wears the trousers magazine

30 albums you need to hear this spring (I)

part two part three

January is a month for looking forward as well as back. So while we are in the process of revealing our top 100 albums of the 2000s, this week we’ll also be taking a look at the 30 albums we are most excited about this Spring, in release date order. The new decade is getting off to a solid start as some familiar faces return and new ones jostle for recognition.

In part one, we look at new releases from Scout Niblett, Beach House, Basia Bulat, Chew Lips, First Aid Kit, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Patty Griffin, Husky Rescue, Laura Veirs and Corinne Bailey Rae.

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Scout Niblett
The Calcination Of Scout Niblett

For her first album on US label Drag City – her fifth overall – Scout Niblett once again teams up with producer Steve Albini for arguably her most personal record to date. “Welcome to my self-made sweatbox,” she purrs in the first seconds of the typically volatile title track, her yelp-strewn, instinctual yammering crashing up against slow-burning exultations, and once inside it gets hotter, more sticky and less dressed up than ever.

What the label says: “Throughout The Calcination Of Scout Niblett we see Scout in deep focus. The songs string together, almost as one, her guitar growls and bites, and the black velvet of space hovers. Just when the tension in the room and the filament of guitar can’t glow any brighter, suddenly a band erupts, accompaniment to her vision — and then back down to Scout and guitar. The Calcination Of Scout Niblett is an intense devotional, a determined spirit journey and a collection of great slow-dance songs.”

The Calcination Of Scout Niblett is released through Drag City on January 18.

FREE MP3: Scout Niblett, ‘The Calcination Of Scout Niblett’

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Beach House
Teen Dream

There’s no album coming at us more hyped in early 2010 than this third release from Baltimore duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, aka Beach House, recorded in a converted church in upstate New York with producer Chris Coady. The breathtakingly panoramic preview track ‘Norway’ provides an ideal window into the mechanics of Teen Dream, namely the illuminating choruses full of unfettered emotion, ambitious widescreen production and, most crucially, the compelling rhythms that carouse into your central nervous system and bring forth a righteous and spiritual rush of endorphins.

What Victoria says: “We’re the same people, but this record has changed our directions. We were forced to let go of people and things we were holding onto as individuals: normalcy, daily rituals, the ability to take care of ourselves. We were dropped into a wilderness, but we had more clarity than we’ve ever had before…. There’s a different level of intimacy, a physicality on Teen Dream. Rhythmically, there’s new motion. This record touches you. On your chest.”

Teen Dream is released through Bella Union on January 25.

FREE MP3: Beach House, ‘Norway’

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Basia Bulat
Heart Of My Own

Basia Bulat’s debut album Oh, My Darling was one of our favourite releases of 2007 and saw the fresh-faced student with the floppy hat catapulted to the forefront of the Canadian music scene with a place on the 2008 Polaris Prize shortlist. Her new album Heart Of My Own, once again recorded at Montreal’s famous Hotel2Tango studios under the watchful eye of Howard Bilerman, should see her get another crack at the trophy. Inspired by the extensive travelling Bulat undertook in the wake of her success, and in particular by a life-changing visit to the Yukon, Heart Of My Own is a coming of age record that consolidates and builds upon the framework of Oh, My Darling, with more than a passing nod to the in-between EP, In The Night.

What Basia says: “I think it is at times extremely sparse and, well, spacious, with big choirs singing, and then it gets really dense with really spirited and rolling drums… I felt my mind was overwhelmed with ideas. It had been a long-time dream of mine to make it to the Yukon, so to finally accomplish that, and for it to be possible because of my music, was also a very overwhelming thing.”

Heart Of My Own is released through Rough Trade on January 25.

FREE MP3: Basia Bulat, ‘Gold Rush’

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Chew Lips

London-based dance-pop trio Chew Lips keep their debut album Unicorn nice and succinct with just 10 tracks, bravely omitting their first two sold-out singles ‘Salt Air’ and ‘Solo’, but they certainly don’t skimp on the production tricks. Aided by David Kosten (Bat For Lashes, Joseph Arthur), Unicorn is a technicolour riot of inventive samples and ambitious scope, laced with an appealing moodiness.

What the label says: “An altogether different – and exciting – proposition for 2010. A gloriously off-kilter take on pop, with some wayward electronic elements. A brilliant new band with ambition and talent to burn and an iconic frontwoman in waiting. And, with Unicorn, quite possibly the best future classic pop album of [the] year.”

Unicorn is released through Kitsuné on January 25.

FREE MP3: Chew Lips, ‘Slick’

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First Aid Kit
The Big Black & The Blue

The Big Black & The Blue is the eagerly awaited debut album from teenage sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, who broke out of their native Sweden in style last year with the spectacular Drunken Trees EP. Read our track-by-track preview of the album here.

What Klara and Johanna say: “Our songwriting is very spontaneous. We don’t sit down and say, ‘This album is going to be about this and every song is going to have a common thread,’ we just write all these songs and make an album out of them. They’re just about us and stories we’re telling. We get a lot of inspiration from other artists and from movies.”

