SINGLES BAR 101 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 101NIGHT FLIGHT, Sam Holmes and Harry Phillips, release their new EP, English Noise, in early May. The title track, reflecting on the end of a relationship amid the bustle of life, has already graced these pages and that is followed by their current single, ‘Monster’. It’s a richly orchestrated song almost as big as ‘The Wheel’ with its delightful plinky piano.

‘Young’ takes its foot off the gas just a little and turns to electric guitar and slide for its decoration and as much as any other track it embodies the theme of the record – a sense of nostalgia – but surely these guys are too young for such feelings. The closer, ‘Seasons’, continues these sentiments and gives us a different take on a song with such a title.

It seems that MARY MIDDLEFIELD is Swiss although she sounds very English on her new eight-track EP, Poetry (For The Scorned And Lonely). It begins with the rocky ‘Sexless’, one of four tracks already released as singles, followed by the gentle, folky ‘Atlantis’, another former single. As a palate-cleanser comes a short guitar instrumental, ‘Allodynia’ before the pace picks up again with ‘Heart’s Desire’.

‘Love Me Love Me Not’ is richly decorated – a beautiful song overlaid with instrumental flourishes but never quite going over the top – while ‘Young And Dumb’ sounds like it’s about to become a rock monster and, after possible second thoughts, it does. In complete contrast is the beautiful and purely acoustic ‘Last Letter’ followed by the title track dominated by Mary’s pure, clear voice.

Inspired by a woman she met on a train journey who shared her story of recently losing her husband, making her fellow passengers laugh as well as offering words of wisdom, JESSIE REID self-releases the breathily sung, slow swaying ‘Your Story’, her acoustic guitar complemented by Scottish fiddler Essa Flett, the music drawing on the Celtic roots of her Scottish and Welsh grandparents.

BAZ EDMONDSON follows up his debut single with ‘Wills Fallow’, a laid-back picked guitar song which is augmented by strings. Baz says that the lyrics are very personal but the imagery seems somewhat disturbing – like one of those dreams in which you’re trying to get away to somewhere but never quite succeeding. It’s full of vultures, wolves and thorns, musically accomplished but still you want to look over your shoulder.

Shetlands folkie FREDA LEASK teams with Kris Drever who both produces and plays on her self-released ‘Old Man Of Madison’, a shufflingly strummed, Americana-tinged number about resilience and second chances (“Go somewhere or nowhere at all/Something or nothing, what will you do?”) inspired by meeting a man in Georgia with slave family roots, who once toiled in the region’s cotton fields, who declared, “I own them cotton fields now”.

As a taster for his forthcoming debut album, Something To Say, THE GLEEMAN releases what can only be described as a pure pop single, ‘Better Day’. The song bounces along full of the joys of a spring that “has finally sprung” as he sings about bluebells and barbecues. Brass comes in at the end to ensure that your toes are tapping.

The latest from DARIA KULESH, with an itchy percussive guitar from Jonny Dyer, Katrina Davies’s fiddle and Odette Michell on additional vocals, ‘Ataman’ (self-released) celebrates the life and spirit of Alyona of Arzamas, an 17th century Erzyan woman who defied the oppressive Tsarist state and the restriction of her gender to lead a rebel Cossack army of thousands as their Ataman. It’s twinned with her recent release ‘Homeland’ marking the 80th anniversary of the deportation of the Ingush and Chechens by Joseph Stalin.

The second of the live singles in partnership with BrumRadio leading up to the Night Of Glass show, DAN WHITEHOUSE teams with Brooklyn’s Max ZT on hammered dulcimer for the dreamy cosmic waltzing piano ballad ‘Why Don’t We Dance’, originally from his 2013 album Reaching For A State Of Mind.

‘Solitary Traveller’ is the first single from Proxy Music, an album of newly written songs by LINDA THOMPSON – the pun is obvious once you see the cover. This track features daughter Kami Thompson on a song that, in an odd way, harks back to the days of Hokey Pokey with the band imitating the rhythm of a fairground organ.

