2017 has certainly gotten off to a flying start! It’s hard to believe we’re only halfway through with all that has happened so far, although it is hard not to notice that it’s summer with all of this amazing weather we are having: I’ve never known it to be so hot. It has been a big year for Brightonsfinest so far too, having finally made the sensible and necessary step of moving our offices from Hove to the heart of Brighton’s bustling North Laine. At the same time we launched our own Radio Show in March on Brighton’s Juice 107.2. If you’re not in the know yet our show runs from Monday-Thursday, 9-11pm, with a new music focussed selection of tracks and interviews with artists, promoters and the like. You can listen back to all of our shows HERE, listen live HERE or tune in on 107.2FM if you’re in Sussex (UK). We also presented a spell-binding Alternative Escape Showcase at St Mary’s Church, which is an incredible setting up the road in Kemptown and have released a Live vinyl album by Los Albertos and a special-edition double vinyl reissue of The Fiction Aisle’s debut Heart Map Rubric. Both are available from Brightonsfinest Presents Shop now, and we expect to be releasing another compilation later in the year, as well as getting more involved in promoting shows on the live music scene down here and beyond.
But that’s enough about what we’ve been up to, outside of the magazine. As is our custom at this mid-way point in the year, we’ve taken the opportunity to ask our writers to take stock of the last six months (or so) to let us know what their favourite album and favourite live show of 2017 (so far) have been. We’ve also asked them to pick a favourite album that we missed – as you can never guarantee covering all of the good stuff. Scroll down below to see what we collectively recommend from the music that’s been on offer this year!
We’ve also put together a gallery of some of our best photos from the last 6 months, check that out HERE.
Certainly, at the beginning, there were some doubts expressed about the London four-piece who feature Brightonian Soph Nathann in their ranks. Four girls, playing a kind of spiky new wave-meets-Britpop sound with a contemporary nous. Subconscious male prejudices would rear their ugly heads, casting doubt. And certainly in the live arena they were very much initially learning their trade, and fine-tuning their craft. But with this debut, all but the most diehard misogynists would have had to doff their caps, and admit that here was a truly exceptional band, led by the extraordinary songwriting talent that is Juliette Jackson. Producer Catherine Marks captured their live essence perfectly, the resulting work a minor masterpiece of controlled dynamics, memorable melodies, a lyrical universality, and a counter-punching musicality. One of the best debut albums of recent years.
Favourite Album Missed: The Mountain Goats – Goths
Unbelievably this is the 16th studio album from the prolific Americans. That’s 16 in 24 years! John Darnielle, who has been the only constant throughout the years, has a fertile imagination that requires an outlet. Thankfully, he’s able to transmit seemingly random thoughts and images into workable songs that continue to display the lo-fi aesthetic of their very early days, but which nowadays carry a more polished sheen. Rian Johnson, director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is a big fan (even going so far as to ask Darnielle to record a humorous alternate story to that the Star Wars movie, the resulting piece called ‘The Ultimate Jedi Who Wastes All the Other Jedi and Eats Their Bones’, and which was published on Johnson’s Soundcloud page).
Anyway, whilst their previous album focussed on the lives of American wrestlers, Goths is heavily inspired by the British and “dark” post-punk scene – including Joy Division, The Cure and Siouxsie and The Banshees – of Darnielle’s youth. Articulate, enagaging off-beat alt-indie americana.
Favourite Gig Reviewed: Richard Dawson – The Old Market
Whilst Glastonbury was in full swing, Richard Dawson landed in Hove for a hugely entertaining and mesmerising show, off the back of his praised Peasant album. Whilst on record and in terms of artistry, Dawson can properly sing, play and tell stories, he is also incredibly dry and funny. Somethingabout the waters up Newcastle way, and the lilt of the accent, but not only can you enjoy the ‘serious’ music, but can also enjoy the ‘playful’ person behind the sounds.
Which is what made this gig such an all-round enjoyable experience. Not only would he take the mic and perform solo a capella, and trade some very old folk traditionals with stunning songs from Peasant, he would tell us some very funny anecdotes in-between songs, and generally come across as a down-to-earth chap, who happens to have very rare, and somewhat unique, musical talents at his disposal.
