wears the trousers magazine

soap&skin: lovetune for vacuum (2009)
March 23, 2009, 11:00 am
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Lovetune For Vacuum ••••

Wears The Trousers has likely done enough by now to introduce you to Soap&Skin, the alter-ego of one Anja Plaschg. Age: 18. Residence: Vienna, Austria. If you’ve not yet read about the personality that hovers over her music like an unhappy, hungry monster though, you can look here. Plaschg is clearly not a happy bunny. She’s dark and twisty in a way that is at once both alienating and deeply fascinating, and the very same can be said of her debut album, Lovetune For Vacuum. It’s a listening experience that is, at times, almost painful. While you might not listen to it much, you will find yourself thinking about it a lot. It is, in equal parts, a mix of Stina Nordenstam’s darker days, Karin Dreijer Andersson’s, um, days, and the orchestral sensibility of Sigur Ros. Which is to say it is a very, very good, if intense and frequently scary, record.

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alessi’s ark: notes from the treehouse (2009)
March 23, 2009, 10:30 am
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Alessi’s Ark
Notes From The Treehouse ••••½

Well…gosh! Wears The Trousers has been following the career of Alessi’s Ark for a fair time, enjoying a wonderfully informative and fun interview with the West London singer-songwriter along the way, but even we have to admit that we never expected Notes From The Treehouse to be quite so good. The Horse EP was a solid release, if at times spaced out to the point of verging on lackadaisical. Alessi’s bold decision to leave all of that material, bar ‘The Horse’, off her debut album pays off in so many ways. Once again she has side-stepped expectation and come up with the goods.

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marissa nadler: little hells (2009)
March 20, 2009, 11:25 pm
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Marissa Nadler
Little Hells ••••

Marissa Nadler’s Little Hells is nothing less than aptly named. It’s a slice of intricately stringed American Gothic that, if at times a little unrelenting, creates a distinctive fictional universe of which most seasoned authors would be justly proud…only Nadler has pointed out that many of the characters are based on real-life friends and acquaintances. So, for the record, we have in Nadler a 27-year-old, self-taught guitarist and singer, on her fourth critically acclaimed album, who has friends that could keep HBO in dramatic television series for years to come.

No need to be jealous, though. Nadler isn’t the kind to strut. Even though relatively young, she opens Little Hells with the quiet, measured confidence of a seasoned pro. Opener ‘Heart Paper Lover’ reinforces her reputation at once. It is spooky and beautiful, Nadler’s voice as atmospheric as ever. She has the market cornered when it comes to being both simultaneously icily detached from and heartbreakingly involved in her material. It’s a quality that makes her absolutely unique in the vocal stakes, perhaps even incomparable.

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camera obscura: my maudlin career (2009)
March 20, 2009, 10:53 pm
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Camera Obscura
My Maudlin Career ••••½

Camera Obscura frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell deserves a medal. According to her, she provides not lyrics to latest album My Maudlin Career, but “documentation of what was going on with me for a while”. If that is the case, it has been a frantic, painful few years since 2006’s Let’s Get Out Of This Country; trust Campbell and Camera Obscura, however, to set all this turmoil to a backdrop of sunny pop with echoes of surf rock. It’s both dark and sugary sweet, making for an album that is immensely satisfying and well rounded.

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neko case: middle cyclone (2009)
March 5, 2009, 1:12 pm
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Neko Case
Middle Cyclone ••••½

‘Honorary Canadian’ Neko Case has fans that are so passionate about her music that…well, it’s a little scary. It will take more than a quick, initial listen to unravel the mystery of their devotion as well. Case is an artist whose music grows in the heart with each and every listen. The country twangs get cuter and cleverer, the voice more heartbreaking, until you realise you’ve become a card-carrying member of Neko’s People’s Army. Her latest release Middle Cyclone is no exception. There’s a good chance, in fact, that it will be considered her masterpiece, if she doesn’t better it in the coming years.

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anni rossi: rockwell (2009)
March 2, 2009, 11:37 pm
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Anni Rossi
Rockwell ••••

In case you didn’t know, Anni Rossi is the most exciting thing to happen to the viola in…well, forever. Dumpier and lower in range than its cousin the violin, the viola is like the back-up singer that knows she has better tone than that screechy old Beyoncé, but ain’t as flashy. With Rockwell, Rossi sets the instrument free, dishing up punchy pizzicato over syncopated rhythms, with the occasional howling run of strings. Ladies and gents, the Devil may be close to giving up the fiddle. 

Granted, you will likely have heard quite a bit of Rockwell before. ‘Machine’, ‘Venice’, ‘Ecology’, ‘The West Coast’ and ‘Wheelpusher’ all make it over from the Afton EP and form the central tracks on the new album, but Rossi has worked well with producer Steve Albini to clean up the tracks and pick up the pace, making them sparse and wonderful, like intricate machines. Albini has also, it seems, encouraged Rossi to let go of her tendency towards screeches and yelps, which should put to rest those pesky comparisons with Joanna Newsom.

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the darker days of soap&skin
February 27, 2009, 6:07 pm
Filed under: feature, interrupting yr broadcast | Tags: , , , , ,


interrupting yr broadcast: soap&skin

In case you didn’t catch Wears The Trousers’ guest column over at Drowned In Sound, here is the lowdown on Soap&Skin: Anja Plaschg, Austrian, 18, and creator of some of the scariest music you have ever heard. Beyond that she is a great unknown on these shores; terra incognita, with heavy emphasis on the terror. Though preceded by a baffling and uninformative PR-sheet bio (more on this later), she’s a pretty mouth-watering interview prospect. Her world is dark, as evidenced by her debut album Lovetune For Vacuum. You need to think deepest, darkest dungeon here, not dark chocolate. Think if Stina Nordenstam met Karin Dreijer Andersson during the recording of Dynamite and the two had an impossible lovechild that they abandoned to be raised by mechanical dolls. Now you are on the right track.

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