The sun’s up here in Toon -- a cold crisp one. Potted coffee, toasted crumpets, coming alive, slowly as befits a Baby Boomer’s morning. This week, I (along with the rest of the OUTSIDELEFT staff) listened to new music, new styles, and new artists. I never thought I’d be a Paul Morley or a Charles Sharr Murray, and I’m probably not going to be the next Lester Bangs (ask your father), but here we are.
It’s been so long since I sat down to listen to music I’d not selected. I’ve no idea what records reviewers write about new music. I occasionally read the Financial Times weekend reviews or Observer reviews (and recently the OUTSIDELEFT review of the new Sleaford Mods latest album -- I’ll keep my eyes open for a copy of that) and so with all that serving as inspiration, here are few words on this week's new music. Enjoy. --Toon Traveller
Pà Pá Pà
I was really excited when I saw Femi Kuti pop up with a new release. I’ve seen Femi and the band in London, and his dad, the awesome Fela. I’ve never seen so many people on stage, (except symphony orchestra). I never smelt so much dope being smoked AND the gig was awesome. I’ve been a longtime fan of Fela. Femi’s problem, (well more my problem), Femi is NOT Fela. It must be bloody hard to follow a colossus of a father, and few come close to success. BUT this track driving rhythm, horns punching in and out, all the sounds of Nigerian big band Jazz, rock, is as infectious as his father’s work, a great song, hard rhythm, growled vocals, whooping horns but still the optimism that success and justice is just a dance step away. Really love the whole sound, and feel, makes me think of summer, Melia, Carnival, City Park summer gigs, and the World Stage at Glastonbury. A Zimbabwe band The Bunduh Boys (sadly AIDS ravaged) used to introduce songs with “and now... another treat for your feet” and those words sums this song up perfectly. --Toon Traveller
BLACK PUMAS with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
This is a newer version of an older song. Or maybe an old version of an old song. Either way, the brass, if you know the Black Pumas, the brass is what you need to know. Black Pumas make this sound so effortless, so Al Green-esque to be sure. So effortlessly beautiful. Oh the punching staccato horns, oh the mellifluous vocal layers, oh, oh dear, not wanting this one to stop in a hurry. It's exclusively on Spotify for now. -- Ancient Champion
Sound of Blue
(Fly Agaric Records)
It baffles me that the producers of the James Bond franchise have never commissioned Morcheeba to create music for one of their films. “Sounds of Blue” would sound incredibly sexy in a scene where 007 falls in bed with Evelyn Moneypussy, Tiffany Goodcock, or whatever femme fatale the Broccoli estate comes up with in their next installment. (Oh, James!) “Sounds of Blue” is the leadoff single of Morcheeba’s forthcoming LP Blackest Blue (set to be released on May 14). More than 26 years on and this London trip-hop duo can still stick the landing. --Spanish Pantalones
"I’m More Inclined"
It may be the times we’re living in, but this single is a reminder of just what an absolute pure pleasure can be had from listening to a short burst of pop music. If this song hadn’t arrived mid-pandemic, I would be hugging you now as I play it for the tenth time in a row.
