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Outsideleft Week in Music. We're Hearing From... La Armada, Snoh Aalegra, Cinema Cinema, Dee Gees, Angel Olsen, Roxy Girls, Olafur Arnalds, Wet Leg, Macy Gray, Billie Eilish, Laura Nyro, Sarah Wilson, Cindy, Amber Mark, Charlie Parr, Ancient Champion, Billy Bragg, Piroshka, Atomic Kitten, Tasha, Esther Rose, Muck Spreader, BTS and Allison Russell

Outsideleft Week in Music.

We're Hearing From... La Armada, Snoh Aalegra, Cinema Cinema, Dee Gees, Angel Olsen, Roxy Girls, Olafur Arnalds, Wet Leg, Macy Gray, Billie Eilish, Laura Nyro, Sarah Wilson, Cindy, Amber Mark, Charlie Parr, Ancient Champion, Billy Bragg, Piroshka, Atomic Kitten, Tasha, Esther Rose, Muck Spreader, BTS and Allison Russell

by Jay Lewis, Reviews Editor
first published: July, 2021

approximate reading time: minutes

Laura Nyro: "Leave behind your presumptions about all of those 'previously unreleased' recordings that should have, frankly, remained unreleased." - Jay Lewis


LAURA NYRO - And When I Die (Omnivore Recordings)
by Jay Lewis

Leave behind your presumptions about all of those 'previously unreleased' recordings that should have, frankly, remained unreleased. This is different, 'And When I Die' is the opening song from Laura Nyro's 1966 audition tape and it's magnificent for so many reasons.

That extraordinarily soulful voice that moves from vulnerable to powerful, the wisdom and sophistication of the lyrics, (she was only 18 years old when she recorded this), the gospel feel to a song that is far from gospel. And her solo piano accompaniment is equally staggering. The song would later be a hit for Blood Sweat and Tears (one of many Nyro penned songs that were hits for other artists). Her 'full band' version can be found on 'The First Songs' but the rawness of this audition tape has the edge.

The album of the audition tapes 'Go Find the Moon' will be released on 10 September on Omnivore Recordings.


TASHA, ESTHER ROSE - Are You Out There (Father/Daughter)
by Ancient Champion

From the EP of Esther Rose songs, 'How Many More Times'. This one features the superb Tasha, the absolute Queen of gentle minor chords uplifting laments. From the very enriching LP, this is a favourite so far.

CHARLIE PARR - 817 Oakland Avenue (Smithsonian Folkways)
by Toon Traveller

Charlie Parr will release his new full-length 'Last of the Better Days Ahead'  on July 30th. Meanwhile, '817 Oakland' is for sure a guitar pickers delight. Here's a traditionally structured song of hope, exuding sunshine, warmth, happiness, and gratitude. The message - one of sharing, yeah the spreading of love and hope, and happiness and could be straight out the 60s "hippy happiness" hopes for a better world.

This is an attitude song, talks of spreading the good things of life, homes, happiness, joys, and love.  This is a celebration song and the message - why hoard joy - is one we could all reflect on, ESPECIALLY in these COVID days when spreading hope, and happiness, is what we need. There are rhetorical messages about sharing, food warmth, protection and I'd love to see this world, but looking at our politics, our choices, our passions, I feel slightly depressed and songs and sentiment like this, laudable as they are, will fall on stony hedonistic grounds as we in the UK race into pubs, storm into clubs, fly to the sun, unmasked and uncaring. This song is an antidote to negativity, but I fear it'll remain a song heard in coffee bars, and those bars with lots of coffees and intimate stages, it'll be preaching to the converted.  Yeah, I loved the song, sentiment, and melody, and was a good boost of the new song ahead of the morning caffeine hit.   

ANGEL OLSEN - Gloria (Jagjaguwar)
by Spanish Pantalones

I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about Angel Olsen. She’s made a good single that I think is fabulous -- 'Shut Up Kiss Me' - with crunchy guitars, unique vocals, and a hooky chorus. Still, something about her gives me a ‘poser vibe’ that prevents me from investing time or money in her. Her rendition of Umberto Tozzi’s 'Gloria' - made famous by Laura Branigan who converted the song into a platinum-certified 1982 ABBA-esque foot stomper - only builds my case. I’m sure Olsen has some artsy-fartsy reason that her version sounds like a funeral dirge, but it’s a really shitty cover (and I usually adore shitty covers). I don’t even feel good about embedding its video. Instead, I give you Branigan’s version; full of drama, desperation, hope, passion, sexuality, and drive.

WET LEG - Chaise Longue (Domino)
by Hamilton High

The sound of Young Isle of Wight. It's true. Wet Legs are Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers and their 'Chaise Longue' single is a lyrical, dryly hilarious, potent stab of new wave rock. It's equally fortunate and unfortunate I guess that it already sounds like music to an Apple commercial. The commercials where the agency lets the young people take control. Hear this, you won't be disappointed not even for a moment. Since it is great from beginning to end. What's not to love?

