When it became clear that Suede’s triumphant return, Bloodsports, was not going to be a one-off, it seemed inevitable that the band would drift back towards the dark and gritty – yet arguably stylish – territory they have mined in their previous records. 2016’s Night Thoughts began that journey, and with The Blue Hour, the band continue further. It is familiar territory – this is reminiscent of Dog Man Star in many respects – but it is in a different setting: Brett Anderson having moved to the British countryside, and digging up his childhood as he wrote his memoirs, meant him mining the dark side of a stereotypically idyllic environment. You get this slightly creepy sound: there’s a focus on the swelling here, with things slowly building towards what seems like a dreadful ending. The fact that this is a loose concept album – the songs are built for one full listen rather than individual bits – with an arguably grim narrative makes this feel grander than previous efforts. And yet, on one hand, it remains familiar; on the other, you hope Suede would have pushed the boat out further. But then, it may be too much for the band. If the past is any indicator, we’ll have a pop record soon. [NB] | 3/5
Suede’s comeback was unlikely three years ago, when they released Bloodsports, but now it seems like they never left – and with Night Thoughts, they finally turn things up several notches and push towards the inevitable end point of their sound. The Britpop legends’ new album is, arguably, a concept piece, although it does not work around with pretensions of being about this grand theme. While it accompanies a film of the same name, and the songs blend together, the band mostly sticks with familiar themes and motifs. But they succeed in doing here what they tried to do with Bloodsports: properly synthesize both of their phases – the introspective, moody pop of their first two albums, and the glam pop of the succeeding three – without any degree of whiplash. Indeed, here they push further, going (surprisingly late in their careers) for a string section. While “Outsiders” and “Like Kids” call back to the fringe tributes of Coming Up, the desperate themes of everything else that surrounds it – “Pale Snow”, “Tightrope”, “I Can’t Give Her What She Wants” – dig deep, past the superficial celebrations, and portray an anguish that’s informed by age and having seen it all. In a way, Night Thoughts could be the album that seals Suede’s legacy. Unlikely, again, but could be. [NB] | 4/5
Here we go again: the earthings! Fantasy Festival is back, with five stages of live performances that’s all just happening in our heads. We wrap up the week with Niko Batallones’ five acts, filled with legends setting the agenda, and future classics tipping their hat to the past.
Well, that time of the year again, so let’s do what everybody else does and make a yearend list of the best of the year, shall we? But then again, we’re not really a legitimate music blog, so we’re just going small-term by talking about us, us, us. Like last year, this is by no means a representative list of the best music of the past year: these are all, really, my favorite tracks. But it has been an interesting year in music. The girls came out; the dance floor got quiet and merged with hip-hop; and guitar music is, well, still not quite back… but not all that gets a mention. Again, sorted in alphabetical order, my favorites: ten songs that you should soak in while we take a two-week break. We’ll be back on 6 January, unless, of course, surprise gigs get in the way, much like last year. [NB]
Suede’s sixth album, and their first in eleven years, is a bit of a mixed beast. Brett Anderson described it as a cross between their acclaimed second album Dog Man Star and their successful third, Coming Up: I just didn’t expect Bloodsports to be clearly divided along those lines. The album’s first half has Coming Up‘s belters, with “It Starts And Ends With You” coming closest to the band’s successful glam pop formula: Brett’s yelps, Richard Oakes’ crafty guitar work, and that huge sound. The second half has the gloom (or at least some of it) of Dog Man Star, and while “Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away” dribbles in nicely, what follows feels a bit meandering. Sure, maybe it will all grow on me after a few listens, but having essentially two mini-albums, albeit tied together by theme, makes for a record that could be great, but not quite getting there. | 3/5