wears the trousers magazine

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.

* * *


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: jenny lewis
June 5, 2009, 9:07 am
Filed under: free music friday, mp3, review | Tags: , , , ,

fmf_jennylewisJenny Lewis
‘Just Like Zeus’ [live radio session]

Stopping off at Minnesota Public Radio station The Current while on the latest leg of her world tour behind last year’s solo album Acid Tongue, Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis treated listeners to a live performance of a brand new song ‘Just Like Zeus’ yesterday. A simple singalong number that seems to get progressively more country as it jangles along, it’s a cute little ditty that’s packed full of interesting (and sometimes opaque) lyrics. Best example: “Like seeing a cold sore in a kissing booth / there’s nothing less I’d rather do” – well, quite.

The other songs performed were ‘Carpetbaggers’ and ‘See Fernando’, both from Acid Tongue. Listen to the full session here. Jenny is on tour throughout the US until the mid-July with support from The Sadies, Deer Tick or Heartless Bastards, depending on the date. She’s playing at least two other new songs – ‘Big Wave’ and ‘Trying My Best’ – and has promised to throw in some Rilo Kiley favourites too. At least one show has also featured a surprise screening of the “making of Acid Tongue” documentary ‘Welcome To Van Nuys’, titled after Jenny’s hometown where the album was recorded. Zooey Deschanel, M Ward and Elvis Costello all cameo – unsurprisingly, as they all feature on the album. Watch this space for release details. MP3 after the jump.

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trouser press: amanda palmer, the bird & the bee and more

in today’s trouser press:

– Amanda Palmer gets run over in Belfast, plays on
– the future of The Bird & The Bee is not just about Ray Guns
– indie rock royalty auction off signage for charity
– big band singer Connie Haines dies
– Polaris Prize goes to none of the people we wanted to win
– new Serena Ryder album details
– Madonna fined £135k for being tardy
– Mindy McCready starts 60-day jail sentence
– three decades on, Labelle are back!
– Lederhosen Lucil is… Krista Muir
– Enya to release “a broader seasonal album”
– Céline gets the essential and ultimate essential treatment

* * *

Who killed Amanda Palmer? No one, but if you’ve ever doubted that she’s one tough cookie then cease your disbelief now. The punk cabaret artist went ahead and played a gig for young fans in Belfast on Sunday night despite having a rather nasty accident with a moving car earlier in the day that left her with a broken toe and three broken metatarsals in her right foot. After spending the afternoon in Belfast City Hospital she hobbled over to Auntie Annie’s on crutches so as not to disappoint her fans.

“I had an accident today,” she said while on stage at the venue. “I did what most stupid Americans do and walked on the wrong side of the road and ended up getting run over…I have to say I’m very grateful for the free healthcare that you have in Northern Ireland. This is the first show I’ve played where I’m completely on drugs.”

The accident wraps up a week full of dramas for the singer after her Dresden Dolls bandmate Brian Viglione confirmed the band’s ‘demise’ through a posting on their official forum. Apparently she wasn’t expecting that. Amanda’s post on the whole mess makes for insightful and thought-provoking reading. 

* * *

That Inara George just can’t sit still for a minute. In the 18 months since the first Bird & The Bee album, her ongoing collaboration with in-demand songwriter/producer Greg Kurstin has sprouted two EPs of all-new songs – 2007’s Please Clap Your Hands and this year’s One Too Many Hearts – and she’s only just released her second solo album, An Invitation, a richly orchestrated collaboration with family friend Van Dyke Parks. As someone who has been known to work on three different releases at once we shouldn’t be surprised to hear that there’s a new Bird & The Bee album coming out in the not too distant future (January, to be precise). It’s called Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future, for reasons I am sure will become perfectly clear at some point. Is it me or are they slowly morphing into The Avengers? Anyway, the 14-song album only pinches two EP songs (‘Birthday’ and ‘Polite Dance Song’); the rest are brand new.

Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future
01 Fanfare
02 My Love
03 Diamond Dave
04 What’s In The Middle
05 Ray Gun
06 Love Letter To Japan
07 Meteor
08 Baby
09 Phil
10 Polite Dance Song
11 You’re A Cad
12 Witch
13 Birthday
14 Lifespan Of A Fly

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jenny lewis: acid tongue (2008)
September 18, 2008, 8:25 pm
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , , , , ,

Jenny Lewis
Acid Tongue ••••
Rough Trade

If Jenny Lewis were a character in a chick flick, it would be hard to box her into a single female archetype. As in all good portrayals of screen heroines, the former child actress deftly and skilfully weaves the individual qualities of a woman into a magical feast for the senses, except she can certainly sing better than Bridget Jones. Brimming over with honest emotion, she brings something so infinitely ladylike but also completely ballsy to the table, creating more than a force to be reckoned with, a love potion packed with a punch, an episode of ‘Sex & The City’ before the wonderful but ultimately cheesy movie version, if you will.

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where’s the gigs: martha wainwright, laura marling and more

oops. haven’t done one of these for a while…

Martha Wainwright is teaming up with tuneful Australian sibs Angus & Julia Stone for what should be an unmissable 14-date joint UK tour, beginning in October. The dates in full:

18.10.08 Pyramids Centre, Southsea
19.10.08 Plug, Sheffield
20.10.08 Colston Hall, Bristol
22.10.08 Picture House, Edinburgh
23.10.08 Empire, Middlebrough
24.10.08 Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
25.10.08 St George’s Hall, Liverpool
27.10.08 Corn Exchange, Cambridge
28.10.08 The Roundhouse, London
30.10.08 Symphony Hall, Liverpool
31.10.08 Grand Opera House, Belfast
02.11.08 Olympia Theatre, Belfast
03.11.08 Rock City, Nottingham
04.11.08 Town Hall, Oxford

Angus & Julia play a sold-out headlining show at The Roundhouse next Tuesday (August 26th) as part of the venue’s brilliant Colour Your Summer concert series.

* * *

Mercury Music Prize hopeful Laura Marling has been wowing festival crowds all summer but she’s not planning to rest on her laurels as winter sets in. The fearsomely talented 18-year old will continue to dazzle, indoors this time, on her recently announced November tour. Catch her at the following venues:

01.11.08 Glasgow Art School, Glasgow
02.11.08 Brudenell Social, Leeds
04.11.08 Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
05.11.08 Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
07.11.08 Trinity Arts Centre, Bristol
08.11.08 Club Academy, Manchester
09.11.08 Glee Club, Birmingham
11.11.08 Scala, London

* * *

Tickets have gone on sale for a special one-off show from Jenny Lewis as the Rilo Kiley singer prepares to release her second solo album Acid Tongue next month. Tickets for the October 17th show cost just £14 plus booking fees.

Other one-off shows recently announced at the venue include performances from a rejuvenated Siouxsie (September 29th, tickets go on sale tomorrow) and Uh Huh Her (November 18th, £15, on sale now).

* * *

Emiliana Torrini has announced a pair of intimate UK shows in October as part of a brief European tour in support of her new album Me & Armini, out September 8th. The album’s second single, ‘Big Jumps’, is out mid-October. Go see her here:

08.10.08 Trinity Hall, Bristol
09.10.08 St Giles Church, London 

* * *

Joan Wasser and her As Police Woman bandmates follow their sold-out UK tour earlier this summer with a full UK tour in December. A new single, ‘Holiday’, will be released on September 22nd, the second track to be lifted from the critically acclaimed album To Survive. The 11-date tour will make the following stops:

04.12.08 Junction, Cambridge
05.12.08 Brudenell Social, Leeds
07.12.08 Concorde 2, Brighton
08.12.08 Thekla, Bristol
09.12.08 Shepherds Bush Empire, London
10.12.08 Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
12.12.08 The Sage, Gateshead
13.12.08 Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
14.12.08 Academy 2, Manchester
15.12.08 Empire, Belfast
16.12.08 The Button Factory, Dublin