Favourite Album Reviewed: Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
I’m a little surprised to find myself gravitating towards Father John Misty’s third album, Pure Comedy, for this one. Fairly recently I thought I’d give the album another listen, having left it alone since April, and it has blown me away all over again. I can’t stop playing it. At the time of release I think I was more wowed by the intellectual content, bathed in wry cynicism and dark, dark humour. Returning to it I find myself sucked into the emotional nature of the record. Maybe I missed how genuine it all is behind the sheen, the showmanship and the sometimes awkward, often challenging interviews he’s given. Josh Tillman has a beautiful voice, you need one to land the job with Fleet Foxes, and he conveys a lot with it on this record. I now feel more attuned to it, I feel I better understand that he’s coming from a place of retreat and rehabilitation; that the lyrical assessments of human nature are of great personal concern, in spite of the humour in the presentation. The album has an almost therapeutic quality, bathed in sad self-reflection but produced so gorgeously. There’s an Elton John-like sheen all over this set of piano ballads, but I have never been convinced by Elton’s voice. Not in the way Tillman grabs me. This album is overly long and it’s incredibly self-indulgent, but it’s beautiful and brilliant and I love it!
Favourite Gig Reviewed: The Flaming Lips – Brighton Dome
Hands down this has to be The Flaming Lips at Brighton Dome last month. What a night! I was truly rescued from a foul, moody and wet day to enter a magical world of colourful craziness. Beyond the confetti, balloons, lights, unicorns, neon and the giant bubble Wayne Coyne rides across the crowd, I was also blown away with just how tight and dynamic The Flaming Lips are live. Coyne himself was in fine voice and the setlist they chose for the show was filled with absolute belters and it especially gave me a renewed love for their latest album: Oczy Mlody, which came out at the start of the year. Its songs fit far better alongside their biggest singles than you might have imagined. This live review also comes with a Spotify playlist of the set they played: enjoy!
Favourite Album Missed: Radiohead – OKNOTOK (20th anniversary reissue of OK Computer)
I’d been thinking about writing a piece about the OK Computer 20th anniversary edition but we don’t often cover reissues or box sets because enough people do that and we like to shine a light on new music as much as we can. Ultimately I decided against it this time, in part because my order for the triple vinyl edition ended up being delayed by nearly a month because W.A.S.T.E. ran out of stock! Having finally got the vinyl now the thing I’ve been obsessing over is the albums worth of remastered B-sides and previously unreleased tracks. It turns out to be a great record almost on its own terms and paints an interesting picture of the crossover between material that might have been more at home on The Bends and the stuff that made it onto OK Computer, whilst at times it even seems to look forward, to the more break-beat electronica that was to follow. It’s well worth a stream on Spotify if you’re not keen on updating your old OK Computer master. The new one does sound incredibly lush though, especially on the vinyl edition – it’s like a different record, with so many nuances I’d never noticed before.
Favourite Album Reviewed: Sinkane – Life & Livin’ It
This feels like shooting fish in a barrel – in the past six months we’ve had a modern vintage hip-hop album from DJ Format & Abdominal, true blue rock’n’roll from Spoon, lacerating post-punk from Algiers, grassroots desert-blues from Tinariwen, and a standout release from local band The Big Moon. The prize though has to go to Sinkane for his delightful Life & Livin’ It, which never fails to lighten my mood. Long day? Put on Sinkane. Feeling blue? Put on Sinkane. Headlines getting you down? Put on Sinkane. In fact, however you’re feeling, put on Life & Livin’ It right now – this record’s irreverence and optimism, coupled with its diversity of influence, is a joy that keeps on giving.
Favourite Album Missed: Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song
I don’t mind admitting that I consider Dan Auerbach one of my kings of cool. As one half of The Black Keys, he’s behind my first purchase of a leather jacket, and provided the soundtrack to much of my uni days. While I can’t bang my head to this record in the same way as the group’s releases, it’s no less enjoyable and proves that there’s more to Dan’s songwriting than the rawness of distortion-laden rock’n’roll. It’s calmer, more introspective, and rewarding in a whole new way. Perhaps I’ll even trade in the leather jacket for a denim one, which seems somehow more appropriate for this record.
