wears the trousers magazine

wears the trousers albums of the decade #75-51

part one part threepart four

Here’s the second part of our albums of the decade countdown, running from #75–51.

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Róisín Murphy

[EMI, 2007]

Of all the critical droolfests that failed to ignite on the commercial front this decade, Róisín Murphy’s second solo album is among the most inexplicable damp squibs. The ex-Moloko frontwoman may have shed the avant-garde experimentalism of her solo debut Ruby Blue in favour of full-on disco diva mode, set against a backdrop of thumping, shimmering state-of-the-art production, but it seems the world wasn’t ready to accept even Murphy’s toned down personality quirks. That’s a real shame for although Overpowered is not without its flaws, there is a sense of playful grandeur here that can easily toe the line with Goldfrapp at their most teasing.

Chris Catchpole

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josephine foster: graphic as a star (2009)
December 23, 2009, 9:15 am
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Josephine Foster
Graphic As A Star ••••

Josephine Foster has long been a prominent figure among Wears The Trousers’ eccentric favourites. From her early psychedelic work with backing band The Supposed to 2005’s superbly exotic and avant-garde Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You, which wrapped her forever mesmerising vocals around odd sounds and soft guitars, through to 2007’s brilliant A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, which offered Ms Foster’s very own interpretation of Schubert and Brahms – howling and distorted electric guitars included – she has frequently left us flabbergasted and a little bit in love. Last year’s typically immersive This Coming Gladness did nothing to change our minds – this slightly crazy opera school dropout from Colorado really has something special. So we were not surprised when Fire Records announced that Foster was planning to release a song cycle centred around the poems of Emily Dickinson. Equally reclusive and socially discomfited, the two seemed to be a perfect match.

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sounding off: november 2009 (i)

In this first part of our November roundup, we take a look at A Fine Frenzy’s festive offering, the unstoppable power of An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump, and a revamped Pepi Ginsberg.

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A Fine Frenzy
Oh Blue Christmas EP •••½

When Alison Sudol released her second album Bomb In A Birdcage earlier this year, huge commercial success seemed assured. Word of mouth regarding her 2007 debut One Cell In The Sea had secured her over a million ‘followers’ on Twitter, but pulling the pin to catalyse a chart-busting follow-up proved more difficult and Bomb In A Birdcage spent just one week inside the Billboard Top 100 albums. Sudol must surely be a little disappointed, but the title of this EP can’t be taken as any indication of that. Recorded months before the release of Bomb In A Birdcage, during a sticky LA summer, it’s an enjoyable set of three Christmas classics and three original songs.

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espers: III (2009)
November 5, 2009, 10:30 am
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III ••••

It has been three years since this gloomy drone-folk ensemble released their masterpiece, Espers II. Since then, many of its members have released various experimental solo works, such as Helena Espvall’s Anahita, an avant-garde exploration of ritualistic songmanship and freeform folk, and Meg Baird’s more accessible folksy debut Dear Companion. Now the Philadelphia-based sextet are offering their third full-length record entitled – surprise, surprise – III. But while the title was easy to guess, the content makes for a decidedly refreshing change.

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sounding off: october 2009 (iv)

In the final part of this month’s roundup, we take a look at Canadian trio Magneta Lane’s latest album, the intriguing return of Swedish duo Midaircondo and the murky, droning new release from America’s To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie.

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Magneta Lane
Gambling With God •••
Last Gang

Three years on from their debut full-length, Torontonian power-pop trio Magneta Lane return with their risky-sounding second album Gambling With God, only to show that they have taken no such chances with the actual music. Exhibiting little in the way of artistic growth from 2006’s Dancing With Daggers, these 10 tracks suffer a similar fate to that album in that they simply don’t possess enough variety. Singer/guitarist Lexi Valentine, bassist French and drummer Nadia King have stuck fairly rigidly to the pop-noir formula that has served them moderately well in the past, with only a few glimpses of something different.

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music for your heart: turning marvel (2009)
September 17, 2009, 9:00 am
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Music For Your Heart
Turning Marvel •••
Sunday Service

Music For Your Heart is a project based around the myriad talents of one Sandra Zettpunkt, a German artist who’s already a veteran of several bands. A multi-instrumentalist, she cut her teeth drumming in The Legendary Bang, lent a guiding hand to Camping, Die Fünf Freunde, Kajak and Parole Trixie, and has long curated a radio show with her brother Patrick on Radio FSK in Hamburg. Indeed, it has taken her some 20 years to find her feet in regards to a solo career. Turning Marvel is Zettpunkt’s first album, and practically solo in every sense. Released on her own label Sunday Service, Zettpunkt plays all the instruments (bar a few shades of double bass courtesy of Calexico’s Volker Sander) and impresses her own vision of downtempo pop firmly on every song.

