At number two in our list is Fear of Men, who released their second album Fall Forever back in June and shifted away from their more indie guitar based roots into more ethereal territory. Despite only playing a couple of gigs in Brighton in 2016 Fear of Men have been on the road for most of the year touring America twice and spending a lot of time in Europe too.
Through a series of unfortunate coincidences we didn’t get to see Dog in the Snow live until this month. Gig clashes, not finding out about events until afterwards, timings changing – it was starting to look like we were avoiding them. We managed to put the situation right a couple of weeks ago when Helen Brown played a solo set opening the recent Two Three Four event at Green Door Store. We were so impressed that we decided there and then that we’d go and see her next time she played live, whatever else was on.
That next time was last night, when Dog in the Snow played at Above Audio. The night was put on by Les Enfants Terribles who have been putting on monthly nights at The Blind Tiger for the last year, but who also hosted a day at the Mesmerist for the Great Escape back in May and are running a stage at this weekend’s Playgroup festival.
We arrived too late to see support act Thyla, and between bands the lights were up and there was a lot of background chatter. Sadly that didn’t change when Dog in the Snow came on, and the sound wasn’t great either, with the vocals lost in the mix. Talent shone through though, with a quietly confident performance. Musically things were sometimes delicate but always purposeful, with layered soundscapes being created by Helen’s vocals and guitar (which was played with a violin bow on a couple of tracks) and her bandmate’s backing vocals , samples and keyboards. Dog in the Snow are band we’re going to do our best not to miss again.
This is the brilliant beautiful new song from Black Black Hills.
I wasn’t expecting this – a soulful mournful love song, imbibing the spirit of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds but very much its own. Really gorgeous. Go listen.
And go download here http://emailunlock.com/blackblackhills/far-from-my-arms
Today’s post was meant to be a celebration but I fear it’s going to be a bit of an obituary. I wrote a lot of the Advent Calendar blog posts before November was even up but held off writing about Shrag because I had a ticket for the Riots Not Diets Christmas Party at the West Hill Centre that they were headlining on the 8th of December. I heard a rumour before hand which was confirmed by the band at the gig – it was probably their last time they would play Brighton.
What a bombshell – I had no idea it was coming. This year’s album Canines had been lauded across the music press as their finest yet, and gave us three fine singles – Tendons in the Night (which was a split single with touring partners Tunabunny), album lead track Show Us Your Canines in the Night and and the glam stomper Devastating Bones. While the singles were Shrag’s most muscular yet the rest of the album showed a band who’d finally found a maturity in their sound. The New Order-esque breakdown in the middle of On The Spires of Old Cathedrals gave us the shivers every time we heard it and album closer Jane With Dumbbells was majestic.
Things felt a bit different at the last gig. Helen finally looked a bit older and less like a child, and there was something a bit less indie about Steph. Maybe I was just projecting, knowing that in a few weeks time (there’s one last gig in their Diary, at Fortuna Pop’s Winter Sprinter in London) they won’t be part of Shrag any more. Maybe the band know that they haven’t got anything to prove any more. Maybe they were just drunk. Who knows.
What I do know is that in these quarters Shrag will be sadly missed. They’ve put out some fantastic records over the past few years and played some great gigs. They leave us with one final single put out as part of the Where Its At Is Where You Are singles club. Unseasonal Thoughts melds spiky guitars with 80s synths, and might just be the best thing they’ve ever done. At least they’re going out on a high.
So, you’ve finished with Oxjam and the mass of musical fun this past week? Wondering where the next great sounds are coming from? Look no further because hurrah, this Friday, Laish are back in town.
Daniel Green’s band have just completed a European tour and are now on a short home country trek, stopping off at the Hope on Queen’s Road, this Friday 26th October.
They’ll be supported by Maia – a 4-piece alt- folk band from Huddlesfield who have supported the Low Anthem, Anais Mitchell and the Unthanks, as well as playing the Cambridge Folk Festival and No Direction Home – a mix of gigs which pretty well describes their sound.
They’ve also got Nick Edward Harris on the bill, and having seen him support Emma Gatrill (also a Laish band member) at her album launch earlier this year I would highly recommend you get their early to experience his amazing intricate rhythmic guitar playing which is out of this world.
Laish, in case you didn’t know, come out of the excellent Willkommen Collective. Dan plays drums for Sons of Noel and Adrian when he’s not penning some of the most charming, honest and authentic songs to have come out of Brighton or anywhere for many a year. Their first album was released a couple of years ago, and was one of our records of the year – Mojo magazine termed it “Beguiling songs of love”, Line of Best fit “Clever and accomplished”. An excellent EP ‘Obituaries‘ came out earlier this year and a second album is now in the can and this blog for one can’t wait.
Tickets for this Friday’s gig are £6 in advance (£7 on the door) and you can buy them here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/185957
(Photograph of Laish at the Haunt earlier this year by Jon Southcoasting)
p.s. also recommended this week: Thursday: RESTLESSLIST at the Pavilion theatre
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.
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.