wears the trousers magazine


sounding off: july 2009 (iii)

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Kissing Cousins
Pillar Of Salt •••½
Velvet Blue Music

Tantalizingly self-described as “all female sepulchral counter-pop”, the Kissing Cousins quintet took their name as a sarcastic nod to preconceived notions about the Deep South, with lead singer Heather Heywood’s very unusual childhood informing their music. Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama with her charismatic Pentecostal preacher father leading a largely poor, black congregation meant an education in “soulful and woeful music”, not to mention the trauma of regular exorcisms, these unusual experiences left Heywood with a “wounded spirituality” and a certain amount of disillusionment that she funnels passionately into Kissing Cousins.

Now based in Louisiana, the band follow up a trio of EPs with their debut full-length Pillar Of Salt. With respected songwriter Richard Swift on production duties, the album taps into a sound he’s already best described as “Shangri-Las meets Black Sabbath”. Haunting, atmospheric sounds are met by fuzzed-up, droning garage and Heywood’s subtly commanding alto. The inclusion of a flute among such solid string and percussion scores is rather hit and miss – seeming rather anachronistic in some songs, while excelling in others, like the seconds-long solo intro to ‘Red Lamb’, and leading on ‘Diminishing Returns’ and ‘In Too Deep’. All in all, it’s an excitingly fresh and different sound from a promising band.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 15/05/09; www.myspace.com/kissingcousins

 

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Liechtenstein
Survival Strategies In A Modern World •••
Fraction Discs

The debut album from a Swedish trio who named themselves after a small German-speaking nation (why not, eh?), put simply, Survival Strategies In A Modern World is music for people who don’t remember the early ‘90s. This could well be a lot people, whether they’ve simply having blocked it from memory or forgotten due to an overuse of certain chemicals. Either way, Naemi, Renée and Elin are here to try and jog the old corpus callosum into action. Seemingly, then, surviving in the modern world very much relies on living in the past.

Guitars more jangly than Sir Jimmy Saville’s wrist and double-tracked vocal harmonies are very much the order of the day, at times reminiscent of the Stone Roses in their shoegazing heyday or Belle & Sebastian minus the ‘unique’ accent and endearing lyricry. Album opener ‘All At Once’ is one such example of the rather cute and melodic but ultimately forgettable tracks to expect herein, sauntering along, gently and without much charisma, before blending into the next. Another notable track, ‘Reflections’, pays tribute to an earlier era where Cass Elliot was queen, though still tinged with a certain whimsical haze. This writer prefers the more rebellious side to such groundbreaking generations. Having said that, these are nine tracks of indie-pop that will, if all else fails, remind you how good it was first time round.

Anna Claxton
UK release date: 26/05/09; www.myspace.com/liechtensteinia

 

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Alisha Mann
Always With You EP ••••
TuneCore

Harmonious, inspirational, expressive and celestial are words that come to mind when listening to this debut EP from Canadian singer-songwriter Alisha Mann. So it’s hardly a surprise to find out that Mann is a practicing Christian who believes that spreading god’s word via her music is her purpose in life. Whether or not we ourselves are into all that faith stuff, nothing in this EP gives reason to disagree with her. What does surprise is that she’s been able to pull off an EP of this quality while holding down a day job as a schoolteacher.

Each song is well formed and Mann has a gutsy yet angelic voice that shines through as crisp and intelligent. Her passion for her music and her beliefs shine through in every song but none more so than in ‘You Never Fail’. Christian music rarely sounds as good as this, and with 15% of every sale going to Compassion International – a charity that Mann is an advocate for –there’s a real sense of hope and goodness attached to this short record.

Claire Robinson
UK release date: 26/06/09; www.myspace.com/alishamannmusic

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