Words and Music by Saint Etienne

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Words and Music by Saint Etienne
Studio album by Saint Etienne
Released 18 May 2012 (2012-05-18)
Genre
Length 48:08
Label
Producer
Saint Etienne chronology
A Glimpse of Stocking
(2010)
Words and Music by Saint Etienne
(2012)
Singles from Words and Music by Saint Etienne
  1. "Tonight"
    Released: 24 January 2012 (2012-01-24)
  2. "I've Got Your Music"
    Released: 25 June 2012 (2012-06-25)

Words and Music by Saint Etienne is the eighth studio album by English alternative dance band Saint Etienne, released on 18 May 2012 by Heavenly Recordings. The band announced the album in a Christmas message on their official website on 11 December 2011.[1] The album features collaborations from longtime Saint Etienne associate Ian Catt, as well as Richard X and former Xenomania members Tim Powell and Nick Coler.

Background[edit]

According to Saint Etienne's official website, the album is about "how music affects your life. How it defines the way you see the world as a child, how it can get you through bad times in unexpected ways, and how songs you've known all your life can suddenly develop a new attachment, and hurt every time you hear them. More than how it affects and reflects your life though, the album is about believing in music, living your life by its rules."[2]

Composition[edit]

The album opens with "Over the Border", a semi-spoken memoir that narrates a first-person coming-of-age tale that is defined by musical milestones.[3][4] It was the last song recorded for the album,[5] and includes references to the likes of Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Modern English, New Order, Marc Bolan, Top of the Pops, Smash Hits, the NME, Factory Records and Postcard Records.[4][6][7] The second track "I've Got Your Music" blends "pristine dance-pop keyboards" and "driving electro beats" with Cracknell's "smooth, cool coos",[4] while referencing Donna Summer's 1977 song "I Feel Love".[8][9] According to lead singer Sarah Cracknell, the song is about "that personal moment of having your own favourite song on your headphones and that feeling of being separate to everything that's going on around you."[5]

"Heading for the Fair", the album's third track, was compared to "the kind of Balearic dance track Boys' Own Records put out in the early 90s",[6] and its lyrics, according to Cracknell, revolve around "[a] girl [who] goes to the fair and meets a guy who spins her round and promises many things and says 'I'll come back next year and we'll run off together' and, of course, next year he just ignores her."[5] Words and Music's fourth track is "Last Days of Disco", a downbeat R&B song[4] featuring symphonic string sections and a "lovely mellifluous" chorus.[10] "Tonight", the fifth track, describes the excitement of attending a gig from a favourite band,[11] incorporating "atmospheric" strings, "butterflies-in-your-stomach" synths and "stuttering" beats.[4]

The sixth track, "Answer Song", was referred to as "a waltzing ballad of epically soulful proportions",[10] and is followed by "Record Doctor", an a cappella song that pays tribute to "a friend blessed with the uncanny ability to find the right song to fit your mood".[6] "Popular", the eighth track, refers to the homonymous music blog run by Pitchfork Media contributor Tom Ewing,[12] dedicated to reviewing all the UK number-one singles since 1952,[13] with the lyrics namechecking several UK chart-topping titles, including Slade's "Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me",[8] The KLF's "3 a.m. Eternal"[4] and Pussycat's "Mississippi".[6] The track combines "radio-friendly electronics" and Cracknell's "sweet pop-soul vocals".[4] "Twenty Five Years" and "I Threw It All Away"—the album's ninth and twelfth tracks, respectively—are both about bad choices;[14] the latter carries "a hint of baroque pop in its waltz-time and woodwind".[6] Following "Twenty Five Years" is "DJ", which "starts out on the High Street but ends up in the underground club, mixing posh sounding effects and an adrenaline rush of techno synths to play out the song's conceit."[4] It was described as a "nice callback" to the melody of the band's 1994 song "Like a Motorway".[14]