Favourite Gig Reviewed: Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou – Komedia – 30 May 2017
This is a tough one. I feel bound to mention The Comet Is Coming, who really made me feel like I was witnessing the unfolding of something new in the development of genre. However, my number one comes right from the other end of the scale with the Poly-Rhythmo Orchestre from Cotonou, a band who have been playing for 50 years: Innovating today, they are not, but they were an eye-opening musical experience which I described in my review as “a living history lesson”. Their (blistering) performance inspired me to research the development of West-African music, and took me on a journey through traditional tribal sounds like voldou; the importation of South-American rhythms to Africa with the advent of radio; the clash of these two styles with the arrival of European and North-American music – and their eventual culmination in the explosion of music from Africa which includes Nigerian afrobeat, Ghanaian highlife, and Malian folk. The Poly-Rhythmo Orchestra were formed right in the centre of this creative crucible, and were active for many, many years – making them the single most fascinating band I have ever had the pleasure to review.
Favourite Album Reviewed: Tall Ships – Impressions
Tall Ships still remain one of my favourite Brighton acts and their sound is a simple delight to listen to. Their powerful riffs, diverse ranges and intense lyricism never get old and Impressions is one of the few albums this year that I find myself repeatedly able to listen to. The record holds an immense level of variation which keeps it feeling fresh for a far longer period than most other releases from this year. Whether it be seeing Tall Ships live or just listening to them on a bus, you can always feel the immense level of passion shine through their music, a trend that few bands are able to deliver with as much consistency as Tall Ships.
Favourite Gig Reviewed: Kishi Bashi – The Hope & Ruin – 15th May 2017
This is the single easiest decision on this list. Kishi Bashi, with the accompaniment from Tall Tall Trees, hold the title for being the single best show I have EVER seen, let alone just from this year. Seeing these two geniuses perform live is simply a privilege and there was not a single aspect to this show that could be critiqued. The energetic performance, humorous personalities and simply angelic music was mesmerising beyond belief and made me question almost everything I thought I knew about live music. It is creatives such as Kishi Bashi and Tall Tall Trees who keep music feeling fresh amongst so much background noise: as soon as the duo return to Brighton I will almost certainly be front and centre.
Favourite Album Missed: Harry Styles – Harry Styles
Yes, yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. How has someone who spent the majority of his teenage years listening to the likes of heavy death metal and the most bizarre of psychedelic bands been converted to the ex-One Direction frontman? Well I will tell you.
Understandably, Harry has been very busy trying to redefine his character and establish himself amongst ‘real musicians’, but the end product is surprisingly impressive. Perhaps calling the record my ‘favourite’ missed album is a bit of a stretch, but it is certainly one which I can’t help myself coming back to time and time again due to the level of shock it holds. On countless occasions I have played someone a track from this record, revealed the artist, only to hear them gasp in surprise. Tracks such as ‘Woman’ are infectious sexy jazz which pulse with charisma, whilst ‘Kiwi’ feels like something straight out of an Aerosmith or Stones record. Say what you want about the man, but try this record before simply disregarding it.
Favourite Album Reviewed: (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket
In terms of demonstrating how much you can do within the format of an album Rocket by Sandy (the new moniker for Alex G) has shown just how clever you can be. With all my reviews I talk about how the album works as a whole piece of art, this record feels like it was made with the intention of showing what you can do within that format. It’s an album which develops and flows brilliantly and even grows and evolves sonically. It starts off in a fairly straight-forward fashion with an alternative-folk-pop influence on the songs. It then reaches a point of rage with ‘Brick’ and climaxes into a beautiful electronic piece ‘Sportstar’. What it then does, which for me was what sealed it as one of my favourite albums of the year, is it then revisits the themes from the first part of the album and develops them to work within the context of everything that happens in the middle. Individually the songs are all great but, what makes them so special for me, is the album as a whole. I don’t think it’ll be truly done justice without hearing each song in its intended progression from the others.