As sad as the recent departure of founder member Gerald Love may be, it’s resulted in a refocusing (the band did sound a little weary on 2016’s Here) and there’s even some fresh(ish) blood in the band. "I’m More Inclined" is the third glimpse into the forthcoming Endless Arcade album (scheduled for this April) -- all three songs, warm and invigorating reminders of how fabulous this band can be. It is so reassuring to have them back! --Jason Lewis
Only Do Wot U Wanna Do
Supergrass in their pomp were on the way into the studio when A Man Called Tim confiscated their guitars. That in no way would impede their ability to make massive pop hits. Wait… That’s not an eclectic electric Supergrass I hear, it’s IKLAN stomping all over my speakers. Only Do Wot U Wanna Do is from a new compilation tape available now on Bandcamp, picking up from where one of our favorite LPs of last year, IKLAN Album #1 left off… Only Do Wot U Wanna Do is relentlessly epic. --Ancient Champion
Hearts + Bones
Minor keys seem to the be the theme for a lot of singers It’s a plaintiff sound, morning mist on a cold grey dawn, sun breaking through weeping willows, lots of eyes, tear filling, hearts remorse feeling, regret, palpable loss, things we wish we’d done, words we wish we said. Now more than ever it sounds all too late, they, the friends, lovers, have gone, gone into the lockdown 100 miles away, at the end of a shaky Zoom call, or into a new social bubble that excludes, us I suppose Roisin O’s song makes aware of who wants us, in which bubble. One for reflection of a dull dark, on your own, but not alone, wet Thursday afternoon. Despite it’s downside feeling there’s real passion in the world and a tugging at heartstrings voice songs for lovers, lost and regained, and promises of lives on hold, waiting for the post-Covid uplands of sun summer and sangria. --Toon Traveller
Astonishing in the breadth of their ambition, Third Horizon's cathedral-esque sound structures are scored for spaces way beyond the confines of our universe or imagination. Astral Projection arrives fully formed with EPIC stamped all over it. I love it. At volume the windows shake like Apollo 11 leaving earth for the moon, from the street outside, for the sake of humanity. Astral Projection is emotionally immersive and enervating, it's the enigma, it's the week's HAL of music on the office stereo. It's the Utah monolith removed to your living room. Of course anyone dabbling with these soundscapes won't get away without a reference to Sigur Ros, but with repeated plays, you'll hear the separation between the command module and the lunar lander. Challenging and gorgeous. --Lee Paul
Maid Marian’s Toast
I'm all for lead singers with hair loss problems, it's maturity. I like the video, the studio sets gives it a professional feel, love the supermarket queues. Ah the music, the music, well it’s there, and they have great skills, good drumming, the slide guitar is lovely, always a Duane Allman fan, not enough slide guitar in the world. Loved the words and the singer’s voice. Is it a bit too California '90s pop think... The theme song for Friends (even if you don't give the show screen time the theme song is good). The only downer for me, making a guitar sound like a mouth organ is impressive, but why not er, um, ah play a mouth organ? --Toon Traveller
the "dropped your hand while dancing" chapter
I believe Taylor Swift is finally writing her own music as it’s been long rumored that she’s employed outside songwriters for most if not all of her catalog. I believe this because of the degree of difficulty in the six songs off the "dropped your hand while dancing" chapter, Swift’s latest EP released this week. Each song follows a well-worn template she’d become very comfortable over the last few years. Piano-driven semi-ballads with hushed, breathy vocals and lyrics about make-believe relationships. I thought maybe I was missing something -- 50,000,000 Taylor Swift fans can’t be wrong, can they? I asked my 18-year-old daughter what she thought of the EP. I recall her being quite the Swift fan in junior high shool.
“Have you heard the new Taylor Swift album or any recent Taylor Swift album?,” I texted her.
“Only her old stuff,” she replied. “Reputation was so good, but that was the last thing I ever heard from her.”
Reputation was released in 2017 and the timeline checks out. Sometime around 2018, Emma discovered BTS; her gateway band into the poppy, high-energy world of K-Pop, which is made up almost entirely of fast-paced experimental pop, rock, jazz, gospel, hip-hop, R&B, reggae, and electronic dance. All genres Swift is currently avoiding in favor of these Kate Bush-lite ballads, without Kate’s conviction or mysticism.
“Ohhh, all her new stuff is super slow,” Emma continued. “I don’t like it; like her album from last year [either Folklore or Evermore or both] was slow.”
And then she posted those crying, sad face emojis...
I’m not exactly sure what they meant, but it can’t be good for Taylor. --Alarcon
Something Out of Nothing
Pleasant sun-drenched West Coast sound, drifts pleasantly, human warmth, and tender touches, gentle orange blossom hinted Breezes, open topped cars. California dreaming, sounds like it’s still alive and being lived and good luck to them that can live it. Lovely build through the song to a faster, heart beat raising, but not heart racing finale. Pleasant, happy, not complacent, earnest not lecturing. Theguitar breaks match the mood of lazy sunny bruch in somewhere like, oh I don’t know, a Cadiz Square, a Tuscany cafe, a Savannah Diner. --Toon Traveller
West coast, Vancouver thrash punk, as you may have guessed, not my cup of tea. The sore-throat strangled vocals, “throat lozenger rock,” does nothing for me. The guitars full of anger and resentment, captures some of the disaffection that’s been sweeping the world, and California, (if UK news is to be believed), but is that this year’s COVID zeitgeist? I can’t help feeling that’s for the past, or the future, this year, Britain, Europe, America’s is fear, isolation, and reflection that’s national mood, (the terrorists in Washington excepted). Angry music, that’s out it’s time for me, rage, and resentment and disaffection, but left me unmoved, perhaps the ‘rebel yell’ is youth’s preserve, perhaps I’m just too content in my babyboomer, had most of ‘it’ life. --Toon Traveller
The Seven Foot Tall Post-Suicidal Feel Good Blues
Excerpt: “Nothing feels more on time in this timeless time than the T. Rex stomp opening the title track of Nancy’s cracked mirror gaze into the void, The Seven Foot Tall Post-Suicidal Feel Good Blues. Like other glam meditations on the Big Empty (Ziggy Stardust, maybe all Motley Crue recordings) it fills me with life.” --Alex V. Cook
(Read the full OUTSIDELEFT review from our Alex V. here.)
