culture, their acoustic record and the resident population of gypsies, which is a word Cut Throat Francis use in the description of their music.
All of this is before we’ve talked about how utterly ripe the music scene is right now for a band like this. Folk music is a broad term, and for a long time found its sanctuary in the US and their country western sound. I would argue that the seeds of a European resurgence can be traced back to the celtic folk incorporated into film scores of the late nineties and early noughties. Braveheart, Lord Of The Rings. It was given a more colloquial voice with Joss Whedon’s Firefly and its achingly compelling main theme. Of course, we all know who cemented folk’s new popularity: Mumford & Sons. Whichever way you look at it, there is a heaving mass now of festivals, venues, blogs and magazines devoted to the genre. Add into this mix the large resident populations of eastern Europeans along with eastern Europe’s economic rise, and the stage could not be more set. Cut Throat Francis are easy to enjoy on their musical merits alone, but they indicate something more on a wider scope. Watch this space.
1st Place coming Christmas Day!
When I first heard these guys with When I First Saw You There (video of the month, February) I was pretty taken aback. Rare is the day we get music through that is not only captivating and flawlessly performed, but accompanied by a professional and heartwarming music video. ‘This might end up on the Top Three’, I thought to myself at the time. But then they brought another song out, and then another, and it became clear that what I heard wasn’t their exceptional peak, it was their baseline.
They’re a masterclass in the power of acoustic music. They place themselves as acoustic rock, and it’s very accurate; so hard-hitting is the rhythm and musicianship that I have to listen twice to confirm that it is indeed acoustic. They’re the thing in middle-Scotland at the moment, somewhat predictably. The winning track came to us in August, and it was an instant loop-track, with its hearty passions, its rousing and original lyrics. The music video does exactly what a music video should do, at its core: add weight. It is the exemplary acoustic rock track, and the inevitable thought came to me - ‘man, these guys must be so good live’.
They’re still churning out A-class entertainment, some that are softer, some that are not, with more coming in the new year. They do all the things that will give them the best chance at success; good fan engagement, spot-on social videos oozing their personality, but at the end of the day, they’re a joy to follow even without all of that. It’s a pleasure to give these guys first place, and I’ll be clicking play on every song they release. Quite a few times.