Writers Chart: Dec/Jan
SOURCE is the only magazine in town that exclusively reviews local music. It’s our thing, and it’s a Brighton thing – we’re not interested in the Worthing chillwave scene, or Hastings r’n'b. So when it comes to working out the best Brighton tunes of the year, who you gonna call? It’s been a vintage year that’s seen a lot of talent pass through our pages, and our writers reckon this is the best of a particularly good bunch.
1. BLACK BLACK HILLS ‘A Drowning’
Summing up their reinvention from the ashes of Pope Joan, the band returned with appropriate levels of requisite darkness together with a musical topography of renewed drama and exertion. Turning down the guitar in favour of percussion and synth duels has given the new material a cabalistic, preacher man feel, a vibe more than borne out in the impressive videos for this and the ‘A Celebration’ single. ‘A Drowning’ was Radio 1-playlisted – 2012 is theirs for the taking. Read our interview on page 36.
2. RIZZLE KICKS ‘Down With The Trumpets’
It was so obvious when we first heard it – “that’s a top 10 record right there.” Brighton’s biggest breakout success of 2011, and no one’s ashamed to admit love for the charming duo. Find us a person who isn’t dancing to this on New Year’s Eve while simultaneously miming playing the trumpet and we’ll go and hunt out a new saviour of D.A.I.S.Y. Age hip hop.
3. FEAR OF MEN ‘Ritual Confession’
Sounding like a Sarah Records vocalist backed by a 4AD band, this 7″ release suggests that someone bottled 1991 and Fear Of Men found that bottle washed up on Brighton beach. A bolt of chiming guitar heaven, this was their official debut for the increasingly notable Italian Beach Babes imprint, channelling the English whimsy of The Sundays and The Popguns straight onto national radio.
4. BLAH BLAH BLAH ‘Left’
It’s incredible to think that this is their first single, but Blah Blah Blah proved they’re every bit as talented behind the mixing desk as they are behind the mixer and decks. Sophisticated, tidy and patient, but most importantly very, very rewarding – this piece of progressive tech house is as emotional and affecting as any ballad released from Brighton this year.
5. SOPHIE MADELEINE ‘Stars’
Pretty, optimistically melancholic opener from Sophie’s joyful second album, we fell in love all summer with her sunny disposition. It’s simple, ukulele-based, stripped-back folk pop, but in no way does it dine out on its instrumentation. No, this is pure, direct songwriting topped with Miss Madeleine’s soft voice. Delightful.
6. BRITISH SEA POWER ‘Who’s In Control?’
The thundering opener to January’s ‘Valhalla Dancehall’ found British Sea Power predicting the ensuing year’s social unrest accurately, if not entirely seriously.
7. GROSS MAGIC ‘Sweetest Touch’
Channels the finest parts of grunge, where so many other pretenders fail, by bringing energy and hooks by the bucketload. It’s got teen anthem written all over it. Kurt would be proud.
8. AK/DK ‘Lost: Eric’
Finally entering the studio, AK/DK bolted their clattering double-drum attack to uplifting Kraftwerk motorik for this exuberant debut, released contrarily in a pleasingly chunky cassette pack.
9. PEGGY SUE ‘Cut My Teeth’
Brooding career-best single from the anti-soul duo as they turn up the eclectic guitar for a grumbling PJ Harvey-esque sultry grind.
10. MAXXI SOUNDSYSTEM ‘Criticize’
Knocked out in an afternoon because he and his Schtumm partner Neal Lewis wanted to play it out that night, this disco house bootleg mix became Sam Watts’ calling card (see our cover feature, page 16).
11. MISERABLE RICH ‘On A Certain Night’
Only Brighton’s leading chamber pop band would consider making an album of ghost stories – but they pulled it off, with a new joie de vivre alongside some of their best arrangements yet. This single covered so much musical ground.
12. CAVE PAINTING ‘Leaf’
This band have bottled the word ‘effortless’ and poured the contents over this track. Ones to watch, this ‘Spanish Sahara’-esque bleak, organic, ambient indie tune sends things skywards.
13. ARCHITECTS ‘Devil’s Island’
An emotionally powered metalcore soundtrack to the hideous violence and disregard of the UK riots, reflected in the impassioned screams and heavy guitars.
14. THROWING SNOW ’Un Vingt (Murder He Wrote Remix)’
This slow-building head-nodder has quietly revised the original and created something timeless and utterly peaceful – slow synths melt over understated basslines that can soothe your worries away.
15. MAN RAY SKY ‘Vessels’
Breaking from the ranks of ‘bands we’ve vaguely heard of’ with this single, Man Ray Sky reignited our love for lo-fi beats, scratchy guitars and wistful songwriting.
16. THE AGITATOR ‘Say No’
Released towards the start of one of the most protest-packed years in recent memory, this call to arms on megaphone and tribal drums, with a video largely set in the City of London, was in many ways a portent of the year to come.
17. BIRKWIN JERSEY ‘Sixes and Nines’
Folky guitars, the subtlest of vocals and mellow electronica are the audio equivalent of having tea and a spliff while watching snow fall.
18. SWEET SWEET LIES ‘Capital of Iceland’
In a year when many Brighton bands finally got round to physically and/or officially releasing their signature track, this alt.country anthem to a perfect girlfriend who “loves Johnny Cash and Johnny Marr” kicked off ‘The Hare EP’.
19. COLD PUMAS ‘Fourth Date’
A runaway toy train of a song, the rapid BPM and ringing waves of sheer metallic treble shone as brightly as its gorgeous blue vinyl.
20. AMBASSADEURS ‘M.O.P.E’
Superstar of Soundcloud, Ambassadeurs has gone from an internet unknown to an international one-to-watch this year and ‘M.O.P.E’s the catalyst: twinkly electronica gives way to a sophisticated beat that’ll stay with you for days.