I recall distinctively, when I first heard “Shower Scene”, a soaringly sensual, thumping number that seemed the perfect soundtrack to the London high street. Often comparable to mature acts like the Pet Shop Boys, Saint Etienne are exemplary ambassadors of grown-up, UK pop.
Yet while very British, Saint Etienne are pop scientists, or socialists for that matter. Their formulas for a sound well-designed almost never fail, transmitting an international sort of urbanity. A testament to their craft, one cannot help but document their morphing beats into the fabric of international cities, airport layovers, city walks, and even our bedrooms.
Thus, it goes without saying that Saint Etienne finds much credence in the legitimacy of pop music. Aging gracefully, the 21 year old band is brilliantly asserting their sound in 2012 with their latest release, Words and Music by Saint Etienne. Lead singer Sarah Cracknell has just the right balmy sort of voice that is not the most permeating, but always fluid, somehow sounding timeless.
On “Tonight“, their latest single, Cracknell’s vocals settles ever so comfortably amidst some very energetic mid-tempo sounds. “When I was Seventeen”, has a wistfulness reminiscent of Texas and Sharleen Spiteri’s crooning.
What is striking about this record is its disregard to what is trending in musical style today. Words and Music could have very well been released a decade ago. That is not a bad thing. Hardly stuck in the 90’s, the success of this album is present in the band’s ability to cultivate maturity and pop proficiency after all these years.
What is mostly admirable is Words and Music’s understated delivery of song. Often, the peculiarity in lyrics and tempo layering, bring about consistent, fresh spritzes of sound.
It isn’t all cool tempo fun, some tracks bear the description of ballads, built around piano-house and lyrics that are more reflective and melancholic, than excited and in the present. Much of Saint Etienne’s discography is filled with tunes that are undeniably groove worthy, but somehow still fit into most ears. Relaxing and never really aggravating, sometimes that is all you want from a record.