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Love Letter to Saint Etienne

Whenever I have the energy and/or patience, I will be doing these features where I discuss a band/musician who has left an impact on me. You are welcome to contribute as well! theuselesscritic@gmail.com.



Saint Etienne


It took me several long years to warm up the retro pop sounds that define Saint Etienne. The music this band has made since the early '90s has been nothing but lush and intoxicating. Even Norwegian pop star Annie has claimed the three-piece band as a huge inspiration for her sound; Lush and Kylie Minogue have similar stories to share.

Saint Etienne is not a band extremely popular in the United States. I don't know if they ever really have been. On the indie circuit, yeah, sure. But pretty much everyone- music snob or not- knows Goldfrapp, for example. Saint Etienne? Not so much. When you're really into music, you'll come across Saint Etienne eventually. I heard them the first time when I was in high school. And they didn't make much of an impression on me at the time; I brushed them aside and only listened to them in passing when I was in college.

Several years later, out of college, I gave Saint Etienne a chance. I had known a lot of people who appreciated them. And because I loved Annie and Robyn and all that girly Europop stuff, they were like "Oh, you need to listen to Saint Etienne. You need to listen to them!" (said in condescending music douchebag.) 

I really discovered them when I moved to Phoenix. For whatever reason, I was compelled to listen them one afternoon. The song "Mario's Cafe" in particular reminded me of spring - and I don't know per se, it conjured nostalgic feelings for me of things that never happened.


That was my gateway drug into really becoming a Saint Etienne fan. It was 2012 and there couldn't have been better timing - "Words and Music," their most recent album, just came out. Saint Etienne has been a band since 1990, so it marked their 22nd year together. 

It was a near-perfect album.

The band said this about "Words and Music"-

(It's 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."

I think for any true fan of music- this is 100-percent applicable. Saint Etienne captured that sentiment PERFECTLY. I mean, take "Over the Border." With the exception of some classic rock songs, I can't think of any track that captures the bittersweetness of growing older. The really interesting part was that the band chose to use music itself- Marc Bolan and NME -as a backdrop for coming of age. 

"Tonight" is the euphoria of going out for a night with your friends- and with a sense of possibility about what the night holds. "I've Got Your Music" is missing someone, but somehow having them around with their music. "Last Days of Disco" is pretty sensual- I will leave that there. :)



I listened to "Words and Music" a lot summer 2012. 2012 in general was my Saint Etienne year. Although now- with February days away- I'm embracing them again. Like an old sweater. 


And really, let's not lie. Sarah Cracknell is a goddess. Sometimes I like to pretend I'm her...I will never be that cool.

Oh, and Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs are GENUISES. 

So, here's my love letter to Saint Etienne. I hope you listen to them at some point, if you haven't already. They are such an underrated, legendary, self-aware band. 

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