The ones that got away

We wrote about loads of bands earlier this month in an arbitrary personal take on the year, but there’s been lots going on that we couldn’t include for one reason or the other. There were lots of bands who were just bubbling under, we didn’t write about any bands who were from Brighton – obviously – and we kept the list just to bands and didn’t mention venues or events or stuff like that.

We tried to have a bit of balance across our advent calendar, making sure we had big and small bands, so it was always going to be the case that there was going to be some we couldn’t fit in. As well as The Maccabees and Bat for Lashes hitting hard for Brighton, Blood Red Shoes and Orbital were troubling the charts. While we’re talking about big acts, Fatboy Slim‘s most recent Big Beach Boutique was a success not on the beach but at the Amex, where they apparently ran out of beer on the first night. On the subject of local bands in sports venues, hundreds of people braved the rain in July when Rizzle Kicks accompanied the entrance of the Olympic Torch to Hove Cricket Groung Saint Etienne were further down our longlist than the album “Words and Music by Saint Etienne” and their gig at the Concorde warranted, but with only Pete Wiggs living in Brighton, we had to prioritise bands with more local members.

Other bands with albums out in 2012 who we just couldn’t fit in were Tall Ships, Cave Painting, Ital Tek (referred to by one of my mates as possibly his album of the year), Sparrow and Negative Pegasus. When Todd Jordan isn’t being part of Negative Pegasus, he’s also one third of promoters One Inch Badge, who brought us the fantastic Sea Monsters festival at the Prince Albert as well as dozens of other great gigs, and is one of the people responsible for Bizarro World, a monthly covers gig which is so much better than it sounds on paper.

There’s a few bands who’ve caught our eye that we’re expecting big things from in 2013. Crayola Lectern‘s album is recorded and due to arrive in Spring sometime on Bleeding Hearts Recordings. We saw Dead Cars live a few weeks ago and really really liked what they were doing, but it was too late to squeeze them into our list. But if we were to be pushed to name one act whose year it could be then we’d have to say Anneka. We’ve only seen her live once so far (supporting Com Truise at The Haunt), but there was something about what she was doing that sounded so fully formed, that she’s bound to be huge.

Outside of Brighton, here’s our top ten albums and top five tracks of the year:

1. Melody’s Echo Chamber / Melody’s Echo Chamber
2. Beth Orton / Sugaring Season
3. Laetitia Sadier / Silencio
4. Toy / Toy
5. Raveonettes / Observator
6. Clock Opera / Ways to Forget
7. Best Coast / The Only Place
8. Black Reindeer / Real Life is Overrated
9. Scuba / Personality
10. Cornshed Sisters / Tell Tales

1. Mmoths / Heart
2. Blur / Under The Westway
3. Saint Etienne / Tonight
4. Minotaur Shock / Janet
5. Lee Hazlewood / Souls Island

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Brighton Music Blog Advent Calendar – The Full Countdown

So, the presents are opened, Christmas Dinner is eaten, and all that’s left is to watch the Sound of Music with the family for the umpteenth time. But if that’s all a bit too much, here’s a look back at our Advent Calendar, with every day collected together in one handy blog post:

Thomas White

Thomas White

25. Thomas White, Electric Soft Parade, Restlessli​st, British Sea Power, Milk & Biscuits, Foxes!, Do You Feel What I Feel Deer?, Fragile Creatures, Clowns

24. Willkommen Records, Sons of Noel and Adrian, The Miserable Rich, Laish , Emma Gatrill, Redwood Red, Hamilton Yarns, etc

23. Fujiya & Miyagi, I Am Ampersand, Omega Male

22. Nordic Giants, Cate Ferris, Dizraeli & The Small Gods

21. Shrag

20. Martin Rossiter

19. Fear of Men

18. Us Baby Bear Bones

17. Speak Galactic

16. Woodpecker Wooliams

15. Catherine Ireton

14. Jennifer Left

13. Bat for Lashes

12. Your Explosion My Mind

11. The New Union

10. Sweet Sweet Lies

9. Kovak

8. Abi Wade

7. Heliopause

6. Munich

5. Moulettes

4. Curxes

3. Birdengine

2. Dark Horses

1. The Maccabees

Brighton Music Blog Advent Calendar / Day 25 / Thomas White – Electric Soft Parade – Restlessli​st – British Sea Power – Milk & Biscuits – Foxes! – Do You Feel What I Feel Deer? – Fragile Creatures – Clowns

Merry Christmas! We’ve gone overboard today, hit the sherry too hard too soon, and crammed Nine bands into our final advent calendar post. The truth is, you can’t talk about one of of these bands without inevitably mentioning some of the others.