* * *

Large-lunged Welsh singer Duffy has announced another round of UK dates in November and December to cap off what has been a hugely successful year. Tickets go on sale for the following venues at 10am tomorrow from the usual outlets:

28.11.08 Academy, Leeds
29.11.08 Apollo, Manchester
30.11.08 Apollo, Manchester
03.12.08 Carling Academy, Newcastle
04.12.08 Civic Hall, Wolverhampton 
05.12.08 Civic Hall, Wolverhampton  
07.12.08 Newport Centre, Newport South Wales
08.12.08 Brixton Academy, London
09.12.08 Brixton Academy, London 

* * *

Alan Pedder

trouser press: jenny lewis, julie doiron and more

– Jenny Lewis cuts loose her Acid Tongue in September
– Julie Doiron to release collaborative album with Phil Elvrum
– is Miley Cyrus a Britney in waiting?
– ‘Heroes’ actress to release an album
– Joan Osborne gets wild on new album
– Natalie Cole reveals she has Hepatitis C

* * *

After a brief return to the Rilo Kiley fold for last year’s Under The Blacklight, Jenny Lewis releases her second solo album, Acid Tongue, in September through major label Warner Bros. In place of The Watson Twins, Lewis has recruited the likes of Elvis Costello (who duets on ‘Carpetbaggers’), Zooey Deschanel and M Ward (aka She & Him), Johnathan Rice and various members of The Black Crowes, Beachwood Sparks, A Perfect Circle and Elvis Costello’s Imposters, as well as her own sister and her dad. If the quality of songs is anything like fan favourite ‘Jack Killed Mom’, Acid Tongue looks likely to be an unanticipated addition to this year’s best.

Acid Tongue
01 Black Sand
02 Pretty Bird
03 The Next Messiah
04 Bad Man’s World
05 Acid Tongue
06 See Fernando
07 Godspeed
08 Carpetbaggers
09 Trying My Best To Love You
10 Jack Killed Mom
11 Sing A Song for Them

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2007 reviews dump: q r

The following reviews were published on our old MySpace blog in 2007.


Eddi Reader
Peacetime •••½
Rough Trade

Following 2003’s well-regarded Sings The Songs Of Robert Burns album, the newly MBE’d Eddi Reader continues to venture into deep folk waters on Peacetime. But while her previous album concentrated solely on the work of Scotland’s favourite son, Peacetime broadens its musical horizons to encompass some contemporary material, mixing traditional tunes (including a few more Burns compositions) with songs by the likes of Johnny Dillon, Declan O’Rourke and Trashcan Sinatras’ John Douglas, alongside original compositions by Reader and her long-time collaborator Boo Hewerdine. The result is an engaging and enjoyable album that mainly stays true to Reader’s intention to “inject some soul into the old songs”.

That Peacetime often resembles a Kate Rusby record in its arrangements and instrumentation should come as no surprise – the album was produced by the venerable John McCusker (Mr Rusby himself and a regular Reader collaborator for a number of years). The connections are particularly evident on the likes of the traditional ‘Mary & The Soldier’ and the sublime opener ‘Baron’s Heir’, a track that showcases Reader’s clear, lilting vocals at their best, caressing like honey an archetypal folk narrative of love and class. The wonderfully melancholy ‘Aye-Waukin-O’ is a highlight, as is the brass-augmented ‘The Shepherd’s Song’. Elsewhere, the lovely ‘Leezie Lindsay’ seamlessly weds Reader/Hewerdine-penned verses to a Burns chorus, ‘The Afton’ boasts strong harmonies, and hidden track ‘The Carlton Weaver’ closes the album on a rousing note.

Like Rusby, Reader has a tendency to prettify the darker aspects of folk music, opting for charm over gravitas and occasionally smoothing over the harder edges of the material, with the consequence that there are moments on Peacetime when you may wish for a little more bite and grit. Moreover, the mix of contemporary and traditional material is not always seamless: references to “CCTV cameras” (in Hewerdine’s ‘Muddy Water’) sound rather jarring in this context. Even so, Reader has produced a beguiling collection of songs that should appeal to a wide range of listeners.