The Big Black & The Blue is released through Wichita Recordings on January 25.

* * *

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Shortly after she released her critically acclaimed, half-million selling album 5:55, which saw her team up with Air, Jarvis Cocker, Neil Hannon and producer Nigel Godrich, actress/singer Charlotte Gainsbourg suffered a brain haemorrhage during a waterskiing accident and was forced to take 6 months off work to recover. It’s this incident, and to a certain extent the films she was working on during its making, that informs the restlessness and shifting moods of IRM (the French acronym for MRI). Co-written, recorded and produced by Beck at his Los Angeles studio throughout 2008 and early 2009, IRM is arguably the pinnacle of Gainsbourg’s (admittedly sporadic) music career to date.

What Charlotte says: “I discovered new universes that I didn’t know existed with Beck! It was just incredible to watch him actually create one song after the other. He has a huge amount of creativity. I had the impression he woke up with his guitar and started composing all day. He would think of lyrics while talking to the sound engineer. The album was going in many directions at the same time and, the more we tried new things, the better I liked it.”

IRM is released through Because Music on January 25.

FREE MP3: Charlotte Gainsbourg, ‘IRM’

* * *

Patty Griffin
Downtown Church

For her seventh studio album, Patty Griffin holed up in a Nashville church with producer Buddy Miller and a cast of stellar musicians to record a collection of gospel songs: some covers, some original. A self-confessed lapsed Catholic, Griffin puts a deeply personal spin on all her chosen songs, given extra gravitas by the recent death of her father. Yet it’s also the most collaborative album in her entire catalogue, with Griffin joined on all but four of the album’s fourteen songs by guest vocalists who include Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Buddy and July Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Raul Malo, Mike Farris and Regina and Ann McCrary, daughters of one of the founding members of revered gospel group the Fairfield Four.

What the label says: “Like Patty’s previous six albums, [Downtown Church] is stylistically diverse, focusing not only on the black gospel tradition but on the white Southern gospel songs of Hank Williams and Alfred G. Karnes (one of the dozens of artists not named Carter or Rodgers who were recorded by Ralph Peer in Bristol, TN during the late 1920s), and one beautiful nod to Hispanic gospel traditions. Alongside, happily, two Patty Griffin originals (she wrote more), and a closing hymn attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.”

Downtown Church is released through Credential on January 25.

* * *

Husky Rescue
Ship Of Light

Arriving two years after the sweetly cheerful Ghost Is Not Real, Husky Rescue’s third album Ship Of Light slinks into the future with an even more shiny and positive collection of songs that pop and fizz with dense but not overpowering arrangements that see some harder-edged electronica put to good use with more organic sounds.

What the label says: “After releasing and touring the first two Husky Rescue albums, [composer and multi-instrumentalist Marko] Nyberg at first didn’t have a clear-cut blueprint for the evolution of the band’s sound. But learning about a reported UFO sighting near his home just outside central Helsinki further turned his interest towards nature, thus propelling a new wave of inspiration.”

Ship Of Light is released through Catskills on January 25.

FREE MP3: Husky Rescue, ‘We Shall Burn Bright’ [registration required]
BONUS MP3: Husky Rescue, ‘We Shall Burn Bright’ [iambic remix]

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Laura Veirs
July Flame

Departing from the full band sound that has marked her recent work, Laura Veirs has described the sound of July Flame as “stripped down folk” – a potentially misleading clue towards the beautifully textured songs found within. Recorded in a barn behind her Portland home, the album is said to take its cues from “the emotion of midsummer”, and there’s certainly a balmy kind of magic about this striking collection that suggests Veirs’s seventh album could very well be her best.

What the label says:July Flame is a magical and flawless collection of songs, drenched in wood smoke, sunlight, pastoral dales, fireworks and warm nights, the lyrics explore the dichotomy between one’s desire for permanence and security and the realisation that such things rarely exist.”

July Flame is released through Bella Union on January 25.

FREE MP3: Laura Veirs, ‘Wide-Eyed, Legless’

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Corinne Bailey Rae
The Sea

The shocking death of Corinne Bailey Rae’s husband following an accidental drug overdose in 2008 had an understandably irrevocable impact on the young singer-songwriter, and the shockwaves are felt throughout The Sea, released almost four years to the day since her multi-million selling self-titled debut. But while there is no escaping the poignancy of the album’s themes of grief and loss, what makes The Sea still shimmer is Bailey Rae’s refusal to succumb to the heaviness, allowing through little chinks of meditative wonder that alleviate the pain.

What Corinne says: “There is something miraculous that pushes you along, makes you keep going, makes you carry on. It’s really about the mystery of that. In fact, the whole album is about that in a way; it’s about loss but it’s also about hope, about keeping going and trying to find that beauty.”

The Sea is released through EMI on February 1.

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Alan Pedder


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