Favourite Album Missed: Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
Nothing Feels Natural has been the album of the year that I’ve held above everything else. I’ve haven’t heard anything that’s managed to top it so far. After what could be described as a turbulent recording process the band re-recorded the album and, as a result, managed to come out with the most exciting debut I’ve heard in a long time. Lyrically, it’s very socially relevant and has really managed to strike a chord with a lot of people. From the starting track ‘Appropriate’ you’re instantly taken, it sounds fresh, exciting and very raw. It’s an album filled with frustration and ideas of alienation and disillusionment, and these feelings are presented just as well in the music as they are in the lyrics. For me, Priests are a band I’ve been wanting to hear for a long time, they aren’t trying to start a revolution but their art manages to convey feelings and ideas which are very relatable and probably what a lot of people want and need out of music.
Favourite Gig Reviewed: PINS – Rialto Theatre
I’ve been to a heck of a lot of gigs in Brighton this year and seen some absolutely fantastic shows (Hurray for the Riff Raff and Priests being notable mentions), however, none of the shows can come close to PINS back in early April. The Rialto Theatre was the perfect venue and gave the show a sense of excitement and intimacy. Support came from one of my new favourite bands Yassassin and the sublime Baby In Vain, the DJ’ing provided by Bitch Craft between sets was also fantastic, you could even get a beer for a decent price.
PINS themselves were nothing short of perfect live. The way they performed was so free and exciting, they’d broken any illusion that there was a line between them and the audience. They all performed with a sense of natural cool and their deep, tense riffs filled the room. PINS’ music does come with a sense of drama, which was only amplified by the room they were in, the Rialto Theatre comes with a lot of personality and atmosphere and brings a sense of occasion to any show. It’s a gig I can remember perfectly and has stayed with me since, and probably will for a very long time. I’m very much looking forward to when they next visit.
I first encountered IDLES when they supported DIIV at Concorde 2 last autumn, and can still remember the feeling of being blown away by this ferocious and feral sound emanating from the stage. I’ve followed them closely ever since, and have been banging their particular drum as being potentially THE most important band of this generation. Brutalism lives up to all that live promise and more – from the wall-of-sound opener ‘Heel/Heal’, to frontman Joe Talbot’s howls of anguish on ‘Mother’, this is an album to lose your mind to but also contains a deeper layer in the lyrics. Since that night, I’ve made it a mission to catch them whenever I can. They are simply the most exciting band I have ever photographed, seen or listened to. Full stop.
Favourite Gig Reviewed: The Big Moon – The Haunt – 20th April 2017
Sometimes it’s not the big shows that you remember the longest, it’s the ones that capture a moment in time – a show that presents a band about to stride into the big-time. This night at The Haunt was that for me. Being the perfect age for Britpop nostalgia, the likes of The Big Moon and their friend Marika Hackman have helped to re-awaken that spirit of fun that indie music possessed in the mid-90s. Live, they were electrifying – the loudest crowd singalongs that I have ever heard in this venue, a never-ending sea of moshing audience goers plus a band that looked like they were genuinely loving every moment of it. An amazing night.
Favourite Album Missed: Creeper – Eternity, In Your Arms
I think we’ve done pretty well to catch all the great albums, but this one by Creeper slipped through the cracks. A slab of thrilling metal-slash-punk that reminds me of what MCR could have become if they’d embraced a more open sonic palette. Opener ‘Black Rain’ in particular is stunning, and I’m counting the days until I can see them in the flesh.
I’ve seen some truly awesome gigs this year – Omni & Cold Pumas at The Green Door Store, Menace Beach at The Hope & Ruin, The Hundredth Anniversary at The Hope & Ruin, HMLTD at The Great Escape all deserve to be crowned best gig of the first half of 2017 – but it was a hidden gem of a festival away from our shores that is the overall winner in my eyes. Imagine a festival where some of the best bands in the garage rock genre (plus a bit of psychedelic and world music too) play to 15,000 people split between two tiny stages, over the four days at a small idealistic bar on a beach off the Adriatic Coast close to Ravenna, Italy. Beaches Brew is the reality of this – the vibe was good, security was relaxed, and there was the feeling that everyone on-site is equal. The festival saw amazing performances from Moon Duo, Kikagaku Moyo, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Preoccupations, King Ayisoba, The Coathangers and, not to forget, one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen from master performer King Khan & The Shrines. Then add the emphatic headline sets from Shellac and Thee Oh Sees, as well as a super special two hour plus performance by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard to its amazing setting, people and craft beer – it makes for a pretty spectacular festival. Oh, and it’s free!
