Boomkat Product Review:
'Words and Music by Saint Etienne' was the bands eighth studio album released on 18 May 2012 by Heavenly Recordings. The record features collaborations from longtime Saint Etienne associate Ian Catt, as well as Richard X and former Xenomania members Tim Powell and Nick Coler.
"The title was provided by Lawrence of the bands Felt, Denim and Go-Kart Mozart. According to Bob Stanley the record deals with "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.”
The album opens with "Over the Border", a semi-spoken memoir that narrates a first-person coming-of-age tale that is defined by musical milestones. It was the last song recorded for the album, and includes references to the likes of Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Modern English, New Order, Marc Bolan, Top of the Pops, Smash Hits, the NME, Factory Records and Postcard Records. The second track "I've Got Your Music" blends "pristine dance-pop keyboards" and "driving electro beats" with Cracknell's "smooth, cool coos”, while referencing Donna Summer's 1977 song "I Feel Love". According to lead singer Sarah Cracknell, the song is about "that personal moment of having your own favourite song on your headphones and that feeling of being separate to everything that's going on around you."
"Heading for the Fair", the album's third track, was compared to "the kind of Balearic dance track Boys' Own Records put out in the early 90s", and its lyrics, according to Cracknell, revolve around "[a] girl [who] goes to the fair and meets a guy who spins her round and promises many things and says 'I'll come back next year and we'll run off together' and, of course, next year he just ignores her." Words and Music's fourth track is "Last Days of Disco", a downbeat R&B song featuring symphonic string sections and a "lovely mellifluous" chorus. "Tonight", the fifth track, describes the excitement of attending a gig from a favourite band, incorporating "atmospheric" strings, "butterflies-in-your-stomach" synths and "stuttering" beats.
The sixth track, "Answer Song", was referred to as "a waltzing ballad of epically soulful proportions",and is followed by "Record Doctor", an a cappella song that pays tribute to "a friend blessed with the uncanny ability to find the right song to fit your mood". "Popular", the eighth track, refers to the homonymous music blog run by Pitchforkcontributor Tom Ewing, dedicated to reviewing all the UK number-one singles since 1952, with the lyrics namechecking several UK chart-topping titles, including Slade's "Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me", The KLF's "3 a.m. Eternal" and Pussycat's "Mississippi". The track combines "radio-friendly electronics" and Cracknell's "sweet pop-soulvocals”. "Twenty Five Years" and "I Threw It All Away"—the album's ninth and twelfth tracks, respectively—are both about bad choices; the latter carries "a hint of baroque pop in its waltz-time and woodwind”. Following "Twenty Five Years" is "DJ", which "starts out on the High Street but ends up in the underground club, mixing posh sounding effects and an adrenaline rush of techno synths to play out the song's conceit." It was described as a "nice callback" to the melody of the band's 1994 song "Like a Motorway".
The eleventh track "When I Was Seventeen" is a 1980s rock-inspired number, and its lyrics find Cracknell reminiscing about the time she was living on the King's Road in London at age 17, after having just left home: "I was just having a ball but had no money at all." "Haunted Jukebox" is the album's thirteenth track. Sporting a "mid-'60s soul groove" and "lushly lovely backing vocals", the song's melody and vocal arrangement were perceived by critics as a homage to The Carpenters. Lyrically, the song describes "a blossoming teenage romance built upon a mutual love of records", while noting "how the memories evoked by old music hit harder as you age". Regarding the inspiration behind "Haunted Jukebox", Cracknell said, "There was this bloke I went out with when I was 14, 15. In fact I started my first band with him. And he was really into Adam and the Ants. He once showed me a picture of himself that his sister had taken. And it was him in his bedroom and he'd put a white stripe across his nose. I look back and think, what on earth did I see in him.""