wears the trousers magazine

incoming: here lies love

David Byrne & Fatboy Slim
Here Lies Love

[Nonesuch; February 22]

This hugely anticipated double album from the perhaps unlikely pairing of David Byrne and Norman Cook features 20 top female vocalists (and Steve Earle) retelling the incredible life story of Imelda Marcos, former First Lady Of The Philippines, from her early days as a beauty queen in Manila to her marriage to Ferdinand Marcos and his controversial presidency, and finally to their catastrophic fall from grace in the face of the People Power Revolution of 1986. Says David Byrne in the introduction, “The story I am interested in is about asking what drives a powerful person—what makes them tick? How do they make and then remake themselves? I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if—as this piece would be principally composed of clubby dance music—one could experience it in a club setting? Could one bring a ‘story’ and a kind of theatre to the disco? Was that possible? If so, wouldn’t that be amazing!” (Byrne himself sings on only two tracks; ‘American Troglodyte’ and the Shara Worden duet ‘Seven Years’.) The deluxe edition of Here Lies Love includes a 100-page companion book and DVD. Unmissable, really.

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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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free music friday: clare & the reasons

080708_clareandthereasonsClare & The Reasons
‘Obama Over The Rainbow’

The name of Barack Obama carries a good deal of clout, had you noticed? It’s HOPE, it’s CHANGE, it’s HISTORY. It’s also surprisingly musical as this curious little interlude from cinematically obsessed Clare Muldaur and her band The Reasons proves. It’s the Judy Garland classic as you’ve never heard it before. Every single word is Obama.

I repeat: there are no other words to this song.

Sounds restricting doesn’t it? But it actually works suprisingly well. Hitting some impressive notes with seemingly no hint of struggle, Muldaur and her crooning collective swoop and crisscross with immaculate precision. Of course, as does any word repeated over and over, the newly inaugurated President’s name ironically loses its meaning somewhat, though I’m inclined to believe it’s not ironic at all and is in fact entirely intentional. Obamania, The Obamascension – there are so many ways it can be played – but even if this is a bit of cheeky fun, it captures perfectly the sense of America’s overwhelming relief and affection for their new leader. If you like this, seek out their album The Movie. It’s pure theatrical escapism, full of witty humour and harmonies that are unfathomably tight and sublime. MP3 after the jump.

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trouser shorts: M.I.A., sonic youth, my brightest diamond


For someone who not so long ago seemed quite determined to abandon music altogether, M.I.A. hasn’t done too badly for herself since thinking better of it. Earlier this week her single ‘Paper Planes’ came top of The Village Voice’s famous annual Pazz & Jop Poll and tonight it turns out she’s up for an Oscar. ‘O…Saya’, her collaboration with ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ soundtrack mastermind AR Rahman, was among the three nominees for Best Original Song alongside another Rahman track, ‘Jai Ho’, and Peter Gabriel’s ‘Down To Earth’ from Disney/Pixar’s ‘WALL-E’. No sign of Golden Globes nominees Beyoncé or Miley Cyrus, or even the winner, Bruce Springsteen. This year’s Oscars – the 81st – take place on February 22nd.

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Sonic Youth have been Twittering away quite merrily this week as they work on the follow-up to 2006’s Rather Ripped with Patti Smith producer John Agnello, revealing a whole bunch of working titles f0r the album. Due in June through Matador Records, it’s tentatively titled The Eternal and may include the following: ‘That’s What We Know’, ‘Sacred Trickster’, ‘Calming The Snake’, ‘Massage The History’ and “something about a Malibu gas station”. 

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The second instalment in My Brightest Diamond’s series of digital-only remix EPs was released on Monday in all good online stores. Shark Remixes Vol. 2 features Son Lux remixes of ‘Apples’, ‘The Diamond’, ‘Inside A Boy’ and ‘To Pluto’s Moon’, and the lovely folks at Asthmatic Kitty want you to have those last two for free. 

FREE MP3: My Brightest Diamond, ‘Inside A Boy’ [Son Lux remix]

FREE MP3: My Brightest Diamond, ‘To Pluto’s Moon’ [Son Lux remix]

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Norwegian singer-songwriter Hanne Hukkelberg will release her new album, Blood From A Stone, in April. Written over a 7-month period on the isolated island of Senja in the Arctic Circle, Hanne writes in her blog that the album, somewhat paradoxically, is a much more forthright rock album than her softly experimental previous albums Little Things and Rykestrasse 68. “I would call it a mixture of new wave, no wave and indie music,” she says, “but the music is still wrapped in my personal sound: small sounds, found sounds, weird objects used as instruments and different layers…this is a record more direct, more loud and from the hip – lyrically as well.”

