wears the trousers magazine

lonelady: nerve up (2010)
March 3, 2010, 12:59 pm
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Nerve Up •••

Warp Records has a long history of plucking unusual and promising electronic artists out of obscurity and giving them an arena in which to produce their best work. In recent years though, they’ve branched out into music which falls outside their usual electronica-based remit, but that pushes playfully at genre boundaries – think Jamie Lidell, Maximo Park, Grizzly Bear et al. – and Lonelady (aka Manchester-based artist, poet and musician Julie Campbell) falls somewhat defiantly into this category with her debut album, Nerve Up. A one-woman wonder, Campbell has created an album that blends modern girl-with-guitar attitude with 1980s synth-references into sparse, solitary musical vistas befitting her stage name, and which could only have originated from the home of The Smiths.

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solex vs. cristina martinez & jon spencer: amsterdam throwdown, king street showdown! (2010)

Solex vs. Cristina Martinez + Jon Spencer
Amsterdam Throwdown, King Street Showdown! •••

Gentle folk lovers, cover your ears now. Opening with a wail of guitar distortion, a dirty drumbeat and a silky female vocal, Amsterdam Throwdown, King Street Showdown! instantly impresses as a full-frontal blues-funk assault on the ears. As a somewhat unlikely collaborative project between Dutch electronica specialist Elisabeth Esselink (aka Solex) and Boss Hog luminaries Cristina Martinez and her husband Jon Spencer, on paper it seems like it could be a bit of a mess. The ‘versus’ nature of the record and confrontational title implies that it came about almost against Martinez and Spencer’s will, but, as the accompanying comic explains, they jumped at the chance to add their own distinctive fusillade to Esselink’s sketches, working remotely from their New York studio. The result is a record laden with positive vibes that plunges headlong into a party atmosphere.

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lindstrøm & christabelle: real life is no cool (2010)
January 11, 2010, 9:00 am
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Lindstrøm & Christabelle
Real Life is No Cool ••••½
Smalltown Supersound

The steady ascendency of disco (in the classic rather than the ‘Night Fever’ sense) over the last few years seems to have gone relatively unnoticed. In an alternative universe, or perhaps the early ’80s, this album would be the one to refract a little of the mirrorball light away from the current crop of young female-fronted synth-pop and on to something a little more substantial. Lindstrøm’s own new disco sound has been around for a good few years now, but seems to have all been distilled into this album. Disco musings like his last album (which included the eponymous epic 28-minute track, ‘Where You Go I Go Too’) are overshadowed by the combination of brevity and depth that he shows on Real Life Is No Cool, which seems him joining with veteran collaborator Christabelle (aka Solale).

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the raveonettes: in & out of control (2009)
October 5, 2009, 2:16 pm
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The Raveonettes
In & Out Of Control •••½
Fierce Panda / Vice

In & Out Of Control is, perhaps surprisingly, The Raveonettes’ fourth studio album. The collaboration between statuesque Danish duo Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner has been going for almost a decade without any real breakthrough in terms of commercial success, always slightly out of step with everyone else making similarly retro-leaning psychedelic rock, leading many to unfairly overlook their capabilities. And while Foo and Wagner are not ones to court anything so passé as a chart hit – their 2007 album, Lust Lust Lust, wasn’t even eligible for the UK countdown due to their dogged determination to include a pair of 3D glasses with it – with each new release they make a consistently valid case for not being forgotten. In & Out Of Control is their second independent album after leaving major label Columbia, and follows last year’s ambitious mission to record and release four EPs, allowing them to explore a variety of different sounds. It’s perhaps a little odd then it is essentially a stripped-down, basic rock record with the occasional synth hints that characterised their previous effort.

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sally shapiro: my guilty pleasure (2009)
July 29, 2009, 12:47 pm
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Sally Shapiro
My Guilty Pleasure ••••
Permanent Vacation 

Despite coming from a band who notoriously shun the limelight, Swedish duo Sally Shapiro’s new record isn’t the ideal soundtrack for wallflowers. It might open with the atmospherically swooshy ‘Swimming Through The Blue Lagoon’, with the anonymous singer’s wordless, dreamlike murmurs floating over twinkling keyboards, but My Guilty Pleasure soon breaks into track after track of addictive, synth-driven electro-pop. This is no mere exercise in bubblegum nostalgia; the beats and chord progressions are once again lovingly produced in the style of new Italo disco, of the type that label Italians Do It Better have been popularising over the last few years. Label boss Mike Simonetti is, by his own admission, “down with Sally”, and given that Sally Shapiro’s production half Johan Agebjörn has remixed for IDIB signing Glass Candy, this relationship is more than pure homage.

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rubies: explode from the center (2008)
August 15, 2008, 2:05 pm
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Explode From The Center ••••

You know those girls you meet who are unfeasibly beautiful, intelligent and well-dressed? The ones with lovely friends and cool jobs? The ones who have all this, but are still so pleasant to spend time with, that it’s impossible to hate them? Well that’s Simone Rubi and her bandmate Terri Loewenthal, aka Rubies. All these elements are in place with this band. And they’re talented as well. I know. Sickening isn’t it.

Musically, it is hard to dislike Rubies as their blend of genres and moods has both a refreshingly breezy tone and a dirtier, dancier underbelly. This is perhaps unsurprising given that Rubies’ friends include Feist and members of Kings Of Convenience, Blood Music, The Concretes and Peter, Bjorn & John, and Rubies’ tunes are an enlivening mix of all of these influences. Elements of funk creep in, too, through liberal use of synths and basslines that recall their other band Call & Response. 

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the ting tings: we started nothing (2008)
July 16, 2008, 8:40 pm
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The Ting Tings
We Started Nothing ••••

There’s something very appealing about a straight-up catchy pop song. From Whigfield’s ‘Saturday Nite’ right up to Estelle’s (absolutely brilliant) ‘American Boy’, nothing gets a party started like a melody/beat/vocal combo that sticks in your head for days. Which is exactly the kind of thing The Ting Tings have stuffed their debut album with. These are the songs you will already have heard in Topshop, on adverts, as background music in teen dramas like ‘Gossip Girl’, in clubs, in pubs and drifting through the air at festivals. Despite this ubiquity, We Started Nothing remains a very enjoyable record, taking in everything from bratty ’90s-style punk with a Girls Aloud twist to minimal, and at times quite sinister, electropop. 

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