wears the trousers magazine

wears the trousers albums of the decade #50–26

part one | part two | part four

Here’s the third part of our albums of the decade countdown, running from #50–26.

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Queen Adreena
Drink Me

[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.

Alan Pedder

read our interview with KatieJane

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trouser shorts: tori amos, portishead, sarah slean
February 18, 2009, 2:24 am
Filed under: news, trouser shorts | Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Ahead of her debut performance at SXSW at historic Austin club La Zona Rosa on March 19th, Tori Amos has revealed in a press release that her tenth album – her first to be released in partnership with Universal Republic Records – will be called Abnormally Attracted To Sin (seemingly inspired by a line from the musical ‘Guys & Dolls’ – “I’m nothing but a repressed, neurotic girl who is abnormally attracted to sin, and so abnormally afraid of it”). The press release goes on to explain the previously reported ‘visualettes’, describing them as “documentary style” clips accompanying each song, shot in high-definition digital and Super 8 film over the past year. This may sound suspiciously like yet another concept album from Tori, but the press release does not specifically apply the term to the new album. We shall see.

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Portishead have left Island Records, their record label home for the past 15 years. The band’s Geoff Barrow wrote in a Myspace blog: “we are free…well free of a deal and free of commitment…for now!” He went on to add, “with the world being the way it is there are lots of options open…but if you lot have any bright ideas of how we should sell our music in the future lets us know, why not! i dont think that were into giving out music away for free to be honest…it fukin takes ages to write and we have to heat our swimming pools…!!!” Thinking caps on folks.

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Also announcing a decision to go indie is Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Slean, or so she hinted very heavily in her latest newsletter. After nearly a decade on WEA/Atlantic, she wrote: “After much deliberation, I made some major decisions over the past month. I am officially an independent artist again, in several ways. I feel…new. And slightly crazy…I now feel as though, for the first time in a truly authentic way, I am the master of my own destiny. No one to blame or require or lean on. Freedom and the awesome responsibility it demands…” Seems pretty concrete to us.

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El Perro Del Mar will release a new mini-album in Scandinavia on April 1st. Love Is Not Pop features seven new songs co-produced with Rasmus Hägg from Gothenburg production duo Studio. A preview track, ‘Change Of Heart’, is currently streaming from the El Perro Del Mar Myspace.

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The Breeders are planning to capitalise on their upcoming stint at curating an All Tomorrow’s Parties weekend in May by releasing a new EP. The Deal sisters reportedly spent Valentine’s Day filming a new video to accompany the release with the St. Louis Arch Rival Roller Girls, a roller derby team. No other details about the EP are known just yet, but expect an announcement soon.

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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 

portishead to screen new video in cinemas
December 11, 2008, 4:47 pm
Filed under: news, trouser press, video | Tags: , , , , ,

080708_portisheadCould it be magic?

If you’ve already seen the YouTube clip for the new Portishead single, ‘Magic Doors’, out next week, you might well have switched it off after a minute or two of being bombarded with apparently unconnected images and occasional flashes of the lyrics. I did, but at least it got me to dig out my copy of Third – Uncut magazine’s album of the year – again. As it happens, the band have also made a short film to go along with the single, which could be (a) an extended cut of more mystifying imagery, (b) something that makes sense of the original video or (c) something altogether different, with the YouTube rubbish a cunning, if bizarre, marketing ploy.

We won’t have long to wait to find out, as the ‘Magic Doors’ short is being screened in art-house cinemas nationwide from tomorrow until January. Much like 1994’s ‘To Kill A Dead Man’ spy movie short, ‘Magic Doors’ was made by the band themselves. The full list of cinemas screening the film is below, but you should check with the picturehouses themselves regarding times and such.

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trouser press: liz phair, saint etienne and more

– Liz Phair comes in from the cold
– Saint Etienne announce new single and compilation
– illegal downloads backed by Duffy
– Bond theme suspense heats up with new rumour
– vote in Drowned In Sound’s alternative Mercury Music Prize
– debut album on the way from School Of Seven Bells
– Finnish metallers Nightwish line up rarities
– Hilton, Lohan and Simpson get up to stuff

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After years spent in a glossed up anti-wilderness, Liz Phair has finally thrown her old fans a bone with news that her next album will see a return to “sloppiness”. Speaking to Billboard, Phair was quick to point out that she’s not making a new Exile In Guyville, her classic 1993 debut, but is fighting to keep some sort of edge to the songs. “The best way I can describe it is ‘natural’,” she says. “It has mistakes in it. It has layered background vocals of mine that just make an overall slop, but it’s perfect slop.”