You can hear one of the songs – a decidedly un-rocky piano tune – and take a tour of her island retreat by watching this video.

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Australian twin sisters The Veronicas will release an iTunes exclusive EP, Untouched, on February 3rd. Lisa and Jessica Origliasso have recorded a special unplugged version of the title track and thrown in three previously unreleased B-sides – ‘Hollywood’, ‘Insomnia’ and ‘Everything’. The original version of ‘Untouched’ rounds out the tracklist, and is lifted directly from their second album Hook Me Up.

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Singer-songwriter Heather Greene has been very busy since last year’s long-delayed UK release of her 2005 album Five Dollar Dress with two different projects on the go. The tail end of 2008 was spent on finalising the release of her new album Sweet Otherwise – it came out a couple of weeks ago without us noticing! – and has been working with Adam Williams of Powerman 5000 on a new electronica project called Argon 40. Their debut double A-side single is out on March 2nd through iTunes and features the songs ‘When The Words Don’t Come’ and ‘44.66 Days’. Here’s a suitably sci-fi, Bacofoil-splattered video as a taster. Gig dates expected this summer.

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Lhasa de Sela is not the most prolific of artists. Her last album, the incredible The Living Road, was released back in 2003, and the album before that in 1998. So, it’s been 5 years…must be time for a new one, right? As it happens, yes. Aside from collaborating with Stuart Staples and Tindersticks, she’s been fairly quiet on the music front, so the news that her self-titled third album will be out in April comes as a pleasant and unexpected surprise. Her first album to be sung entirely in English, it was recorded under ‘live’ conditions at Montreal’s famous Hotel2Tango studios using purely analogue techniques. Here’s a tracklist.

01 Is Anything Wrong
02 Rising
03 Love Came Here
04 What Kind of Heart
05 Bells
06 Fool’s Gold
07 A Fish On Land
08 Where Do You Go
09 The Lonely Spider
10 1001 Nights
11 I’m Going In
12 Anyone & Everyone

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Alan Pedder

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

Albums of the year: #10–1


Martha Wainwright
I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too
Drowned In Sound

Released: July 2008

What we said then: “It’s not easy being a Wainwright. Even the most cursory listen to I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too, the much anticipated second album from Martha, the baby of the family, will only serve to reinforce that impression. From the unrequited love of opener ‘Bleeding All Over You’ onwards the tone is one of nerve end-exposing confessional honesty. Even if she’s now found a degree of domestic happiness with producer Brad Albetta the last few years have clearly been anything but a comfortable ride. There is the same intimacy of expression, even if this time it occasionally hides a little deep below the more ambitious production and commercial sensibilities.” •••½ Martyn Clayton [full review]

What we say now: Martha Wainwright’s endearingly fiery debut was a slow-burning word of mouth hit, so with much of the legwork already behind her you can understand why she might have wanted more instant gratification with this follow-up. But while I Know You’re Married… certainly has songs with immediate appeal, it’s an uneven listening experience overall. Lucky, then, that Martha has become a real powerhouse performer on the stage, offering another way into the album. More focus and fewer producers next time and we might just get the masterpiece she’s capable of.

Download: ‘You Cheated Me’, ‘Love Is A Stranger’

iTunes £7.99



My Brightest Diamond
A Thousand Shark’s Teeth
Asthmatic Kitty

Released: June 2008

Several years in the making, My Brightest Diamond’s second album proper wears its meticulous construction proudly on its wizard’s sleeve. Originally conceived as a simple string quartet album, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth turned out to be denser than a nugget of iridium. A tumbling, soaring, confusing, soothing avant-rock injection of wonder and weirdness, it’s easy to see how some might find it a little too much to take in one sitting…but as 11 course meals go you couldn’t wish for a finer spread. Drawing on several literary influences, Shara Worden’s often oblique lyrics come alive with her operatic trills and octave-hopping prowess, breathing a surreal and often creepy element into her passionate cartwheels of profound emotion. Not an album to endlessly loop, play after play after play, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth is prickly and ripe with a terrifyingly accomplished creativity. To sum it up in her own words, “the emphasis is on beauty and richness” [feature interview].