Favourite Album Reviewed: Jardi?n by Gabriel Garzón-Montano
With much anticipation I waited for Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s debut album, ever since hearing the teasing tracks from his first EP release, Bishoune?: Alma del Huila, back in 2014. The scene of emotionally-heavy, considerately constructed and elegantly groovy songs from the Brooklyn-based musician had been set. Only a mere three years later and Gabriel drops Jardi?n – a soulful, luscious and sonically intoxicating ten track debut LP. With each instrument recorded directly to 2” tape, with thanks to analogue guru and mentor Henry Hirsch, Jardi?n’s super-slick motif flows like honey from the heavens – smooth, rich and addictive. Minimalist melodies and weighty r’n’b vocals in Gabriel’s spacious compositions envelop the listener throughout the album’s duration – sometimes simple, sometimes complex, sometimes sensual – all adding up to one of the most enticing debuts of the year.
Favourite Album Missed: I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone by Chastity Belt
Chastity Belt’s third album I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone is the wistful summer musical jaunt that got unintendedly forgotten – the perfect record to soundtrack those long walks to work, breakfast in the garden on a sunny morning or that night in with mates and a bottle(s) of wine. Whereas Chastity Belt’s 2013 debut album featured songs like ‘Giant Vagina’ and ‘Pussy Weed Beer’, the girl band from Seattle have certainly moved on a long way on their most recent offering – creating a far more dark, moody and emotionally open record than their previous effort. Matthew Simms’ production drives their indie-rock sound through cathartic post-punk, into dreamy shoegaze and onto woozy grunge territories, allowing vocalist Julia Shapiro to delve into themes of self-doubt and self-deprecation in what is a surprisingly serious and beautifully honest album.
Favourite Album Reviewed: DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
I still can’t get enough of this guy. However, as with every Kendrick Lamar album to date, I didn’t fall in love with it immediately. His dirty beats and hard-hitting lyrics can take some time to process but, with his soul-funk-inflected flow and ability to take on any topic and command it, this album has, without doubt, been my favourite we reviewed this year. To follow on from 2015’s electrifying To Pimp a Butterfly so successfully only continues to amaze and increase his legacy. Be humble.
Favourite Album Missed: Yes Lawd! – NxWorries
After the success and game-changing work of Malibu, Anderson .Paak came back in the form of NxWorries alongside the production of Knxwledge with Yes Lawd!. With far more soulful beats than his previous work, this album stuck with me, especially with his raspy vocals on standout tracks ‘Suede’ and ‘Get Bigger’ only helping to further blur the line .Paak walks between soul, hip-hop, r’n’b and jazz. As a whole album this piece of craftsmanship worked beautifully, guiding you from the up-tempo explosion of ‘Livvin’ through to the swinging drums of ‘Get Bigger / Do U Love’ right down to the subtlety of ‘Link Up’. Boy, he keeps getting better.
Favourite Gig Reviewed: David Brent – The Brighton Centre
I’m not the most prolific of reviewers in our office and, with a limited list to pick from this year in my arsenal, there was one clear winner. For better or for worse, for pity or for fun but certainly not musical ability, the most enjoyable gig I saw this year was David Brent (aka Ricky Gervais) with Foregone Conclusion at the Brighton Centre. Following the release of David Brent: Life on the Road in cinemas, Gervais hit the tour circuit bringing all his best cringe-inducing lyrics and banter with him to the Centre for a night I’ll never forget after ten year of re-watching The Office. For better or worse, he made that dream come true, to, AKA for me.
Favourite Album Reviewed: Froth – Outside (Briefly)
Upon hearing the opening Neu!-influenced notes of ‘Contact’ it was clear the direction Froth were heading in on their career-defining record. Now signed with Wichita Recordings, Outside (Briefly) is the sound of a band that has truly found its voice with ten tracks that come together to create a seamless body of dreamy neo-psych. A far more adventurous, yet fully formed effort of driving krautrock beats and striking soundscapes, it was recorded over 40 days under the watchful eye of Thomas Dolas, with all ten of the new songs written near the end of 2015. Gone are the days of the catchy psych-pop, to be replaced by far more experimental arrangements which bring the intricate melodies and compositions to the core. While the majority is not as easy on the ear at first listen as previous releases, when given time, the record contributes a far more immersive and fulfilling experience to the listener.
