wears the trousers magazine

the dirty projectors: live at the scala 13/09/09
September 20, 2009, 3:51 pm
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The Dirty Projectors / tUnE-yArDs
The Scala, London ••••
September 13, 2009

It has been a scant five months since The Dirty Projectors last visited London’s Scala. Over the season we whimsically refer to as summer they haven’t exactly conquered the music world, but they certainly have been busy. They have achieved critical acclaim; their vociferous fanbase has grown ever larger; they’ve composed a suite of songs for Icelandic diva Björk and performed them to a rapt New York audience; and experienced a car crash that was at first reported as having casualties. Throw in a busy festival schedule and it’s probably understandable that when they take the stage they look remarkably tired. Dave Longstreth and Amber Coffman, in particular, look almost skeletal under the Scala’s notorious terrible lighting.

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camera obscura: stockholm syndrome

This article was first published in the print edition of Wears The Trousers issue seven. Order a copy here.


words in edgeways with tracyanne campbell of camera obscura

Tracyanne Campbell has discovered a new career strategy. “Maybe I’ll just start writing songs that I think everyone will hate,” she sniffs, partly with her characteristic dry sense of humour and partly due to the heavy cold she’s picked up on the plane back from SXSW. This statement is not unprovoked but a response to my never-ending questions about ‘James’, the emotional core of Camera Obscura’s latest album, My Maudlin Career. Described by Tracyanne as the “surprise song” of the album, it has rapidly become a fan favourite despite her prediction that it would be poorly received.

Let’s take a moment first to catch up on recent Camera Obscura history. When we speak, the band has just arrived back from a hectic mini-tour of the USA which encompassed five shows at SXSW and two in New York. For anyone thinking that SXSW is a glamorous event, Tracyanne is quick to point out that she had time to see only one band, and by that point was so frazzled that she now can’t even remember their name: “Gosh, that’s terrible.” Then again, you don’t last for ten years as a band with schedules as punishing as this without a wry appreciation for irony. 

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gossip: music for men (2009)
June 23, 2009, 9:30 am
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Music For Men ••

This is your wake-up call. The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes – an appropriate perspective given Beth Ditto’s penchant for rolling around naked in front of the camera. Some will no doubt swear blind that St Beth is unremittingly wonderful, flying the flag for queer sensibility and challenging body stereotypes. Well, look at the flipside. Isn’t it desperately sad that Gossip, as a band, is represented in popular consciousness by Beth Ditto’s naked body and not, say, by their music? Ditto is as relentlessly self-promoting and as much indebted to the consumer society’s addiction to the manufactured image as Britney Spears. However, to put it bluntly, we are supposed to believe that she is subverting that culture simply by virtue of being overweight. You can make up your own mind about that one, but, as The Times candidly pointed out, the person who goes from slagging off Kate Moss to being best buds in the space of a heartbeat is surely following the profit rather than principles.

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sounding off: april/may 2009 (II)

Part II – reviews of Ora Cogan, Kap Bambino, Diana Krall and Lene Marlin.

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Ora Cogan
Harbouring •••½

Anyone lucky enough to have heard Ora Cogan live will be familiar with the Canadian singer-songwriter’s ability to create a distinctively fragile and haunted atmosphere using only guitar and her voice. Third album Harbouring ambles along the same quiet, contemplative lines as her live sets, though it often feels as if a little bit of magic has been lost in translation. This is a shame, as when Harbouring hits the right notes, metaphorically speaking, it truly soars, sounding like a long-lost cousin of Cat Power’s Moon Pix. This is especially so of the strong second quarter of the album, in which ‘You’re Not Free’, ‘True Heart’, and ‘My Belle’ work beautiful minor chords to devastating effect.

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sounding off: april/may 2009 (I)

Time to round up some of the releases we haven’t had time to cover in full over the last couple of months. We’ve got 15 mini-reviews for you – a bumper edition as we skipped out on doing this in May. Our bad. In Part I, reviews of Allo Darlin’, Alondra Bentley, The Breeders and CocoRosie.

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Allo, Darlin’
Henry Rollins Don’t Dance EP ••••

The latest EP from the twee world of Elizabeth Darling, aka Allo, Darlin’, is a perky, playful uke-pop confection of namechecking goodness. The title track is a clever, bittersweet yearning for mutual musical understanding between the ‘Grease’ loving singer and a committed non-shape throwing angry punk boyfriend. The image of Henry Rollins raising his tattooed fist in the disco when the DJ plays ABBA will stay with me for a very long time. ‘Dear Stephen Hawking’ mixes science and affairs of the heart, as an obsession of with the love life of the eminent physicist is played out against a jaunty, vaguely antipodean musical backdrop. “Every body attracts every other body” sings Darling, as she wonders if Hawking can use his brilliant mind to calculate how a happy marriage might work.

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dirty projectors: bitte orca (2009)
June 8, 2009, 11:05 am
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Dirty Projectors
Bitte Orca ••••½

Woah, woah. Hang on. Hold up! Dirty Projectors is a bit male for Wears the Trousers, right? Well, it’s true that the band is the brainchild of Dave Longstreth. For a long time he ran the band as a revolving door of contributors, spitting out idiosyncratic albums that were invariably declared as the work of a genius, but lacking in popular appeal. This changed during the tour for 2005’s The Getty Address, with Longstreth settling into a permanent line-up that featured Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian. With Haley Dekle now also in the line-up, this makes the band majority female and eligible for review in Wears the Trousers. Lucky us!

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deradoorian: mind raft EP (2009)
June 3, 2009, 11:36 am
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Mind Raft EP •••½
Lovepump United

It’s probably no surprise that Angel Deradoorian — bassist for the acclaimed Dirty Projectors — took her surname to represent her solo material. Angel by itself would have suggested cutesy, girly pop, which Mind Raft most certainly is not. Rather, it’s unsurprisingly similar to the experimental, jagged sound that features on the Projectors’ latest album, Bitte Orca, out next week. Critics have been justifiably excited about the track that Angel fronts on that album, ‘Two Doves’, and have been talking up prospects of a larger solo career for her. It’s probably worth remembering, however, that ‘Two Doves’ is a Dirty Projectors track that Angel leads, rather than her own solo creation. Collaboratively, the band are currently striking a rich vein of form by balancing the vocal harmonies of Angel, Amber Coffman, and Haley Dekle against the Piacsso-esque arrangements and falsetto wail of frontman Dave Longstreth.

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