Medicine at Midnight
Old reliable. You can set your clock to the Foo Fighters. Over 20 years on and they still deliver when it comes to that straight-down-the-barrel rock & roll, and the band’s tenth LP is just that: standard-issue rock filled with eager, uplifting, and sometimes spiritual lyrics. If the Bob Segar & the Silver Bullet Band had sex with a Golden Retriever, they’d produce Medicine at Midnight. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing technically wrong with Medicine at Midnight. The problem is that it’s missing those hooks, the raw edges, the unpredictability and of Dave Grohl’s Pocketwatch demos. So an album like Medicine at Midnight begs the question, “Does a band get a pass on a middling album because its lead singer is cool?” I think this one does. --Spanish Pantalones
Andrew Toy -- percussion -- well but a very soft sonorous start, if you’re expecting a thunderous attack of Billy Cobham’s Crosswinds, or the raw power of the Warrior Drummers of Burundi, this ain’t it. A semi-mechanical wander, reminded of Tangerine Dream’s electro percussion. Lots of thought and imagery, slow wanders in a suburban town, questions of hidden lives, and passions, slow meanders, like paper boats on a slow ebbing river, lovely music for that BBQ winding down, sun setting, shadows growing, starlings roosting, coals cooling. This is a soundtrack for the evening's end. The minimalist approach works for me, but I love Steve Rich's album. Drumming, with its power and measured changes. Good over coffee, and winter sun drowned mid sleepy Sunday, not into stars, or thumbs, but a relaxed accompaniment to last night’s glorious memories. If I paid for this lived at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2020, I’d wander back to the hotel. Reflective. --Toon Traveller
JAMES YORKSTON and the SECOND HAND ORCHESTRA
The Wide Wide River
It’s been almost 20 years since I was introduced to James Yorkston via his audacious 10-minute- single “The Lang Toun.” One of those captivating pieces of music that ensnares you, drags you through textures of droney folk and beguiling poetic words and leaves you aching to play it again.
Much like that first song, Yorkston’s output over the last two decades has followed an ever twisty, meandering, path that has now wound its way to the enchantment of ‘The Wide, Wide River’ a collaboration with Swedish producer Karl-Jonas Winqvist and his Second Hand Orchestra.
Recorded in less than a week there is a spontaneous energy to these songs. After the musical vigour that wraps around the peculiar tale of opener ‘Ella Mary Leather’, the seven and a half minutes of ‘To Soothe Her Wee Bit Sorrows’ blends the ensemble’s strings with Yorkston’s strumming into a playful, swirling dance. Best of all, is the single ‘There is No Upside’ where the rapport between Yorkston breathless wordplay and Ulrika Gyllenberg’s spirited fiddle playing is explored over six and a half delirious minutes.
The sound of The Wide, Wide River is that of an artist revelling in the joy and the intimacy of playing with a like-minded collective. Yorkston’s heartfelt and heady narratives are vivid and curious, a delight to delve into. Take time to wade in this river, it is a wondrous experience. -- Jason Lewis
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the members of Weezer were in the middle of writing and recording Van Weezer, an album with “metal influences.” To look at its premature cover art, it looked like they were going for an ‘80s metal thing, which could be interesting at least. Instead, the world went into quarantine and the band shelved the tapes and started work on OK, Human, another album they had been working on. OK, Human sounds familiar and something you’d expect from Weezer, and makes you wonder when the new Van Weezer album will be released. -- Spanish Pantalones
Main Image of Femi Kuti by Sean Thomas