new single : Nordic Giants (feat Cate Ferris) / Shine

Brighton Music Blog favourites Nordic Giants release their debut single today.

If you’ve got a nagging feeling that they’ve had a single already, then you’re kind of right – Their “A Tree as Old as Me” EP came out in September 2010. But technically, that was an EP, not a single, so here they are with their debut. And if you’re thinking that you might have heard Shine before, then you’ll be right there too, because a different version was on the EP.

Shine is an absolutely epic track. Like the very best bits of Sigur Ros, but with female vocals, going from whispers to a barrage of wondrous noise in a heartbeat. Things start off quiet with Cate Ferris’ vocal line over what might be strings, or could be reversed guitars. Things stay restrained for a couple of minutes after which the tension slowly starts to build, then comes the drop, and then an explosion of noise, like fireworks in your soul.

B-side Together samples a Martin Luther King speech (which bizarrely has also been sampled by Linkin Park, of all people), and brings to mind a more melodic Godspeed You Black Emperor – a rousing moralistic oratory over rousing intense post-rock. There’s also an acoustic version of Shine thrown in for good measure, with simple piano lines and a string quartet replacing the guitars.

Shine is out on iTunes now.

new single : Jennifer Left / Black Dog

Last week, I mentioned that the new Jennifer Left single was due soon. The physical copies drop next monday, but for those of you living in the twenty first century who don’t want to be burdened with cds cluttering up your house, the digital version is out today.

Jennifer Left – Black Dog

Black Dog has been all over BBC 6Music and Radio 2, and rightly so. The song is fresh off-beat pop which is a great showcase for Jennifer’s almost jazzy vocals. Best of all, it has whistling. There’s not nearly enough of that these days. It’s backed with the title track of her forthcoming album Hushabye (which has more whistling, mandolins and some rather lush strings) as well as remixes from The Wild Knights (wobbly, glitchy house), Murder He Wrote (all stripped back and minimal) and Restlesslist (with added bleeps, surf guitar and reverb turned up to eleven on the vocals).

The video isn’t online yet, but here’s a version of Jennifer and her band playing the track for Balcony TV last year:

You can download the single on iTunes, or from her bandcamp site which also has an option to pre-order the physical release where you get the download right now.

If you’re wondering about the amazing brown paper dress in the promo shots, read more about it on the Create Studios blog.

Update : I’ve seen that someone has googled the blog looking for Jennifer Left’s label. The single is being released on Singing Hinny Music, with catalogue number SH001CD

new single : Kidda / Get Close

When I first wrote about Kidda, when he played at the Juice New Music Night back in December, I wrote ” there’s going to come a day in spring when the sun’s out, the skies are blue and the world is just coming back to life when one of his tunes comes on the radio and it’ll be just perfect”. I just checked the weather forecast for this week and the sun’s out every day. And a few days ago, I got a heads up about the new Kidda single. And guess what – it’s the perfect tune for right now.

Get Close is the sound of Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx  and The Avalanches having a party with Junior Senior banging on the door to get in. Remixes come from JeKO and The Sneekers, and it came out on Brighton’s own Skint Records yesterday.

Upcoming stuff

This post is partly for me to remember exactly what I’m meant to be doing and when things are happening, but you can take it as a “Brighton Music Blog recommends…” if you like. It’s a collection of releases and happenings taking place over the next week or two, some of which might end up as full posts, if I get around to it.

Firstly, Soft Arrows have released their album “All Through The Sinew”. You can buy it download from Bandcamp here.

Next up is a couple of gigs in London, both on next thursday (31st). Two of my favourite bands – The Moulettes and Nordic Giants are launching their new material at shows at Bush Hall and Hoxton Hall respectively. Both promise to be fantastic events, but expensive bills for my car mean that I won’t be able to make either, sadly. At least that means I don’t have to choose between them.

The Moulettes gig is to launch their new album The Bear’s Revenge, which is out at the end of June. In advance of that, they’re releasing Sing Unto Me as the first single from the album on 4th June. The video is coming soon, so I’ll do a proper write up when I’m allowed to show it to you all. In the meantime, here’s a live performance of one of the many b-sides, a new track called Assault, which is very impressive indeed:


Talking of new singles, Jennifer Left also releases her new single on the 4th June. I’ve had a sneak preview of Black Dog, and it’s fantastic. It’s got whistling in it – not enough songs have whistling in them these days.

Finally, a couple more gigs to mention:

Bleeding Hearts are pushing the boat out slightly since it’s a Bank Holiday on 4th June – they’re starting a bit earlier at 7pm and have five acts rather than the normal three or four. Head along to the Prince Albert to hear Danny Kendall, Polyanna, Mary Hampton, Adrian Oxaal and Junior Electronics.

Then the following day (5th June), Com Truise is playing the Haunt. He’s not from Brighton, but support Anneka is, so I’ll be heading down to take some snaps and do them a write up too.