Phair has already reissued Exile In Guyville in the US through new label ATO after leaving Capitol earlier this year, and has been playing a small series of gigs in which she plays the album in its entirety. The reissue, complete with three bonus tracks and a DVD, comes to the UK on August 25th (although you can currently get the bonus tracks through various digital download services).

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trouser press: mercury music prize, courtney love and more

– our reaction to this year’s Mercury Music Prize nominations
– Courtney Love gets sued, again
– Deerhoof leak new single, sort of
– new Gregory & The Hawk album in October
– Little Boots working with The Bird & The Bee’s Greg Kurstin
– new wave of ABBAmania hits the UK
– Marnie Stern returns with mouthful of an album
– You Say Party! We Say Die! get remixed
– Amy Ray unveils new solo album
– new Amy Rigby album is a collaboration with Wreckless Eric
– The Duhks announce fourth album
– Eva Cassidy takes on Tupac
– YouTube video nets Avril Lavigne £1 million
– Jessica Simpson booed at debut live performance of country material

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If you’ve seen the list of nominees for this year’s Mercury Music Prize you’ll probably have noticed just how many women have been included this year. Well, about bloody time. The lucky four (and a half if you count Alison Krauss, who is American) still fall short of accounting for an even 50:50 with the guys, but it’s definitely progress.

After much deliberation, Wears The Trousers is putting its money behind the brilliant Laura Marling, whose debut album Alas I Cannot Swim got a five-star review from us earlier this year, with a second bet on Rachel Unthank & The Winterset – The Bairns is a great, great record. Quite what Adele is doing on the list when Portishead, PJ Harvey and M.I.A. have been overlooked is a real mystery. We couldn’t even muster 500 words to say about the yawnfest that is 19 to bother with a review. I must confess I haven’t listened to Estelle’s album yet, but ‘American Boy’ was a great first single.

Jude Rogers, one of the judges in this year’s competition, wrote on her Guardian blog that, contrary to some speculation, there was no female quota to be filled. Simon Frith, the Chairman of the Prize, reiterated this saying, “All this says is that there are a lot of women making interesting music. If you look at the charts there are a lot of women there and they are crossing genres.”

That’s nothing new Mr Frith.

Of course, Radiohead are the favourites, along with Arctic Monkeys singer Alex Turner’s side project The Last Shadow Puppets. Among the women, the partnership of Alison Krauss and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant is currently more favoured than the others. It’s been six years since a woman – Ms Dynamite – won the Prize. This year’s winner will be announced on September 9th during a celeb-ridden ceremony broadcast live on BBC2.

The nominations in full:
Adele – 19
British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
Burial – Untrue
Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
Estelle – Shine
The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of The Understatement
Laura Marling – Alas I Cannot Swim
Neon Neon – Stainless Style
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand
Portico Quartet – Knee Deep In The North Sea
Rachel Unthank &The Winterset – The Bairns
Radiohead – In Rainbows

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trouser press: portishead, juana molina and more

– Portishead in working-on-new-album shocker
– Juana Molina to release her fifth album in October
– Polaris Music Prize shortlisted nominees announced
– All-star tribute to Judy Collins out in August
– Leonard Cohen’s touring partner Sharon Robinson to release debut album
– Ladyfest Manchester 2008 fundraising compilation goes on sale
– Joanna Newsom and Feist immortalised in a children’s activity book

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Perhaps buoyed by the astonishingly positive reception afforded to their comeback album, Third, Portishead have reportedly begun working on a follow-up. Speaking to BBC 6Music, guitarist Adrian Utley said the band were already “getting a bit of a plan together,” adding that the limited touring behind Third was so that the band could focus on other projects and spend more time with their young families. His bandmate Geoff Barrow had already expressed a desire to write some new tunes in a blog posting in May; Beth Gibbons, as ever, has maintained a dignified silence on the matter.

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