Alex Ramon


Rilo Kiley
Under The Blacklight •••½

Rock music fans can be a fickle bunch. One minute they’re declaring their undying adoration for some new band, the next said band have signed to a major label, released an allegedly less ‘edgy’ and more cynically ‘commercial’ album and said fans are falling over themselves in the rush to yell “sell out!” Typical, eh? It’s a familiar predicament, and one that Rilo Kiley now find themselves in with the release of Under The Blacklight. Having reached great heights of critical prestige with 2005’s much-adored More Adventurous and kept themselves busy with a variety of interesting side projects, the group have now reunited for their fourth album, only to be attacked by fans for producing a record which is allegedly too slick, too poppy and altogether less adventurous than their earlier work. How very dare they!

Are these accusations fair? Well, Under The Blacklight is undoubtedly a more overtly radio-friendly album than the group’s previous efforts and one that sees them moving away from spiky indie, or at least supplementing it with liberal amounts of pop, disco, dance and country-rock. But while the record seems destined to disappoint the band’s hardcore supporters, the good news is that it might well find them some new ones. For if Under The Blacklight possesses less guitar grunt than its predecessors, it’s also warmer, more immediately inviting and (whisper it) maybe a little less arch and pretentious than their previous work.

For those of us old enough to hold fond memories of Jenny Lewis as a winsome pre-teen actress in such epic motion picture masterpieces as ‘Troop Beverly Hills’ and ‘The Wizard’, her metamorphosis into charismatic indie chanteuse has a special appeal. Lewis retains an actress’s gift for phrasing and expression and her distinctive presence still accounts for a great part of the band’s power. But while there are several songs here that would have been perfectly at home on her solo debut Rabbit Fur Coat (most notably the infuriatingly catchy opener ‘Silver Lining’), Under The Blacklight doesn’t entirely play out like a star vehicle for the singer; whatever their internal wranglings, Rilo Kiley still sound like a cohesive unit.

The Fleetwood Mac comparisons which have surfaced in many reviews are apt, especially on the taut first single ‘The Moneymaker’ and the silky harmonies and seductive rhythms of the engaging title track. Other influences are also discernable: a trace of Blondie, a dash of The Bangles, even a touch of Heart. ‘Breakin’ Up’ is a nicely retro disco-fied anthem that finds Lewis cooing “Ooh, it feels good to be free!” While the majority of fans have balked at such flagrant excursions from the indie rock road map, this is clearly the sound of a band attempting to broaden their music intro fresh territory and having a lot of fun in the process. For the most part, the trademark acerbic Lewis/Sennett lyrics remain (“When you get sober will you get kinder? / ‘cos when you get uptight it’s such a drag”), and at its best the record achieves the not inconsiderable feat of sounding retro and thoroughly contemporary at the same time.

Unfortunately, the quality of the songs takes something of a dive after the consistently strong first half. Both ‘Dejalo’ (written in collaboration with Lewis’s boyfriend Jonathan Rice) and ‘15′ (an attempt at the character-driven narratives they’ve often been acclaimed for) feel forced and unconvincing, and closer ‘Give A Little Love’ is static and repetitious, failing to improve on its corny title. Nonetheless, despite its shortcomings, Under The Blacklight remains an enjoyable album and one that may prove a more enticing proposition to those who felt ambivalent about Rilo Kiley’s previous work. After all, smart, literate, female-fronted rock groups aren’t exactly common these days. This fact alone makes Under The Blacklight an album worth celebrating.

Alex Ramon


LeAnn Rimes
Family ••

Despite her history of teenage power ballads, prematurely aged inspirational country pop crossovers and shoddy remixes the likes of which pack out the dancefloor in clubs where fake IDs secure a glut of alcopops for underage drinkers, I’ve always had bit of a soft spot for LeAnn Rimes. Don’t ask me what it is, I’ve never really liked her music, but I’ve liked her attitude to it. Switching from country to pop, alienating either audience by turn, she does what she wants, and as other teen pop stars have fallen prey to celebrity magazines, drug addiction and reality TV, Rimes has quietly continued to make the occasional inspirational country-pop crossover.

