wears the trousers magazine


sounding off: june 2009 (v)

Concluding this month’s roundup, part five looks at Arrica Rose’s new EP, English psych-folk from The Steals and a welcome reissue of Naomi Sommers’s overlooked debut.

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Arrica Rose
Pretend I’m Fur EP ••••
pOprOck

While experimenting with beats, instruments and a Bee Gees cover, Arrica Rose and producer Dan Garcia (Christina Aguilera, Leonard Cohen) accidentally came up with the musical concepts behind this seven-song EP. The result is a very different sound to anything Rose has previously conjured up with her band, the dot dot dot’s. Where their 2008 debut People Like Us showcased a predictably bankable indie-pop hybrid that wound up on an episode of ‘Lipstick Jungle’, Pretend I’m Fur finds Rose distilling her talents into a more classic singer-songwriter sound and letting her appealingly husky vocals speak for themselves. And speak they do. Rose has a voice that could stop a raging bull in its tracks, lilting, and with a hint of gravel that complements the clear sound of her guitar. 

Despite the apparent simplicity of its sound, there is nothing really ordinary about Pretend I’m Fur. Even Rose’s cover of the brothers Gibb classic ‘Tragedy’, which sets off the guitar with music box and finger snaps, is peeled right back to its roots and is worthy of inclusion, even if it can’t quite bleach out the scars left by the Steps massacre. If only all accidents could be this special and soulful.

Claire Robinson
Available on import only; www.myspace.com/arricarose

 

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The Steals
Static Kingdom •••
Faun

Static Kingdom sees homegrown quartet The Steals follow up their 2006 EP Floodlights with eight songs that expand their palette of mysterious pysch-folk with emotive skill. Co-produced by Mark Peters, formerly of acclaimed band Engineers, the recording sessions saw them relocate to sun-kissed San Francisco from the English northwest and an element of that comes through in the production. Pinning the band to their British roots is vocalist Jayn Hanna, a veritable folk princess with her long, red tresses and fey appearance, of which much has been made in pretty much every review they’ve ever had. But it’s her voice that will no doubt capture their audience. Silken, bell-clear notes are Hanna’s forte, but while she can undoubtedly hold a note with elegant poise, some may find her ghostly echoes a tad too ambient.

From the epic shoegaze of the gloriously accumulating ‘Hope’ to the tribal-like drums of ‘Stay In Silence’ and mild gothic notes of ‘Borderlines’, the album isn’t afraid to sway between sounds and blur the edges of their folk compositions with touches of other alternative styles. Overall, Static Kingdom is certainly interesting and beautifully accomplished, but Hanna’s spectral vocals seem just a little too unanchored for the earthy, shimmering arrangements. A pleasure nevertheless.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 12/06/09; www.myspace.com/thestealsmusic

 

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Naomi Sommers
Gentle As The Sun [reissue] •••½
Continental Song City

Growing up in New England, Naomi Sommers says her home was “full of music and instruments” and it’s these formative experiences that has led to her impressive proficiency on the guitar, banjo and flute, and to playing in a dizzying array of bands that includes The Broken Dreamers, Gray Sky Girls, and the Sommers Rosenthal Family Band and Phil Rosenthal and Bluegrass Union (both family affairs including her parents and brother). Initially, Gentle As The Sun seems very much a part of the comfortable canon of country-tinged folk, all aflutter with generic bluegrass ballads and summer/winter allegories of love and loss. But listen a little deeper and you’ll find other influences at work, such as the coffee shop jazz trumpet on the goosebump-inducing ‘Hypnotizing’ and the late night driving country-pop of ‘Watershed Song’. 

The fact that Gillian Welch is firmly ensconced as Sommers’s top friend on Myspace should give you a big, shining clue as to her most predominant inspiration, a natural choice when you consider the similarities between their dusky, country lilts and expert songwriting skills. Gentle As The Sun has only one real fault, mainly that is sounds almost to effortless to be true; Sommers is a natural, prolific musician, as this album attests.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 20/07/09; www.myspace.com/naomisommers

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