Favourites of 2018, Pt 1. – Songs

 

It seems such a cliche to write an end of year list, but if I’m honest I’ve always wanted to do one. The thing is that I’ve always wanted lots of people to be interested in it as well, which is a problem I haven’t really solved yet, but I’ve never let lack of readers bother me before so I may as well keep going now. I suspect that if you’ve been reading this at all this year (and there are a few hardy souls, I’ve seen the evidence with my own eyes), little of this will be a genuine surprise as I tend not to stray outside my comfort zone too much. As such, I make no great claims about these records for the most part, they’re just generally my favourites from the ones I could be bothered to listen to. There are a few exceptions, some songs that I think are probably amongst the best released this year, but I’ll leave it to the readers to try and figure out what they are. So, my twenty favourite songs of 2018! I’m not going to rank them, it’s too much pressure…

 

Bas Jan – Wilderness 

Following last year’s excellent “No Sign” single, Serafina Steer’s shape-shifting post-punk project delivered again with this urgent ode to getting out on the road. It owes something to early Raincoats but has a feel all of its own, and the idiosyncratic worldview here is all Serafina’s.

The Beths – You Wouldn’t Like Me

My favourite song on the “Future Me Hates Me’ LP seems to change constantly, but this piece of uncomfortable self confession set to a fierce power pop riff will do just fine as today’s choice. Any one of half a dozen equally good tunes could easily take its place tomorrow.

Birdie – Tomorrow/Bowling Green

A double A-sided 7” rather than a song, but I can’t separate these two in my mind and I don’t want to use up two spots either (I’ve made a rule for myself of one song per artist that I’m using this to get around). Few bands are making their best records after 20 years, let alone 20 years away, but Birdie’s gentle sixties pop is at its finest on this masterpiece of a single. 

The Breeders – All Nerve

“All Nerve” the album wasn’t the unqualified triumph that I hoped it would be, there was too much filler and too little energy for that. But the title track was a glorious high point, the light, playful verse lifting off into the most blistering of choruses on a track that easily holds its own amongst their best work. Kim’s voice is at its most terrifying as she howls “I will run you down!”, you certainly wouldn’t put it past her.

Anna Burch – Tea Soaked Letter

Another cheat, this was outside the time limit by a few days, but I’ll make a further exception (my rules!). The first single from ‘Quit The Curse’ was snappy, vulnerable and impassioned, a fine piece of guitar pop that was unashamed to wear its heart on its sleeve.

Comet Gain – I Was More Of A Mess Then

Comet Gain records tend to be games of two halves these days. ‘If Not Tomorrow’ provides this 7” with its dose of autumnal melancholy, leaving “I Was More Of A Mess Then” as the designated garage pop masterpiece. Another fine record from a band who never disappoint.

Frankie Cosmos – Jesse

There was stiff competition on the rest of the ‘Vessel’ LP, but this might just be Greta Kline’s finest song yet. An anthem to introversion, the joy with which she sings ‘oh to be / a part of the scenery’ is the key to much of her shy charm. Her extraordinary talent provides the rest.

The Goon Sax – Strange Light

The apex of “We’re Not Talking”, Riley Jones’ extraordinary moment in the spotlight would have been one of the best songs of any year. This tale of a first love break up was almost unbearably vulnerable in its execution, but perfect in its simplicity.

Justus Proffit and Jay Som – Nothing’s Changed

There was something desperately melancholy about the title track of the debut EP by Melina Durterte and her new musical partner. However, the intertwining harmonies and Duterte’s studio magic managed to make their endearing, bleary-eyed slacker rock sound uplifting anyway. A song that can still warm me up on short, cold days like this.

Melody’s Echo Chamber – Breathe In Breathe Out

The return of Melody Prochet was one of the musical highlights of this year and ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out” was the moment it all came into focus. Snappy, experimental and fun, it’s been on the radio almost daily for months now and it still blows me away.

The Middle Ones – OMC

Another cheat: this was the B side of a 2013 single, but its re-recording for the new LP renders it eligible under the ever changing rules of this blog (don’t ask for a copy). A balancing act of intertwining vocals, a simple but highly effective arrangement and a heartrending expression of devotion and friendship, this was perhaps The Middle Ones at their most perfect.

The Ophelias – General Electric

“Fun always comes at a cost…” Spencer Peppet sings here, and fittingly enough ‘General Electric’s easy, rolling groove acts as a blind for an awkward tale of masochism and self doubt. One of the most deceptively tuneful singles of the year, on a closer view it’s full of nasty discords and static shocks which don’t lose their power on repeated listens.