Let’s start with Thomas White, who released Yalla back in March. It was originally just a bunch of tunes he recorded for himself when he was bored and restless on holiday, which he was persuaded to release after he shared them with some of his friends, and is one of the finest collections of tunes that we’ve heard all year. Album closer The English Sargasso is a soporific masterpiece. We didn’t do an end of year list in 2011 because the blog had only been running a matter of weeks but to make make up for it we’ll make a mention of the Electric Soft Parade‘s “A Quick One” EP now. Lead track Lily is the kind of melodic guitar pop that most indie bands would sell their grandmother to be able to write. 2012 marked the tenth anniversary of Electric Soft Parade’s debut Holes in the Wall and the White brothers celebrated by playing the album start to finish at The Haunt, and returning to the studio to start work on their first album for five years.

Thomas White was also listed as a member of Restlesslist in the sleeve notes to their fantastic album Coral Island Girl, although he’s no longer part of their live setup. Before this year I’d heard the name but not the music so was quite looking forward to their performance at Sea Monsters. I wasn’t prepared to see so many people onstage. I wasn’t prepared for so many genres crammed into so many songs. I wasn’t expecting it to be narrated, or for that matter for the narrator to be wearing an eye patch. Most of all, I didn’t expect to enjoy it nearly as much as I did. Musically it was fantastic, but it wasn’t taking itself seriously at all. Where Thomas White earns his prime place in our Advent Calendar by doing things so much better and more effortlessly than anyone else, Restlesslist earn their place by being completely peerless.

While Thomas’ other band Brakes were taking a bit of an, erm, break in 2012, Eamon Hamilton made a return to his old band British Sea Power at one of their Krankenhaus concerts at The Haunt. Krankenhaus was more than just a concert though – The bands on the bill were more varied than you would expect, and played for longer. There were DJs inbetween the bands making for non stop entertainment. There was non-musical entertainment in the form of a ping pong table upstairs. At the one I attended, there was a stage invasion by a giant bear and a choc ice give-away! As well as their Krankenhaus gigs, British Sea Power also played at the Duke of York’s, providing a live soundtrack to a film made up of old archive footage called From The Sea To The Land Beyond.

Milk & Biscuits share a number of their members with Restlesslist, and have rightly had praised heaped upon them for their single White Noise, and their mini-LP Balcony times,  which came out at the end of 2011, is worth a listen. It features the vocal talents of Jennifer Left (who we wrote about back on 14th), and Kayla Bell of Foxes! who also released an eponymous album of top indie pop earlier this year. Eleanor Whittle and Rachel Dey – who provide vocals in Restlesslist and Milk & Biscuits and have sung backing vocals for Thomas White at some of his Yalla gigs – make up Do you Feel What I Feel Deer?, and have given us a taste of their wonky folk with their lush Save My Heart single. Adam Kidd has also sung backing vocals for Thomas White and his own band Fragile Creatures put out a grower of a track called Dear Michael. The tables were turned a week ago when Thomas White provided support at their Christmas gig at the Prince Albert. The final mention goes to Clowns, a band that Thomas White played bass with for a while before admitting that he was too busy. Every time we’ve seen them live this year (at a couple of Bleeding Hearts Clubs – did we mention that it was Bleeding Hearts who put Yalla out? – and more recently at December’s Source New Music night) they’ve got better and better.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was dozen other related bands. Here’s to finding out all about them in 2013!

Brighton Music Blog Advent Calendar / Day 24 / Willkommen Records – Sons of Noel and Adrian – The Miserable Rich – Laish – Emma Gatrill – Redwood Red – Hamilton Yarns and the rest

It’s been a strange year for Brighton’s neo-alt-folk-rock collective Willkommen Records.  A busy year, but it’s felt like a label that’s been growing up, some of the kids moving on, some of them moving out…

The Willkommen monster band The Sons of Noel and Adrian released their second album ‘Knots‘ in the Spring, and in spite of building beautifully on the frantic neo-folk rock orchestration of the first album managed to stay well under the radar. A shame, as this band deserve to be heard and are a must-see experience on stage.

They also released a stunning compilation of various singles and odd tracks that found their way onto other things with the bizarre title of ‘Your Tunnel That Connects My Arm To A God​-​Fearing Woman Who Lives In The Dark‘. It’s a terrific introduction to the band who will be back playing in Brighton on March 1st at the Green Door Store after a short European tour early next year, beginning in London on 15th February.