Album Review: Words & Music by Saint Etienne

Music’s always been a big deal for me. One of my earliest memories is looking at the cover of my mum’s copy of Sergeant Pepper, slightly baffled by all of the characters on it. Growing up, I always had my walkman with me along with an extra pair of batteries in my pocket just so that I was never left stranded in silence. When I was old enough to have a bit of spare cash, I’d cycle to the record shops of Croydon and Epsom doing my best to fill the gaps in my ever increasing New Order 12″ collection. At uni I got involved with student radio, and then when I went and got a job, Monday lunchtimes would draw to close with a game of “Who?” – the inevitable reaction from my older colleagues as I went through the brand new releases I had gone and bought as early as I possibly could – 7″s by Kenickie, Bis or Comet Gain, Stereolab albums on coloured vinyl, the latest cds on Heavenly or Warp Records. Throughout my twenties, my summer holidays were festivals. Over the years I built up a soundtrack to my life – tunes which can instantly bring back memories of blue skies or broken hearts. So, music is important – If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this, and you wouldn’t be reading it. It’s especially important to Saint Etienne. They’ve been making records for over twenty years now, during which time they’ve also turned their hand to music journalism, DJing, running record labels, writing songs for other people, film-making … You name it, they’ve done it in the music industry, which is how they’ve ended up at the point where Words & Music is the natural album for them to make. Opening track Over The Border will send shivers down the spine for anyone music really matters to, lyrically encapsulating exactly how it feels for music to grow up with you.

The very first thing I read about the album was a comment from someone on Twitter saying that Saint Etienne had made a pop record. Of course it was pop, I thought – they’re a pop band, after all. The gist of next comment I read was that they’d made the record with Xenomania, and it showed. That didn’t concern me either. The lead single, Tonight, reminded me of Action, which the band released ten years ago, and my girlfriend said that reminded it her of He’s on the Phone, from all the way back in 1995. The perception from some quarters seems to be that Saint Etienne should only be allowed to make retro pop, but the truth is that they’ve always had a bit of disco in them – They even worked with Kylie on a version of Nothing Can Stop Us.

While some of the tracks have been sprinkled with a bit of pop magic from Richard X and other Xenomania alumni Nick Coler and Tim Powell, old hand Ian Catt who’s been involved with the production of Saint Etienne records since day one is also on board. Outside of the disco pop of the potential singles, the pastoral folk of I Threw It All Away could be a Vashti Bunyan cover, and the acapella of Record Doctor harks back to Goodnight which closed Tales From Turnpike House seven years ago.

For me, the most interesting tracks are those that hark back to classic St Et but that are informed by all of the new lessons they’ve learned from their new chartbusting friends. Last Days of Disco has radio friendly electric piano verses, but two minutes in has a great breakdown which brings in some shamelessly synth strings. Popular, one of the more upbeat tracks on the album, does some fancy things time stretching vocals. Still Saint Etienne, but still moving forwards, which for a band so far into their career is no mean feat.

While it’s been a good few years since the last Saint Etienne album, the band have been busy being Artists-in-Residence at Royal Festival Hall, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their seminal debut Foxbase Alpha by playing the album live in it’s entirety and having it remixed by Richard X, reissuing remastered versions of the rest of their back catalogue, remixing a new generation of bands and quietly sneaking out a Christmas album. Here’s hoping there aren’t so many distractions for the band between now and the next album.

Words and Music by Saint Etienne is released on Universal Records on 21st May 2012. And if you’re wondering why I’m writing about Saint Etienne who are so associated with London on Brighton Music Blog, read my interview with Pete Wiggs here.

Source New Music at Brighton Festival

Updated! Some of the line ups have changed, and some have been improved upon, so I thought I’d update this post and bump it up to the top again.

May is a busy month in every Brightonian’s calendar, with the Festival, the Fringe, and the Great Escape all happening on top of everything else that normally happens. Source New Music are embracing this wholeheartedly, and instead of putting on one gig this month, they’re putting on loads! Instead of their usual home of the Pavilion Theatre, they’re residing in the Dome bar for the next few weeks, with gigs at lunchtimes and in the evenings every weekend throughout May. Things kicked off today with Fragile Creatures. The age range was a bit lower than their usual gigs – they had an appreciative crowd of toddlers dancing throughout their set! The full list of acts playing is below:

Fragile Creatures playing in the Dome bar for Source New Music

Sat 5 May
12:30pm Fragile Creatures
22:00 – 00:00 Wyndham Earl

Sun 6 May
Live music from 12:30 onwards with…
Kate Rose
Early Ghost
21:30 – 00:00 – African Night Fever DJ’s

Thu 17 May
8.30pm – midnight
Beatabet Collective: Scalar Fields + Tim Didymus. DJ Jules Arthur

Fri 18 May
9.30pm – midnight
Beatabet Collective: AK/DK + Bunty. DJ Jo Brahmli.

