Saint Etienne: Sound of Water (Reissue) (Heavenly) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Saint Etienne

Sound of Water


Nov 02, 2009 Saint Etienne Bookmark and Share

Seven years after So Tough, and nearly a decade into their career, Saint Etienne released 2000’s Sound of Water—a timeless synthesis of their acid house, electronic, and pop influences. While So Tough’s recent reissue sparkled with the wit and candor of a youth spent frolicking to 1960s Britpop, Sound of Water is a quieter affair—a master class in aging with grace.

A cohesive outing tinged with sadness, there’s a distinct sense that Saint Etienne has moved past their experimental stage. However, aided with the confidence of their years, they inhabit their songs with a well-worn ease. Singer Sarah Cracknell taps into her inner diva for boding house track, “Heart Failed (in the Back of a Taxi)”—turning on a dime to embody the playful persona of a 1960s French pop singer in bossa nova-driven “Boy Is Crying.” Meanwhile, band mates Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs take over for understated delight “Aspects of Lambert”—its cool synths coming on like an ambient breeze.

Sound of Water’s bonus disc seamlessly extends the original album’s reach. Cracknell’s voice is often treated as an accruement—floating dreamily above the instrumentation in songs such as “Red Setter” and “Ivyhouse.” Introspective tracks such as “Sadie’s Anniversary” are interspersed with lighter fare, including, “Chaos in the Gym” and “52 Pilot.”

And yet, if one were to look for a cohesive thesis statement, they’d find it the album’s first single “How We Used to Live,” an anthem that truly captures the spirit of the album. Moving from harsh electronic beeps, to a subtle bossa nova, to piano-driven pop, it sweetly embodies all of Saint Etienne’s influences—serving as a paean to long-lost days of youth. Cracknell’s voice wavers, asking, “She’s moving down to the seaside, because that’s where he comes from. He gave away all of her records. Is that where she belongs?” However, over its nine-minute running time, the instrumentation answers that question for her, crescendoing into a hopeful conclusion for the unnamed protagonist—a spiritual stand-in for the band themselves. Growing up may be hard to do—but with a touch of optimism, Saint Etienne has found beauty in the process. (

Author rating: 8/10

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