So I have always hoped that LeAnn would make an album that made me think “good on you girl, I knew you could”. And the news that Rimes has a writing credit on every track on Family filled me with curiosity and trepidation in equal measure. Excitement won out over both emotions when I first heard the lead single; ‘Nothing Better To Do’ is a rollicking bayou rock song more likely to appear on a Kings Of Leon album than on an establishment country album, and delivered with Rimes’s belting vocals it’s a breathless, clamouring triumph of a song. A tale of a bored girl going astray, one imagines that Rimes, who while maybe not squeakily so definitely seems clean, has not drawn on experience when writing this song, but when she purrs “hid deep in the Mississippi backwoods… / I had them wrestlin’ for my first kiss” you really believe that she did. With each listen the muddy vocals reveal another twist in a story of a girl’s unrepentant downfall at breakneck speed. I can listen to this song over and over again without tiring of it, and indeed I have.

So, naturally, I had high expectations of the rest of the album. And opening track ‘Family’ kept my hopes alive: another breakneck tale of dysfunctional southern relationships, this time of siblings struggling to hold it together when parents let them down. Rimes, who has sued her own father, might have more experience to draw on here, and the familiar country territory of personal struggles makes for a lively start. ‘Fight’ is a sturdy country break-up song that sees Rimes giving her formidable lungs a thorough airing. But the territory is much safer; this is the kind of song that could sit atop the country charts for weeks. And once she finds this safe ground, Rimes seems happy to stay there. ‘Good Friends & A Glass Of Wine’ is as dull as the title suggests – a galumphing tawdry party song to soundtrack a sorority sleepover at Alabama State Uni.

The rest of the content will go down a storm with the country fraternity. Guest slots from Bon Jovi and Reba McEntire add to the album’s mass appeal, and as the inspirational country-pop and lung-busting ballads rack up, your interest may well wane. For all that I have this soft spot for Rimes, most of the songs on this album could be by Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Faith Hill or any number of bland country darlings.

So, Family is a letdown. From a great start it rapidly deteriorates into dull mainstream conventions. But I haven’t given up on Rimes just yet; one day in the future, sat atop a pile of money and platinum discs she’ll decide to put that powerful and sometimes highly effective voice to much better use. In the meantime, I’ll just listen to ‘Nothing Better To Do’ on repeat until my neighbours complain.

Peter Hayward


Carina Round
Slow Motion Addict •••½

Here’s an idea that sounds great on paper. Take one ferociously talented but mystifyingly underachieving homegrown rock chick, fly her out to California and hook her up with the producer of Jagged Little Pill, then shut them in a studio for months and see what happens. Given the fact that the last time Glen Ballard tailored anything remotely astonishing was, um, well, it was Jagged Little Pill, that the results are somewhat mixed should come as little surprise. Since crashing onto the scene at the dawn of the millennium with mini-album The First Blood Mystery, Midlander Carina Round has asserted herself as a woman of vision and as a formidable performer. With an intensity to rival that of PJ Harvey (who is, unsurprisingly, a common comparator for Round’s particular brand of the blues) and a swooping, theatrical vocal style that’s vulnerable yet fierce, a wider audience than the small cult following she currently has is clearly deserved, and kudos to Carina for trying. Slow Motion Addict, her third release, sees her approach a more accessible sound, beefing up the hooks and glossing up her image.

Visceral is the ideal adjective here as Round recycles the attendant goth-chic images of burning and bleeding, poisons and wounds, twisting them to suit her purpose. But where once these motifs tied in with the rawness of the production, their impact on Slow Motion Addict is sometimes muddied. Things get off to an encouraging start with the pulsing, urgent ‘Stolen Car’ and the thrilling ‘How Many Times’, a terrifying plea to break the cycle of anguish and spiralling self-doubt, but things soon falter. Too many songs show remarkable promise only to fail to gel as they rage and thunder along, lacking that vital ingredient to elevate them from simply enjoyable to dangerously brilliant. Songs like the title track and ‘Ready To Confess’ could have been phenomenal, and that’s a great shame.

