As Rob has been meticulously drip-feeding his top twenty from 2014 into the blog over the last few weeks, I thought I’d provide an alternative listing just to show the diversity of our blogging tastes. That meant, no duplication with the Rob-o-Sphere, and so out went Curxes, Cate Ferris, Fear of Men, all of which were excellent in my book.
That left me with the following selections capturing ten (well, eleven) of the brilliant sounds and songs that emerged from our fair city over the last year in a shambling semblance/pretence of order:
1 Bentcousin – Dizzy
These terrible twins have been drip-feeding the cosmos with some ace songs, but this was the killer track for me released on a vinyl 7 inch and with some super Brighton-relevant rapping from Rory P.
2 yourgardenday – Something in the Music
A gorgeous plea for tolerance and harmony and a love of music, this had a limited release last year as lead track on Robin Coward’s Flat Stream EP, finally getting a full on-line release this summer.
3 Time for T – Free Hugs
An adorable band writing some adorable songs, this slunk of 70s soul has a great chorus and a charming video in which the band spend the whole song hugging Brighton people. Did I say it was adorable?
4 Sharon Lewis – Boxer’s Glove
Released right at the tail end of last year, this came from the Simple Things EP that accompanied Sharon’s excellent album, a melancholic tale of domestic violence, harsh but beautiful.
5 Fragile Creatures – Fragile Creatures
This band write some classic pop and none better than this – the self-named winner from their first EP which came out this summer.
6 Ellie Ford – Low
Singer-songwriter who had her debut EP re-released by Hidden Trail Records this year, from whence came this song, and also released an excellent covers EP. Ellie Ford is a singer who just gets better and better and her debut album should come out next year.
7 AK/DK – Maxwell’s Waves
This track comes from their album titled ‘Synth + Drums + Noise + Space’ which kind of sums up their sound without the excitement of their stunning live shows.
8 Slum of Legs – Razorblade the tape
This band are manic live, and their initial punky 7″ single on the Tuff Enuff label captures just half of this energy. This was the b-side.
9 Fiona Sally Miller – Lanterns
From one of three EPs released on the same day, this was one of the proper songs rather than the underwater experimental or live tracks, but like so much of Miller’s work it sounded magical.
=10 The Delta Bell – Wasted
Hiawatha Telephone Company – Dave
‘Wasted’ is a classic rambling country song sung by the gorgeous tones of Kate Gerrard and hit all the right notes in my book.
Shamelssly squeezing an eleventh song into my top ten I’ll come clean and admit that I had a hand in ‘Dave’, but it’s a song that ought to resonate in 2015 it being election year. Ripe for a cover, but for now we have this.
Wow, out of the blue not just one but three free-to-download EPs from the excellent Fiona Sally Miller sounding awesome, still in the lo-fi alt-folk mode and not a single sign of the long-promised techno album (well, perhaps I should have sat still is just a little bit techno…)
FSM slips her music out quietly without the slightest attention, but it is very much worthy of your ears. This may well be a clearing of the decks but we hope it is perhaps a sign that more is on the way and we might see her out and about performing again soon.
The Self Help Group launched their album ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ at the Prince Albert pub last night, ably supported by Fiona Sally Miller.
Fiona Sally Miller hasn’t been seen out and about much over the last year which is a shame as she’s one of the most engaging singer-songwriters around town. Simple little riffs set the scene for her personal songs sung in a warm voice that engrosses you like a hug. If you see her on a support bill, make sure you get there early. At this gig she was accompanied on some songs by a cellist, and gave an outing to her old goldie ‘I’m Going to miss you smiling at me like that’.
The Self Help Group album launch was a bit of a party for family and friends friends, starting off with them getting the whole audience to turn around to watch their video Needles played on the back wall. The launch got even more shambolic, with the band talking as much between themselves as to the audience, losing the banjo on one song and limiting their nervous wit to a strange bit of banter about their song about Birds. Not women, the ones with wings. Odd thing to say to any audience, let alone a Brighton one.
But we needn’t have worried. The thing about Self Help Group is the music, beautifully played, and Mark Bruce’s excellent songs, and the gorgeous twin vocals of sisters Sarah and Clara Wood. The thing is, this is just a truly great band and once they get going you forget about the fluff and hesitation and just get swallowed up by this wave of really wonderful fol rock Americana.
The album is very good indeed. Reviews refer to that Laurel Canyon soft-rock early-70s sensibility but if there’s one band they remind me most of it’s possibly Fleetwood Mac, with the charming female vocals, some sweet guitar and meaty rhythm section but mainly that wonderful mix of west coast Americana with English self-aware folk-blues.
Mark Bruce joked about the lack of happy songs last night – the album is full of songs about death and murder and stories of grim times – but the thing is they don’t sound depressing these songs, they are heart-warming and rich stories that bear repeating. And they have a song about murmuration. What’s not to love?
The final song Sand was a perfect ending, with its closing refrain of
“You must take the steps towards what you want and make things better“
sending us home with a lovely inner-glow.
Oh, and our interview with lead Groupie Mark Bruce is here https://brightonmusicblog.co.uk/2013/01/28/interview-with-the-self-help-group
Review and Photographs by Jon Southcoasting