The eleventh track "When I Was Seventeen" is a 1980s rock-inspired number,[14] and its lyrics find Cracknell reminiscing about the time she was living on the King's Road in London at age seventeen, after having just left home: "I was just having a ball but had no money at all."[15] "Haunted Jukebox" is the album's thirteenth track. Sporting a "mid-'60s soul groove" and "lushly lovely backing vocals",[14] the song's melody and vocal arrangement were perceived by critics as a homage to The Carpenters.[6] Lyrically, the song describes "a blossoming teenage romance built upon a mutual love of records",[9] while noting "how the memories evoked by old music hit harder as you age".[6] Regarding the inspiration behind "Haunted Jukebox", Cracknell said, "There was this bloke I went out with when I was 14, 15. In fact I started my first band with him. And he was really into Adam and the Ants. He once showed me a picture of himself that his sister had taken. And it was him in his bedroom and he'd put a white stripe across his nose. I look back and think, what on earth did I see in him."[15]

Release[edit]

A super deluxe edition box set, limited to 1,000 copies, was released in the UK on 11 June 2012, containing a bonus disc of remixes (also included on the regular deluxe edition) and an exclusive four-track EP, in addition to an enamel badge, four art prints, a giant foldout Ordnance Survey map-style print of the album artwork, and a book packed with photography by Paul Kelly not used in any other format.[16]

The album's cover art was designed by Manchester art collective Dorothy. Band member Bob Stanley explained, "They had done this map of a fictional area with all these road names, which were songs. I just got in touch with them and I was like, 'I love this, would you want to do one that was tailor made for us with all of our favorite songs?' They said yes. The general theme of the album is marking a route in your life through music—the idea is that you can follow roads on the map and end up with a playlist of different journeys. There are 312 song titles on the map—it's our hometown."[17]

After being offered as a free download on 24 January 2012,[18][19] lead single "Tonight" was released as a digital EP on 9 March 2012,[20] and as limited edition 7" and 12" singles on 12 March 2012.[21] "I've Got Your Music" was released as the album's second single on 25 June 2012.[22]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 82/100[23]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[14]
Clash 6/10[24]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[6]
The Independent 5/5 stars[3]
NME 8/10[25]
Now 4/5[26]
Pitchfork Media 7.8/10[12]
PopMatters 8/10[4]
Spin 7/10[27]
This Is Fake DIY 8/10[10]

Words and Music by Saint Etienne received general acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 82, based on 24 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim".[23] The Independent's Simon Price praised the album as "a masterclass of pop theory and practice in perfect harmony, often within the same song".[3] AllMusic editor Tim Sendra wrote, "About half the record is drenched in nostalgia, vaguely melancholic and introspective [...] The other half of the album is built on bouncing beats, glittering synths, and Cracknell's feather-light vocals, and is designed to be played over radio waves and in sweaty nightclubs", adding that "[t]hese dual aspects of the record mesh perfectly, often on the same song, and Words and Music turns out to be one of the band's most enriching albums, both musically and emotionally."[14] Kevin Ritchie of Now noted the album has "the vitality of today's top 40 dance-pop but is full of the kind of wisdom, wit and warmth that can only come with age. So many bands are content to ape the style of their predecessors, but Saint Etienne have a voice and sophisticated style all their own."[26] In a review for the NME, Dan Martin dubbed the album "the soundtrack to your life" and expressed that "while Saint Etienne will always sound like Saint Etienne, these songs are their sharpest in over a decade."[25]

