Brighter - Out To Sea

matcd041  /  September 2006
Brighter - Out To Sea
cd   $10.00

Brighter - Out To Sea

matcd041  /  September 2006

Essential new 20-track collection of rarities and unreleased tracks from beloved English band Brighter. From 1989 to 1992, the trio of Alison Cousens, Keris Howard and Alex Sharkey recorded four singles for the renowned Sarah Records imprint (previously collected by Matinée on the 'Singles' CD in 2003), and a wealth of other songs collected on this new compilation.

'Out To Sea' begins with eight tracks that formed the long out of print and highly sought after 'Laurel' mini-album released on Sarah. These eight tracks are archetypal of the Brighter sound—melodic, pastoral pop with carefully strummed guitars, keyboards, and wonderfully introspective, poignant vocals from Keris Howard. The album features several of the band's best known songs including indie classics 'Ocean Sky' and 'Christmas.'

Also showcasing Brighter's ability to pen upbeat, jangly pop hits, 'Out To Sea' features five early 4-track recordings originally released on limited edition flexidiscs by the German labels Blam-A-Bit and Sturm und Drang. Perhaps more than later recordings, these fan favorites demonstrate the band's expertise in layering instruments and voice together to form a melodic wall of sound. Elsewhere, the beautifully fragile 'Still'—the last of the 14 previously released tracks on 'Out To Sea'—is a melancholy pop rarity originally found on the 'Beckett House' compilation.

Among the album's six unreleased tracks are four songs from a scrapped debut album recorded in 1990. Other songs from this album were later rerecorded for 'Laurel' but these four—'There's Nothing We Can Do,' 'Nothing At All,' 'Hope To God' and 'Amy Never Knew'—were passed over for newer compositions and remained unreleased until today.

Additional unreleased gems 'If I Could See' and 'Wallflower' were recorded at the same time as 'Laurel' but dropped from that release and languished in the vaults. They are among the most immediate songs the band ever wrote and, with this release, are likely to become posthumous Brighter classics more than 15 years after their recording.

Following the final release as Brighter in 1992, Keris Howard and Alex Sharkey released the one-off 'Election Day' EP under the name Hal. Several years later, Howard formed the popular band Harper Lee and appeared as bassist for Trembling Blue Stars, while Sharkey joined Fosca for a time before launching a solo career as Pinkie.

Packaged in a lavish digipak and digitally remastered, 'Out To Sea' is the perfect complement to Brighter's 'Singles' collection and another inspired entry in the Matinée discography.

  1. Christmas
  2. Frostbite
  3. Summer Becomes Winter
  4. Something To Call My Own
  5. Ocean Sky
  6. Out To Sea
  7. Maybe
  8. Journey’s End
  9. If I Could See
  10. Wallflower
  11. Airhead
  12. Don’t Remember
  13. Next Summer
  14. Looks Like Rain
  15. Falling
  16. There Is Nothing We Can Do?
  17. Nothing At All
  18. Hope To God
  19. Amy Never Knew
  20. Still


