Formed at a time when acid house was booming and Brit-pop was just starting, Saint Etienne offered a sophisticated, lush, and tuneful alternative. Initially designed by the duo of Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs as a project with revolving vocalists, they set that notion aside once vocalist Sarah Cracknell joined. They built songs around odd samples, balanced goofy dancefloor tracks with heartbreaking ballads, and had a hit right away with 1991’s Foxbase Alpha LP. Further albums and singles showed the group had a magpie eye towards pop culture and musical trends, picking up shiny pieces of sound and combining them in fascinating ways.
In 2020, finding it impossible to work together on music, the band members recorded in their respective homes, with Stanley digging up samples in Bradford, Wiggs providing music in Hove, and Cracknell adding vocals in Oxford. Released in late 2021, I’ve Been Trying to Tell You set forth a melancholy, dub-influenced alternative pop universe circa the late ’90s.