The Orielles – Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)

Way back in January, The Orielles continued a stunning run of singles with their glittering play on Factory funk. Esme’s lyrics are at their most oddball here, but it’s the early eighties groove that really captures the attention. Marking a further step out of their jangly comfort zone, “Blue Suitcase” was the first truly great single of 2018.

Soccer Mommy – Your Dog

Opening with one of the most memorable lines of the year, “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog”, Sophie Allison’s exploration of getting out from under the thumb in relationships was another early highlight this year. It’s a fierce, defiant song from an artist who’s at her best when exploring the less comfortable elements of romance.

Fred Thomas – Good Times Are Gone Again

From the ominous introduction, through the unendingly pessimistic lyrics, all the way to where the guitars urgently grind and slash as it moves towards the coda, the lead single from “Aftering” is Fred Thomas at his most breathtaking. The feverish, out of place euphoria that permeates the song is really just the icing on the cake. Like everything else he released this year, this truly is unmissable.

Tigercats – Planet Thanet T.R.A.

The most unequivocally cheerful moment from the brooding “Pig City” album, “Planet Thanet”s rousing brass and communal “I can see higher!” chorus made it impossible not to sing along to on daily treks across my local village. The funny looks were worth it.

Trust Fund – Abundant

I don’t know if I’m being sentimental because there won’t be any more now, but this feels like their best single as well as their last. A perfect marriage of music and lyrics. Ellis’s elegy to a dead relationship is among his very finest songs. They will be missed and missed sorely.

U.S. Girls – Rosebud

U.S. Girls did many remarkable things on their ‘A Poem Unlimited’ LP, but perhaps the greatest trick they pulled was this most gorgeous of pop singles, reminiscent of Madonna at her shimmering best. “It’ll hurt, I promise you” coos Meg Remy at the end, but it’s a bluff; no song felt such a joy to listen to this year.

Virginia Wing – Relativity

Pulling away from the ‘sounds like Broadcast’ ghetto, Virginia Wing found their own voice this year and ‘Relativity’ was perhaps the best expression of that. A musing on the nature of time and experience set to a calming synthetic throb, it channeled Japan and managed to feel both cerebral and joyous at the same time. A record that often left me feeling a bit simple minded (though without sounding like Simple Fucking Minds).

Vital Idles – Waxes Colder

“It rings in your ears!” shouts Jessica Higgins as the guitar finally lets rip at the end and you have to say she has a point. Vital Idles were perhaps the most underrated band of this year and “Waxes Colder” was the best showcase of their fiercely intelligent lyrics and bare bones, post punk sound.

So that’s that. Much is made about the death of pop music these days but to my mind some of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard were released this year and I’ve no reason to believe that next year won’t be the same. I’ll do my favourite LPs next week and then have a think about which older records I’ve discovered and enjoyed over the last year as well. After that, I’ll carry on looking for more records that make me happy and keep writing stuff about them. There are worse things to do. Thanks for reading.

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New single – “Element” by Deerhunter

deerhunter

I’m a bit of a part time Deerhunter fan to be honest. Their bigger records, such as “Microcastle” and “Halcyon Digest“, are things that I only really know about in passing, and the only Deerhunter LP I’ve ever really fallen for is the shambolic garage psych of “Monomania“, an album that, for all its excellence, had a fair few people scratching their heads upon release. So maybe I’m not the best person to come to for the definitive take on their new single but, for what it’s worth,  I think it’s really good.

Actually, “Element” doesn’t sound much like my favourite Deerhunter record at all. It’s much more refined than any of those songs, a piece of warm, elegant chamber pop given some extra colour by the harpsichord sound that was all over this year’s “Double Dream Of Spring” cassette. Here, its looping, baroque line follows Cox’s sometimes wayward vocal over what sounds like a mellotron, on a woozy track that’s far more enjoyable than anything on “Double Dream” was. The chorus is gorgeous, with its sweeping strings and acoustic guitar transforming what seems like quite a simple musical shift into something genuinely moving, as Cox becomes almost conversational alongside the infectious “elemental” refrain. The lyrics touch on life, death and (unsurprisingly) the elements without ever making a great deal of sense, but one assumes that he knows what it’s all about and it’s such a beautiful jumble that it seems churlish to make a fuss.

