wears the trousers magazine

dum dum girls: live at madame jojo’s, london 02/03/10

Dum Dum Girls / Veronica Falls / Yuck
Madame Jojo’s, London ••••
March 2, 2010

Queues all the way down Brewer Street and particularly unhelpful door staff meant a lot of the hyper buzzed fans only got to catch the last yells of opening support act Yuck, who faded out with an enticing swansong of distortion guitar wails. Veronica Falls followed up with a set of consistently lovely songs that have progressively stolen a substantial number of hearts over the past year. The shoegaze pop of ‘Stephen’ was dreamy enough to sway unabashedly to, while ‘Beachy Head’ rang out with romantic thrash. One of the capital’s most exciting homegrown outfits, they proved to be a well-selected warm-up for the US headliners whose appearance was the last, love-letter punctuation on a week of gigs across the capital, a doubly special affair since it marked the band’s UK debut.

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lonelady: nerve up (2010)
March 3, 2010, 12:59 pm
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Nerve Up •••

Warp Records has a long history of plucking unusual and promising electronic artists out of obscurity and giving them an arena in which to produce their best work. In recent years though, they’ve branched out into music which falls outside their usual electronica-based remit, but that pushes playfully at genre boundaries – think Jamie Lidell, Maximo Park, Grizzly Bear et al. – and Lonelady (aka Manchester-based artist, poet and musician Julie Campbell) falls somewhat defiantly into this category with her debut album, Nerve Up. A one-woman wonder, Campbell has created an album that blends modern girl-with-guitar attitude with 1980s synth-references into sparse, solitary musical vistas befitting her stage name, and which could only have originated from the home of The Smiths.

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blood red shoes: fire like this (2010)
March 3, 2010, 12:28 pm
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Blood Red Shoes
Fire Like This •••
V2 / Co-op

It’s all a bit too easy with Blood Red Shoes. They’re the tastiest, most palatable pill in all of rock, sliding down the throats of the record-buying public with the slightest of contractions. Anyone expecting a challenging and exciting progression from their 2007 debut Box Of Secrets may find themselves confused by the first half of Fire Like This; essentially, it’s just more of the same long guitar phrases, punchy drums and sweet overlapping vocals that build up to the chorus into boring shouty melodies. Take ‘Don’t Ask’ as a prime example. You can practically hear the teenagers singing along, but there is a sense of something lacking. It’s like Blood Red Shoes by numbers. There’s a middle drop-out section with a lovely thick guitar sound, but it’s just so predictable that it does nothing to accelerate the heart rate and fails to ignite to the usual levels of angst that we’ve come to expect from Stephen Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter’s disaffected tales of boredom, isolation and frustration.

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angus & julia stone: down the way (2010)
March 2, 2010, 1:15 pm
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Angus & Julia Stone
Down The Way •••
Flock Music

Hailing from Newport on the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia, brother and sister Angus & Julia Stone return with second album Down The Way, the follow-up to 2007’s critically acclaimed A Book Like This. They may have grown up in sunny, laidback climes, but there is an awful lot of anguished rain in their work. Downbeat and reflective, at times bordering on the maudlin, there isn’t much in the way of upbeat relief. But with clever songwriting seemingly in their bloodline and two complementary voices, they come with plenty of pluses. If the first album was all about acoustic simplicity, Down The Way moves a few notches along the production scale. Drafting in the watchful ears of Brad Albetta (Martha Wainwright) and beefing up the instrumentation, it’s an electrified statement of future intentions.

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joan armatrading: this charming life (2010)
March 2, 2010, 12:45 pm
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Joan Armatrading
This Charming Life •••

Each new Joan Armatrading release can be expected to impress with its top-notch musicianship, but what might surprise about This Charming Life, especially this late in the game, is how inspired and passionate much of it is. Following on from 2007’s Grammy-nominated Into The Blues, Armatrading fleshes out the blues influence with songs of real rock energy and vigour. Her rich, warm timbre is all-pervading on a selection of tunes that showcase an impressive stylistic diversity and a keen eye for everyday, yet often wonderfully evocative, detail. It’s a shame, then, that it’s something of a top-heavy experience, with most of the better songs taking up residence in the album’s first half.