Download: ‘Inside A Boy’, ‘To Pluto’s Moon’

iTunes £7.99



Some People Have Real Problems
Monkey Puzzle 

Released: January 2008

What we said then: “As with previous offerings Sia’s latest album runs amok through the many different facets of her personality. Her continued strategy of delivering stylistic tangents that encompass the best of electronica, R&B, soul and pop has made the listener’s journey to date never less than boring. Some People Have Real Problems delivers another pleasing blend of musical schizophrenia but with added progression of thought from the first to the final song. It shows songwriting maturity and, most impressively, an acute understanding of album aesthetics missing from so many artists who, forced by their producers and labels to surround a hit with mediocre filler, have all but killed the joy of the journey from first song to last. I would suggest they are the artists with real problems; if Sia continues to mine this rich seam, she should have very few.” •••• Paul Woodgate [full review]

What we say now: Of 2008’s many croaky voiced pop acts vying to be the new monarchs of white soul, it’s Sia who is closest to your hearts it seems. Some People Have Real Problems may not have had the publicity or budget of Adele’s 19, but it’s a far, far better album. Though the awful artwork may suggest otherwise, it’s smart, mature and resoundingly convincing. And it’s even better live. Ms Furler’s name might not be synonymous with originality but she’s got the pipes and the class to sacrifice that and still remain vital.

Download: ‘Buttons’, ‘Soon We’ll Be Found’

iTunes £7.99



She & Him
Volume One
Double Six

Released: May 2008

What we said then: “Acting and music-making have always made an uneasy alliance at best. It isn’t often that a person can straddle the two industries with any degree of success. Volume One, Zooey Deschanel’s presumably ongoing collaboration with Portland-based singer-songwriter M Ward, yields a collection of mainly original numbers with a few covers thrown in towards the end. It’s twee, yes, but not overly so. Deschanel’s slightly country-esque voice is alive with character and feeling. The music is crisp and clean and dips into a range of styles from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. It complements Deschanel’s voice without ever drowning or swallowing her.” •••• Hugh Armitage [full review]

What we say now: If there was a finer distillation of the classic singer-songwriter decades this year then we didn’t hear it. Whereas Scarlett Johansson’s album retrofitted a narcotic rumbling haze to Tom Waits’s visceral songbook and failed to inspire much feeling at all, fellow actress Zooey Deschanel’s collaboration with M Ward dug in from the plain-sung but heartfelt ‘Sentimental Heart’ right through to ‘Sweet Darlin’ – a could-have-been Dusty Springfield classic with a country twist – and never dropped the ball. Only the phoned-in cover of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ felt a bit superfluous tacked on to the end, but this cosy, cuddly (and, we suspect, a touch ironic) album entrances and warms like bottled sunshine. Volume Two has some big comfy slippers to fill.

Download: ‘Sentimental Heart’, ‘I Was Made For You’

iTunes £7.99



Lykke Li
Youth Novels
LL Recordings / Warner

Released: June 2008

Produced by Lasse Mårtén and Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn & John, this debut from Swedish upstart Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson – or Lykke Li as she’d rather we know her – was a blend of orthodox melodies, unconventional structures and delightfully unusual samples used in unexpected places. Often compared to friend and collaborator Robyn, Lykke sings with a clear, smooth pitch, full of youth and soul – a hard-to-find combination. What sets Youth Novels apart is its enthusiasm for blending soulful, accessible  pop with elements of the experimental, often electro in style. From the luscious, sensual opener ‘Melodies, Desires’ to the distorted symphonic feel of ‘My Love’ and the utterly addictive ‘Little Bit’, Youth Novels is an album unafraid to play with established genres, layering styles and ideas with a zestful and romantic passion.