While previous single “Death In Midsummer” wasn’t quite as good as this, it was certainly a grower, and the new LP “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?” looks set to be the first essential release of the new year when it comes out on January 18th. It’s already been trailed by an impressively oblique press release, which bills it as “a science fiction album about the present”, before questioning the premise of bothering to record it at all. Whatever it means, it all feels endearingly ridiculous, bless him. Anyway, however daft he sometimes sounds, Bradford Cox has long been a musician who commands attention whenever he has something to say, and songs like “Element” show why that’s still the case.

Other LPs I have loved this year pt 2 – “We’re Not Talking” by The Goon Sax

goon sax

A couple of years ago when everyone was heaping praise on The Goon Sax’s debut LP ‘Up To Anything’, I could be forgiven for thinking that I was the only one who was a just a tiny bit non-plussed. While much of it was perfectly fine DiY guitar pop, the album never quite managed to catch fire for me; often it seemed a little too straightforward in its approach to fully do justice to the songs, and in particular James Harrison’s awkward, slightly whiney voice tended to mar some of his own efforts past the point of distraction. But “We’re Not Talking” is a different proposition altogether. Assured and sophisticated where its predecessor was often clumsy and rudimentary, it’s quickly become a favourite round here in a year already stacked with fine releases (and I’m not going to mention anybody’s father…)

While the debut concentrated on the basics (perhaps a little too much), it’s clear that this album is a more ambitious proposition right from the very beginning. There’s a swagger in the step of opener “Make Time For Love”, with its lush string arrangement and ticking, infectious cowbell, which wonderfully complements Louis Forster’s wry and witty lyrics. Like many of his songs, the words are sharp and a little cynical (“I felt happy when you said you don’t need me”) and it’s an approach which plays to his strengths, but it also makes it all the more touching when he reveals his vulnerable side. This is most in evidence on the gorgeous, understated ballad “We Can’t Win”, a duet with drummer Riley Jones, where she and Forster portray lovers with similar feelings on opposite sides of a struggling relationship, while a tinny piano and warm acoustic guitar provide the backbone of the song. “These nights staring at your back have made me lonely/ We don’t want distance but it seems to come to us so easily” sings Forster at one disarmingly honest point, and all his previous archness seems to fade away completely. Elsewhere, Harrison has upped his game massively, taking on Forster more or less song for song and often coming out on top. The “Before Hollywood“-esque rumble (not gonna say it…) of “She Knows” is probably the best upbeat moment here, propelled by its driving, melodic bassline, as Harrison expertly skirts the line between self obsessed teen and lost little boy (“I wanna know what you think about me / ‘Cause I don’t know how I think about me”).

But for all the brilliance of both Forster and Harrison’s contributions, it’s Jones who steals the show. Her one solo moment in the spotlight, “Strange Light”, is the high water mark of “We’re Not Talking“, a dreamy acoustic reverie reflecting on the end of first love. The drums drop out almost altogether here and her vocal is left to shine, inconsolable in its resignation (“I’ll miss the sadness, that’s the only thing that I have ever known“) and all the more moving for its naive, understated quality. There are moments on “Strange Light” that have left me in tears more than once these past few months and it remains one of my favourite songs from this year.

Added to this, her duets on “We Can’t Win” and the wistful closer “Till The End” bestow them with a poignancy lacking on the boys’ solo efforts and confirm her role as beating heart of the group. One gets the sense that if Jones were to contribute more evenly across the board, then there might well be even greater heights that The Goon Sax could yet scale. But no matter, “We’re Not Talking” is fantastic from start to finish anyway, a massive step up from their debut and a record that in a few years time I suspect we’ll be referring to as a classic. Given the band’s youthful and hugely talented line up, perhaps the most heartening thing to take away from this LP is that there’s every reason to believe that this is only the beginning.

New Single – Fred Thomas/Anna Burch – “Parkways”/”Saint Adalbert”

failed-flowers-600-11

Fred Thomas has been responsible for my favourite albums of both 2017 and 2018, and though I’ve come late to Anna Burch’s debut, “Quit The Curse”, it’s also a fine record that’s been played rather a lot round here recently. So when it was announced that their tour split single was to be released for mailorder though their American label Polyvinyl, there was a brief sighing noise to be heard and a sharp sucking of teeth before Paypal was hastily activated and the money was coughed up for this pricey import 7″. £10 notes come and go, but Fred and Anna are forever.

