As I write this it has just been announced that Ms Britney Spears will be gracing the stage of this year's Brighton Pride. A spew of cornflakes sprinkled its way on to my keyboard, made even worse by the truly sarcastic media headline of: "Britney Spears to play Brighton Pride… and Scarborough"! Something to look forward to, eh, you pop loving, schoolgirl outfit wearing Britney Spears fans? Along with Chic's appearance at the same event during the August Bank Holiday weekend, the city will be truly buzzing.
Every year at about this time we ask our writers to look back over the past 12 months in order to write a personal summary of the year in music. We’ve already had our ‘Best of the Year’ lists, covering the first six months and the last six months, but this is different. Rather than only covering the best things that happened, this is the place where we look at trends in music and the general overall feeling the year has left us with. Scanning through the submissions it’s interesting to note that many of us ended 2017 not on a high, or a low, but with a resounding ‘meh’!
Perhaps, in a year dominated by the Trump tweets a number of us mentioned, we are all feeling a sort of current affairs fatigue that’s been colouring our impressions. Maybe 2017 simply pulled its punches towards the end, leaving the real highlights somewhat buried in our memories. If you ended the year in something of a musical malaise I’d highly recommend reading this, as all of us found, upon reflection, that there were many more things to be joyful about than we’d initially thought. As we prepare to enter another year of musical delights let’s see what our writers found most special, and, in some cases, most infuriating last year.
Wow, what a year 2017 has been for music! It’s also been a particularly big year for us at Brightonsfinest too. We started the year by making the much needed office move from Hove to the heart of Brighton’s bustling North Laine area. Round about the same time this spring we launched our Radio Show on Brighton’s Juice 107.2 station, which has grown to become hugely popular and featured many interviews with incredible artists. The show runs from Monday-Thursday, 9-11pm, with a focus on new music and interviews. You can listen back to archived shows HERE, listen live HERE or tune in on 107.2FM, if you’re local. Our label is bustling too, having just released the second in our compilation series: Brightonsfinest Volume 2 has hit the record shops just in time for Christmas, following excellent vinyl releases from The Fiction Aisle and Los Albertos, earlier in the year. We’ve also been getting busy over on YouTube, where you can listen back to the best interviews from our radio show, and enjoy our video interviews, with recent artists including Royal Blood, Wolf Alice and Ghostpoet.
That’s enough trumpet blowing from us. Back in June we ran the first part of our ‘Best of the Year’ review, covering the first six months. Now it’s time to have a look at what our writers see as the highlights of the last six months. We asked everyone to pick their favourite album and live show of the second half of the year, and also a favourite album that we didn’t review – we can never manage to cover every release, especially not in a bumper year like this, so we find it’s always good to pick out the best of the rest. Scroll down below to see what the Brightonsfinest team think are the best bits out of all the great music we’ve been enjoying over the last six months of the year!
You'll notice there is no hyphen (Drive In, not Drive-In) nowadays. Founder member Jim Ward is also missing, having declined to be a part of the latest At The Drive In reunion. Apart from that, not a great deal else has changed for this recently reformed and hugely revered band, and following the release of the excellent in•ter a•li•a album earlier this year, it was all systems go. Still with so much to offer, and with the requisite (ahem), drive, to get there quick and easy, they are simply carrying on where they left off, making up for lost time.
There's a band who have achieved a degree of success only afforded to the very few. A band that did it their way, via sheer hard work, and with a strong and meaningful undercurrent of real character behind them. A band who have never been signed to a traditional record label, and yet have shifted millions over their five album career. A band that have always worn their political hearts on their collective sleeves, way before the current climate saw it become fashionable to do so again.
Back in the late 70s, when I was but a wee lad, I would nip out to the record shop, with my hard earned pocket money, and purchase a 45. A seven inch piece of vinyl that was ubiquitous in those halcyon days, and the main indicator of a band’s popularity. It may be hard to believe, but the only way you could hear new music was via BBC Radio One, or Top of the Pops, the weekly, early evening TV chart show that drew in millions of viewers each and every time. It’s where I discovered the New York five-piece, Blondie, led by this impossibly glamorous yet fun-looking woman, who fronted a band of very cool Beatlesque fashionistas, and made this deliriously intoxicating sound that perfectly placed pop within the new wave movement of the time. Although their UK breakthrough hit, ’Denis’ wasn’t the one that did it for me.
“They look awful and sound terrible” is how one wag mischievously put it when The Horrors first reared their mops of black hair for the general public to properly gaze upon. Indeed, is there a more unlikely band to still be a band, since coming out of the mid-noughties indie revivalist period? With their cartoon-goth image and their super-short noise garage songs, many commentators simply dismissed them as fly-by-night operators, given an almighty leg up by both the music and fashion press, before they had paid their dues, as it were. Here today, gone tomorrow. Good for a laugh and a mess about with but, when the serious stuff was happening, you’d quickly reach out for an Arctic Monkeys, or a Bloc Party.
Back in 2010, Wolf Alice were hitting the open mic circuit in search of… something. That elusive pot of gold (metaphorical and otherwise) that all young musicians are striving for, even if the first goal is to find someone – anyone – who likes what you do. Which is very hard to achieve in most open mic situations. It's at that point that confidence can suddenly drain out, and the willpower dissipates.
It feels like he has been around forever but Jake Bugg is still only 23. He's just released his fourth album. He and the world have moved on considerably since he first made his mark with an appearance on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2011, this after personally submitting a demo to their website. Totally unknown at the time, hardly anyone was actually there to see that performance but Bugg caught the eyes and ears of the Mercury label, who snapped him up and away he went. Today, Bugg is a global phenomenon, hanging out with some of the best Nashville has to offer and, with Leonardo DiCaprio's ex on his arm, the incredulously named Roxy Horner. It's a long way from his Nottingham council estate upbringing.
Awards. Do we really need or want them? Aren't they just a publicity stunt designed by big labels in order to further their own nests and provide a jolly back slapping night out for the industry? Well, yes and no. The Mercury awards are a little bit different, you see. There is a considerable amount of credibility attached to them. It is, crucially, all about critical responses, rather than sales. Conceived in 1992, the Mercury Prize is awarded to the best album from Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of musicians, music presenters, music producers, music journalists, festival organisers and other figures in the industry and covers all genres known to man (although metal and all its sub-genres has strangely been missing from all shortlists.). Just to be nominated will almost invariably give a boost to someone's career, although one must capitalise on such things to make that work.