It’s Friday, and like clockwork, here’s another edition of the OUTSIDELEFT Week in Music: the weekly reader where you’ll find OL’s sharpest scribes’ reviews of new hits by musicians you may have even heard of! --Alarcon
Something on Your Mind
A 50th anniversary tribute to Karen Dalton's classic album 'In My Own Time', The Breath have the guts and the know-how, says Jay Lewis for daring to interpret such a classic piece.
Full review here.
As cynical as I am, I thought Lorde was onto something with her debut single 'Royals'. It had a quasi trip-hop feel to it and for a couple of days, I thought she was going to develop into the next Bjork. Alas, Lorde’s latest single, “Solar Power” sounds like a Taylor Swift cast off. Brunch-core songs for Instagram models with under 10,000 followers. --Spanish Pantalones
Let’s Get Yampi Dancing
There’s something warm, comforting, haphazard, chaotic, and off-kilter about Ancient Champion’s latest single, 'Let’s Get Yampi Dancing'. Often referred to as “the Henry Mancini for the working man” by his early followers, Champion’s the three-minute instrumental bop lures you in with a wobbly, lo-fi Hammond with just enough polished control to ensure you that the Champ still hasn’t lost his stuff after over 25 years in the business. --Alarcon
I Don't Mind
Buckingham's last release, his collaboration with Bearwood's most famous export (Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie), in 2017 dripped with adorable and addictively simple songs. It fizzed with optimism, what could possibly go wrong...? Well...Buckingham's first music since being very publicly sacked from Fleetwood Mac shows him in fine fettle, there's absolutely no bitterness (not yet). Instead 'I Don’t Mind' is a tale of long-term loves many twists and turns (no, it's not a metaphor for the band!) and is dressed with an insatiable melody, plenty of fingerpicking guitar playing, and layers and layers of female vocal harmonies. And if it reminds you of 'Tango in the Night' era Mac, well who could possibly mind at that. --Jay Lewis
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING
People Let's Dance
(Test Card Recordings)
After more than a decade of "...teaching the lessons of the past through the music of the future” (mostly by combining archive BFI voices with electronic soundscapes), Public Service Broadcasting have had a bit of a re-think. Time spent living in Berlin, visits to the Hansa Studios (Bowie, Iggy, Depeche Mode...) and the guiding influence of Walter Rittman's 1930 sound collage 'Wochenende' have inspired an album that is looser and more impressionistic than previous outings. 'People Let's Dance' is one of the sparkliest tracks PSB have produced. The Germanic female vocal harmonies are much warmer than a room full of NASA staff yelling 'Go' at each other. I don't associate PSB with being an act blessed with much 'soul', but this, has plenty!
And can you dance to it? Like never before. --Jay Lewis
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
I Broke My Own Rule
(They Might Be Giants).
As a petulant youth(ish), I imagined all the gruesome ways that the quirky irritants They Might Be Giants could perish. The toxic mixture of nasal vocals, smart ass lyrical witticisms, jaunty tunes, and (heaven preserve us), accordions was too much to take. Oh, and my housemate had the nauseating ‘Flood’ album (‘Birdhouse in the Your Soul’, ‘Istanbul to Constantinople’ etc. ) on repeat. Hell.
But time has a way of putting everything into context! Has anything TMBG have made been as diabolically smug as, say, ‘Rocking The Suburbs’ by Ben Folds or that sneery ode to coach travel by the Divine Fucking Comedy? No. Nothing could be. They’re rather endearing by comparison. And, knowing that, I can happily admit that their new single ‘I Broke My Own Rules’ is, in its own breezy eccentric way, not that bad after all! Context is everything. --Jay Lewis
JAM & LEWIS featuring Mariah Carey
Somewhat Loved (There You Go Breaking My Heart)
Jam & Lewis of course do this layered soul thing better than just about everyone, so they have that part down and they’ve done it again. You wonder whether they are even awake at the controls anymore. Whatever they do, Mariah is the superstar here, (there and anywhere and everywhere), they’d do well to remember that. When I first heard this in the car I thought Mariah was distant in the mix. Better in the house. It’s got it all from Mariah. You know the parts only the cat can hear. So rich. Good stuff. --Lee Paul
Put It On Me
There’s something about Leela James, an incredible voice, gorgeous production and stellar sales yet none of the gonzo zaniness that makes us love Dawn Richard so much. 'Put It On Me is great, conservative, emotive soul. Still, A Queen of Soul for sure. For everyone and then maybe not for anyone at all. --Lee Paul
DOUGY STU, RESAVOIR, JEFF PARKER
Jeff Parker, Dougy Stu? Who is the star here? Someone’s gotta knock these artist amalgams on the head. They are less rather than more interesting. What’s wrong with a nameless, faceless, creditless wreckin crew of a team. Mid tempo jazz funk. The sheen from the polish is so think. Has a moment or two. This sounded great in the car and now in the cold light of an untidy kitchen that’s more distracting than the power of this record, I just don’t know. Great record label name. Nomenclature means something. Extra points for that. --Lee Paul
Big fan of the Intjay minimalism for sure. Cranking the machines up gently. Seriously this is making me think that the old west style coffin I spent the morning working on was time well spent. I know you’ll want a photo right. I could dust down my machines and never create anything that just begins has no middle and ends as well as this does. --Ancient Champion
Born This Way
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen. Orville Peck gets to gripping onto Lady Gaga’s heart in the right place 'Born This Way' and it’s just such a great upswinging country version. I want to write out the non-cringey parts of the lyrics here for you, resisting that to thumb through the phone book to find someone who can teach me to sing. Like Orville can. Hear it, outloud, proud and often. Great! --Ancient Champion
Chemical (chloe caillet remix)
I was thinking about this and then my mind went blank. And the more it went on, the blanker my mind went. Yours of course may not. --Ancient Champion
All On You
Andy Bell’s best days are behind him, and while he was never Ride’s secret ingredient, he put out a pleasant little acoustic EP here. It would have been a hit in ‘68 when The Beatles were practicing TM with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, but All On You sounds like an expensive demo at best. All this EP does is make me wonder how this guy came up with 'Vapour Trail?' --Spanish Pantalones
Ahead of her September LP, Forever I Wait, Rain comprises part of a new Martina Topley-Bird EP, Pure Heart, produced by Robert Del Naja. Rain’s beautiful, sparse orchestration is in many ways in key with some of the finest moments of her rich and astonishing career. And some of my finest moments of listening. I’m thinking 'Makes Me Wanna Die', 'Pre Millenium Tension' and 'Martina'.
