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.
Filed under: album, review | Tags: east is east, katy knight, pepi ginsberg
East Is East ••••
Park The Van
Good news for fans of perennial Wears The Trousers favourite Pepi Ginsberg: she’s back, and her musical evolution continues apace. Following 2008’s art-pop release Red comes her new long-player East Is East, again produced by Dr Dog’s Scott McMicken, this time featuring a superband of hand-picked musicians, each of whom has added their own whimsical layer to the Ginsberg sound (from guitar effects produced only with the hands to cookie sheets used in with the drums). Conceived during a drive along the Montauk highway while listening to Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, the album was intended to sound like the experimental lovechild of Dylan and Deerhoof, and both sides of the genepool run deep here; a ‘hoofian jittery, spluttery percussion style perfectly complements the bold and visionary lyrical approach that has unmistakably been formed from years of exposure to Dylan, the way fine wine is imbued with the scent of the oak barrels in which it is matured.
Teen Dream ••••½
Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Memory Tapes; dream-pop indie shoegazers are launching their own quiet invasion. Fresh into the flotsam of the latest wave lands Beach House’s third studio album, Teen Dream, a delicately complex paean to young love and human connectedness, and the boldest offering to date from the Baltimore-based duo. Entering into the album’s world of disjointed piano, spaced-out production and off-kilter guitars can only be compared to the disorienting, nostalgic headrush of remembered love, the stupefying yet comforting intoxication of which is rendered near perfectly. Teen Dream has the sonal aesthetic of a Brian Wilson production, only filtered, fragmented and shattered; a mosaic made from the small but cumulative remains. Across the album, songs are painstakingly constructed in layers and then effortlessly unravelled again, maintaining constancy through soothing monotone organs or deliciously drawn-out synth notes.
Filed under: album, review | Tags: basia bulat, heart of my own, katy knight
Heart Of My Own •••
With the notable exceptions of ‘honour killing’, ‘collateral damage’ and ‘happy hooker’, there are few phrases which make me want to punch a wall more than ‘citizen of the world’. All the same, it may be a fitting description for Basia Bulat’s Heart Of My Own, an album conceived and born during her extensive travels across the sparsely beautiful Yukon and the Nevada desert, as well as Europe and Australia. The result is an album whose passport is packed with stamps of influence: full of drums which roll like prairie hills and strings which sweep as majestically as a mountaintop panorama, mingled in with borrowed choirs, a dash of Balkan spirit and the itching bluegrass of someone else’s homeland.
Filed under: feature, special | Tags: alan pedder, albums of the decade, alela diane, alex ramon, anais mitchell, ane brun, ani difranco, bat for lashes, bjork, broadcast, charlotte richardson andrews, chris catchpole, feist, fever ray, florence and the machine, gillian welch, hildur guðnadóttir, hope sandoval, jenny lewis, joan as police woman, kate bush, katy knight, kristin hersh, laura marling, marissa nadler, martha wainwright, portishead, rhian jones, robyn, rod thomas, shelby lynne, st vincent, the innocence mission, the warm inventions, the watson twins, tomas slaninka, wears the trousers magazine
Here’s the third part of our albums of the decade countdown, running from #50–26.
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[Rough Trade, 2002]
Casting aside the disparaging comparisons to “Kate Bush on crack” bestowed upon her in the wake of Queen Adreena’s debut album Taxidermy, KatieJane Garside upped the ante with Drink Me, tearing whatever hinges that were still attached right off with a blisteringly manic grunge-metal fervour. Among her Wonderland’s re-energised malice, the softer moments found Garside’s raging voice shrunk mouse-high, whispering seductively as if through the keyhole, or chillingly into a void. Richly imaginative and manically enjoyable, Drink Me remains one of the decade’s most vigorous and visceral thrills, disturbing to the very last note.
Filed under: album, review | Tags: alicia keys, katy knight, the element of freedom
The Element Of Freedom ••••
If freedom really were an element, it would surely be the noblest of gases. And it seems Alicia Keys has been letting plenty of it go to her head between her last album and this, her fourth studio offering; it’s a record that swoops and soars like a majestic, melancholy eagle through thick and curling clouds of grief. The opening title track sets the tone for the whole piece, a 12-second voiceover claiming that the day has come “when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom”. It’s a strong, affirming message couched like a pearl in the cold shell of uncertainty and pain (not to mention a healthy dose of reverb).
Filed under: album, EP, review | Tags: charlotte richardson andrews, katy knight, kid sister, lady lazarus, richard steele, the kabeedies
Part three of our November roundup looks at debuts from Norwich indie-pop upstarts The Kabeedies, US sensation Kid Sister and the homemade charms of Lady Lazarus.
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Norwich’s keenest The Kabeedies bounced onto our radar with a triumphant performance at Glastonbury 2008, and they’ve been picking up momentum ever since. Following on from an enjoyable pair of EPs comes the irrepressible band’s debut full-length, appropriately named Rumpus. A jauntily pop, heels-in-the-air, loop-the-flipping-loop of an album, it successfully marryies compulsively danceable rhythms with vocal melodies so infectious the government will no doubt soon be putting up posters in bathrooms telling you how to wash your ears.