wears the trousers magazine

RIP kate mcgarrigle

Sad news today. Kate McGarrigle, mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright and legendary folkie in her own right, died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. With a musical career spanning 40 years, Kate and her sister Anna became iconic figures among the folk community, recording 10 albums together and collaborating with everyone from Emmylou Harris to Nick Cave. In recent years, their biannual family concerts with Rufus, Martha, Kate’s ex-husband Loudon Wainwright III, niece Lily Lanken and Loudon’s daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche, among many others, were a huge favourite with crowds, with Kate often upstaging her dynasty with hilarious banter and asides. Their most recent show, dubbed ‘A Not So Silent Night’, took place at the Royal Albert Hall in December 2009. The 63 year old became a grandmother just weeks before following the premature birth of Martha’s son Arcangelo.

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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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first 40 artists announced for 2010 lilith fair tour

The first 40 artists to be confirmed for the 2010 Lilith Fair tour, joining Lilith co-founder and main stage headliner Sarah McLachlan, were revealed today. The not so surprising inclusions are previous Lilith performers Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Tegan & Sara, Erykah Badu and Indigo Girls, who recently told Wears The Trousers in an interview that they feel that the female-centric travelling festival is just as valid now as on its first run through 1997–1999. Among those also joining the tour are indie rock pin-ups Metric and Chairlift, country star Miranda Lambert, urban newcomers Janelle Monáe and Ke$ha, the UK’s Corinne Bailey Rae, Nettwerk Records/Management signings Butterfly Boucher, Ash Koley, The Submarines and The Weepies, plus various other contemporary female popstars like Colbie Caillat, A Fine Frenzy and Sara Bareilles. Mary J Blige will the second headliner on the tour, which is expected to cross the Atlantic for a two-week run.

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ani difranco working on new album

180708_anidifranco1Really though, when isn’t she?

As she kicks off her latest US tour tonight in New Hampshire, Ani DiFranco will be looking to road test a bunch of new songs intended for her 19th studio album, the follow-up to last year’s Red Letter Year. In addition to the already familiar ‘Promiscuity’, Ani revealed to Billboard.com that she’s focusing her attention on the political climate on some of the songs. Having been in very vocal opposition of the Bush Administration since that fateful day when Florida swung it, it’s inevitable that she would have plenty to say on the election of Barack Obama.

One of those songs, she says, was written the morning after the historical victory and goes by the name of ‘Nov. 4, 2008’. That one will be played every night of the tour, until she wraps up in July and heads into the studio. Another political number is ‘Splinter’, which she describes as “a sunny little groove”, while her personal side comes through on the ballad ‘Albacore’, which she wrote to celebrate her recent marriage to producer Mike Napolitano, father of her two year old daughter Petah.

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trouser shorts: patty griffin, shawn colvin, deerhoof


Patty Griffin is rumoured to be recording (or planning to record) a new gospel-influenced album in a church with good friend Buddy Miller on production duties. The follow-up to 2007’s Children Running Through is expected to be out later this year. Before then, the pair head out on a short US tour with Buddy’s wife Julie Miller and Shawn Colvin as a preview of the Millers’ upcoming collaborative album – their first to be attributed to both spouses since 2001’s self-titled album – Written In Chalk, which features Patty on ‘Don’t Say Goodbye’ and ‘Chalk’, and Emmylou Harris on a cover of Leon Payne’s ‘The Selfishness In Man’. It’s out on March 3rd in the US; UK release unconfirmed. Find out more here.

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Shawn has an album coming out too – an as-yet-untitled live collection, her first in a 20-year solo recording career – and is currently writing fresh material for the follow-up to 2006’s These Four Walls. That album may hit the shops by the end of 2009 if we’re lucky. She’s also in the middle of writing her memoirs, to be published by Collins in 2010, which she says will be a natural extension of the intimate, personal and often hilarious stories that she weaves into her live shows.

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Lovable strangelings Deerhoof are set to release an iTunes exclusive live EP on February 3rd, featuring versions of ‘The Tears & Music Of Love’, ‘Blue Cash, ‘Buck & Judy’, ‘Makko Shobu’, ‘Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back’ and ‘Milk Man’. Just one song from Apple O’ then. Speaking of ‘Buck & Judy’, a new animated video for the song premiered yesterday on the BLURT website.

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More video goodness, this time embeddable, this is the video for the new Emmy The Great single, ‘First Love’, the title track of her long-awaited debut album, out February 9th. Right now, if you pre-order the album from the Rough Trade webshop, you can get an exclusive edition featuring a bonus disc of acoustic performances of some of the album tracks. The single is out on February 23rd.