'Rain', has that challenge for the listener offering itself in an at once inarticulate and eloquent, quiet greatness. --Ancient Champion
As far as I’m concerned this review is an obituary. Sort Stjerne! is ShitKid’s farewell recording after Åsa Söderqvist (the sole member of the band) decided to “retire” in December 2020. She left a cryptic “I have a life plan” on her Facebook page, then left the music industry, and released Sort Stjerne! It’s a 23-track collection of unreleased songs she’s recorded throughout her short five-year history. Cast-offs maybe, but each song is a tiny, sweet, lo-fi gem. It’s a shame Söderqvist never broke out; her albums were consistently perfect and Sort Stjerne! is no different. --Alarcon
Path of Wellness
If you chart the history of Sleater-Kinney’s critical reviews and fan’s reactions from album to album -- from their self-titled debut in ‘95 to their 2015 comeback with 'No Cities To Love' -- they’ve always taken shit for their drastic changes in sound. But with 2019’s 'The Center Won't Hold', they let Annie Clark turn it into a St. Vincent album and lost the hard-pounding Janet Weiss in the process. Now with Weiss gone, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker came up with 'Path of Wellness', which is equal parts Steely Dan, The Motels, Pat Benetar, and Quarterflash (without the saxophone). It’s a consistently fun LP, but any older fans who didn’t run after 'The Center Won't Hold' will surely pass on this one. --Alarcon
No Gods No Masters
(Stunvolume, Infectious Music)
"This is our seventh record, the significant numerology of which affected the DNA of its content: the seven virtues, the seven sorrows, and the seven deadly sins," singer Shirley Manson explained in a complicated statement when describing 'No Gods No Masters', Garbage’s latest release. That’s usually all I have to read before I stop listening and move on to reviewing the next album, but I gave 'No Gods...' a chance anyway. Alas, the album contains some interesting ideas, but overall, it sounds like a new Republica record which might have played in ‘95, but is purely derivative in 2021. --Spanish Pantalones
(Capitol / Motown)
I can appreciate the confidence of the guys from Migos; Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff. They refer to themselves as the new Rolling Stones, the new “greatest band in the world,” and everyone knows that attitude -- that thing Ancient Champion calls charisma -- makes up at least 75 percent of every successful pop star. So they got that going for them, but when you boil Culture III down to its essence, it’s just three guys rapping about drugs and whores over generic loops. These guys need to bring something new to the table if they’re going to call themselves the new Rolling Stones. --Spanish Pantalones
NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS
Back The Way We Came: Vol 1 (2011-2021)
Gallagher’s getting a lot of shit for this best-of compilation: the press release says Noel himself “curated” its playlist and included two new songs as dangling carrots. Noel flirts with sounding like Coldplay at times, but 'Back The Way We Came' is not a bad collection of songs. As usual, he makes it sound so easy, but the High Flying Birds sound a little too mature sounding for me -- I miss the hubris of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.” --Spanish Pantalones
BOB SEGER & THE SILVER BULLET BAND
On the occasion of its 45th anniversary, Capitol Records reissued Bob Seger’s long-out-of-print 1976 concert album, 'Live Bullet' on vinyl, the same format your stoner uncle listened to it on while he used its cardboard sleeve as a chopping block for his Hell’s Angels-grade speed. It’s easy to say this LP sounds like one long beer or automobile commercial, but Seger has become such a big part of American commerce, I can only perceive him as a pitchman now, like George Foreman or Ron Popiel. Apparently advertising agencies equate Seger with American quality, yet the Chevy trucks Seger pimp out are assembled in Mexico. Go figure. --Spanish Pantalones
Main Image: The Breath by Duncan Elliot
Alarcon co-founded outsideleft with lamontpaul (the Tony Wilson to his Rob Gretton) in 2004. His work for OL has attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of readers, oh and probably the FBI, too.
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