The Guardian journalist Alexis Petridis stated that the album "frequently sounds as dizzy with the joy of pop as Saint Etienne did 20 years ago".[6] Arnold Pan of PopMatters opined, "What makes Words and Music stand out is that it's both polished and personal, a prime example of how a big pop sound can reach out and connect in the most intimate ways. Perhaps Saint Etienne's most fully realized effort and most engaging listen from beginning to end, Words and Music finds the sweet spot between proficient skill and intuitive feel that can be so elusive in pop music."[4] Pitchfork Media's Marc Hogan viewed Words and Music as "Saint Etienne's best LP since 1994 masterpiece Tiger Bay", commenting that "[p]art of what's appealing about Words and Music is the way it maintains a contemporary Top 40 sheen without lowering itself to pandering".[12] Ian Wade, writing for BBC Music, called the album "[w]onderful stuff" and described it as "a fantastic and warm collection of jubilant happy/sad pop moments, delivering all that Saint Etienne are known for".[28] This Is Fake DIY's Martyn Young concluded, "There is perhaps no band with a greater appreciation of the sheer joy and thrill of pop music in its purest form than Saint Etienne. Words And Music By Saint Etienne is not only their own unique take on what pop means to them it is also an incredibly fine album in its own right to add to those records that they so revere."[10] Barry Walters of Spin magazine summarised Words and Music as a "sustained, meticulous love letter to pop culture, the ultimate statement from consummate fans".[27] TC of Clash, however, felt that "[t]here's nothing essentially bad about [the album], but the only maturity in their sound is towards a more ambient quarter. Elevator music not quite, but rising out of the background might be an issue."[24]

Commercial performance[edit]

Words and Music by Saint Etienne debuted at number twenty-six on the UK Albums Chart, selling 4,538 copies in its first week.[29]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Over the Border"   Ian Catt 5:05
2. "I've Got Your Music"  
3:46
3. "Heading for the Fair"  
  • Cracknell
  • Tim Larcombe
  • Stanley
  • Wiggs
  • Larcombe
  • Catt
3:45
4. "Last Days of Disco"  
  • Nick Coler
  • Cracknell
  • Rob Davis
  • Stanley
  • Wiggs
Coler 3:35
5. "Tonight"  
  • Cracknell
  • Powell
  • Stanley
  • Wiggs
  • Powell
  • Richard X[a]
  • Hofmann[a]
4:37
6. "Answer Song"  
  • Cracknell
  • Stanley
  • Wiggs
  • Catt
  • Coler
3:26
7. "Record Doctor"  
  • Cracknell
  • Stanley
  • Wiggs
Catt 0:53
8. "Popular"  
  • Cracknell
  • Davis
  • Merissa Porter
  • Stanley
  • Wiggs
Davis 3:23
9. "Twenty Five Years"  
  • Coler
  • Cracknell
  • Stanley
  • Wiggs
Coler 3:40
10. "DJ"  
  • Cracknell
  • Powell
  • Stanley
  • Wiggs
  • Powell
  • Richard X[a]
  • Hofmann[a]
4:39
11. "When I Was Seventeen"  
  • Cracknell
  • Stanley
  • Wiggs
Catt 3:37
12. "I Threw It All Away"  
  • Cracknell
  • Lawrence Oakley
  • Stanley
  • Mark Waterfield
  • Wiggs
Catt 3:27
13. "Haunted Jukebox"  
Coler 4:15
Total length:
48:08
Notes

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Words and Music by Saint Etienne.[31]

Saint Etienne
Additional personnel
Deluxe edition bonus disc
Super deluxe edition box set bonus EP
  • Saint Etienne – remix (track 1)
  • Ian Catt – production (tracks 1–3); mixing (tracks 2, 3)
  • Nick Coler – mixing, production (track 4)
  • Debsey – guest vocals (track 4)

Charts[edit]

Chart (2012) Peak
position
Irish Independent Albums Chart[32] 20
Scottish Albums Chart[33] 29
Spanish Albums Chart[34] 87
Swedish Albums Chart[35] 41
UK Albums Chart[36] 26
US Dance/Electronic Albums[37] 18
US Heatseekers Albums[38] 26