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Speaking of Rough Trade exclusives, if you pre-order the new Alela Diane album, To Be Still (out February 16th), you get a 12-track bonus disc called Calm As The Owl Glides: Songs For Stillness featuring songs by other artists handpicked by Alela herself, including tracks by Mariee Sioux, Cat Power, Karen Dalton, Kate Wolf, Fairport Convention and Jackson C Frank. Here’s the link.

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Lastly, here’s a bit of a hit out of leftfield. Diana Krall and her band are producing the new Barbra Streisand album – her 63rd! Completion of the as-yet-untitled album is due any day now and may be packaged and promoted in time for a May release. Diana and Barbra have recorded a duet – inevitably – and some of the songs will feature a full orchestra.

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Alan Pedder

a buyer’s guide to christmas albums


a buyer’s guide to christmas albums

originally published Christmas 2006

Aware of its public service remit and the need to protect the health and welfare of its readership, Wears The Trousers has taken a deep breath and dipped a toe into the murky waters of the Christmas album. And what dangerous territory is the seemingly innocuous holiday record! Certainly not for the faint of heart or the intolerant of insulin. Sugar, schmaltz and saccharine certainly seem to be the alliterative order of the day. However, hidden in amongst all the tacky tinsel it is possible to find a star or two to follow. But first let’s lay down some ground rules. We’ll assume that there’s already a copy of Now That’s What I Call The Best Crimble Album In The World…Ever! Vol. 27 lurking in your collection alongside a Carols From [insert name of Oxbridge college here] freebie spewed from one of the tabloids – well, that’s all your Slade/Wizzard/Bing Crosby/chorister needs catered for and Saint Cliff’s seasonal output is mercifully excluded from Wears The Trousers’ catchment. This is ‘proper’ Christmas albums we’re talking about; even Laura Nyro’s sublime Christmas & The Beads Of Sweat doesn’t qualify. But then again, you’ve already got a copy of that…haven’t you?!

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albums of the year: readers poll results (part III of V)

Albums of the year: #30–21


Kaki King
Dreaming Of Revenge

Released: June 2008

What we said then: “Regularly referred to as a “musician’s musician”, Kaki King is clearly an artist who is continuously stretching herself in terms of compositional content as well as expanding her already impressive arsenal of instruments played. The story goes that King arrived at the studio to record Dreaming Of Revenge with a sheaf of detailed notes about how she wanted each track to sound. The producer threw them away, stuck her in a room with a variety of instruments and told her to be creative. That approach is clearly apparent from the content of the work, often free flowing, warm and natural, but also on occasion sounding somehow unfinished and/or unrealised. From a commercial perspective, Kaki King is fighting a clearly uphill battle. Fortunately, she doesn’t seem to care.” •••• Maree Morris

What we say now: Having established herself as an instinctive, fearless guitarist who plays in an idiom that’s all her own, Kaki King continues to embellish her powerful acoustic orchestrations, sometimes with the unfortunate effect of obscuring her genius. Dreaming Of Revenge is a more confident pop album than …Until We Felt Red, but she hasn’t quite patched up all the holes.

Download: ‘I Need A Girl Who Knows A Map’, ‘Saving Days In A Frozen Head’

iTunes £7.99



Marnie Stern
This Is It & I Am It & You Are It & So Is That & He Is It & She Is It & It Is It & That Is That
Kill Rock Stars 

Released: October 2008

What we said then: “The Alan Watts-inspired title of Marnie Stern’s newest record, like the album as a whole, is a strange mixture of intensity, profundity and a meticulous attention to detail that most people only discover on an Adderall binge. While her last album proved that she could nonchalantly play beside the likes of Ed Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen, it hinted at melody but that hinting was never fully realised. This album proves to the world that she can work as an actual songwriter. For every song on this album that shows itself to be an obvious shred-fest, there is another song that takes her sound in – and I use this term very loosely – melodic new directions. Her unique finger-tap style is the thread that runs throughout the album, but it’s the way she knows how to vary that style across the 12 songs that elicits repeated listens.” •••½ Trey Cregan [full review]

What we say now: What a difference a year makes. A revelation after her caterwauling and largely incoherent debut In Advance Of The Broken Arm, Marnie Stern’s mealy-mouthed second album is a pummelling you’ll actually enjoy. Probably the most imaginative, least linear rock album we’ve heard all year. If you’re looking for true individuality, This Is It… is it, and that, of course, is that.