Check out the video for ‘Come Run Fun Stella Baby Mother of the World‘ from the album Knots, below.

The Sons of course aren’t the only child of the collective by far. Most of the band’s members feature in other acts associated with the label, all of whom offer a wild variety of musical treats. Some links to check out follow.

Daniel Green’s Laish was completely remodelled this year, and features the softer playful side of Martha Rose and Emma Gatrill coupled with a more powerful rocking rhythm section, all in support of Dan’s superlative songwriting. Their Obituaries EP this year was a great introduction to their new songs and sound, and judging from their live shows Laish’s second album when it drops early in 2013 should be highly anticipated.

To keep you going until then, Laish have a sweet Christmas song ‘A Poor Man’ Christmas‘ which is free to download over on bandcamp. It was recorded last Christmas, but Christmas is Christmas, right?

Other adventures from the Willkommen clan this year, included the beautiful harp-driven folksongs of Emma Gatrill, who launched her album ‘Chapter 1‘ in the delightful  Church of the Annunciation in Hanover.

Emma Gatrill

Marcus Hamblett has been busy as ever, not least helping out on Emma’s album and in producing and playing on the amazing ‘The Birdschool of Being Human‘ album by Woodpecker Wooliams.

Marcus has also edited together a massive 14 minute ‘Patchwerk’ of music with contributions from pretty much everyone who is associated with the label – it’s very beautiful, sounding a bit like one of the early Mothers of Invention albums to my ears, as well as a dozen other things. You can download it for free via Soundcloud – or listen below.

Cathy Cardin has been writing new songs under the moniker Redwood Red. Some of these songs have begun to emerge quietly unannounced but sound beautiful. There’s a possible album in the pipeline which will be something extraordinary I think judging from a short live set as part of the alternative Great Escape Festival in May and the few songs over on bandcamp.

The wonderful madcap genius of Hamilton Yarns slipped out yet another album – Calm Down Grandad – apparently more pop and less free jazz, but with the Yarns one always knows any album will not be quite like anything else. And that followed their 32-track double-CD compilation/introduction called ‘Are You Still There?’ earlier in the year.

And former Willkommen associate and Brighton resident, but now world-roaming minstrel, Rowan Coupland slipped out an album called ‘Slow Wave of the Future‘ which after a series of intriguing EPs represents his first full-length collection. With no promotion to speak of, you could blink and miss it – but don’t, because it’s a fantastic and highly original achievement, and my album of the year.

The Miserable Rich

Finally, and sadly, at the end of November one of Willkommen’s and Brighton’s finest bands The Miserable Rich announced they were going to hang up their bows and bells. I guess having produced three stunning albums of beautiful lush string-driven pop songs to only modest interest in the UK (a little more in Germany), there’s only so long you can live on praise and kudos alone. Nevertheless, their final gig to a packed house as part of Brighton Source magazine’s new music night in November was a fitting  send off, and I am sure we will hear new things from the band members soon enough.

Brighton Music Blog Advent Calendar / Day 23 / Fujiya & Miyagi – I Am Ampersand – Omega Male

Our first proper blog post of 2012 was about Fujiya & Miyagi. They had recorded a version of Your Silent Face for a cd of New Order covers given out with the February edition of Mojo magazine. While it might look like we’re spending all our time writing about Brighton music, secretly we’re huge New Order fans on the side, so the chance to slip some New Order into the blog was most welcome.

In February we spotted Matt Hainsby swapping his bass for an acoustic guitar onstage at the Bleeding Hearts Club under the name I Am Ampersand. He was the third member to join the band and “Fujiya” and “Miyagi” had already been grabbed, so he was left with the “&”. A few weeks later the ultra-limited but utterly brilliant 20 Seas 4 Oceans 7″ came out on the legendary Great Pop Supplement label. It came with a hand-made wood print. It’s got lyrics about a mer-man. The intro sounds a bit like an unplugged version of Spirit In The Sky. What more could you possibly want? Another great 7″ followed in the summer and a few weeks ago he rounded off the year with Grave Goods, an album of quirky psychedelic folk songs that you wouldn’t have expected from a member of Fujiya & Miyagi a year ago.

Matt Hainsby isn’t the only member of Fujiya & Miyagi who’s been involved with extra-curricular activities this year. David Best has teamed up with Sammy Rubin from Project Jenny Project Jan to form Omega Male, who also put out their album in November. Where Grave Goods wasn’t immediately recognisable as an album put out by a member of Fujiya & Miyagi, there’s no mistaking Best’s inescapable vocal style on Omega Male. Tucked at the end of the album was one of our favourite tracks this year – the incredibly gorgeous Buildings Like Symphonies, which combined with I Am Ampersand’s 20 Seas 4 Oceans, was the clincher for placing them so high in our list.