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the knife in collaboration with mt. sims & planningtorock: tomorrow, in a year (2010)

The Knife in collaboration with Mt. Sims & Planningtorock
Tomorrow, In A Year ••••½
Rabid / Brille

Just as life was formed on Earth, music was born as an unordered swarm of sounds and rhythms. Starting out very primitive and simple, its development has been complex, long and difficult. As humansʼ cultural needs evolved, so too did music. Through abstract thinking, music took on new meanings and functions; it didnʼt stay just as a medium for worshipping and prayers, it became a source of salvation in itself. The peak of its vertical complexity came with the widespread adoption of polyphony in the Renaissance era. Since then, musicians have evolved contrapunctus-led, multilayered compositions into something simpler but still sophisticated. For many, the effort to achieve complexity with a minimalism that ensure clarity and diversity is today’s subconscious modus operandi, and just like evolution, its results still push the boundaries of creativity.

The origins of Tomorrow, In A Year lie with Hotel Pro Forma, a Danish performance group who wanted to celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, inventor of the theory of evolution, with an opera unlike any other. Swedish duo The Knife were their first choice as collaborators, a pair whose analytical approach to music could fairly be likened to the way in which Darwin slowly and scrutinisingly worked on his theory. The tractable nature of Karin and Olof Dreijer’s music, which ranges from ’90s Europop to minimal techno and avant-garde electronica, has long hinted that they might one day shift their attention to something even more challenging and odd. And Tomorrow, In A Year is certainly both of those things.

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kaki king: junior (2010)
March 1, 2010, 11:21 am
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Kaki King
Junior ••••
Cooking Vinyl

It takes a humility rarely seen in the world of rock for an artist already four albums old to give her fifth studio offering the title Junior, as though she were (in her words) “a little kid or novice, starting something again”; but then Kaki King has always been something of a rara avis, as proven by her election as first female Guitar God by Rolling Stone magazine. There is relatively little in the way of humility in the tracks themselves, though, which twist, thunder and growl with an infectious energy and artistic confidence, with all the rippling guitar wizardry that fans of King have come to expect.

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thus:owls: cardiac malformations (2010)
March 1, 2010, 11:20 am
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Cardiac Malformations ••••
Almost Musique

On ‘Climbing The Fjelds Of Norway’, the third track on this debut album by Swedish five-piece Thus:Owls, vocalist Erika Alexandersson sings, “When I was a child I climbed the fjields of Norway / I could never reach the peak of the mountain / there was always another one behind it”. As it happens, this description of her formative mountaineering experiences also serves as a pretty accurate allegory for the Cardiac Malformations listening experience. Songs take their own sweet time to develop and the few discernible hooks are delivered slowly and deliberately so you never feel able to quite get the measure of its eleven tracks. Put simply, it’s hard work. But, give it a fair hearing and you’ll find that your efforts pay handsome dividends in the form of some truly beautiful musical vistas. A bit like climbing a mountain, then.

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dum dum girls: i will be (2010)
February 25, 2010, 12:23 pm
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Dum Dum Girls
I Will Be ••••
Sub Pop

Adopting their name in homage to the Iggy Pop number ‘Dum Dum Boys’ and The Vaselines’ album Dum-Dum, this SoCal solo project turned all-girl band is the brainchild of one Kristin Gundred, or Dee Dee as she now likes to be known. A home-recorded CD-R, released on her own label Zoo Music, led to a 7″ on HoZac and the eponymous 12″ EP on Captured Tracks that Wears The Trousers has been savouring aplenty while awaiting this salivated-over full-length. Early hype over her mysterious, out-of-nowhere Myspace songs was exacerbated by a shyness that meant Dee Dee obscured her face with masks and carefully positioned vinyl in the few photos that surfaced. The front cover image of her mother as a young woman is both a sweet tribute and a reminder of Dee Dee’s introvert tendencies, the warm tones and subtle retro touches of the photo pointing perfectly towards the nostalgic influences at work on the album.

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kath bloom: thin thin line (2010)
February 25, 2010, 11:46 am
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Kath Bloom
Thin Thin Line •••½
Caldo Verde

With a recording career that began over thirty years ago, Kath Bloom has been enjoying something of a second renaissance of late. During the late ’70s and ’80s she worked with Loren Mazzacane Connors, releasing a stash of avant-garde folk recordings that won them a small but impassioned following who loved the oddness of Bloom’s traditional voice with Connors’ curious guitar style. Rediscovered in the mid-’90s by virtue of Richard Linklater’s inclusion of one of her songs in ‘Before Sunrise’, Thin Thin Line is her third solo full-length. Though her voice at times sounds too fragile to bear the emotional load of her songs, she is capable of suddenly hitting the listener with an unexpected bluesy power. With intimate production values and the dial set to simplicity, Thin Thin Line is straight-up singer-songwriter fare in an American tradition that owes more to Woody Guthrie than it does the experimental.

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