Download: ‘Little Bit’, ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’

iTunes £7.99



Lizard King / Warner 

Released: May 2008

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock in the Gobi desert all year, Santogold is the recording moniker for one Santi White – singer, songwriter, producer and all round musical genius. Having worked with a number of high-profile top earners such as Mark Ronson, Pharell Williams and GZA of Wu Tang Clan, White was already highly respected for her uniquely innovative creations. Evolving from her punk rock beginnings, Santogold’s shameless penchant for ’80s pop and host of rap/electro collaborators all added up to a skilfully convoluted debut, incorporating an enormously diverse range of styles and sounds including reggae, indie, electro and dance. Though R&B is frequently and incorrectly cited as an influence on the album, it’s obvious to the more astute listener that Santi’s tastes are far more alternative. From the deliciously dub-heavy ‘Creator’ (which was snapped up by a certain hair care company for their summer ad campaign), the dark, grime-like New Wave of ‘Starstruck’ and the Pixies-esque surf guitar of ‘Lights Out’, this genre-defying debut won acclaim from press, peers and fans alike, and easily found its way into our top five.

Download: ‘Lights Out’, ‘L.E.S. Artistes’

iTunes £7.99



Seventh Tree

Released: February 2008

What we said then: Seventh Tree finds the duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory not so much edging away from the adventurous lust of their last two albums as turning their back on it completely. It’s still very much a Goldfrapp record but this isn’t Felt Mountain part II either; there’s nothing so innocent about Seventh Tree. With the likes of Kylie and Madonna jumping on the ‘frappian electro-glam bandwagon, Alison and Will have wisely hauled their anchor and sailed swiftly away before the inevitable call from Timbaland came through. Seventh Tree will no doubt appall those who sicken at any hint of a genuine emotion, but to those who can handle such things it never seems banal or uninspired. ” ••••½ Eva Weppelmann [full review]

What we say now: While adopting elements of psychedelic folk has become rather commonplace, if not essential, among indie newcomers, for neo-glam pop goliaths Goldfrapp to take the same road seemed somehow revolutionary. But while the music of Seventh Tree feels rural, antique and defiantly sunny, it’s just as knowing, with constant nods to the shady underbelly of outsider living. Whereas Supernature attempted to make up for its absence of any real lyrical substance with thundering pop melodies, Seventh Tree has actual characterisations and is all the better for it. You sympathise with the tragic narrator of ‘A&E’, feel the wind in the hair of the ‘Caravan Girl’, and so on. Where Goldfrapp go from here is anyone’s guess, but this was a fantastic and timely reinvention.

Download: ‘Clowns’, ‘Little Bird’

iTunes £7.99



Amanda Palmer
Who Killed Amanda Palmer

Released: February 2008

What we said then: “Co-produced with similarly arch keyboard whizz Ben Folds, Who Killed Amanda Palmer is rife with trumpet blasts, strings and Palmer’s trademark piano percussion, but it’s not always clear whether she has done a thorough enough job of disconnecting from The Dresden Dolls’ Brechtian punk cabaret stylings to make this more than just another album for the band’s repertoire. Thankfully Palmer knows how to interpret the moss on the trees. From her beginnings as a depressing performer, exposing bloody hands and shrieks for an audience of friends, Palmer has sliced and laid open the intricate carcass that constitutes simple existence. Who Killed Amanda Palmer is sufficient proof of something beautiful lying within the (sometimes) ugly.” •••• Paige Taylor [full review]

What we say now: It may not have been a million miles away from what you’d expect from a Dresden Dolls album, but Who Killed Amanda Palmer achieved what it set out to do: reaffirm that Amanda Palmer is one of today’s most consistently interesting, theatrical and intelligent performers. Unafraid to mix self-deprecating humour with lampooning sketches of life’s less cerebrally gifted, or flat-out profundity with offhand, quirky homilies and unlikely pop cultural references, Palmer brought the goods on all counts. A righteous gem.

Download: ‘Ampersand’, ‘Runs In The Family’

iTunes £7.99 (£9.99 with bonus tracks)



Go! Discs / Island 

Released: April 2008

What we said then: “Third combines the best things about classic Portishead – their atmospheric quality, the chilled-out trip-hop, their gloominess – but brings new and experimental sounds to the mix. The layering of familiarity with surprising new sounds and flourishes makes an album that warrants repeat listenings, with something new to discover each time. After 11 years of anticipation, Portishead have come through with something worth the wait.” •••• Hugh Armitage

What we say now: If Portishead’s last album was a spectre of tension and claustrophobic terror, this long awaited comeback blazed like a vivid dystopian nightmare. Whether wailing like a distempered crone awoken from a lengthy hibernation or reprising her role as a brokenhearted, insular obsessive, Beth Gibbons sounded familiarly, almost comfortingly bleak. For once, though, she’s not always the weirdest wheel on the wagon as Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley do their utmost to mess with our heads. Their convoluted technical approach doesn’t always work to Portishead’s advantage, but Third remains an impressive labour of tough love.