Download: ‘Ruler’, ‘The Package Is Wrapped’

iTunes £7.99



The Dresden Dolls
No, Virginia

Released: May 2008

What we said then: “Once the sole province of those-in-the-know and firmly plugged into the US indie underground, Brechtian punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls have seen their popularity edge further and further upwards with each new album and prestigious support slot. No longer the secret of a select group of adoring fans, it’s fair to say that a great deal of expectation surrounds the quirky twosome. Given the title of third release, No, Virginia, one would be forgiven for anticipating a coherent follow-up, if not a response, to 2006’s Yes, Virginia. Instead, what is offered here comprises rarities, B-sides and assorted oddities culled from the band’s relatively youthful career. Such treasures may be like old friends to the Dolls’ ardent fanbase but still serve as a worthy addition to any casual listener’s record collection.” ••• Sophia Rawlinson [full review]

What we say now: Amanda Palmer’s solo album rather puts this collection of Dresden Dolls offcuts in the shade, and it’s a shame that No, Virginia looks set to be the last we hear of her partnership with percussionist Brian Viglione. Not that it’s bad, just predictably patchy, but who else could consign these variously bizarre and confrontational songs to the backburner and still impress enough of you voters to expend an extra one of your precious nominations?

Download: ‘Dear Jenny’, ‘Pretty In Pink’

iTunes £7.99 (£9.99 for bonus track edition)



Angus & Julia Stone
A Book Like This

Released: March 2008

What we said then: “Coming after two hugely successful EPs, A Book Like This has already achieved success in their homeland of Australia and is utterly lovely. It’s their fey and folksy sound (coupled with a name like Angus) that gives the false impression of Gaelic roots. The songs are not duets; instead, the siblings take turns at singing lead on the different tracks with the other as a backing partner. Though they share a common style, Angus’s voice is smooth and gentle, while Julia’s vocals are more light and strange, giving a great variation in the sound and character of different songs. There are songs to make you sad, songs to make you smile and songs to make you feel a bit less alone. Put simply, A Book Like This is a sublime and startling debut that really shows off the siblings’ talents. The lyrics are quietly powerful, and the music is of that simple kind that still manages to reveal something new on each subsequent listening, of which I predict there will be many.” ••••• Hugh Armitage [full review]

What we say now: The robustness of the Stone siblings’ songs is impressive. Considering we’ve been listening to A Book Like This since it winged its way to us from Australia in September 2007, the album has lost only a touch of its freshness. Five stars? You bet. Just bring on the next one.

Download: ‘Another Day’, ‘The Beast’

iTunes £7.99



School Of Seven Bells
Full Time Hobby

Released: November 2008

What we said then: “Despite sounding formulaic when described on paper, like yet another redux of what The Postal Service were doing in 2003, thankfully that is not at all the case with Alpinisms. Drawing from several uniquely audible influences, the band has created a perfect manifesto for what dream pop should be. Benjamin Curtis’s arrangements are leaps and bounds ahead of anything he did in the Secret Machines, while the Deheza twins have evolved to become melodic geniuses. Their vocals are easily the highlight of the album. The vocal interplay is always interesting whether they’re doing several things at once (’Iamundernodisguise’) or just plain harmonising (’Half Asleep’).” •••• Trey Cregan [full review]

What we say now: Boasting perhaps the most appropriate artwork of the year, Alpinisms is full of pulsing, airy songs that transport you high above the clouds, gliding over glacial ice fields and breathtaking vistas of snow-capped mountains. Only Curtis’s guitar rhythms keep you from vanishing into the ether, buoyed by the uplift of the Deheza twins’ breathy, ethereal vocal thermals. It’s dizzyingly lovely.

Download: ‘Prince Of Peace’, ‘Half Asleep’

FREE MP3: School Of Seven Bells, ‘Connjur

iTunes £7.99



Juana Molina
Un Día

Released: October 2008

What we said then: “The music found here, although bearing all the aesthetic trademarks of folk music, could not be less folksy. Coming across as more like an Autechre album played acoustically, it utilises vocal and acoustic guitar samples, chopping them up to create otherworldly dreamscapes of jittery guitars and overlapping voices. Rarely does Juana Molina use any actual language to communicate. Instead, she sings in garbled chants, exclamations and incantations, with the title track being one of the few that features discernable lyrics. The unconventional, drone-like arrangement of the pieces adds to the sense that Un Día is less an album of songs, more a pulsating, shifting collage of acoustic sound.” •••½ Rob Tamplin [full review]

What we say now: Proving that repetition does not necessarily imply a lack of ideas, Juana Molina continues to quietly weird us out with her organic loops and inventive use of vocal layering. Peculiar noises prick through the recumbent rhythms lying deep in the mix, for the most part demanding attention, while structure is all but abandoned. She just keeps on getting better.

