wears the trousers magazine

alice russell: pot of gold (2008)
November 25, 2008, 2:25 am
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Alice Russell
Pot Of Gold •••½
Little Poppet

When an album opens with crashing drums and the bonging interventions of an old piano, the energy is disarming and the confidence engaging, as intriguing as the promised loot at the distant end of a rainbow. This torrential introduction to Alice Russell’s latest album Pot Of Gold – her fourth solo outing – conjures up visions of girls in hotpants and bikini tops jumping up on soda shop stools and shimmying to the opening twin salvo of ‘Turn & Run’ and ‘Two Steps’. Complete with glossy, female background vocals and marching band brass, Pot Of Gold is of excellent vintage and most fun uncorked in company, like a bottle of tequila opened at a family reunion.

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tracy chapman: our bright future (2008)
November 18, 2008, 6:02 pm
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Tracy Chapman
Our Bright Future ••½

Hear Tracy Chapman once and you know she is a songwriter before anything else. A cross between Bob Schneider and Bob Marley, with lyrics that compress between folksy strumming and rivers of piano, her songs fit with her chosen genre of folk-rock with intros that are memorable in their conformity. Our Bright Future, her eighth studio album, sees an increasingly wearying Chapman continuing to skirt away from poetic sensations like ‘Fast Car’ and ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout A Revolution’. Although her more sterling songwriting remains crisp and lovely, in this century Chapman has given us too many soft albums riding on endorphins and perhaps a moral baseline.

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rio en medio: frontier (2008)
November 6, 2008, 5:30 pm
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Rio En Medio
Frontier ••••
Manimal Vinyl

Watching a fly crawl across a white table in a cafeteria may seem ordinary, but believe me it’s not, not when you are listening to Rio En Medio’s ‘Venus Of Willendorf’. Then it is like watching the opening scene of a Hitchcock murder, as if you’re trapped in the middle between the half-human fly and a murky pond. Frontier is the second album from Rio En Medio, the brainchild of Minerva-like artist Danielle Stech-Homsy and a revolving cast of friends, and could indeed be the soundtrack to a thriller, perhaps narrated by an affected poetry teacher from Stanford or Santa Fé. Poetry is free thought cut and bound, and Frontier began as a series of interrelated poems written with a purpose: that is, to be compiled with other visual and philosophical art, and of course, music. Her songs (which are “hers” as much as Russia belongs to the bourgeoisie) pour out of guitars, drums and eerily processed musical saw like steaming iron ore into a crackling mould. Rhyme is executed with a deliciously slow beat.

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heather nova: the jasmine flower (2008)
October 21, 2008, 3:47 pm
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Heather Nova
The Jasmine Flower •••½

In botany, there exists both a true and a ‘false’ jasmine flower, the latter from a completely different genus and poisonous for human consumption. There’s nothing toxic about Heather Nova’s seventh studio album, though its modesty may make it less than palatable to thrill seeking listeners. Jasmine petals are waxy and bright; they bloom soon after planting and grow up to two feet per year. A brittle but powerful flower that releases its fragrance at night, its secrets and comforting irregularity make it a perfect subject for an album that reaches us almost entirely unanticipated, having only been announced a month before its release. Recorded with just Heather, her acoustic guitar and a solar-powered laptop – with the occasional flourish of violin – the album’s hushed repertoire is as stark and revelatory in love and anapest as Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘Sonnets From The Portugese’. Nova steps into the embrace of her guitar to communicate her poetry, wherein themes outshine chords and her vocal strength formulates more thought even than the lyrics.

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anni rossi: afton ep (2008)
October 13, 2008, 11:55 am
Filed under: EP, review, video | Tags: , , ,

Anni Rossi
Afton EP •••

Why would someone sing when they can play the viola like a champ? Probably for the same reason (or personality quirks) that someone would move to Minnesota from Los Angeles. Anni Rossi wants to be a star.

Listening to Afton, her latest EP, provides something of a skimmed psychoanalysis of a lady with quick fingers and hazy consciousness. Described as a viola pop wunderkind, Rossi dips into mountain rivets of obscure Americana both vocally and metaphorically. Her skills on the viola are almost dominated by a jarring siren sound familiar to The Arcade Fire, or even the poet Sonia Sanchez, with her clucking tongue. Rossi carries some similarity to African-American poetry, for her untraditional use of classical orchestration is in its own right a delineation of lyrical concatenation. Her instrumentals often sound like guitar strumming, especially in the opening song ‘Machine’ (formerly known as ‘Arctic Swing’), while she sings that “nourishment is temporary”. Contemporary political nuance, perhaps? She leads on: “We will still have our hair, we will still have our skin”. Her satirical lyrics are no rouge, though they are the height of Afton‘s complexity.

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jem: down to earth (2008)
September 14, 2008, 2:41 pm
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Down To Earth ••½

For Jem’s skill in having her jazzy songs previewed in television shows, the 33-year-old former DJ agent lives in the right place – Los Angeles – a long way from her childhood home in a South Wales seaside town. Down To Earth, the follow-up to her platinum-selling 2004 debut Finally Woken, has at least three tunes a screen-savvy audience will already recognise from the ‘Sex & The City’ movie (‘It’s Amazing’), grungy/glitzy teen show ‘Glamour Girl’ (the banjo-tinged ‘Crazy’) and the all-new ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ (‘I Always Knew’). Jem might serve us a first course via mainstream cinema, but if we enjoy the aperitif, we will definitely order further dishes.

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kitty, daisy & lewis: kitty, daisy & lewis (2008)
September 6, 2008, 4:05 pm
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Kitty, Daisy & Lewis
Kitty, Daisy & Lewis •••½
Sunday Best 

When three kids from Kentish Town start singing ‘Going Up The Country’, a song made popular by Woodstock legends Canned Heat, it’s natural to be thrown back across decades, oceans and generations to 1940s Louisiana, back to the rebirth of the blues. 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 (mum Ingrid was once the drummer in seminal post-punk outfit The Raincoats), 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.

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