Download: ‘The Rip’, ‘Small’

iTunes £7.99



Laura Marling
Alas I Cannot Swim 

Released: February 2008

What we said then: “From the opening bars of immaculate first single ‘Ghosts’ to the closing moments of the title track, surreptitiously tacked onto the end of ‘Your Only Doll (Dora)’, the quality control dial is turned up to 11. Even when she’s embodying the character of a victim of sexual abuse, her austere phrasing makes her wholly believable. Marling’s voice, too, has matured since her last recordings. Mixing playfulness with a knowing wink, she recalls Aimee Mann, Joni Mitchell and, at times, Eliza Carthy, but Laura has something altogether more contemporary and fresh, and appealingly English. With the album format allegedly on its last legs, all 38 minutes of Alas I Cannot Swim bucks the trend by playing very much like a cohesive whole. With Noah & The Whale’s Charlie Fink taking on production duties, the record sounds neither overproduced or lacking in colour, complementing the songs without engulfing them.” ••••• Richard Steele [full review]

What we say now: We’ve been endlessly impressed with the young Ms Marling all year and are thrilled you’ve voted her debut album as the year’s best listen. Last year’s My Manic & I EP was our first glimpse of her precocious talent for gorgeously nuanced folk-centric pop, but we were glad to see her excising the smart aleck quips of her weaker songs for the more mature introspection of Alas I Cannot Swim. The deceptive simplicity of the songs might belie their construction with a watchmaker’s attention to detail, but their deftly expressed and subtle fire roared into life during Marling’s several hugely acclaimed tours. Dignified, playful and lyrically weighty, Alas I Cannot Swim has all the hallmarks of a singer-songwriter classic and its success is well deserved. For next year’s hopefuls the bar has been set. Who will scale such great heights?

Download: ‘Night Terror’, ‘Ghosts’

FREE MP3: Laura Marling, Man Sings About Romance‘ [‘Ghosts’ B-side] [via RCRDLBL]

iTunes £5.99 

EPs of the year: readers poll results (part IV of V)

EPs of the year: #10–6


Peggy Sue & The Pictures
The Body Parts EP
Broken Sound Music 

Released: August 2008

On The Body Parts EP, Peggy Sue combine a soundtrack of nostalgic folk and buccaneer blues with modern, lyrical poetry full of drunken ocean voyages, love and disembodied anatomy. From the macabre yet playful clamour of dismembered limbs that grace the artwork, to their primary school-inspired, fancy dress stage outfits and treasure-and-heartbreak compositions, they seamlessly blend make believe with reality, and the result is a beautiful, surreal adventure. They are nautical poets, with heads full of rain-lashed, bittersweet music, and all the joy of children who raided the dressing up box [full review].

iTunes £3.16



My Brightest Diamond
Inside A Boy EP
Asthmatic Kitty

Released: May 2008

The music of Shara Worden lends itself unusually well to the art of remixing, as proved on last year’s Tear It Down, and this EP (a first taste of the album and the other two EPs she has since released) included some memorable reworkings from Tim Fite and celebrated newcomer Son Lux. With the dramatic orchestrations of the title track and the undulating, whispery swoon of exclusive B-side ‘I Had A Pearl’ also on offer, this was a fantastic start to a diamond year.

FREE MP3: My Brightest Diamond, ‘Inside A Boy‘ [Son Lux remix] [thanks to Pitchfork]

iTunes £1.99



Sad Robots EP
Soft Revolution / Arts & Crafts

Released: November 2008

Sad Robots makes for clever and intense listening, but nothing more so than the releases dotting Stars’ past. Instead, it’s another reminder of how powerful this band is, even though their power lies in a bleaker, more malaise-rich paradigm. But death makes life important, and understanding, even playing with such actualities, can be blissful. Just don’t expect this robot to ever have a smile on its face [full review].

iTunes £3.16



The Mountain Goats & Kaki King
Black Pear Tree EP
Cadmean Dawn

Released: October 2008

Perhaps most interesting for the chance to hear Kaki King accompanied only by piano and subtle electronica instead of her usual armoury of guitars on the doomstruck title track, plus the sweetly characterised Mario Bros.-inspired closer, Black Pear Tree is an interesting meeting of minds. Vocally, King is largely consigned to the background but her virtuosic guitar chops are what underpins the middle tracks and rescues them from potential mediocrity. Hard to get hold of, but worth the effort.