The pair are long term collaborators, both on each other’s solo work and in their band Failed Flowers, so it’s unsurprising that they should share one or two obvious musical sensibilities. The key one to be found on both sides of this single is country. “Parkways” offers a kind of winsome, Byrdsian country rock, reminiscent of some of the material from last year’s brilliant “Changer‘ LP, but taken up a notch or two here, with the sweeping vocal chorus (augmented by Burch herself) giving it a bit more of a Nashville feel than previous efforts have had. Lyrically, Fred embraces his on-brand side, with another tale of “dark days” and a “slowly eroding mental landscape” that will be familiar to anyone who owns the recent, heart-stopping “Aftering” LP. But overall, the mood is more upbeat and the song ends on an uncharacteristically optimistic note, as a phantom repeatedly tells him “You will be happy, maybe not soon, but you will be happy” over the soaring, jangly guitar hook. It’s hardly an unequivocally positive message, but those of us accustomed to his recent doom and gloom can at least take a little more comfort than usual from this single, one that’s just as good as anything we’ve seen from him, which means that, all in all, it’s pretty fucking great.

“Quit The Curse” embraced country in a way that was surprising to those of us who’d only heard the snappy janglepop of Anna’s pre-LP singles and “Saint Adalbert” carries on in much the same vein, with her voice at its most plaintive on a tale of heartbreak and mixed messages. The verse is propelled by a rattling acoustic guitar and a smooth, stately bassline, moving into a chorus which adopts a similar Nashville-type swell to “Parkways” but with a far more lush, sensuous feel to it. At the end, Anna curiously sings of saying “an Irish goodbye”, which apparently involves quietly slipping away without a word, presumably to avoid further upset (this has also been rumoured to be to do with walking out a bar before you get your keys taken off of you, but I suspect she means the former here). The whole thing has a kind of sombre elegance about it that makes it another song that just begs to be listened to, and the two sides complement each other nicely in a way rarely found on a split single.

That this release consists of offcuts from two already excellent LPs shows that both artists have top drawer material to burn, and also serves as something to whet the appetite for the return of Failed Flowers next year, who already have a new single scheduled for release on Slumberland. But more to the point, this is a great record that, when the vinyl finally arrives, will be listened to again and again and again. Having paid a tenner for it, you can be absolutely certain I’m determined to get my money’s worth.

“Patkways”/”St Adalbert” is available to buy both at joint Fred Thomas/Anna Burch shows on their current tour, and online here: https://www.polyvinylrecords.com/product/fred_anna_split

 

 

Other LPs I have loved this year pt 1: “Clean” by Soccer Mommy

clean

It’s getting towards the end of the year and the new releases are drying up, as labels look towards the Christmas glut of compilations and everyone hangs back and waits for January. Were there anything interesting to report, I would bring it to you, my fabled 12 readers, and indeed I might yet do so. But given that there isn’t much around at the moment, I thought that I might as well shift my focus to stuff from earlier in the year. There were a few things that came out before I got started with the blog (amazing to think there was a time when I didn’t rattle away on here to no purpose at all), and also one or two good records that I missed along the way. So, with that in mind, I’m going back to March to take a look at Soccer Mommy’s excellent third album, “Clean”.

In the two and a half years since her debut, the home recorded “For Young Hearts”, Sophie Allison (aka Soccer Mommy) confirmed herself as a major talent on the American indie scene with her acclaimed second LP, “Collection”, and has consequently spent much of the interim being pigeonholed in ‘women in rock’ articles written by extremely dull music hacks. Despite its more fully realised production, “Collection” felt like a bit of a sidestep to me, largely consisting of re-recordings of earlier favourites which might just as well have been left alone in a lot of cases, fine though the new versions often sounded. However, when “Clean” came out in the spring, it moved things along in a more productive way, comprising as it did a set of entirely new songs, aside from previous single “Last Girl”, which was again re-recorded. It was also heralded as having a more “mature” sound in some quarters, and it certainly feels that way in terms of its polished musical approach, though the indie guitar pop template hasn’t really changed a great deal. Lyrically, it was once again an in depth look at romance though the eyes of a young woman (Allison is only twenty), with its examination of the subject addressing some unsettling ideas along the way. However, it’s fair to say that there’s plenty of maturity on display on that side of things as well, as the angst and insecurities dealt with here are hardly unique to her teen/twentysomething years.