Of all the Sarah bands, Brighter were probably the most reliable. Not for them the highs and lows of romance and life; they stuck to the resolutely melancholy side of the equation at all times. Matinée already complied the group's singles and EP tracks on 2003's excellent Singles 1989-1992, and Out to Sea is a slightly more ambitious project that contains the group's lovely 1990 mini-LP Laurel plus a batch of tracks released on flexi discs (the missing pieces from the earlier comp) and six unreleased songs. Laurel is a tiny masterpiece of sadness and regret set to pretty melodies and sung by Keris Howard in the kind of sweet and tender voice that sets indie kids' hearts a-flutter and sets rockers' teeth on edge. It's one of the best long releases in the Sarah catalog and it's great to have it on CD. Of the six unreleased tracks, two of them were recorded at the Laurel session and would have actually added to the record's strength, especially the incredibly jangly "Wallflower." The other four were recorded at an earlier session and were all scrapped in favor of the songs that made up Laurel. It was a wise decision on the band's part, as they are slightly weaker and less majestically sad songs -- still, it's nice to hear them. Even more pleasing are the flexi tracks compiled here. They were frightfully rare, and even if you were lucky enough to own them, the records no doubt began disintegrating after the fourth or fifth play. Just hearing the rocked-out "Next Summer" and "Looks Like Rain" again makes the whole disc worthwhile. Between this disc and Singles 1989-1992, it's clear to see that Brighter were one of the better bands to surface out of the late-'80s and early-'90s indie pop scene. Thanks to Matinée for documenting them so fully.   --All Music Guide
and then (swoon)... brighter. ok i must at the outset confess that in reality they have not, outside of my dreams, resurrected their old label in order to release "if i could see" and "wallflower" (out-takes from their classic sarah album "laurel") as a double a-sided single. unlike most label bosses, clare wadd and matt haynes were responsible for perpetrating gratifyingly few crimes against music, but in my befuddled, oversentimentalist mind not allowing those songs to see the light of day was up there with not releasing action painting!s "laying the lodger", not running with the golden dawn's "no reason why", and not releasing the orchids' beautiful "thaumaturgy" about a million years earlier. anyway, if, back in '91, this my fantasy brighter single had happened, it would i promise you have been a seismic global event to rank alongside those effortlessly serene "solace" and "sensitive" double-headers: at my age, i feel i need not be ashamed to aver that listening to them can still reduce me alternately to tears and insane joy. however, the bonniest news of this long yr is that "if i could see" and "wallflower" have at last received their unbelievably overdue official release, courtesy of matinee recordings' new brighter compilation, "out to sea", a "laurel plus" (the plusses being various prev. unreleaseds, and 5x tunes from the two great little flexis that are mine forever, thanks to two judiciously-spent 50p coins a decade and a half ago) to help sate completists and to provide a companion for the equally fabulous "singles 1989-1992". obviously, even aside from the single that never was, "out to sea" is the business. also, please note that the very first track on it is still, for me, the greatest song of all time.   --Kisschase
I feel the need to say a word or two about Out to Sea, the new Brighter compilation on Matinée. It ties together the remaining loose ends, just as Keris tells me he's ready to tie the knot also with his current project Harper Lee. Because it feels like I've come full circle in my love affair with Brighter, who have been among the handful of bands I've held closest to my heart for several years now, and that will certainly remain there forever. Obviously, the cd is first of all a reissue of the band's only album: Laurel. If you like Brighter you've probably heard it already, so I won't go on about that. The title of the comp is from Laurel's sixth track, apparently a favourite for some. Mine is "Maybe" however, which has one of the most poignant lyrics according to my book. But there are also a wealth of songs from flexis, demos and an old compilation LP called Becket House - which I saw not long ago in a record store in Stockholm, despite Jimmy Tassos' frequent mentioning of its rarity. Ever since I heard "Wallflower" on the Matinée site this Spring, I've been longing for this release! That is without a doubt one of the best Brighter songs there are. Listening to this record I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality of these previously unreleased songs that Keris seems to regard as inferior or rather naive. As if there was something wrong with naivety! "If I Could See" can easily rival "Wallflower" and there are several quite upbeat songs, which we weren't spoiled with in the previously released material. There is nothing to rival a fast Brighter song, you know. All those layers of jangling guitar-figures and simple yet ingenious guitar-lines that sounds so majestic and moving in the slow songs just makes me go through the roof when played at the pace of classics like "Does Love Last Forever?". As you may have noticed Tom posted some Brighter demos on the Indie MP3 blog not long ago, and some of those tracks are to be found on Out to Sea, remastered and in their full glory. I'm very grateful for the cleaned-up version of "Nothing At All", which was the one I liked best among the demos posted! Among them was also "I Wish I'd Never Said That", which devoted fans would recognise as a track from the Election Day EP Keris released under the Hal moniker post-Brighter. That sets you to wondering if maybe other songs, even with Harper Lee, were perhaps written long ago? The only song on the record that makes you understand Keris' concern with the quality of the songwriting is "Airhead". But although it might not be a full-fledged Brighter composition, you can't help but be charmed. Just as with the singing on "Next Summer", where Keris sounds like he's about twelve. Beautiful! There must have been many requests for the reissue of Laurel (not the least from me) and we can only lift our hats for Jimmy Tassos, who's finally made it happen. To sum it up and make for a nice quote for Jimmy: Out to Sea is a double victory for Keris, Alex, Alison, and Matinée - finally the magnificence of Laurel is once again available for all to behold, and for the rabid fans a completely new universe is opened with these extra tracks that show us Brighter are even more deserving of our love and worship than we had thought! So, I was right in my prediction that this would be the record of year.   --The Rain Fell Down
