There probably isn’t another band from the 1990s that suit the term ‘quintessentially English’ quite so well as Saint Etienne.
heir unique and quirky brand of house/indie-dance/pop music, matched by Sarah Cracknell’s distinctive vocals, made them one of the most original groups to emerge from the decade.
Eighteen years after the lead singer’s first, and up to recent times last solo effort, Lipslide, Cracknell has released a second album, Red Kite.
Recorded over a two-week period in a converted barn, Cracknell drew inspiration from British pop acts from the 1960s. The result is a wonderfully mellow and sunny collection of 12 sterling folk-pop tracks, no doubt heavily influenced by the countryside setting in which they were recorded.
One thing that becomes very clear from the opening folky melody of On the Swings is that the pulsing house music of Saint Etienne has been very much shut out for this solo outing, replaced by a stripped-back deceptively simple style.
The track In the Dark could be quite at home on Marianne Faithfull’s début album from 1965, as could the wonderfully naïve Hearts Are For Breaking.
A staple of Cracknell’s voice and songwriting is the ‘little girl’ quality that has never gone away. She uses this to her full advantage on the new album, especially on the more childlike tracks such as It’s Never Too Late and The Mutineer.
Thirty-seven minutes later and it’s all over, leaving the listener feel slightly melancholy but with a warm and sunny sensation at the same time.
All in all, Red Kite is a gorgeously bright record, reminiscent of the folk tracks on Saint Etienne’s third album, Tiger Bay. Here is a record that is perfect for long strolls along English country lanes on summer evenings. Cracknell’s soothing and unmistakeable voice remains as soothing and saintly as it was two decades ago.