FREE MP3: The Mountain Goats & Kaki King, ‘Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is In Another Castle‘ [thanks to Pitchfork]

Not available on iTunes



Anaïs Mitchell & Rachel Ries
country e.p.
Righteous Babe 

Released: August 2008

Teaming up with good friend and occasional touring partner Rachel Ries, Anaïs Mitchell proves her mettle as a versatile writer and as a harmoniser par excellence. With commercial suicide not really a concern for these two relatively under-the-radar performers, they were free to concentrate on nailing the organic sounds and appeal of their onstage chemistry, letting the sentiment of the music speak for itself. Some of the loveliest duetting since Emmylou took up with Gram [full review].

iTunes £3.16

EPs of the year: readers poll results (part I of V)

EPs of the year: #25–21


My Brightest Diamond
From The Top Of The World EP
Asthmatic Kitty

Released: September 2008

Shara Worden’s obsession with all things French may well have begun in early childhood – Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s famed ‘Le Petit Prince’ is one of her favourite books. Having frequently dropped several Edith Piaf covers into her live sets, justly holding her up as an icon of musical integrity, passion and grandeur, this EP gave Worden the chance to port that same starry-eyed theatricality and geste d’amour to wax, while her version of Kurt Weill/Roger Fernay’s fantastical odyssey ‘Youkali: Tango Habañera’ fits right in with her fairytale-inspired originals (‘From The Top Of The World’ itself is based on a George Macdonald children’s novella). Worden conjures up the requisite drama and sultry despair to pull it off magnificently. [full review]

iTunes £3.16


Faun Fables
A Table Forgotten EP
Drag City

Released: July 2008

Fresh from her life-affirming collaborations with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy on The Letting Go and its associated releases Wai Notes [demos] and Wilding In The West [live], Dawn McCarthy returns to work as the voice of California-based theatrical collective Faun Fables. In contrast to 2006’s The Transit Rider, an eccentric performance art project based on a train-hopping itinerant, A Table Forgotten finds McCarthy singing songs of home, and specifically the kitchen. It’s typically out there, but ‘Pictures’ and a new version of ‘Winter Sleep’, her collaboration with Icelandic producer extraordinaire Valgeir Sigurðsson, are among the best things McCarthy’s ever recorded.

iTunes £3.16


Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
Gentleness Of Nothing EP

Released: May 2008

Seeing Jesse Sykes play live is an intense experience as she sits and coaxes an almost psychedelic rapture out of her guitar from behind an improbably flowing, glossy curtain of dark hair hanging down in front of the fretboard. She’s a goner in the realm of the song, her distinctive voice curling seductively around each note. This four-track tour EP sees Sykes and guitarist Phil Wandscher (formerly of Whiskeytown) expand on the sound of last year’s Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls Of The Soul by adding in new textures and some revitalising oomph. Despite the 9-minute title track epic it’s not long enough by half, but such is the nature of EPs. Nevertheless, an interesting primer for what might be in the future.

iTunes £3.16


Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
Keep Me In Mind Sweetheart EP

Released: November 2008

This six-track EP of leftovers from the Sunday At Devil Dirt recording sessions further explores the romantic progression seen in the duo’s second album. ‘Hang On’ could almost belong on Campbell’s solo album Amorino, such is its cute little swagger, while ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ and ‘Asleep On A Sixpence’ find Lanegan at his most serene. Closing ‘Sixpence’ with a hesitant piano-led melody from ‘While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks’ is a nice Christmassy touch, and the instrumental ‘Violin Tango’ is touchingly weepy. A satisfying epilogue to the unlikely duo’s second chapter.

