Filed under: feature, special | Tags: aimee mann, albums of the decade, alex ramon, amy winehouse, beth gibbons, bjork, camille, cat power, charlotte richardson andrews, chris catchpole, diane cluck, fiona apple, goldfrapp, joanna newsom, lisa germano, loria near, mavis staples, MIA, neko case, nina nastasia, patty griffin, peaches, pj harvey, regina spektor, rhian jones, robbie de santos, rod thomas, shannon wright, terry mulcahy, the knife, tomas slaninka, tori amos, wears the trousers magazine, yeah yeah yeahs
Here’s the fourth and final part of our albums of the decade countdown, 25 albums so fantastic they should have sold millions (and, lo, some of them did!)…
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Maps Of Tacit
[Touch & Go / Quarterstick, 2000]
Distilling everything that was good about her former band Crowsdell and her first album flightsafety, and stripping them of their twee chirpiness and indie-pop sensibilities, Shannon Wright created her finest, and darkest, work in Maps Of Tacit. A multilayered tour de force, the guitar is aggressive without being brash and the creepy, stirring piano swirls with all the innocence and foreboding of a decaying calliope; the overall effect is both intricate and cinematic. Together with some creative use of sampled sounds, dense poetic lyrics and Wright’s alternately silky and caustic vocals, it all adds up to a delightfully chilling labour of love.
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: feature, special | Tags: alan pedder, albums of the decade, alex doak, alex ramon, anja mccloskey, charlotte richardson andrews, cocorosie, diamanda galas, emiliana torrini, emmylou harris, erykah badu, espers, gossip, juana molina, julie doiron, kd lang, kirsty maccoll, le tigre, lucinda williams, meg baird, my brightest diamond, paul woodgate, peter hayward, róisín murphy, rhian jones, rilo kiley, rosanne cash, sarah blasko, sleater-kinney, soap&skin, the be good tanyas, the distillers, the dresden dolls, tUnE-yArDs, wears the trousers magazine
Here’s the second part of our albums of the decade countdown, running from #75–51.
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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.
‘Tits & Ass’ [Blunt Laser remix]
Is it unfortunate or serendipitous that ‘Izzi Dunn’ sounds like the question which follows a barely bearable mauling at the hands of an incompetent inamorato? As names to conjure with go, her latest single’s not bad either. ‘Tits & Ass’ (out now) is the first release from the West Londoner’s second album, Cries & Smiles, expected in March, and continues to showcase her skills as a versatile singer-songwriter, arranger, and cellist – a role in which she’s played and toured with the likes of Mark Ronson, Damon Albarn, Roots Manuva, Beverley Knight and Chaka Khan. So, ‘Tits & Ass’, eh? Was there ever an expression so superficially glossy, giggly and glamorous, and so apt to devolve upon deconstruction into its tawdry, manipulative components, leaving it looking as flat as last week’s Page 3 and only marginally more appealing than a night with Peter Stringfellow? Arguments over sexual exploitation – particularly within the entertainment industry – have filled volumes, columns and lecture halls for the past half-century.
While Dunn has no dazzlingly new take on things, her lyrics offer a succinct summation of the story so far. Her vocal soundbites scattershot from sisterly pleas for self-respect (“You know there’s more to you than tits and ass”) to Sex-Positivity for Dummies (“With her pockets full, who’s exploiting who?”). This sloganeering slips down smoothly and soulfully between blaring brass and sharply stabbing strings, while elsewhere Dunn’s voice spikes into the insistent refrain’s slippery vocal shuffle. This curiously early-’90s musical backing is perhaps incongruously euphoric – the line “Tits and ass makes the world go round” sounds closer to ironic celebration than critique – but overall Dunn hits her targets (hypocrisy, objectification and counterproductive competition) more often than she misses. ‘Tits & Ass’ is a welcome reigniting of debate on hot-button issues, as well as a reminder that there’s little better than controversies you can dance to.
Filed under: album, review, video | Tags: 2009, hayley williams, music, paramore, rhian jones
brand new eyes •••
Fueled By Ramen
Who’d be Paramore’s Hayley Williams? Back since the days when puddles of critical drool were wont to collect at the feet of Debbie Harry, lone women in bands have never had it easy. If they’re not being derided for a supposed lack of musical ability, leading them to cling onto the coattails of their backing boys, they’re being judged on an examination of their aesthetic appeal to the exclusion of anything more relevant. With the mainstream rock press seeming to pay more attention to William’s frequent topping of ‘Sexiest Female’ readers’ polls than to the clutch of other awards Paramore have secured, it’s unsurprising that she was recently moved to argue that Paramore should be seen as more than “this girl-fronted band”. For some potential listeners, Paramore may also be tainted by association with multimedia phenomenon Twilight (‘Decode’, included here as a bonus track, was released last year in conjunction with the novel-based film). All in all, it seems plausible to treat their new album’s title as a plea for listeners to take a fresh look at the band solely on the merits of its music.
Filed under: free music friday, mp3, review | Tags: 2009, asobi seksu, hope sandoval and the warm inventions, music, rhian jones
With three albums already behind them, Brooklyn shoegazers Asobi Seksu have amassed a respectable enough back catalogue to afford a live release, and the forthcoming Acoustic At Olympic Studios (November 16th, One Little Indian) will do very nicely indeed. Fans of the band who caught them on tour earlier this year may have been lucky enough to pick up a copy already, but for the rest of us this official release is a very welcome one, even if the North American release of the same material (via Polyvinyl) is getting the immeasurably cooler title of Rewolf.
Nestled among the cabinet of curiosities of acoustic reworkings of their own songs is ‘Suzanne’. Originally recorded by Mazzy Star escapee Hope Sandoval and her Warm Inventions, the Asobi Seksu take doesn’t deviate too far from her dreamy and delicate tones. Glockenspiels and sweeping strings are employed beneath breathy and barely-there vocals from singer Yuki Chikudate to produce a song with the consistency of tissue paper, so fragile you fear it might fall apart in your hands. Bearing in places the mournful watermarks of its Leonard Cohen namesake, the song hangs on heady, impressionistic lyrics and the titular refrain of a chorus that’s more sighed than sung. If you want to lie back, close your eyes and escape for the space of a single, this one’s for you. MP3 after the jump.
Filed under: free music friday, mp3, review | Tags: 2009, music, rhian jones, shannon stephens
Previously the singer and co-songwriter in a college band also featuring Sufjan Stevens, Shannon Stephens went solo in 1999 and has spent the last decade in Seattle-based ‘pseudo-retirement’ in a blissful-sounding bubble of domestic goddesshood. She emerges from obscurity next month with her second solo album, The Breadwinner (out October 12th through Asthmatic Kitty), described as a “testament to Shannon’s love for her husband, daughter, garden and planet.” Her presumable euphoria really shines through on lead single ‘In Summer In The Heat’; it’s a relaxed and happily lazy paean to moments suffused with satisfaction, specifically that of lying beside your lover on a hot summer night. The strummed strings and understated vocals sound suitably subdued, evoking a nighttime stasis so airless that breath can only be shallowly drawn. Stephens matches her low-key croon to the lyrical mood, a contented catlike stretch of vocals suggesting post-coital lassitude and the remembered taste of salt on skin. A song lying sprawled out and smiling, just on the enviable side of smugness, it’ll make you want the long hot summer evenings back. MP3 after the jump.