Allison’s songwriting is the star of the show as ever. Whilst the melodies are fun and catchy, the chords and progressions show a sophistication which is the mark of someone who knows their craft. Musically, there’s also an uneasiness about a number of the songs which, when set against her clear pop sensibilities, makes for a more interesting, and potentially needling, listen than you’d find with many of her peers. “Skin” is a fine example, with its infectious chorus positioned in contrast to an awkward, discordant verse, carried by its angular bassline. Much of Gabe Wax’s production gives “Clean” a kind of college rock sheen, all chugging guitars and washes of synthesiser, and Allison’s voice is as bubblegum sweet as ever, but the unusual touches like those found here make all this feel a little deceptive, like something is being smuggled onto the record that might go unnoticed on a cursory listen.

The lyrics on “Skin” also explore some uncomfortable ideas, as Allison sings “I’m just a puzzle piece, trying to fit just right / So I could be the one that’s stuck inside your mind”. This is a marker of an important theme, the fear of not being good enough for someone. That sense of nervous desperation comes up again most obviously on “Last Girl”, a snappier, more fleshed out version than the one which appeared as a single last year. Here, Sophie can never really believe herself to be the equal of her boyfriend’s fabled ex, singing “Why would he still want to be with me? She’s got everything”.

But there’s flipside to this as well, a feeling of being hemmed in by that discomfort, and a desire to break out and be her own person in a relationship. This is most clearly seen on “Your Dog”, again underpinned by a twisting, dominant bassline, which features one of the most memorable lines of the year, “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog”. It’s also underlined in “Cool”, where Allison idolises a peer who “won’t ever love no boy / She’ll treat you like a fucking toy / She’ll break your heart and steal your joy, like a criminal”, as Sophie covets the distance and self assurance that she herself lacks. What also stands out here is that there are no happy endings, as the other thing dealt with frequently on “Clean” is relationship breakdown. The bruised, brooding “Flaw” is the best song on this subject, all clipped, twisting chord progressions and shimmering guitars, with Sophie’s voice at its most vulnerable on a complicated tale of infidelity and self deception.

Behind all the seductive gloss, “Clean” is at heart a dark, nervous record on which Allison looks hard at how she behaves in relationships and what good it’s doing her. This kind of emotional vulnerability is difficult to pull off without it becoming whiney and self conscious but “Clean” is certainly never that, feeling more like a rite of passage LP than a protracted whinge. But like any record, the test of “Clean” is the quality of its songs, and this is something it passes easily. That such an album should also have been reasonably successful is simply the icing on the cake, and marks another staging post on Sophie Allison’s way to world domination. Eight months on, it feels as fresh and unsettling as it did at the start of the year and easily earns its place amongst 2018’s best albums.

Old LP – “Three States: Rarities 1997 – 2007” by Dear Nora (2008)

3 states

This is supposed to be a new music blog and, believe it or not, I do listen to a fair bit of new music. But sometimes you fall behind a bit and, though recent records by The Goon Sax, Swearin and Comet Gain have all been excellent, and I may yet actually write about some of them, sometimes I just slip into a state of mind where all I want to do is play something comfortably familiar. And along with my beloved Trust Fund LPs, Dear Nora’s records have fit the bill recently. Katy Davidson’s indiepop turned minimalist folk project from the early 2000s has gained a kind of cultural cachet in recent times that they could never have dreamed of back in their heyday. This has included being adopted by Pitchfork, when Davidson’s unsettling and hauntingly beautiful second LP, “Mountain Rock”, was named “Best New Reissue” after its re-release on vinyl in 2017. With this year producing a long awaited new LP, “Skulls Example”, their first new material as Dear Nora since 2006’s patchy “There Is No Home”,  the obvious move would be for me to give that a proper listen. But Katy has moved on stylistically from their earlier work and the effort required by me to listen to it thoroughly has so far proved beyond me: it seems that I simply can’t be arsed. Instead, for distinctly personal reasons, I’ve spent much of the last couple of months going on walks round my local village listening to 2008’s “Three States” double CD compilation.

It is a true behemoth of an album, weighing in at 111 minutes and a daunting 57 tracks, ranging from 2000’s debut single “Make You Smile” to 2006’s cover of The Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year”, and including plenty of released and unreleased material from in-between, before and after.  But rather than sounding like a cobbled together collection of odds and ends, it works just fine as an album in its own right, finding the band on eclectic but typically breathtaking form.

Dear Nora have been through extensive artistic changes during their twenty years plus in music, and there’s plenty of variation over the decade covered here. The starting point is the charming, brattish punk pop of their earliest work, and this is the source of some of the most satisfying songs on the record. “Second Birthday” is more or less perfection, a stunning mixture of clipped, tuneful riffing and Katy’s gleefully childlike early vocal style, but given a bittersweet touch by its sharp lyrical edge. “Second Hand” takes the same template and adds a wonderful, soaring bridge, showing an increasing sophistication of songwriting that would only deepen as time moved on.