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sounding off: august 2009 (ii)

Part 2 of the August roundup looks at releases from Cabinet Of Natural Curiosities, Colbie Caillat and Catie Curtis.

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Cabinet Of Natural Curiosities
Searchlight Needles •••
For Arbors

Already a Free Music Friday veteran, it’s only right that Jasmine Dreame Wagner (aka Cabinet Of Natural Curiosities) receives a Wears The Trousers review for her first album, albeit already her fifth release. Searchlight Needles is a sort of Americana meets psych-folk poetry amalgamation that, as you can probably detect from this possibly futile descriptive attempt, does not sit easily within any one category. Instead, Wagner’s concoctions happily and gently float through a complex Venn diagram of musical genres, leaving trails of wisdom behind along the way. Opener ‘Little Ice Age’ sets the scene, quietly but freakily, accompanied by densely layered, organic instrumentation. “Little one, are you coming?” sings Wagner eerily, as if waking us up from a really bad dream…in a dark forest, in the middle of the night. Thanks.

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sounding off: august 2009 (i)

In this first part of our monthly roundup of releases we didn’t get time to review in full over the last four weeks, we take a look at some great releases from All The Fires, Amiina and Annie & The Beekeepers.

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All The Fires
‘The Map’ EP ••••

Orchestral folk-pop may not be one of music’s most recognisably innovative forms, but don’t equate that with an inability to stir and provoke. Mirroring the famous Korzybski philosophy from which this EP derives its name – “the map is not the territory” – this six-piece band from Falmouth in Cornwall arrive with this debut release to prove once again that genre abstractions can be sorely misleading. All The Fires are a talented bunch who construct often mysterious tales rich in layered three-part harmonies from singers Rosalie James, Kathryn Williams (not the one from Newcastle) and Matthew Dixon, scattering vibrant natural imagery and literary references among them. The Cornish air has clearly got into their heads and blown away any cobwebs as these five tracks all display an impressive clarity and uncommon grace.

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free music friday: the dutchess & the duke
September 4, 2009, 7:02 am
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fmf_dutchessanddukeThe Dutchess & The Duke

As their name suggests, this Seattle-based band centres around a male / female duo. What is intriguing is that Kimberly Morrison and Jesse Lortz are actually childhood friends and have played in bands before – together and apart – that range in style from R&B to surf and garage. As The Dutchess & The Duke, their musical predilection is for alternative folk songs inspired by 1960s realism with close vocal harmonies and a touch of the American Wild West. The first track to air from the band’s upcoming second album Sunset / Sunrise, out November 2nd through Hardly Art, ‘Hands’ starts in a deceivingly simple manner with keyboard, guitar and vocals both resonant (Jesse) and soft (Kimberly) finding their way in. “I can’t win / I can’t lose / and everything I do is wrong,” they sing nakedly, resignedly. The analogue recording affords a refreshingly distant touch and captures the song’s dynamics well as it builds up slowly. Then just when you think you’ve got the measure of the song, just as the vocals are about to climax, an electric guitar comes in and whisks you away on a melodic journey reminiscent of the soundtrack to a John Wayne movie. Very effective and definitely worth a listen. MP3 after the jump.

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free music friday: felix
September 4, 2009, 7:01 am
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‘Death To Everyone But Us’

A going concern for around 5 years now, this London-based duo are only just gearing up to release their debut album, You Are The One I Pick, out November 2nd through Kranky Records. Opting for the homemade approach, recording the songs minimally, they used their own equipment and almost lost their minds over frequencies and resonation. Not that you would know it from the outcome. ‘Death To Everyone But Us’ is a positively confusing little song with drowsy piano and contrasting, almost abrupt strings. The vocals are hasty and bizarre; conceptually a bit like Kate Nash doing performance poetry. Frontwoman Lucinda Chua (a classically trained pianist and cellist) has a somewhat dry voice that – perhaps intentionally – gets lost in the instrumental arrangements, making it a challenge to understand the lyrics. But the string arrangements more than make up for any deficit in clarity. A very clever little piece. MP3 after the jump.

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