One of the advantages of growing up is that you get to look back at your awkward adolescence and laugh about how misunderstood you were and how much you misunderstood the world. You know, that weird stretch as a socialist in college, that ridiculous middle-school haircut and a string of really, really bad dates all sort of makes sense once all the pieces fall together. For Brighter, that's not really the case. With Out to Sea rounding up a sizable chunk of the London bedroom pop's output (including its sole full-length Laurel and a bunch of unreleased cuts) 15 years after the band called it a day, it'd be nice to think that with the benefit of hindsight, everyone who wanders across Out to Sea would get it: That, unlike its detractors over the years claimed, the average Joe Record Collector would be able to see past the gentle hush and melt-in-your ears dynamics and recognize that Brighter wasn't as wrapped up in misery as it seemed on the surface. Fat chance: The 15-year jump to 2006 leaves the world so crowded with bands slinging misery and gloom, it's easy to usher Brighter into that category. It'd be a big mistake. Underneath the quiet and the low-key songwriting, Brighter -- which featured Harper Lee front man Kelis Howard -- embraced a heady, if cautious, optimism. Out To Sea's a reminder that the biggest difference between class-act bedroom pop and virtually every wave of emo is that optimism. It may be rainy and miserable today, but Brighter, and most of its Sarah Records compatriots, were constantly scanning the horizon in hope that the storm would break. For the most part it's still drizzly, though the rain peeks through the clouds. The massive 20-track collection hits some reasons on why Brighter -- a criminally overlooked pop act if ever there was one -- needs to find its way into your record collection. "Christmas" captures that pleasant, wine-drunk melancholy essential for bedroom pop, and is worth half the price of the CD alone. The rest of the album's predictable, if pleasant, bedroom pop. "Out to Sea" lets a jangle-ridden guitar swim through a sea of warm bass melodies and nearly non-existent percussion, "Amy Never Knew" checks everything from R.E.M. to The Field Mice, while early four-track demos such as "Next Summer" and "Airhead" provide a glimpse into a more roughshod, live sound. Oh sure, Out to Sea has a downbeat streak a mile wide, but it isn't a depressed streak. There's a subtle but monumental difference between standard miserabilist pop and melancholy -- check out Brighter as a yardstick to locate the latter type.
I wasn't paying attention when it was released in 1991, but Brighter's lone album Laurel has always seemed like a classic to me – it keeps following me around. It's a treasure I first encountered in the cut-out bins, on cassette and later on CD, one I bought and got carried away by… I saw "treasure" because its milieu is an uncommonly gorgeous one, one of deep dreams and unending landscapes. At least two of the band's three members would go on to make excellent melancholy pop music later – especially Keris Howard with Harper Lee, but also Alex Sharkey with Pinkie – but there's nothing like Brighter, and nothing like Laurel. Laurel is a walk through a glow or a haze, one created by guitars, by introspective singing, by some piano or synth. But there's also direct emotion inside the haze; these songs can be particularly affecting, in a gentle yet genuine way. Lyrics like "maybe one day you will see all the things you'd like to see," or "as I lay awake I wonder where life's taking me / the waves they crash against my window" embody a world of wishes and hopes, and hurts and disappointment. It's music of seasons, of journeys, marked by the passing of time. And Laurel is only the beginning of this collection Out to Sea, only the first 8 of its 20 tracks. The rest of the songs are in the same vein, and spectacular. Overall they have a slightly more extroverted and alert demeanor, one fitting their origins, their life outside the wondrous fog of Laurel -- there's 4-track recordings that ended up on flexi singles, tracks recorded with Laurel that never came out, tracks recorded later, or earlier. It's a treasure trove of music from a truly remarkable band.   --Erasing Clouds
Out to Sea' is the second Brighter compilation CD released by Matinee records and this time around they have dug deep into the vaults for a number of the songs. The CD has 6 previously unreleased songs, 5 songs from hard to find German flexis, a rare compilation track, and 8 songs from the fabulous 'Laurel' mini-LP. The songs from 'Laurel' will probably be enough for most fans of the band to track down this CD. 'Christmas', 'Frostbite', 'Ocean Sky', 'Summer Becomes Winter', watery/pastoral pop gems with layered guitars and keyboards and Keris Howard's subdued, introspective vocals - these songs are Brighter. A beautiful sense of uplifting melancholy. And while Brighter might be better known for their sombre moments, many of the unreleased tracks on this CD do a great job of showing the more upbeat side of the band. 'If I Could See' and 'Wallflower' were recorded at the same time as the songs on 'Laurel', but somehow ended up not making the cut. Both songs have a nice jangly-ness to them and are sure to get your toes tapping. The flexi tracks, originally released on German labels Blam-A-Bit and Sturm und Drang, continue the more upbeat vibe and capture the band at a time when they sound very young. Even here though, the layering of guitar, keyboard, and Howard's vocals is already present and working wonders - and the band sounds downright happy on 'Looks Like Rain'! The CD also adds 4 songs that were recorded for the never released debut album and that weren't included on 'Laurel'. 