Tender Trap

Ten Songs About Girls

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If you're up on indie pop at all, you'll know that anything Amelia Fletcher touches is pure gold. Her groups through the years, whether Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research, or now Tender Trap, deliver the goods (sweetly sung melodies, tough and true lyrical sentiments, and spunky, punky musical backing) without fail. Tender Trap is probably the toughest sounding band she's had yet, wrapping her vocals in gritty guitars that drive home the melodies with a surprising power, and this is the band's strongest record yet. Previous album Dansette Dansette featured a new, stripped-down sound that had extra punch thanks to the insistent (and cymbal-free) drumming of Katrina Dixon, but with the help of new guitarist/vocalist Emily Bennett (also of excellent pop group Betty and the Werewolves), 2012's Ten Songs About Girls surpasses that record both in terms of sound and song. Fletcher and company attack the songs with an energy that belies the long years many of them have spent on the pop scene, sounding more like energetic teens than anything else. It helps that Fletcher's winsome vocals haven't changed a bit; she still sounds like the shy girl in the back of the room finally given her chance to shine in a school musical. Her precise phrasing and gentle strength are inspiring and would be a draw even if the songs were weak. Which they aren't at all. Ten Songs has some of Fletcher's best and hookiest songs to date; the guide to starting a band "Step One, "Broken Doll," and "King's Cross Station" jump out of the speakers in a rush of poppy energy, the melancholy "Could This Be the Last Time" and girl group-inspired "Love Is Hard Enough" tug at heartstrings with their sad chords and hard-won wisdom, and the epic-length (for them) "Memorabilia" builds powerfully from a hushed ballad to a hard-rocking climax that shows they are more than just some cute little twee pop band. Adding to the impact are Dixon and Bennett's vocals, which frame Fletcher's with truly lovely harmonies and provide a nice layer of softness to contrast with the punch of the guitars and drums. It's no easy feat to stick with making music for 25 years; it's almost impossible to be making music as young, fresh, and powerful as you did at the beginning. Well, it is possible...Amelia Fletcher proves it here. Ten Songs About Girls isn't only Tender Trap's best album; it's one of the best records she's been associated with. By default that means it's one of the best indie pop records anyone is likely to make and essential for fans of the style to get ahold of right away.

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