I’m no doubt showing my age by saying that I remember the test card girl. I recall the general disappointment that was associated with the image of the young girl, Carole Hersee, and her toy clown, Bubbles, playing noughts and crosses. If they appeared on the screen when I was up early on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons then I’d know that I was up too early. It’s hard to contemplate now, awash as we are with 24 hour entertainment, that there were times of the day when the TV just had the still of the girl to keep you company. It was either that or baffling Open University programmes always presented by men in brown jumpers, big glasses and bushy beards. It all no doubt explains my fashion choices in later years.
It’s thus a good thing that Catherine Burgis is reclaiming the Test Card Girl moniker for her musical pursuits. Nobody could possibly attach any sense of disappointment to her ‘life-affirming’ electro-folk. With lush, layered vocals and happy melody, Catherine is developing quite a knack for releasing modern day, catchy-as-hell nursery rhymes. There’s quite a buzz forming around this girl from Manchester and Sonic Breakfast endeavours to find out more.
“Ah no secret, just started writing a bit later in life so feel like I’m on borrowed time!!“, says Catherine referring to the fact that she’s seeking pop success in her mid thirties. “Nothing planned yet but dying to get out there and start gigging – I’ve only ever done two gigs just before lockdown when I started out!!“, she says when I ask her about post-lockdown plans.
As an older person who remembers the Test Card Girl the first time around, I’m always going to say that age is irrelevant – but in Catherine’s case, it truly is. Take the universal appeal of second single, If You’re Feeling Down. This simple folk song with exquisite melody was originally written for Catherine’s sister. The positive ‘pertinent reminder to take a breath, look up at the sun, and remember you are loved‘ can surely be applied wider in these tough times.
The most recent single, Don’t Go, builds on the folk sounds of If You’re Feeling Down and amplifies them with top-notch electro swirls. Short and precise, Don’t Go is a tune you can dance along to whilst reminding yourself to stay well away from the bad stuff of your past. It’s blissful pop and will likely help you to smile broadly as you go about your April business.
Don’t be fooled today – fight disappointment with Test Card Girl.
I’ve said it before on Sonic Breakfast but I’m no fan of Autumn in the UK. I know that others love the season; they delight in stomping through the mushy leaves at the side of the road whilst ticking off purchases from their Christmas list. I just find it bleak. As the days get shorter, colder and generally uglier, the sense of loss pervades. I am so glad that, last year, my extended stay in Spain meant I’d have to face one less UK Autumn in my life.
Bristol’s Sugarmoon get it. Their folk-pop gem, Autumn Leaves, artfully captures a strained relationship on the edge of decay. The love is dying though there’s hope that this might be rekindled by the Springtime. Gently paced and delightfully delivered, it’s a tune laden with loss. It’s beautifully maudlin, made so by a combination of Sophie Jones’ calm, restrained vocal and the minor chords of the keyboard.
Sophie’s vocal was very nearly not part of this track at all. It was circumstance that thrust her into the limelight for this song. Guitarist Ryan McMurtry, who wrote the track, says: “I lost my voice right at the start of the first lockdown in April and we had a live stream planned, so we changed the key of Autumn Leaves and Sophie sang it. We were all blown away by how it sounded, so we just kept it like that when recording!”
The video to ‘Autumn Leaves’, a collection of old family footage found in the attic at Sophie’s Grandparents’ house, adds to the atmosphere. Sporadic memories, bittersweet moments, day trips in Wales and a look back to times that were simpler, happier and more civil.
I ask Ryan what’s the first thing he’ll do when lockdown eases. “Hopefully, the first thing we’ll do on june 21st is play some music together!”, he says. “And dish out the hugs 🙂 how about you?”
There are hugs a-plenty on offer in Autumn Leaves and there’s more to come from Sugarmoon at the end of March. The days are getting longer and things are on the up.
We called it the walk of shame. But I don’t think we were really that ashamed when taking the walk. Meandering home wearing your dishevelled gladrags and yesterday’s underwear, your hair astray and your face ruddied, it was a clear giveaway to all and sundry that you had been up to ‘no good’ last night and this morning.
“Who was it last night?”, asks your chirpy housemate, up at the crack of dawn and making themselves a healthy fruit smoothie before heading off to work for an early shift. You mumble something incoherent, masking the fact that you can’t entirely recall their name. You make your excuses and move back to your room to slump onto the bed. Your head tells you that your promiscuity is nothing to be proud of as you begin to descend into a prolonged bout of self-loathing. The beautiful aftermath of a one night stand.
Elena’s glorious single, ‘Build A Ship’, captures those post one night stand feelings perfectly. And yet, there’s a lovely twist in the tale as she’s able to spin a positive out of the self-loathing. Back in her bedroom after a night spent with him, Elena finds an old toy ship that she must have had since childhood. And she uses the ship to create her own happy narratives.
The single itself is a delightful dose of folk-fuelled pop, engaging, melodic and a fine vehicle in which Elena’s warm vocal can shine. It’s quirky enough to avoid any accusation of blandness but familiar enough for you to fall in love with on first listen.
Elena, born and home-schooled on a cattle farm in Canada, lives in London now but has evidently been on quite a journey to get here. She’s got a busy year ahead “finalizing and releasing all the music created last year, so preparing for lots of projects!“.
Me – I have a busy morning ahead as I get my Lego from the loft.