wears the trousers magazine

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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sounding off: october 2009 (iii)
October 19, 2009, 12:49 pm
Filed under: album, EP, review | Tags: , , , , , , ,

In part three of this month’s roundup, we take a look at the new EP from Leeds band The Kiara Elles, the latest album from longrunning metal group Kittie and immerse ourselves in the brilliantly twisted world of Listen With Sarah.

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The Kiara Elles
Odio EP •••

This spiky five-piece band from Leeds takes its unusual handle from a corruption of the name of lead singer Chiara Lucchini. Produced by Choque Hosein (formerly of Black Star Liner, now boss of Leeds label Vandal), the Odio EP delivers a straight up new-wave sound buoyed by Lucchini’s distinctive Yorkshire-accented vocals and a Slits-punk attitude. These qualities are best personified on the title track, its insistent beat and “shouting at the stereo” refrain making it a non-ska little sister of The Selecter’s ‘On My Radio’.

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free music friday: tegan & sara
October 9, 2009, 9:59 am
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170809_teganandsaraTegan & Sara

Needing little introduction by now, Canada’s favourite musical twins Tegan and Sara Quin are set to release their sixth album, Sainthood, on October 26th through Sire Records, much changed from when they first emerged as ‘Sara & Tegan’ with the rough and ready alt-folk of Under Feet Like Ours in 1999. The twins’ popularity has accelerated slowly but sensibly over the last ten years, due in part to their unique vocal sound that beautifully mirrors the close bond they share, but also their ability to evolve their overall sound, leading to six very different albums. Lead single ‘Hell’ is the first track to emerge from their latest effort, which unprecedentedly includes a few songs the twins’ wrote together. Tearing straight into a very fast and heavy guitar introduction, it instantly reveals itself to be a catchy, vibrant pop song that slides up and down the scale as expertly as the Quins’ vocals. The familiar method of solo vocal followed by intermittent twin harmonising still gives Tegan & Sara a diverse vocal edge, and the clever wording and fast delivery adds to the track’s breathlessness. The overall sound is defiant and confident and seems to echo the band’s firmly staked claim in music history. MP3 after the jump.

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free music friday: janelle monáe
October 9, 2009, 9:45 am
Filed under: free music friday, mp3, review, where's the gigs | Tags: , , ,

fmf_janellemonaeJanelle Monáe
‘Come Alive (The War Of The Roses)’

Grammy-nominated conceptual artist and android-from-the-future musician extraordinaire Janelle Monáe follows up the acclaimed Metropolis: The Chase Suite with this sneak peek into part two of her four-suite album set. Mentor Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs has said of Janelle that she is “one of the most important signings of my career”, and it’s easy to see why. Suite one immersed us into the imagined sci-fi world of android-on-human love affairs, aliens and Janelle’s astoundingly attractive quiff and 1950s dress sense. All that paired with fast-paced drumbeats and organs, futuristic synths and classic-sounding soulful rock ‘n’ roll – arguably an untapped market in rejuvenated music genres – made for an exceptionally innovative and fresh sounding album, and left fans crying out for more robot romance.

The saga continues in the form of ‘Come Alive (The War of The Roses)’, a dark, almost Hammer Horror rock song with a fast, throbbing bassline and quirky, toe-tapping beat seared through with electric guitar riffs and well placed vocal screams. With bells on. Literally. Recorded in conjunction with Kia Motors as part of their Kia Soul Collective initiative [watch a making-of mini documentary over on their website], it’s rock ‘n’ roll with real soul, the energy and passion behind Janelle’s voice being reminiscent of early Skunk Anansie, but far clearer and more measured. “That’s when I come alive / like a schizo running wild,” she wails, and listening to this track you most likely will too. MP3 after the jump.