Sat 19 May
2pm – 4.30pm:
A showcase of the best local young talent including music collective Shoreham Allstars + The Basis + The Sighted and the Captured.

9.30pm – midnight:
DJ Hot Tip Hi Fi

Sun 20 May
12.30pm – 4.30pm
Live music from The Woo!worths + Sweet Sweet Lies + Monsters Build Mean Robots + Jennifer Left.

Thu 24 May
9.30pm – midnight
Beatabet Collective: O82. + “iphone Orchestra”. DJ AK/DK

Fri 25 May
9.30pm – midnight
Beatabet Collective: Bunty + AK/DK. DJ: Man Ray Sky

Sat 26 May
12.30pm – 4.30pm
Blues with Dave Beckett

9.30pm – midnight
DJ Sam Abrahams

Sun 27 May
12.30pm – 4.30pm
Jacko Hooper + Caitlin Stubbs + Abi Wade + Forestears.

Beach of the Dead needs you!

So, while not strictly music based (although there is an event at the Concorde at the end of the evening), I thought I’d put up a quick mention of Beach of the Dead. They’ve been a victim of their own success and the event has grown massively in just a few years. In some ways, this is a good thing, but this also means more official stewards, more insurance, and more general stuff which costs money. Up until now, it’s all been done on a voluntary basis, but now they’re having to hold out their zombie begging bowl to ask for a bit of money. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic thing to have in Brighton, and October’s calendar would seem empty if it was lost (especially since White Night has also gone because of lack of funding). Chuck in a quid or two, if you can afford it here

Brighton bands at the Great Escape

If you hadn’t noticed, it’s just been The Great Escape Festival around town. What a weekend! Officially I was taking photos for the festival themselves, which I’ve done for the last few years. Unofficially, I made it my mission to get around as many Brighton bands as I could. Over the course of the weekend, I saw Abi Wade at Unitarian Church, Dear Prudence at Above Audio, Us Baby Bear Bones at Green Door Store, Abi Wade (again) at Latest, Catherine Ireton at Latest, Fear of Men at Queens Hotel, Nordic Giants at Komedia, Speak Galactic at Latest, Thomas White at Shipwrights yard, Us Baby Bear Bones (again) at Latest, Woodpecker Wooliams at the Fishbowl and Kinnie The Explorer at The Haunt. Phew!

(click through to the pics to view them larger)


Mr B’s Chap Hop Hurrah!

Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer

In the run up to his new long player The Tweed Album, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer has put on a show at the Komedia for several nights during Brighton Fringe called Chap Hop Hurrah!

For those not familiar with Mr B, he peddles a genre that he calls Chap Hop, which isn’t a million miles away from Electro Swing – retro sounds mixed with modern beats. The main premise is hip hop sung in a plummy Queens English accent, and accompanied on banjolele over heavy bass – sometimes covers of classic hip hop tunes, sometimes his own creations. The saying goes “know your audience”, and Mr B does – those who remember tunes from around 1990 with fondness, and who won’t get offended by songs abour raping goats. It’s certainly quite a niche audience, but one that has quite a wide catchment, in Brighton at least – The two shows this week were sold out (there’s another show next week which I think there are still tickets for). It’s not the most serious of musical pursuits, but then it doesn’t pretend to be. In my opinion, it’s worth the ticket price along for his cover of Orbital’s Chime.

May Bleeding Hearts Club at the Prince Albert

This month’s Bleeding Hearts Club fell on a bank holiday, which threw me a bit off kilter. Normally the timings work out quite nicely for me to come home from work of an evening, have a spot of dinner, and then head out to the Albert, but what with it feeling like a Sunday my timings were all out, and I missed out on all of this month’s first act Tandy Hard and most of Davo. Oops!

Thankfully the last two acts of the night were both amazing. Jane Bartholomew was positively magical – Beautiful yet fragile tunes backed with lush arrangements on accordion, violin, drums, guitar and autoharp, with a voice reminiscent of Joanna Newsom stripped of the cloying annoyingness.

Jane Bartholomew

Headliners Crayola Lectern are cut from a different cloth to most bands. Disregarding the normal constraints of verses, choruses, and for the most part vocals, Crayola Lectern are more a contemporary pianist act than a traditional band. Piano is augmented by trumpet, sometimes played normally, and other times used to create the effect of heavy breathing or snoring. Piles of percussion are spread across the stage and played seemingly at random, although I suspect that actually everything is perfectly choreographed. The rule book was left at the door. As wilfully independent as the setup of the band is, it’s not at the expense of accessibility – their songs are warm and engaging and intelligent and funny. By the end of the evening the whole room was smiling – entertained and inspired by a band who are prepared to be a bit different.

Crayola Lectern