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2015 – A personal review

12/04/2016 By James McLarnon

Best albums/EP’s from Brighton Acts

1. Sealings – I’m a Bastard (Faux Discx)

Sealings are long term favourites of mine going back over half a decade but I’d always felt that their recorded output to date was never demonstrative of their power as a live band. Their long awaited debut full length album changed that, thanks in part to their most professional recording job to date (no doubt assisted by MJ from Hookworms mastering), a hitherto unseen range of songwriting (encompassing aggro-drone (‘My Boyfriend’s Dead’), noisy punk (‘White Devil’), gorgeous ambient (‘Transient Curse’), raging guitar noisescapes (‘Malloy’) and the title track’s Witchhouse inflections) and finally, the dexterous performance of accomplished guitarist Michael Cotter. Tracks like ‘Hey Bernice’ and ‘The Ultras’ demonstrated an ability to write songs that could appeal to a broader audience, a trick I hope they repeat going forward.

2. Prince Vaseline – A Naturally Coloured Pleasure

A Naturally Coloured Pleasure is a clever psych-pop affair that manages to tie different eras and places together with a seamless ease, somehow connecting John Fogarty, Lou Reed, Canterbury Folk and krautrock without feeling like a concerted effort to be kooky. One of those records where the hooks bury themselves into you and won’t let go. It’s unfussy, compact and resolutely unshowy but quite brilliant.

3. Traams – Modern Dancing (Fat Cat)

It was business as usual from Traams, except their garage/kraut pop gems are now demanding attention from a wider audience. They are another act to benefit from Hookworms’s MJ  in the recording process, who repeated the punchy sound he gave debut ‘Grin.’ It’s definitely a more confident album than the critically acclaimed first and just as stuffed full of tunes, ‘Costner,’ ‘Succulent Thunder Anthem’ and ‘Modern Dancing’ being the pick of them.

4. Inwards – Forever EP, Losing Meaning EP, 

Forever, is the more smiley and upbeat of the two records, bringing to mind the atmosphere of Aphex Twin’s more recent releases. The more hazy, ambient affair Losing Meaning is reminiscent of American komische/dronesters Emeralds work. Also, if there’s a better description of a Brighton act than the “A childlike sound-world hides a slightly unnerving, psychedelic undertone, simultaneously pleasing restless feet and hazy minds.” on his Bandcamp, I’m yet to see it. Make sure you catch him at our Day 3 event in February he is outstanding live.

5. Ingrid Plum – Plangent

If there was a more beautifully constructed and intimate album released by a Brighton act this year I didn’t hear it. An album that encompasses found sound, minimal folk and spoken word with an edge of the seat level of emotional intensity. Plum’s vocal performance is intriguing; she’s clearly a vocalist of the highest level of competence, yet the feeling conveyed in her performance stops the record from revolving around technique. Oh and check out the note at the end of ‘An Apology.’

6. Krak Krak – All The Punks In The World Can’t Save you Now

7. Clowwns – The Artful Execution of Macho Bimbo (Bleeding Heart Recordings)

8. Last Chance Dance Band – Yes, Yes There is a Light (Cupboard Music)

9. Rooster Cole – More Than You EP/ Bird Don’t Sing EP

10. Cloud – Cloud

Best gigs by Brighton Bands

Ingrid

Ingrid Plum @ St Andrews Church

1. Ingrid Plum @ St Andrews Church

This was in fact my favourite show by an artist not called Richard Dawson this year. Spellbinding. Beautiful.

2. British Sea Power @ Camden Roundhouse

Favourite band plays favourite album (Decline of British Sea Power.) Hardly a shocker.

3. Cold Pumas @ DIY Space For London

We are in for a treat when they get round to dropping the follow up to debut LP Persistant Malaise. The new stuff is a little more song based and a little less focused on repetition. (I’ll stress the ‘a little.’)

4. Merlin Tonto @ BLEACH

This was in the middle of my run of seeing them 4 times in 2 weeks. Consistently the best live band in Brighton, their new EP which is out soon is nothing short of breathtaking.

5. Sloath @ Cowley Club

I have a friend to thank for pulling me out of the pub and getting me to this show. An outstanding doom metal act, especially when exorcising their inner Electric Wizard.

6. Hypnotized @ Joker

Their first and so far only show with live drums was an absolute triumph. A band I already loved got better.

7. AK/DK @ Green Door Store

This was the headline set at our Day One Festival. Truthfully, it could have been any other time I saw them because they are the most reliably fun live band in Brighton. Dancing guaranteed.

Merlin-Tonto

Merlin Tonto @ BLEACH

8. grasshopper @ Hope and Ruin

“What’s was your favourite grasshopper show, James?” “The last one. Always the last one.” They continue to go from strength to strength and have a star in baritone voiced singer/ guitarist Javi.

9. Red Deer People @ Joker

I had their ‘Fire, Fire, Blister, Blister.’ track stuck in my head for weeks after this gig. They made a mockery out of their mid-afternoon billing, I expect big things from this band.

10. Slum of Legs @ Albert

It was a quieter year for Slum of Legs on the release front but they are still such a clever, interesting live band.

 

Best gigs in Brighton by non local bands

Richard Dawson

Richard Dawson

1. Richard Dawson @ Westhill Hall

2. Deerhoof/ Cowtown @ Patterns

3. Julia Holter @ Komedia

4. Neneh Cherry @ Prince Albert

5. Teeth of The Sea @ Green Door Store

6. Follakzoid @ The Joker

7. Viet Cong @ Green Door Store

8. METZ @ Mutations Festival (Concorde 2)

9. Zun Zun Egui @ The Great Escape (Royal Albion Hotel)

10. GNOD @ Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar

11. James Holden @ The Haunt

12. The Fall @ Concorde 2

13. Taman Shud @ Prince Albert

14. Tinariwen/ Songhoy Blues @ Concorde 2

15. East India Youth @ The Haunt

Albert

Prince Albert

Best Venue – The Prince Albert

Honourable Mentions – Green Door Store, WestHill Hall, Patterns

The Albert is just the best all rounder in Brighton. Good beer, good sound and a room that never feels empty. I’m not going to lie, the BYOB at Westhill Hall nearly swung it.

Best Promoter – Tatty Seaside Town

Honourable Mentions – Dictionary Pudding, Be Nothing

We are so lucky to have all three of them, the amount of outstanding acts they bring to the city is outrageous but Tatty Seaside Town brought Richard Dawson so I’m basically forever indebted to him.

Best Festival/ Event – The Alternative Escape

Whilst the main even continues to plunge ever deeper into music industry circle jerk wankery, the Alternative goes from strength to strength. Featuring the best of Brighton’s talent, alongside some of the more underground names of the main event. And it’s FREE.

 

Best Nightclub – Patterns

Thank god Patterns exists because if it didn’t there wouldn’t be a whole lot of other options for a well-informed boogie.

Honourable Mention – Green Door Store, Concorde 2

Words: James McLarnon

Photos: Agata Urbaniak and Simon Brice

 

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