An early taste of his much anticipated new album Pathways, JULIAN TAYLOR releases ‘Weighing Down’, which, with a steady drum beat, guitar and Jim Hoke’s yearning pedal steel behind his warm baritone is a song of self-encouragement (“You’ve been so hard on yourself / It’s time to let things soften now“) and unburdening yourself from the pressure we put on our own shoulders because of things we think we’ve done wrong.

There’s been a spate of recent interpretations of the folk traditional ‘The Cuckoo’, one of the most interesting coming from London-based Italian-Australian folkie BITY BOOKER. An ornithological follow-up to ‘The Crow’ and again recorded (with excellent sound quality) on her tape machine at home and released digitally via her Freak Folk Records, with a restrained circling guitar pattern of courtly troubadour inclination and breathily airy vocals that take soaring flight on the curucucu refrain. A very pretty bird, indeed.

A ringing electric guitar opens ‘You Forgot To Speak’, the new single by ANI DIFRANCO, taken from her forthcoming album, Unprecedented Shit. It’s a weirdly fascinating arrangement with reversed tape effects and unexpected explosions of sound. The concept of “first sleep and second sleep” is particularly intriguing.

Inspired by the celebration of Hank Williams’ 100th birthday, Norwegian country rock outfit NILSEN’S SOUTHERN HARMONY joins forces with ANNE FAGERMO, the country’s 2024 Eurovision hopeful, for the joggingly strummed, harmonica-tinged country gospel duet ‘A House Of Gold’ (Coastal Sounds / Revolution Records) which, to a tune that sounds like a slowed down ‘Lone Highway’, has them echoing St Paul’s remark about camels, needles and heaven in the lines “People steal, they cheat and lie/For wealth and what it will buy/But don’t they know on the Judgement Day/That gold and silver will melt away?/I’d rather be in a deep, dark grave/And know that my poor soul was saved/Than to live in a house of gold/And deny my God and doom my soul”.

NITEWORKS are calling it a day after seventeen years together with a final tour beginning in November. Meanwhile they release their final single, ‘An Toll Dubh’, featuring the voices of Sian. They treat the Macdonald brothers’ song to a remarkably restrained electronic reworking until the end when they give it full measure.

Based in London and of Iraqi and Belarusian heritage, FLO PERLIN releases her first new music since 2021 with ‘Mother Tongue’ which, taken from her upcoming third album, Clay, and arranged for guitar, bass, strings and piano, is a dreamily swaying, acoustic jazzy folk musing on identity (“Watch us adapt in the strangest of ways/ watch us exist with the fears that we made… The house I knew was filled with doubt/The clothes I wore were inside out/Sometimes I ask, is it here where I’m from/Sometimes I ask what it means to belong”).

Their debut album, All For Something, due in late May, TINY HABITS, a Boston harmony trio who met at Berklee College of Music and comprises Maya Rae, Cinya Khan and Judah Mayowa, release the gorgeous but bittersweet hushed and pizzicato strings coloured ‘Wishes’ (Mom+Pop). Each of them contributing their own cathartic and confessional verse, it touches on family dynamics, body image, anxiety and people-pleasing.

Thirty-five years on since they acrimoniously broke up under the pressures of fame, Mark Nevin, Eddi Reader, Simon Edwards (and his guittaron)and Roy Dodds have buried the hatchets and reformed FAIRGROUND ATTRACTION, the first fruits of which come in the form of reunion single ‘What’s Wrong With The World’ (Raresong Recordings), a brushed snares and double bass shuffle that instantly recaptures their distinctive sound (and is melodically a bit like a slower ‘Perfect’) on a song about lies and deceit as (the knowing lyric containing the phrase about coming “face to face with my imperfection”) Reader sings “you can change the mirror but not the reflection” the title providing the catchy refrain.