After the first dozen or so songs, the rest of the first disc is largely taken up with demoish acoustic material, and these highly personal sketches are generally just as well executed. The artistic declaration of intent of “My Guitar” is another standout track, carried along by its insistent single note counterpoint, as Katy refuses to let their life stand still, candidly spitting, “I’m not gonna lay down in cement, not today”. This showcases a major theme of “Three States”, change, travel and moving on, which returns again and again over the period covered. This can also be seen on the gentle, punishing “The Weight’, where a lover is declared “a carrier of hope“, before being implored to leave Katy behind, as they repeatedly sing “leave me and carry on, the weight won’t get lighter” over the deceptively warm accompaniment. This combination of light and dark is a further touchstone on this album, the delicate backing often masking an uncomfortable, brutal honesty.

Disc 2  continues the high standards of the first, and occasional scraps of sound set aside, there isn’t a genuinely bad track on the entire set. “Sarah, You’re Not For Me” is my favourite song on “Three States” overall, a career pinnacle, previously thrown away on a various artists compilation, but rescued here from obscurity. The section in the middle, where it veers into a passage of blissful psychedelic reverie, is the kind of moment lesser bands would have based their entire catalogue around, whereas for Dear Nora it was just one more diversion in a body of work peppered with intriguing twists and turns. The twin takes of “Hey Tiger” show how Davidson could turn the same song into different, equally captivating shapes, by turns warm, confident psych pop and a vulnerable acoustic sketch, both of which are highlights.

Covers of classics by Bob Dylan and The Zombies (as previously mentioned) show a couple of obvious influences, but Davidson’s songwriting has plenty of unique touches. This is especially clear towards the end of the collection as it becomes increasingly unusual, veering towards flinty, uncomfortable pieces such as “When Things At Home Got Shitty”. However, these are still interlaced with material like the gentle, melodic folk of “Fargo”, which offers plenty of light relief. It’s a tough prospect when you’re first looking 57 tracks in the face, but if you take it out on a journey, anything where you’re shackled to an mp3 player, then the quality and sheer extraordinary talent on display on “Three States” will soon become clear. And it may yet be that I properly get round to “Skulls Example”, which I really ought to do cos there’s plenty on there to love I think, from the little that I’ve heard of it. But at the moment, it seems likely that the next time I lace up my shoes, I’ll just head back to “Three States” and listen to that once more.

 

 

New Single – “Camel Coat” by Saint Etienne

saint et

Now finally coming to the end of its 49 entry run, the wiaiwya 7777777 singles club has been of a consistently high quality over its seven (naturally) short years. In that time, it’s moved between one off bangers from artists who never released again like Milk Skin, jaw dropping singles by bands on the rise such as The Leaf Library and, finally with this year’s run, late, great entries in the careers of some of our finest groups, the ones who never seem to pass their best. The penultimate release is by Saint Etienne, who can simply be introduced by saying that it’s fucking Saint Etienne, don’t you know who fucking Saint Etienne are, what the fuck is wrong with you?!? And, of course, the important thing is that they’re at the top of their form here on “Camel Coat”.

The song opens as taut, minimalist disco, perhaps closer in tone to Citizen Helene’s storming “How Can You Find Someone To Love?” than to any of the other previous entries in the series, as Sarah tells a tale of doomed romance, with the owner of the coat defined as “not a lover or a friend”, but merely “somebody I  didn’t know that well”. The song takes off in the chorus, with its gorgeous “not gonna cry” hook soaring over subtle layerings of acoustic guitar, tambourine and hand-drums, as the earlier funk leanings of the song shade into the kind of lush, infectious pop music that has defined the band’s career.

Sarah comes into her own again on the spoken word middle eight, a melodramatic flourish where her ex is revealed to be a top pop star in what can only be described as a very Saint Etienne move. Then we return for one final, ecstatic chorus before the bass slides for the last time and we’re done, left wanting more, which is as it should be. To say it’s another brilliant single from Saint Etienne seems beside the point, there have been so many already. But there’s always been a reason to find a place in your life for each and every one of them, and “Camel Coat” is no different. It may be just one more entry in a great British pop catalogue, but still, it’s one of the better ones at that.

The 7″ and subscription series have now both sold out, but the download single will be released on November 7th and can be purchased here: