wears the trousers magazine

ember swift: lentic (2009)
September 30, 2009, 11:53 am
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Ember Swift
Lentic •••
Few’ll Ignite Sound

It’s a sad fact of the music business that new releases often sound a lot like all the other albums that come out at the same time. With a bottom line to think of, many record labels bank on “what works” instead of giving artists the opportunity to create their own sound. That decision for safety keeps the Top 40 full of halfway-listenable music, sure, but it doesn’t allow musicians the space for innovation to soar or fall flat on the strength of their own artistic vision. Well, we should all be grateful for artists who choose to stay independent, like Ember Swift. With her eighth official release Lentic on her own label Few’ll Ignite Sound, the Canadian indie stalwart offers a collection of intricate and genre-hopping tunes that occasionally fall flat, but also soar.

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amy millan: masters of the burial (2009)
September 7, 2009, 6:58 am
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Amy Millan
Masters Of The Burial ••½
Arts & Crafts

Singer-songwriter Amy Millan initially made a name for herself as a major contributor to indie favourites Broken Social Scene and as co-lead vocalist in her own band, Stars. With these Canadian acts, like many others, the name of the game seems to be collaboration – Broken Social Scene is as notorious for its massive and ever-changing line-up as it is for its trippy art rock – and Millan has embraced this ethos of collaboration on Masters Of The Burial. The follow-up to 2006’s solo debut Honey From The Tombs, it features guest performances from a variety of colleagues including Evan Cranley of Stars and fellow Broken Social Scene alumna Feist on backing vocals. But while Millan’s work with other bands has helped to push indie into the mainstream, expanding musical genres with complex music that also manages to be eminently listenable, Masters Of The Burial is not nearly so interesting, sacrificing innovation for an album that’s unapologetically sweet and soft.

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an horse: rearrange beds (2009)
February 13, 2009, 11:44 am
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An Horse
Rearrange Beds •••
Mom & Pop 

When a new band is a composite of other, more established bands, it can be difficult for reviewers and musicians alike to separate out one project from the other. Grammatically perplexing Australian duo An Horse brings together Iron On’s Kate Cooper (guitar/vocals) and Intercooler’s Damon Cox (drums), and Rearrange Beds is their much anticipated (by big fans Tegan & Sara at least) debut album. Sounding close enough to Iron On to garner comparisons but departing enough to make it clear that An Horse is a (mostly) separate entity, Rearrange Beds is more mellow and melodic than anything that Cooper’s other band thundered out before embarking on “an extended hiatus”.

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miranda lee richards: light of x (2009)
February 10, 2009, 2:54 pm
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Miranda Lee Richards
Light Of X ••½

Despite its vaguely sci-fi title, Miranda Lee Richards’ second album Light Of X fails to indicate any bold ventures into uncharted musical regions. It does however have certain characteristics of a time machine, transporting us right back to the groundbreaking all-female tour Lilith Fair, for which you get the impression it would have been perfect. Unfortunately, the last Lilith Fair tour ended in 1999, and that’s really the trouble with the album as a whole. It’s impossible to fault any of the songs musically – the orchestration is lovely, the vocals sweet and light, the piano sings and the guitar picking is flawless – but Light Of X never really shuffles of its curious sense of déjà vu. Instead of thinking you’re listening to Richards, it plays out like some sort of compilation with the likes of Kilcher, Cole and McLachlan in a blender.

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matt & kim: grand (2009)
January 23, 2009, 3:22 pm
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Matt & Kim
Grand •••
One Label 

It’s hard to resist the urge to go look for Matt & Kim just to pinch their cheeks. Adorable doesn’t begin to describe either the duo or their new album, Grand. More than simply cheery, these 11 tracks drip candied sunshine. It’s not an album to listen to if you’re feeling remotely cynical. When you’re in a more optimistic mood, however, it’s a lot of fun. Grand‘s happy synthesisers and energetic drums make a nice change from much synth-heavy indie music, which as a genre seems to be predicated on disappointing love affairs and inclinations towards self-harm. In sharp contrast to this dour tradition, Grand is something of a love letter to Matt & Kim’s native New York borough, taking its name from Grand Street in Brooklyn.

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ida maria: fortress round my heart (2008)
July 28, 2008, 8:44 pm
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Ida Maria
Fortress Round My Heart •••

Indie-popster Ida Maria (Sivertsen) has demonstrated a certain air of bipolarity in her young career. While the 23-year-old Norwegian singer is known for her frenetic stage show, sometimes finishing sets covered in blood, she’s also paradoxically shy in interviews, well-spoken but uncomfortable.

It’s that slightly manic depressive feeling that comes across most strongly in Fortress Round My Heart. Indeed, listening to this debut is something like cresting the wave of a manic episode and plunging into melancholy three or four times in half an hour. Album opener and single ‘Oh My God’ finds Sivertsen channelling a young Paul Weller’s sarcastic howl over discordant guitar lines, but moves quickly to a soft, almost sweet depression in acoustic numbers like ‘Keep Me Warm’. And just when you think you’ve figured out her despair-ridden psyche, she slaps you with something like the danceable single ‘I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked’ whose happy beat and funny lyrics are worthy of Jonathan Richman’s ironic optimism.

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the ettes: look at life again soon (2008)
June 25, 2008, 4:15 pm
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The Ettes
Look At Life Again Soon •••½
Take Root

Nothing is more dangerous for a young band than buzz. Listeners inevitably expect the second coming of the New York Dolls or Joy Division, and with a solid first album a band may have nowhere to go but down. Compared to indie powerhouses The Strokes and declared “the band to watch in 2007”, retro beat-punk band The Ettes have a lot to live up to with sophomore release Look At Life Again Soon.

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