wears the trousers magazine

sounding off: august 2009 (iii)

Part 3 of the August roundup looks at the latest product of Stuart Murdoch’s God Help The Girl project, Gwyneth Herbert’s stunning fourth album, and a disappointing debut from US sibling trio Lynhurst.

* * *


God Help The Girl
Stills EP •••
Rough Trade

God Help The Girl is a musical project masterminded by Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, who has sought the help of some notable female musicians to embody a story set to music. The songs featured on the Stills EP and June’s self-titled album were originally recorded for a cinematic short, due for release in 2010, but have since adopted a character of their own. This five-track collection starts as you might expect a New York cabaret show to begin, with the feathered flourishes, bombastic brass and crooning vocals of ‘I’m In Love With The City’ deftly introducing the project’s star attraction, lead vocalist Catherine Ireton. (No stranger to Murdoch’s work, she popped up on the artwork for Belle & Sebastian single ‘The White Collar Boy’.)

Stills quickly progresses to see its cast flock onboard a 1970s cruiser with ‘He’s A Loving Kind Of Boy’, which Murdoch himself chimes in on, before relaxing into a soothing break with the understated title track. The highlight by far, however, is saved for last with ‘The Psychiatrist Is In’, in which the swaying melody echoes some of the eccentricities of Psapp. The only qualm, really, is that it doesn’t sit too well among the dramatic flouncing of the other tracks, and therein lies the rub for all concerned. Had these songs been released independently of the overarching God Help The Girl concept, they would perhaps have been regarded as overwhelmingly theatrical and written off as a costly use of time for an otherwise decent musician. Fortunately, Murdoch’s filmic conceit remains intriguing and, with Stills in mind, should maintain interest long enough for people to care when the finished film emerges.

Tiffany Daniels
UK release date: 31/08/09; www.myspace.com/pleasegodhelpthegirl



Gwyneth Herbert
All The Ghosts ••••½
Naim Edge

Put simply, Gywneth Herbert’s All The Ghosts is the neatest mess ever made. Four albums into her career, she’s dispensed with filler entirely, stocking up instead on surprisingly varied, clean and sharp songwriting. Her previous album, Between Me & The Wardrobe, led some to describe her as a jazz-folk songstress, but there’s nothing here that stays still long enough to be labelled. Herbert flirts with so many genres and musical eras that it is near impossible to categorise her. Each track dips in and out of the orchestra pit, plucking out whichever instruments best suit its purposes, slotting in perfectly with Herbert’s sublimely tractable vocals, along with sparingly applied electronic touches.

It’ll be nothing short of a tragedy if Herbert fails to find success with the addictive, lyrically playful ‘Annie’s Yellow Bag’ or the three-minute pop circus that is ‘Jane Into A Beauty Queen’. Both tracks boast a cheekier side to Herbert’s vocals, full of a confidence that poses a worthy challenge to her contemporary female chart-toppers, while a stirring, emotional cover of David Bowie’s ‘Rock N Roll Suicide’ is a worthy bonus addition. If you’re seeking astoundment through accessible innovation, look no further than this impressive collection. Don’t believe the title: everything here is alive, red blooded and breathtaking.

Katherine Stanton
UK release date: 13/07/09; www.myspace.com/gwynethherbert



Field Day ••
Anatomic / DKE

Five years in the making, Field Day is the debut album from fresh-faced sibling trio Jake, Matt and Mari Abdo, who take their rather uninspiring stage name from a park in their childhood neighbourhood of Minneapolis. Now based in Los Angeles, where the inoffensive go to thrive, the band has been paying its dues on the SoCal performance circuit with their somewhat unusual set up – Mari in the middle of the stage, playing drums and singing, flanked by her brothers on bass and guitar – apparently mesmerising hordes of teenage girls in the process. Seen live, Mari must cut an inspiring figure for them, glamorous but natural, and singing of high school romances. In the studio, however, Lynhurst are still very much at an embryonic stage, and Field Day suffers badly from a lack of any spark of individuality.

At their least interesting (the depressingly anodyne ‘Summer Rain’, the generic, snoozeworthy ‘Hope’), they’re plowing the same insipid musical furrow as Vanessa Carlton and Lene Marlin lapsed into after their initial success, while on moderately more enjoyable songs like ‘Exactly’ and ‘Do You Love Her’, they come across like a watered down version of Eisley or a folk-pop Paramore. Standout track ‘Valentine’ packages all of Lynhurst’s best ideas neatly into a single song with a sweet-but-sour sentiment that slyly references First Band On The Moon-era Cardigans, albeit a somewhat Americanised version. And in that respect, Field Day is the musical equivalent of an egg-and-spoon race, in which the cracks all too readily show.

Alan Pedder
UK release date: 11/08/09; www.myspace.com/lynhurstmusic


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[…] Together [4/5] 75 Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy [4/5] 74 Gwyneth Herbert – All The Ghosts [4.5/5] 73 Gemma Ray – Lights Out Zoltar! [4/5] 72 The Fiery Furnaces – I’m Going Away [4/5] 71 […]

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