'There Is Nothing We Can Do' gives us some more upbeat vibes, this time adding what sounds like a flute to the mix. 'Nothing At All', 'Hope To God', and 'Amy Never Knew' bring us back to the more sombre side of Brighter. These songs could have easily been at home on the 'Laurel' mini-LP (It almost seems that 'Laurel' could have been a double LP!!!). The last song on the CD, 'Still', comes from the rare 'Beckett House' compilation. It is yet another fine example of the beautiful melancholy that Brighter was able to create. Simple guitar lines over keyboard tones with Howard's soft vocals floating on top. Brighter frontman Keris Howard says "'Out To Sea' is very much a compilation for completists". While this compilation combined with 2003's 'Singles 1989 - 1993' does indeed complete the Brighter story. This is no mere collection of bits and scraps. Many of the songs on this CD are longtime fan favorites and it seems that some of the unreleased songs may become favorites as well - just 15 years later.   --Pennyblack Magazine
Brighter was a group who shone briefly, yet never really got much attention. Some 16 years after the release of Laurel, an extremely rare issue, the songs from that album have returned in a re-mastered, compiled format. The Singles 1989-1992 release turned several heads in 2003, but many thought that the cupboard was bare after that. Fortunately, this isn’t the case, as Brighter have dusted off these 20 rarities to create the same melodic and melancholic indie rock that endeared them to sinfully so few so many years ago. The first eight tracks from this collection are from that Laurel release, beginning with “Christmas”, a light, airy, quasi-Beatles number that would be criminal not to enjoy. Think of the Go-Betweens and these songs seem to come to life, with a gorgeous melody mixed with thoughtful lyrical content. Fans of the Smiths or Morrissey would also lap this material up, as there seems to be a bittersweet hook within each nugget. Just as pleasing and refreshing is the mid-tempo and somewhat moody “Frostbite”, which could be mistaken now for a Snow Patrol b-side. At the same time, an effort like “Summer Becomes Winter” has a sweet pop feeling that is separated by the Stone Roses only by Mani’s groovy bass line. It definitely has a timeless quality about it from start to finish. If you’re not a fan of this soft, melody-centric brand of pop, you will spend the hour dying a slow painful death. But if you love this sound, then you can’t do anything but grin after a simple, small town tale dubbed “Something to Call My Own”, a reflective slice-of-life tune that doesn’t sound whiny, despite the lead singer’s somewhat fey vocal approach. The first attempt at a somewhat edgy, punchy pop-rock is during “Ocean Sky”. The guitars give it far more bite than earlier songs, but it never loses its direction, winding itself around the airtight and surefire hook. And while most of these you’ll find yourself hitting the repeat button over, it’s this one that is the first great highlight. Generally, the album sticks to the softer side of Brighter, judging by the adorable “Maybe”, which has some staggered harmonies that gives the song more weight. And, fortunately, this song again, much like “Ocean Sky”, shifts into another gear when the rhythm section chimes in. Brighter—which consisted of lead singer Keris Howard, bassist Alison Cousens, and drummer Alex Sharkey, rarely falter on this album—even on the light and catchy “If I Could See” that finds them raking over similar ground as earlier efforts. The songs do seem to start blending into one another roughly halfway through, although one would be hard not to take notice of the gleeful and delightful “Wallflower”, which has a chorus that you have to sing along to while taking on a Cure-ish charm. This is also quite audible later on for “Looks Like Rain”, which is cut from the same cloth as “Boys Don’t Cry”. Although the band keep it relatively simple, they’re not adverse to adding some instruments, resulting in a nice and quaint effort like “Don’t Remember” taking on an ethereal quality thanks to the angelic keyboard or synthesizers thrown in. This electro-pop vibe is a hit and miss affair, though, when the group offer up “Next Summer”, a rather shoddy and sub-par tune. It’s the rare exception to a high quality, excellent rule, a rule that carried the band into another four-pack of ditties that compose most of the homestretch. Recorded in 1990, a song like “Hope to God” or “There Is Nothing We Can Do?” begins to sound like song number one, or was it two… it might have been the sixth song… or the seventh. Anyway, it’s still darn good. Brighter were fine at crafting songs that will never reach radio airwaves, rarely be heard by the masses and hailed as great by only a few. Luckily, I fall into the minority.   --Pop Matters
I've had this album for a number of years but given my recent C86 revival its time to review it. Brighter are (or were) one of the most important bands in my life. Their songs of heartbreak and disappointment amid jangly guitars and perfect tunes spoke to me more than any other band's. Years later can that still be true? This compilation collects together their only album, Laurel (10" LP - cool) plus some rarities and unreleased tracks. All these years later can this still make my soul sing? OMG yes. Even more so. This is my blues. My heart's soundtrack. The tones and melodies mixed with sad vocals and lyrics. The music is delicate, almost impossibly fragile at times. There is an amateurish air about the proceedings but in a good way. These are people who cared and were doing it for themselves. Its the ultimate punk rock. Every song is irresistible. It won't be true for most people but for me this is the best record ever released. Word.   --Trip TV
Obligado retrovisor de grupo de pedrigri indie. Alex, Keris y Alison formaron este trio, que reinó hasta el 92 y grabó para la mitica etiqueta Sarah. En los veinte cortes de este disco hay viejos himnos (‘Christmas’) o joyas nunca editadas, coetáneas de Laurel (‘If I Could See’ o ‘Wallflower’).   --Calle 20