Then there’s the two that are outright duff. Round is better than ‘Take The Money’, a patently silly cautionary tale of glory seekers who go west in search of fortune that’s rescued only by an inventive use of vocals, a punchy male chorus and some addictive handclaps. Elsewhere, ‘Come To You’ makes for an excruciatingly poor choice for the album’s first single. It feels strangely plodding and dated. Worse still, it indulges Round’s vibrato a little too much, making a feature of the least attractive facet of her otherwise remarkable voice.

Round is at her best when the music broods and swells beneath her like an oil slick, its menace more in its suggestion of ill will than in its uncontainable threat. Songs like the hypnotic ‘Down Slow’, ‘The Disconnection’ and the Harvey-esque ‘January Heart’ (a song that, in parts at least, is reminiscent of ‘This Mess We’re In’ and ‘Beautiful Feeling’) are stunningly dark and unsettling. “It’s bound to come undone / but your body is so much fun,” she croons with delicious intent. It’s a real pity that some of the songs that pound and squall render her sounding as fearsome but neutered as a gummy, defanged Cerberus.

Ultimately, Slow Motion Addict suffers from the clear divide between Round’s visionary, unflinching art-rock writing and her desire to broaden her fanbase. She may well succeed in the latter, of course, and Wears The Trousers would love to see that happen. There are certainly better songs here than you would find on most commercial girl-rock albums; Round is worth at least a hundred Clarksons and Lavignes. Seen live, these songs will most likely blow your head off. As it stands, the album is a brave and bold portrait of the artist, just a little poorly hung.

Alan Pedder


Kate Rusby
Awkward Annie ••••½

Don’t be misled by Kate Rusby’s recent flirtation with the charts in the company of grannies’ favourite and former Boyzone crooner, Ronan Keating. You’ll be pleased to know that she hasn’t sold her soul to filthy lucre – she’s still a true folkie at heart. Awkward Annie, her seventh solo album, confirms this unashamedly and with style, further cementing Rusby’s status as one of the UK’s finest vocal talents. Of course, as befits someone of her standing, Rusby has recruited the crème de la crème of the country’s folk instrumentalists, including three members of Capercaillie. Most notably perhaps are the guest appearances from Eddi Reader, who contributes backing vocals on three songs, and Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile, who lends his vocal and mandolin skills to two others.

As you might expect, Awkward Annie has a mix of original songs given an authentically folk feel, traditional numbers and half ‘n’ half songs were Rusby takes ancient words and sets them to new tunes. The hybrid approach works surprisingly well, particularly on the sparkling ‘The Old Man’ whose tongue-in-cheek girl power sentiment has a surprising amount of modern-day resonance. Of course, Thile’s inspired mandolin doesn’t hurt either. There are no duff tracks here; on each song, the honesty and purity of Rusby’s singing tugs at the heartstrings and it’s love all over again. Whether she’s delivering a new song, like the title track with its tale of a friendship stretched to extreme or the simple sentiment of ‘The Bitter Boy’, or familiar folk tunes like ‘Blooming Heather’ (known to many as ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ or ‘Will Ye Go Lassie Go’) Rubsy’s straightforward but wonderfully crafted arrangements are a delight to the ears.

Saving the best ‘til last, the album closes with its pièce de résistance – a cover of the forgotten Kinks classic ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’. There weren’t many redeeming features of the Jennifer Saunders sitcom ‘Jam & Jerusalem’ but Rusby’s luminous rendering of the theme tune was one of them. Awkward Annie sees Rusby stepping up to the plate and yet again knocking expectations out of the ballpark; there’s no doubt that this will be one of the best folk-based albums you’ll hear this year. It’s been eight years since her second album Sleepless saw her filling the ‘credible folkie’ nomination slot of the Mercury Music Prize. Perhaps it’s time the committee gave her a second look. Regardless of whether they will, Awkward Annie positively demands your attention.

Trevor Raggatt