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free music friday: bell horses
October 9, 2009, 9:02 am
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fmf_jennyowenyoungsBell Horses
‘Still Life’

Bell Horses are a composite of Jenny Owen Youngs, the indie folk-rock singer-songwriter who notably made Nelly’s ‘Hot In Herre’ sound like a cute melodic love song, and Xian Hawkins, better known as electronica and synth wunderkind Sybarite. This unlikely couple has joined forces and – alongside reputable musicians who add percussion, violin and viola into the mix – are set to release their first album This Loves Last Time next week on their own label TrySquare.

Sample track ‘Still Life’ is a perfect example of artistic fusion resulting in a product that is very much a departure from the musicians’ ordinary sound. Jenny’s voice takes on a softer and more ambient effect when mixed with Sybarite’s various synthesised layers; melancholic with a Cat Power quality against the deeper, sultry synths, and breaking into operatic notes like Amy Lee against the more intense accompaniment. Sybarite’s soft but frequent drumbeats marry well with Jenny’s softly plucked guitar, creating an extra dimension to the track that weaves in and out of the vocal. Some may find the mixture of so many contradictory components hard to fathom, but ‘Still Life’ unites these elements smoothly and professionally. MP3 after the jump.

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free music friday: the slits
September 18, 2009, 9:47 am
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fmf_theslitsThe Slits
‘Ask Ma’

In 1979 The Slits released their legendary album Cut, a bracing assault of raw and experimental recordings that helped to pave the way for female-fronted punk and alternative music. Thirty years on, the band celebrate this achievement with new release Trapped Animal (October 20th, Narnack Records), their first studio full-length since 1981’s Return Of The Killer Slits. The band has been subject to many line up changes over the decades, and has at one time or another been occupied by great punk deities, for example Budgie of Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Creatures, and Paul Cook, ex-member of punk pioneers The Sex Pistols. However, The Slits’ rather erratic line up feels more like an evolution – for example, Cook’s daughter Hollie is a current member – and it is this ability to develop and evolve that makes preview track ‘Ask Ma’ sound fresh and up to date without sacrificing any of their original charm.

The track opens with an almost jungle sounding tribal percussion – a descendent of previous forays into reggae perhaps – which is soon accompanied by buzzing, contemporary sounding electro and topped off with blasts of saxophone. This multi-layered effect provides a superb build up to original founding member Ari Up’s vocal, which is infectiously clannish alongside the other members, and, when solo, becomes a tongue in cheek rant at the hopelessness of men and their baby-like reliance on women. The track is humorously feminist and so not likely to alienate the more politically apathetic listener. But more importantly it is innovative and proves the band is still more than able to provide us with novel and entertaining music. MP3 after the jump.

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free music friday: ólöf arnalds
September 18, 2009, 9:04 am
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fmf_olofarnaldsÓlöf Arnalds

Having been crowned Best Alternative Album at the Iceland Music Awards two years ago, Ólöf Arnalds’s debut album Við og Við gets a long overdue UK release on November 16th through One Little Indian, largely as a precursor to her newest work Ókídókí, out next year. Though it’s easily confused with Ólafur Arnalds, the young male neoclassical composer who’s gathered quite a following, Ólöf’s name will already be familiar to Scandophiles and discerning music fans; she’s been a member of Iceland’s notable experimental band múm since 2003, and has played alongside such renowned outfits as Blonde Redhead and, of course, the much celebrated forerunner of Iceland’s music scene, Björk. An impressive array of Icelandic talent has gone into the production of this album, too, with Kjartan Sveinsson from Sigur Rós collaborating with other members of múm to provide remarkable pieces of music with a selection of unusual instruments.

But this Smörgåsbord of Scandinavian musical ability is merely a pleasant addition to an already beautiful sound created by Arnalds on preview track ‘Klara’. Ólöf plays a simple tune constructed on a lute-like instrument which, accompanied by a wavering accordion, creates a delightful Nordic folk sound. Her crystal clear vocals and accent seem to range from sounding almost Carnatic to not-quite Japanese, adding to the exoticism of the piece. The simple folk sound paired with the unusual vocal means there is certainly room for comparison with Joanna Newsom, but it’s the curiosity of Ólöf herself that makes this an unquestionably intriguing listen. MP3 after the jump

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