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format(s) Edition(s) Label Ref.
Australia 18 May 2012 Digital download
  • Standard
  • deluxe
Universal Music
[39]
France Standard
[40]
Germany
  • Standard
  • deluxe
[41]
Italy
[42]
Poland
[43]
Sweden
[44]
United Kingdom
[45]
21 May 2012
Standard
[46][47]
2× CD Deluxe
[30]
France CD Standard Universal Music
[48]
Sweden
  • CD
  • LP
[49][50]
2× CD Deluxe
[51]
United States Digital download
  • Standard
  • deluxe
Casablanca Records
[52]
22 May 2012 CD Standard
[53]
Italy Fontana Distribution
[54]
Germany Universal Music
[55]
Poland
  • CD
  • LP
[56][57]
Australia 25 May 2012 CD
[58]
2× CD Deluxe
[59]
Italy 5 June 2012 Fontana Distribution
[60]
United Kingdom 11 June 2012 2× CD + EP Super deluxe box set
  • Heavenly Recordings
  • Universal UMC
[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Xmas 2011 EP". saintetienne.com. 11 December 2011. Archived from the original on 9 January 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  2. ^ "Words And Music By Saint Etienne". saintetienne.com. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
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  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Pan, Arnold (25 May 2012). "Saint Etienne: Words and Music". PopMatters. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Davidson-Vidavski, Doron (21 May 2012). "Listen Up! Music Interview: Saint Etienne". Londonist. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Petridis, Alexis (10 May 2012). "Saint Etienne: Words and Music By Saint Etienne – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  7. ^ Shaw, Steve (29 May 2012). "Saint Etienne: Words and Music by…". Fact. The Vinyl Factory. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Simpson, Dave (23 May 2012). "Saint Etienne – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Rivers, Joe (31 May 2012). "Saint Etienne: Words And Music By Saint Etienne". No Ripcord. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d Young, Martyn. "Saint Etienne – Words And Music By Saint Etienne". This Is Fake DIY. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  11. ^ Winter, Tina (22 May 2012). "Saint Etienne". The Quietus. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c Hogan, Marc (23 May 2012). "Saint Etienne: Words and Music by Saint Etienne". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 23 May 2012. 
  13. ^ "SAINT ETIENNE – "Popular"". FreakyTrigger. 21 May 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f Sendra, Tim. "Words & Music by Saint Etienne – Saint Etienne". AllMusic. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  15. ^ a b Jamieson, Teddy (18 May 2012). "That was then, this is now". The Herald. Newsquest. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  16. ^ a b c d "Saint Etienne | Words and Music Box Set". Universal Music UK. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  17. ^ Fitzmaurice, Larry (23 April 2012). "Listen: New Saint Etienne: "Answer Song"". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  18. ^ Pelly, Jenn (24 January 2012). "New Saint Etienne: "Tonight"". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
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  20. ^ "Tonight – EP by Saint Etienne". iTunes Store UK. Apple. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  21. ^ "HVN238 — Saint Etienne 'Tonight'". Heavenly Recordings. 10 April 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
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  24. ^ a b TC (22 May 2012). "Saint Etienne – Words And Music By Saint Etienne". Clash. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  25. ^ a b Martin, Dan (18 May 2012). "Saint Etienne – 'Words And Music By Saint Etienne'". NME. IPC Media. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  26. ^ a b Ritchie, Kevin (7–14 June 2012). "Saint Etienne – Words And Music By Saint Etienne". Now 31 (41). Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  27. ^ a b Walters, Barry (13 June 2012). "Saint Etienne, 'Words and Music By' (Universal)". Spin. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  28. ^ Wade, Ian (14 May 2012). "Review of Saint Etienne – Words and Music by Saint Etienne". BBC Music. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  29. ^ "Official Charts analysis: UK album sales continue to drop". Music Week. Intent Media. 28 May 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  30. ^ a b "Words And Music By Saint Etienne [Deluxe Edition]". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
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  35. ^ "Saint Etienne – Words And Music". swedishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  36. ^ "2012 Top 40 Official Albums Chart UK Archive". Official Charts Company. 2 June 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2012. 
  37. ^ "Saint Etienne – Chart history: Dance/Electronic Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  38. ^ "Saint Etienne – Chart history: Heatseekers Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
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  41. ^ "Words and Music By Saint Etienne by Saint Etienne". iTunes Store Germany. Apple. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
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  43. ^ "Words and Music By Saint Etienne by Saint Etienne". iTunes Store Poland. Apple. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  44. ^ "Words and Music By Saint Etienne by Saint Etienne". iTunes Store Sweden. Apple. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
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  46. ^ "Saint Etienne: Words & Music By Saint Etienne: CD". HMV. Archived from the original on 20 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
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