iTunes £4.49


Laura Gibson
Six White Horses: Blues & Lamentations Vol. I

Released: May 2008

Made for introspective times, Six White Horses is a slow and richly melancholic proposition. Gibson’s spectral take on ‘Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair’, recorded by everyone from Joan Baez to Nina Simone to freak-folk ensemble Espers, is outstanding. Projecting her voice and classical guitar through an old record player speaker, she recalls Jana Hunter at her ephemeral best or Hem’s Sally Ellyson laden with reverb. ‘All The Pretty Horses’ is thoroughly charming in its simplicity and transitions beautifully into Blind Lemon Jefferson’s instrumental ‘One Dime Blues’ (positively sleepy compared with Etta Baker’s virtuoso interpretation), followed later by a haunting version of Jefferson protégé Mance Lipscomb’s ‘One Thin Dime’. Six White Horses ends on an autumnal cover of Furry Lewis’s ‘Dry Land Blues’; that, and a ‘hidden track’ comprising 20 more seconds of Gibson’s mournful coo. [full review]

iTunes £4.74

free music friday: my brightest diamond
November 21, 2008, 3:50 pm
Filed under: free music friday, mp3, review | Tags: , , ,

291008_mybrightestdiamondMy Brightest Diamond
‘Tainted Love’

Our love for My Brightest Diamond is pretty much unconditional and certainly unsullied. Whether on record or live, Shara Worden’s magic never seems to wear off, unlike the song ‘Tainted Love’, which has been covered and sampled virtually into oblivion by all and sundry. This week’s digital release of Engine Room Recordings’ Guilt By Association Vol. 2, another dose of so-called guilty pleasures reinterpreted by contemporary artists generally recognised as being all kinds of amazing, sees the twain meet. Cue nervous biting of nails as we snagged Pitchfork’s free MP3…would it join Shara’s Nina Simone, Prince and Radiohead covers in excelsis gloria or be, gulp, shit?

Well, it takes a bit of getting used to. There’s no doubt that Shara’s put her own inimitable stamp on the song. Her strong dusky croon and impressive top notes mingle well with the twinkling but pacy electronic rock backing, and the ghostly echo effect she utilises sparely is a nice added touch. There’s lots going on, and repeated listens will draw out different aspects of the song, so it’s far from being just a bog standard cover. Perhaps we will learn to love it in time. What do you think? MP3 and tracklist after the jump.

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my brightest diamond releases first of three new remix EPs

Conceptual releases all have their own themes and narratives

“To me this piece is about dichotomies; about the relationship between what is outside of us and what is inside of us; about the deep calling to the deep…It is about fear and wonder.” So says Alfred Brown, the composer responsible for all eight pieces that comprise the first in Shara Worden’s planned series of three conceptual remix EPs, released digitally this week.

Shark Remixes Vol. 1 takes as its central narrative “an astronaut stranded outside of his ship while working in Low Earth Orbit” who gets cut off from all communication with his craft. “During this time of complete isolation he thinks about his loved ones back on Earth, about his life, about God, and about dying” – thoughts conveyed through words and music. 

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my brightest diamond: from the top of the world EP /// white hinterland: luniculaire EP (2008)


My Brightest Diamond
From The Top Of The World EP •••½
Asthmatic Kitty

White Hinterland
Luniculaire EP •••½
Dead Oceans

With the current global pandemic of financial instability and bank collapses rattling our corporate cages, a disaster to match the scale of the Great Depression seems less and less unlikely as the gloom rolls in further week by week. But before you hurl yourself into the Thames in anticipation of a full-blown meltdown, it’s perhaps worth remembering that out of struggle often comes great art. For instance, the Depression years of the 1930s saw the popularisation of jazz in Europe, particularly France, having bubbled out of the underground where it had germinated from black musician immigrants during World War I. Jazz was a music that seemed to embody the idea that everyone has the right to romance; like an undulating expert lover, it was supple, surprising and fluid, and the French made it even sexier.

By the time the Great Depression lifted, Édith Piaf had became one of the nation’s most celebrated jazz singers and – the recent ignominy of that Specsavers ad aside – remains an unimpeachable cultural beacon of romance and tragedy 45 years after her death. The likes of Madeleine Peyroux, Martha Wainwright and (appropriately for this review, in case you were wondering when I’d get to the point) My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden justly hold her up as an icon of musical integrity, passion and grandeur. Having frequently dropped several Piaf covers into her live sets in the last few years, Worden’s latest EP gives her the chance to port that same starry-eyed theatricality and geste d’amour to wax. (Or to MP3 at least; From The Top Of The World is a digital-only release.)

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