Download: ‘Vive Solo’, ‘¿Quién? (Suite)’

iTunes £6.32



Kitty, Daisy & Lewis
Kitty, Daisy & Lewis
Sunday Best

Released: July 2008

What we said then: “To witness Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Durham strumming and swinging, their hairdos, clothes and voices boldly recalling an era before even their parents were born, it’s clear there’s something jazzy going on in North London. Having been performing together since 2000, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis know their music inside out and, with youthful exuberance on their side, have developed an act that revitalises the sounds of the Deep South’s kings and queens of roots music. Though most critical acclaim of this self-titled debut praises them for neglecting computerisation, it is not the lack of a precise element that makes Kitty, Daisy & Lewis so charming. It is the sibling band’s attention to detail and loyalty to the creative process – their impressive, heavily practiced ability to quicken their pace to the demanding meter of blues and country – that earns them boasting rights.” •••½ Paige Taylor [full review]

What we say now: Kitty, Daisy & Lewis delivers handsomely on the stylistic front that the three young siblings have rehearsed to perfection, but it’s not an album we’ve returned to all that often. Not when there’s Wanda Jackson to blast. Musically accomplished and definitely charming, however, the Durhams have an undeniably bright future ahead.

Download: ‘Going Up The Country’, ‘Mean Son Of A Gun’

iTunes £7.99



Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles

Released: April 2008

What we said then: “Otherworldly electro-crazy-clash, warped dance beats amalgamated amongst laborious vocals – that’s Crystal Castles. From the off, this record has the ability to gain victory over those who look at the Canadian duo, with their ‘fashionista’ demeanour, and disregard them as the latest fad. Crystal Castles are no fad. They will never be commercial enough to be a fad. They live and work by their own rules. This not a simple case of style over substance; for Crystal Castles, style is irrelevant and substance overrated. The going can be gloomy, hellish even, at times…but then that’s life for you. Who doesn’t enjoy a lively love song about taxidermy?” •••½ Lipsy Pennell [full review]

What we say now: Despite being mired in various controversies for much of the year – singer Alice’s wild onstage antics, copyright disputes over artwork and samples – Crystal Castles successfully brought their relentlessly pounding, warped 8-bit synths to the edge of the indie mainstream, menacingly shrieking from the perimeter and threatening to wreck it all down. It’s still standing, of course, but the album remains an exhilarating rush of noise.

Download: ‘Love & Caring’, ‘Black Panther’

iTunes £7.99



Gregory & The Hawk
Moenie & Kitchi

Released: September 2008

What we said then: “Moenie & Kitchi, the follow up to last year’s self-released In Your Dreams, encapsulates perfectly a wish to encourage life to unfold regardless of what it might bring, perhaps a form of escapism from the hustle and bustle of her native New York. Meredith Godreau’s citation of Nick Drake as an influence is clear from the outset, as she shares a talent and obvious passion for writing melodic folk, often delicately whispering through each subtly textured or beautifully simple track. A pure vocal and an acoustic guitar predominantly set the scene for the journey through the world outside, a world Godreau finds so obviously captivating and yet also makes so captivating through her music.” •••• Anna Claxton [full review]

What we say now: Gregory & The Hawk specialise in short and subtly catchy folk with experimental pop sensibilities and Moenie & Kitchi is their masterpiece to date. Formerly a one-woman project, the augmentation of Meredith Godreau’s typically delicate and comforting vocals with thoughtful arrangements from a well-honed rhythm section has expanded the scope of the music and, accordingly, widened its appeal. One for the dreamers.

Download: ‘Ghost’, ‘Stonewall, Stone Fence’

FREE MP3: Gregory & The Hawk, Grey Weather[thanks to The Line Of Best Fit]

iTunes £7.99



Emmylou Harris
All I Intended To Be

Released: June 2008

What we said then: “A new Emmylou Harris solo record is always a particular treat, and All I Intended To Be represents a very fine addition to her catalogue. It’s something of a pleasure to find Harris less adorned and more acoustic here, and, as ever, performing a range of judiciously selected material that reveals greater depths with each listen. Loss, longing, love and redemption remain the major themes, along with a pervasive sense that any true spiritual journey must be undertaken alone. Harris continues to redefine what it means to be a vital, enduring artist in an industry in which women over 30 (let alone 60) have generally been deemed to have outlived their usefulness. An endlessly compelling mixture of grit and ghostly sighs, sculpted by time and experience, her singing seems to grow ever more powerful and distinctive as the years go by, its subtle command worth that of a million over-emoting divas.” •••• Alex Ramon [full review]

What we say now: Do Emmylou Harris albums ever feel outdated? We can’t think of any, certainly not among her recent releases. All I Intended To Be remains as solid and unshakably classy as the first time we clapped ears on it. 

Download: ‘Shores Of White Sand’,  ‘All That You Have Is Your Soul’

iTunes £7.99