Bearded’s Guide to… Brighton

The first of Bearded's regional round ups. Norman Miller helps us get to grips with what's going on in the boho seatown of Brighton...

Esben and the Witch Brighton offers fertile soil for music-making, mixing bohemianism with cosmopolitanism, laidback hedonism and inspiring ocean vistas. Chuck in fabulous festivals like The Great Escape and Loop as well as The Fringe of the Brighton Festival itself (England's largest arts festival), then top with an eclectic range of atmospheric venues from which the justly renowned Prince Albert pub, St George's Church and the beachside Concorde 2 stand out. And Brightonians will rejoice in news of the re-opening of the legendary Freebutt in late January.

The city has spawned a growing array of indie labels to complement the likes of Skint and FatCat – dance and hip-hop labels like Blue Juice, Puma Strut and Tru Thoughts along with Numbskull, South Coast Sounds, Woodland Recordings and One Inch Badge plus electronica newcomer Pretty Neat to release the resultant wave of music.

While the movie spotlight will be shining on Brighton come February when the new version of ‘Brighton Rock’ hits the screens, by happy coincidence both of Brighton's likeliest stars-for-2011 will be releasing debut albums around the same time which should also garner plenty of deserved column inches.

First up is three-piece Esben & The Witch, whose album Violet Cries will add a cold wintry glint to the lives of music fans - think gorgeous gothic shoegazing beauty fuelled by the sort of well-read invention that comes with a band who name themselves after a Danish folktale. By contrast, Mirrors add their own buff to the synth-pop revival with a debut album Lights And Offerings, from which the single ‘Ways To An End’ illustrates their seamless channelling of OMD with krautrock.

Other than these two odds-on outfits, it's an open field for Brighton acts – some new, others honed over the last few years. In the former category, look out for Gazelle Twin – one of several acts to rise from the ashes of the excellent-but-overlooked A Scandal In Bohemia. This solo project of the ethereal Elizabeth Walling deserves to grab the attention, though whether the Great British Public have the nous to tune into someone meshing Fever Ray, JG Ballard and early English music waits to be seen.

From the old-timers list, January 17 sees theatrical music troupe The Mummers release their second album Mink Hollow Road, which hopefully will give them the wider success they should have had following 2009's Tale To Tell.

Post-hardcore outfit Crooked Mountain, Crooked Sea can build on interest following the release of their 3rd EP I Watched It From The Roadside, while sparky popsters Gloria Cycles would have gathered more followers in the wake of their 2010 debut Campsite Discotheque if they had remained together.

Melodic indie fans should note the forthcoming release of the debut 10-tracker We Form A Shelter by Anagrams (featured on BBC Radio 6), while the sprightly Educated Animals should add to acclaimed numbers like ‘Timebomb’ (featured on Hollyoaks). And if you like throwaway garage pop, check out Ramona whose debut single ‘How Long’ is the precursor to an album out in the next few months.

Fans of folksiness or folktronica, meanwhile, should listen out for anything by Shoreline and Sons of Noel And Adrian, while the vaguely vampish 12-Stone Toddler may finally earn more than local nods of approval.

Keep an eye out for regular reports from Brighton and all over the UK here on Bearded throughout 2011.