On Monday evening we went outside, breathed a lung full of air, and realised it was Winter. The nights are drawing in, the temperature is plumetting, we’re all madly panicking and trying to work out how the heating works? DOES THE HEATING EVEN WORK?
Why are we telling you this? That’s a very reasonable question! With the change of the season though, it’s got us thinking. Why is some music so seasonal? We’re not talking seasonal in a Slade, Pogues & Kirsty Maccoll, Wham! don’t mention it’s name until at least December the 20th way, we’re talking seasonal, in the actual passing of the seasons sense.
There’s the obvious ones sure, Golden Brown by The Stranglers is so Autumnal that listening to it when anything is Green is just wrong. 100 Broken Windows by Idlewild with all it’s references to fire-places, black & white cover that looks noticeably snowy and generally cold Scottish Coastline feel, was undeniably a winter album. Whilst listening to Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks whilst not sipping a Gin & Tonic and it being Summer is just wrong!
Some are more subtle, Sigur Ros don’t even write in English, let alone in seasonal clichés, but the idea of listening to them on a blazing sunny day in June is just weird, we’re going to recommend only listening between November and February, with the possible exception of the one with the people running about on a mountain on the cover, which can be allowed to stretch to May. It might just be because they’re Australian, but Tame Impala will always be a summer band, even if it is very hard to imagine them on a beach. Whilst if you’re listening to any sort of “banging house” track you had better be on a beach, and it had better be at least 30 degrees, otherwise what are you doing?!
Why are we talking about this…because despite releasing their album in the depth of Winter, The Belle Brigade are absolutely, unquestionably, a summer band. We’ll remind you to have a listen next year don’t worry…
THE BELLE BRIGADE
The Belle Brigade are sibling duo, Barbara & Ethan Gruska. Standard enough, but more intriguingly they’re the grandchildren of film composer John Williams, and their father, Jay Gruska, is a songwriter and composer in his own right.
The bands sound has been described as “a sunkissed 70’s SoCal sound” and “quirky folk rock.” To our ears they certainly do a rather neat line in undeniably sunny, folk-pop. They cite influences from The Beach Boys to Sly Stone, and you can clearly hear the influence of classic pop records, though probably more of the polished modern version that the classic sound. The duo share vocal duties, whilst Ethan plays the guitars and Barbara knocks the drums about, as she has done as a session musician for Jenny Lewis & Fiona Apple amongst others.
CALIFORNIA…CALIFORNIA….HERE WE COME! Sorry for the Phantom Planet / The O.C flash back, but the duo are from Los Angeles. A perfect example of a band who sound exactly like where they come from!
Like any sibling duo, there’s a bit of a question mark about when they formed. Younger sibling Ethan was born in 1989, six years after Barbara, so sometime between then and their debut album coming out on Reprise in 2011, they must have started writing songs together. The follow up, Just Because, is out on ATO Records on December 1st.
To quote Uncut Magazine “DNA plus inspiration can be a potent combination” and they’re not wrong! Slick, tight, unquestionably lovely vocal harmonies, ooze forth. Barbara’s voice has all the lithe, silky qualities of Jenny Lewis, while Ethan’s a spit for Jacob Golden, if anyone remember what he sounded like! The tunes are percussive dreams, not just the drums but all the instruments working together for the collective goal of a rhythmic, dance floor filling beat. Opening track Ashes, recalls the like of tUnE-yArDs or The Go Team and is just as infectious.
The shimmering pop production won’t be to everyone’s taste. Similarly to the likes of Tegan & Sara or Lucius, they’ve gone in search of a poppy edge and come back with the sound without the hooks, and you feel they’ve lost a touch of the grit and passion along the way, that would make them an even more intriguing prospect. The importance they place on finding a beat can often hide a lack of melody beneath their sugary vocal harmonies.
Just Because is out in the UK on ATO Records on December 1st.