wears the trousers magazine

free music friday: smoosh
February 5, 2010, 11:42 am
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‘We Are Our Own Lies’

By drawing out an unexpectedly saccharine centre from their music for 2006’s Free To Stay, sisters Asya and Chloe took a step toward a brave new world of polished electro-pop. By sanding down the rougher edges of their debut, their notably smoother second offering was a bold statement that they gave not two hoots for speculation that their age would dictate the level of polish they were capable of. Yet whereas on that album the pair never strayed too far from their comfort zone, on comeback single ‘We Are Our Own Lies’ Smoosh have taken one giant leap into strange territory. And an epic landscape it is too. Exploring a mass of new tricks on her keyboard, Asya has created an emotionally complex mix of sweeping, tragic, synthesised strings and ticklish piano while Chloe reigns in her formerly chaotic drumming to set a defiant, militant beat that perfectly offsets her elder sister’s spine-tingling arrangement. The piece is rounded out by an unexpected development of Asya’s vocals, which now swoon from the poetry of Bjork to the effeminate theatrics of Silverchair’s Daniel Johns. It’s a delight to see the band shatter all expectations so elegantly, and bodes well for the soon-to-be-released new album, Widdershins.

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juliana hatfield: peace & love (2010)
February 2, 2010, 10:42 am
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Juliana Hatfield
Peace & Love •••
Ye Olde Records

From Anthony and Cleopatra to Brad and Angelina, the braying masses have been fascinated with turbulent, enigmatic celebrity coupledom. And while the sphere of indie music is not especially known for producing glossy magazine figureheads, nor are its fans known for their propensity toward asinine speculation, it isn’t a world bereft of will-they-won’t-they gossip. Forget your Kurt and Courtneys though, because nestled quietly in the heart of this noisy, chaotic industry was the love affair of Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield. While their relationship (or lack thereof) has been discussed to death over the years, it’s clear that, “just friends” or nay, the bond they share is one that feeds them both with a good deal of their creativity. And on Hatfield’s eleventh solo effort Peace & Love, Dando is a spectre that still holds great importance. Far from being an embittered or ironic title, Hatfield has produced an album replete with hopeful songs that make for surprisingly intimate and confessional pieces – a trait that she seems to shrug off as insignificant. She is known for being both direct and simple in her approach lyrically, and the songs on offer here are a perfect example of this.

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wears the trousers albums of the decade #25-1

part onepart twopart three

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!)…

* * *


Shannon Wright
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.

Terry Mulcahy

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lisa gerrard: the black opal (2009)
December 27, 2009, 6:04 pm
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Lisa Gerrard
The Black Opal ••

One implication with ambient or “space music” is that it exists primarily to create an aural space around the listener, to set a mood rather than for the sole sake of enjoyment. This can backfire, often creating an aura of inaccessibility or, at worst, can feel a little patronising, but among the limited pantheon of those who have carried the genre off to perfection sits former Dead Can Dance member Lisa Gerrard. Both during and since her time with her longstanding collaboration with Brendan Perry, Gerrard has provided accompaniment to many high-profile cinematic projects, from arthouse to Hollywood, and judging by her formidable trophy cabinet (most notably containing a Golden Globe for her score to Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’) providing music to set a mood is something she excels at. But resting on one’s laurels is not something that lends itself to great creativity and her latest solo offering, The Black Opal, sadly highlights a crushing lack of ingenuity when not provided with a visual companion piece to work from.

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scary mansion: make me cry (2009)
November 30, 2009, 8:45 am
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Scary Mansion
Make Me Cry ••½
Zum / Talitres

Scary Mansion is the pseudonym of Brooklyn-based Leah Hayes, a woman whose music has thus far dwelt rather aptly in places just as dark and uncanny. Her 2008 debut Every Joke Is Half The Truth was a brooding, antifolk trip to some decidedly gloomy vicinities, very much reminiscent of Cat Power’s Moonpix-era output. Though the album was perfectly competent and enjoyable, Hayes was unable to extricate herself from Cat Power’s trademark style, creating songs that felt far too familiar to be truly exciting. For an artist with Hayes’s creative flare (she is also an author and illustrator), it was a disappointing first effort.

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el perro del mar: love is not pop (2009)
November 10, 2009, 8:42 am
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El Perro Del Mar
Love Is Not Pop •••½
The Control Group

Love is not pop, Sarah Assbring proclaims, and neither is this, the most recent offering from her alter ego El Perro Del Mar. Listen to it though and you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise; the album is replete with sharp hooks, bittersweet melodies, memorable choruses and soaring key changes. However, such traditional pop tropes are threaded through a web of complex, despondent songs to create a thematically sorrowful album that touches on the uncomfortable issues of loneliness, relationship trauma and the inability to form meaningful bonds. Love is clearly some distance away from easy-breezy singalongs to Assbring, and her voice betrays such a genuinely troubled and dejected nature that the ensemble is lent an authenticity lacking in many of her contemporaries.

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shannon wright: honeybee girls (2009)
September 17, 2009, 9:05 am
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Shannon Wright
Honeybee Girls ••••
Vicious Circle

Shannon Wright has never been one to court recognition over her ten-year solo career. Her shows in the UK are few and far between, her lyrics often impenetrably personal and her guitar-playing, while captivating, can be harsh and challenging. Yet 2008’s Let In The Light was a self-referentially optimistic antidote to a slew of delightfully miserablist albums. And so it seems that the bad blood surrounding her disbanding of indie-pop band Crowsdell never really left her wanting to escape her past, as latest album Honeybee Girls samples a little of everything from it.

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