Source New Music – Clowns, Evil Son and Wildcat Strike

Thursday night was the last Source New Music of the year, and the last for a few months until they return in February 2013 – like Source Magazine, the night is taking a well earned break in January.

Wildcat Strike

Wildcat Strike

I arrived midway through Wildcat Strike’s set, which I was quite enjoying – really rather good post / math rock, nice and tight – and then the vocals came in. I say vocals, it was just shouting. Not exclamations of anger or any other emotion, just shouting. It’s a shame because aside from the vocals, Wildcat strike were really tight and made a fantastic sound.

The Evil Son

The Evil Son

Next up were Evil Son, who we saw a few weeks ago at their EP launch at the Albert. We got a similar show: tight, spiky alternative guitar pop – let’s use the word grunge, because they do – but louder, and with better lights. There’s nothing to fault musically with Evil Son – the songs are well written and it’s obvious that each member of the band oozes talent – bassist Pepe Le Moko also plays bass for David Gedge’s Wedding Present. They’re the kind of band who you could enjoy even if grunge wasn’t your thing because what they do they do so well.

Clowns

Clowns

As much as I enjoyed The Evil Son (and the bits of Wildcat Strike when they weren’t shouting), the floor was wiped clean with the night’s headliners Clowns, who provided a masterclass on showmanship. A sharply dressed Miles Heathfield spent the set prowling the stage and the front few rows of the audience, with a taut muscular musical backing from the three other clowns. If you wanted an example of what to look for in a great frontman, Miles was it. No standing still trying to hide behind the microphone stand. No danger of being distracted by anything other than what was going on on stage. The start of the band’s set was deceptively quiet, with things soon turning around to show their true colours – loud, alternative rock. After a full set of their own material they return for an encore of a cover of Ghost Town by The Specials. The level of engagement from Clowns, their intensity, their energy, the volume all contributed to them being worthy headliners. Next year, Clowns will be releasing their album Macho Bimbo on Bleeding Hearts Recordings, and we can’t wait.

Brighton Music Blog Advent Calendar / Day 22 / Nordic Giants – Cate Ferris – Dizraeli & The Small Gods

Today you might be thinking “How come there’s only a few days left but even more acts who’ve had great write ups on the blog?” or maybe you’re thinking “what’s going on with more than one act being in the description? Surely that’s cheating!”. Both are very good points. We’ll put our hands up and admit that when we were putting together our end of year list there were more than 25 bands we absolutely had to write about, and so for the last few days we’ve combined a few of our favourite acts in order to squeeze a few more people in. It’s also got around our dilemma of what to do about bands who’ve collaborated.

Nordic Giants first put Shine – sung by Cate Ferris – on their A Tree As Old As Me EP back in 2010. It’s such a great track that they re-recorded it this year and put it out as a standalone single. It’s got a fantastic b-side too – the Martin Luther King sampling Together. In theory, their live shows shouldn’t really work – bombastic post rock played just by two people, without the aid of any of their vocalists (they’ve worked with a different singer for each of their tracks). In practise, Nordic Giants are one of the best live bands in Brighton. but they don’t hide behind laptops, instead playing guitar / drums and piano / trumpet, stripped to the waist wearing masks and body paint, illuminated only by strobes during the louder parts of the songs. They play to a backdrop dark short films, and project video of the vocalists for each track into a separate box. If you haven’t seen them live yet, then do whatever you can get to get a ticket for the next time they play. They recorded their album earlier this month in Wales, and we can’t wait until that surfaces at some point next year.

Cate Ferris is someone else you really must see live. There are plenty of people who sing, play guitar and use loop pedals, but no one else who does it all so well and makes it all look so effortless as Cate, nor is there anyone else who’s so down to earth and warm in her performances. Seeing Cate play live is a complete joy, in her songs, her musicianship, and in the wonder she generates in the room. Her “Deep breath ready get set GO!” Ep was great too, proving that her live performance can translate into recorded material.

Cate also lends her vocal talents to folk / hip hop supergroup Dizraeli & The Small Gods, and Dizraeli’s wordplay definitely warrants a mention. The band had a single out in the latter part of the year – Never Mind – and around the time of it’s release we tried to catch up with Dizraeli to talk to him about it, but our diaries never managed to match up. It could end up as Brighton Music Blog’s great missed interview. Or maybe we’ll just have to make sure we catch up next time they’ve got something for us to write about instead.