Favourite Album Missed: Soulwax – From Deewee
Despite numerous DJ and remix albums, it has been 13 years since Soulwax had last released a proper LP and From Deewee was worth the wait. Recorded in one take, the 49 minutes and 5 seconds slots them straight back into the top table of dance-punk, only with more of a Kraftwerk vibe. The guitars are still present but the Belgians make more room for robust synthezisers, multipule percussionists and simple vocal melodies. Despite the mass of side projects, this does actually sound like the logical progression for the pair. Here’s hoping this isn’t just a flash in the pan resurrection, and the brothers Dewaele begin to operate as Soulwax on a more regular basis again.
Clocking in at under 45 minutes without an encore, Formation’s concise set also led to deafening levels of gratitude. “Get out of the ring,” cried Ritson on set closer ‘Ring’ in what could double up as a mantra for the band before exiting the stage from what was a thrilling show. Combining relentless hooks, a punk attitude and intelligent social insight, Formation have retained the best parts of the album in their gigs and managed to turn their varied combination of influences into an honest and immaculate live experience. ‘Drugs’ was perhaps the turning point release for the group and served as the impeccable set opener. Its militaristic drumbeat and incessant cowbell kicked things off, before the pulsating bassline wrestled for possession and shook the room in the process. ‘A Friend’, meanwhile, turned out to be the biggest hip shaker of the night.
Favourite Album Reviewed: Pumarosa – The Witch
In 2017, few albums have taken me quite like Pumarosa’s The Witch; an album that blurs together the remits of some of my personal favourite albums: My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Radiohead’s The Bends, Portishead’s Dummy and Bjork’s Homogenic. Okay, as you can tell perhaps, I have a strong affiliation with the 90s alt-rock landscape but, since that has manifested in 2017, you can no longer call me overly nostalgic (perhaps just slightly). The rich soundscapes built throughout the likes of ‘My Gruesome Loving Friend’, the crushing guitar breaks of ‘Lions’ Den’ and the jittering beginning to ‘Red’ all outline a band that know how to pull a sound, and be unashamed in how long it goes on for. The band’s first single ‘Priestess’ sits at a comfortable 7 minutes 30 seconds, who’s complaining though?
Favourite Album Missed: Mark Lanegan – Gargoyle
The ex-Screaming Trees and Queens Of The Stone Age collaborator released his fourteenth solo album earlier this year, once again embodying his penchant for baring his leaden soul, demonstrating hoarse vocals – think Mark E Smith being yanked, jaw first through the dustbowl – and his solemn outlook on life, all hidden behind Ray Ban sunglasses. Gargoyle tied these factors together better than in recent times for the singer, finally scratching up to the brilliant standard of his 2013 album Black Pudding which was co-written with Duke Garwood. ‘Beehive’ demonstrates the post-punk angle to Lanegan’s sound with faint kraut-inspired rhythm, ‘Emperor’ wraps 60s rock’n’roll into his sound and ‘Goodbye To Beauty’ ironically finds the beauty in Lanegan’s dark shadow. Certainly an album full of contradicting emotions, but absolutely one to hear before the year is out (or day).
Favourite Gig Reviewed: Gorillaz – Printworks, London – March
I admit it, I was lucky. Hustled off a friend of a friend, I managed to snag two guestlist passes to Gorillaz’s first UK show in seven years and of course it was fantastic. Debuting their most recent release Humanz in full, Damon and his new cast were back in full force. Featuring all but three guests (Mavis Staples, D.R.A.M and Vince Staples) the likes of Benjamin Clementine came forward with ‘Hallelujah Money’, the thumping ‘We Got The Power’ featuring Jehnny Beth was played – which also saw Damon team up with his former 90s jouster Noel Gallagher – as well as the throbbing number ‘Saturnz Barz’ featuring Popcaan received a debut. It was a night to remember for all Gorillaz fans and as the old numbers such as ‘Clint Eastwood’ and ‘Feel Good Inc’ were performed at the show’s climax – nobody could leave without a smug grin that they caught something special.