wears the trousers magazine

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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incoming: jenny owen youngs
March 2, 2010, 5:13 pm
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Jenny Owen Youngs
Last Person EP

[Nettwerk; March 2]

Nearly three months after the video for the title track appeared on YouTube, this new six-song digital-only EP from Jenny Owen Youngs sneaked out into the world today. With previously unreleased material including four tracks from last year’s Transmitter Failure [review] recorded live “in the Basement” and a “re-think” of another album track, ‘Dissolve’, it’s one that fans will want to snap up.

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the raincoats follow bikini kill in crowdsourcing archive
March 2, 2010, 1:29 pm
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Influential post-punk outfit The Raincoats have taken inspiration from Bikini Kill’s recently opened archive blog and are calling for fans to contribute their own personal stories and reflections of the band. In case you need a reminder (!), The Raincoats were formed thirty years ago by Ana da Silva and Gina Birch who met as students at Hornsey College of Art, London. An evolving list of band members has included Palm Olive and Kate Korus from The Slits (and later The Mo-dettes), drummer Ingrid Weiss, Vicky Aspinall on violin and photographer/manager Shirley O’Loughlin. The band released five LPs, and went on to become much lauded inspirations for Kurt Cobain, Kim Gordon and the riot grrrl movement as a whole, beaming a blindingly great path through music’s wider, male-dominated annals.

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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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incoming: jen olive
March 2, 2010, 12:31 pm
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Jen Olive
Warm Robot

[Ape House; March 29]

Albuquerque resident Jen Olive has a number of self-released works out under other names, but has forgone comfortable anonymity to release this latest album via a recently inked deal with Ape House, the label owned by XTC’s Andy Partridge. The singer-songwriter was born in California but enjoyed a nomadic upbringing with her lounge singer mother and trombone playing father. A move to Albuquerque brought her directly into the arms of her father’s “crazy jazz family” (her uncle is the lead saxophonist for the Count Basie Orchestra), and the city itself played its own part in the conception of Warm Robot. Says Jen, “The depth and character of the place is in the old indigenous families, and you can’t help but be influenced by the culture. It’s very different, there’s not a lot of conventional Americana here.”

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incoming: melissa etheridge
March 2, 2010, 10:45 am
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Melissa Etheridge
Fearless Love

[Island; April 26]

For her tenth studio album, Melissa Etheridge is working with a concept. As she explained in a recent interview with Spinner, “There are only two vibrations in the world and you’re either making a love choice or a fear choice.” Ditching the working title of ‘Songs Of Fear & Love’ because her daughter Bailey thought it was “too many words”, suggesting Fearless Love as an alternative. Produced by John Shanks, this is Melissa’s most rock-oriented album in years. “I wanted to make a record that’s a hundred miles an hour all the time,” she told Rolling Stone back in October. “There’s a couple of ballads on it, but the majority of it is just really slamming.” The title track is available now as a digital single. Watch the video below.

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