Last year Brightonsfinest Presents, the record label wing of Brightonsfinest.com, brought out a compilation album for Record Store Day: Brightonsfinest (Volume 1). With a title like that you just knew the plan was for a series and just over a year on, they’re delivering on that promise. Volume 1 was dedicated to bands who have a strong connection to the city of Brighton, with a track list that ranged from bands with long-ranging careers who’ve helped put Brighton on the map; like The Levellers or The Go! Team, to up-and-coming bands who launched their début albums from the city, like Demob Happy and Fragile Creatures. Having created a sell-out on the first release, Volume 2 has high expectations and a somewhat different ambition. Rather than a celebration of Brighton’s music, with the focus on acts with a close connection here, Brightonsfinest has decided to look further afield – to all of the great music that’s coming out of the UK right now, looking at the most exciting acts they’ve been playing on their radio show and featuring on the site.
Side A starts out with a strong collection of fresh new melodic guitar bands. There’s a rock theme to this side, with bands who pair their gritty distortions with hooky melodies and warm keyboards. All of these bands – Blossoms, The Amazons, Sundara Karma, Spring King and Temples – are exciting live prospects, making a big impact as they fill auditoriums up and down the country. Blossoms’ glam stomp has rightly earned them a Mercury nomination this year, but from the sounds of things these guys are making a big impact whether critical acclaim follows them or not, they’ve got the chops. Spring King are a band who seem to be making a much bigger impact than they ever intended when they described themselves as a, “Small-scale art-pop-punk project”. ‘Who Are You?’ shows exactly why. My favourite of this side departs from the others here in its neo-psychedelic tones. Temples’ ‘Born Into The Sunset’, is the sound of a band with one vintage boot wearing foot back in the 60s and another firmly in the now. It’s taken from their second album, Volcano, which seems to be the moment they truly found their sound. Produced by lead-singer James Bagshaw, whose effeminate falsetto carries those memorable melodies deep into your subconscious, there’s a wonderful marriage of live and looped sounds that make this track sound truly timeless.
‘Cupid’ is the first song I ever heard from Mercury Music nominees The Big Moon, so it’s great to hear it opening up the second side. At first I thought this might have been a song I missed from the original cadre of late 90s Britpop. While it has some of the hallmarks of that era, to my ears, it does so without in any way being a sound-a-like: these guys are originals and we’re lucky to have them operating right now! Side B continues in fine fashion, more hook-laden up-tempo power pop from Clean Cut Kid, and a slinky groove from Circa Waves, that almost enters The Police’s territory before a massive chorus hits and takes things to another level. Tigercub are the first local heroes to rear their heads on the compilation, with a slightly mellower track that really stands out from their debut album, Abstract Figures In The Dark. ‘Control’ has verses with break-beat drums and a sampled guitar trill that stretches the ideas of what a three-piece rock band can be capable of, pointing towards a very interesting future indeed.
Clearly, Brightonsfinest could not resist starting Side C with ‘C-Side’ by The Wytches, another group who got their leg-up launching themselves from this fair city. I wasn’t sure if these guys were my cup of tea when I first heard them, but it’s a sound that grows on you – a little rough around the edges, but capable of creating an atmosphere you can lose yourself in. Honeyblood’s ‘Ready For The Magic’ is pure ear-worm music, vocal hooks that bury themselves deep and an irresistible energy, that begs to be experienced live. Curiously Vant have recently announced an ‘indefinite hiatus’. It’s a real shame they’re calling it a day after only one album, at the height of their powers. They certainly sit well here. This third side ends with a transition towards a more dance-oriented sound, through Menace Beach’s modern take on the Madchester sound to Formation’s housey grooves, whose fusion of live and electronic sounds has drawn fair comparisons to LCD Soundsystem.
Gaps fuse folk and electronica to create a refreshing and evocative sound. Another brilliant Brighton band whose beats deserves to reach a wider audience. The excellent ‘Shatter’, starts off with a sonorous reverb-soaked vocal, before taking you on a real trip through minimalist electronica. Side D tends towards a slightly slower-tempo, bands who build from atmospheric openings to epic proportions. Palace and Blaenavon work up their mellow vibes, from hushed vocals with clean guitars that give way to waves of distortion. The Hundredth Anniversary are also Brighton based, they blew the audience away at Brightonsfinest’s Alternative Escape showcase in St Mary’s Church earlier this year. There’s something magic about the sound these guys make, that’s far bigger than the sum of its parts. Next Beach Baby step in, increasing the pace again, taking us back to the sort of sounds that opened the collection, with drums and bass driving home heavily effected guitar hooks that give way to catchy melodies. There’s a retro sound at play on the more mellow compilation closer from Happyness, a band who you won’t be surprised to hear have shared stages with the likes of The Dandy Warhols and Mac DeMarco when you hear ‘Uptrend/Style Raids’.
These days I’m forever seeing people on online music forums complaining about the lack of decent, original new bands in the UK. When Brightonsfinest have managed to pull a compilation of this quality together so easily, by simply dipping their toes into the wealth of new music out there, I have to question where this lot have been looking (if they’re looking at all)! This compilation is a great opportunity to sample some of the finest up-and-coming home-grown acts out there, a great taster for anyone wanting to discover new talent and a great tool for anyone wanting to prove the new music naysayers wrong! It’s available from 24th November on high quality double-vinyl from all good record shops, and this time round it will also be available as a digital download and stream. Get your copy today and join Brightonsfinest in celebrating the British music scene: it’s really healthy right now and the more we recognise that the stronger it becomes!