ATOMIC KITTEN - Southgate You're The One, Football's Coming Home (Columbia)
by Spanish Pantalones

It ain't coming home, England. Ever.

ROXY GIRLS - Sister Fatima (Moshi Records)
by John Robinson

Following on from Slow Pulp a couple of weeks ago, here's another band with a name designed to confuse us older folk. It's not the long-awaited collaboration between Eno and Posh Spice though, it's Sunderland post-punk combo Roxy Girls and a song about a hamster. And it's quite lovely. Angular, Gang of Four, XTC styled punk-pop, although compared to their earlier output there's a more melodic throughline and they are catchier than ever. Their EP 'Roxy Girls are in the Drink' will be out in August and contains the same energy and humour as this does. Yeah, it's about a hamster, but I care about it twenty thousand times more than the latest Ed Sheeran song. (What's with the godawful flying effects in the video? Why does his vampire outfit make him look like Edward Cullen crossed with Eddie Izzard?). I digress. 'Sister Fatima' is carefree, like the star of the song. It may be making some deeper point about happiness whilst in captivity, bearing in mind this is from their first recordings since lockdown, or it may just be a tribute to a beloved pet. Anyway, it's fun, god knows we could do with some, this 'Sister Fatima' clearly has god-given powers just like Don McLean's, so come and be healed.

CINDY - To Be True (Tough Love/Mt St Mtn)
by Ancient Champion

Mt St Mtn have put out some of our favorite records this year, for sure. Cindy's 'To Be True' is the latest of them. It's the first single from Cindy's LP, '1:2' to be released in October. That the bands singer, Karina Gill, began putting her music career together on a burrito stained Squire Strat, abandoned in an Oakland basement, bodes well, before we even begin to revel in her conversational vocal style and languid strumming. I know you trust me, so when I tell you, imagine if Nico had come from the Bay area... She might have sounded way more like Karina Gill. Cindy also featured the superbly controlled and understated Jesse Jackson on bass, Simon Phillips on drums and Aaron Diko on keyboards. Mellow and Magnificant. Cindy are doing it right!

BTS - Permission to Dance (Big Hit / Pony Canyon / Def Jam)
by Spanish Pantalones

It’s very easy to surmise why BTS are one of the most popular bands (if not the biggest band) to rise to the top of the charts over the last five or so years. Every single is undeniably catchy, the boys are cute, and there’s a sense of optimism in their lyrics. If you read between the lines, you can almost hear them saying, “Your parents may be terrible monsters, and the world is going to shit, but everything’s going to be OK between you and us.” It’s that classic boy band formula that made The Beatles, Duran Duran, and Take That millionaires. 'Permission to Dance' isn’t BTS’s best single. but it’s far from the worst this week (put this up against this week’s Billie Eilish offering and convince me I’m wrong).

LA ARMADA - White Jesus (Lockjaw/Thousand Islands/Mal De Ojo Records)
by Ancient Champion

Dominican-born, Chicago-based, La Armada cram more anger and energy into the two minutes or so of 'White Jesus' than most everything else this week. Using their vitriolic punk-metallic clang to discuss colorism as a colonial tool imposed in the Caribbean where shades of skin color determined social status. From their upcoming album, Anti Colonialism 2. There's something very physical in the nature of the bands' connection to their audience live and on record. The guitars are so thick and powerful. Wow! 'White Jesus' is a truly beautiful record and La Armada remain a beacon of authenticity.

by Spanish Pantalones

Lazy, pretentious, soulless, and dirivitive of her previous releases. The fact that this song recieved 14.5 million views on YouTube in eight days makes me weep for the future. 

SARAH WILSON - Aspiration (Brass Tonic)
by Toon Traveller

Mmmmm... Sarah Wilson's slow plaintive trumpet is not quite the "last post", more refugee from a Rufus Wainwright melody, accomplanied here by sparse and gorgeous piano. Everything melds beautifically into the stillness of quiet memories. Memories of a different age, brass bands, civic pride, community, times of trust, and hope. This is slow music for a slow time, slow food community, and people. Lovely music with a romantic reflective, hopeful, delicate tenderness. Love and romance - that mix of hope, and fear, the percussion low key, bird song, and the fall of feet on a damp street, the slow duet at the end, balloons at the fair ground, memories, memories - bring them and treasure them - this music provides a time for calm reflection. "Aspiration" is the first track from Sarah Wilson's third album "Kaleidoscope," out July 16, 2021, via Brass Tonic Records.

BILLY BRAGG - I Will Be Your Shield ( Cooking Vinyl)
by Jay Lewis

Bragg's movement away from being only known as a protest singer has been a long and hard-won campaign. The maturity that flowed through the domestic trials and truths of his last full album of new material ('Tooth and Nail', 2013), made for his most focused collection.

That campaign to recognise Bragg as a genuinely astounding songwriter is furthered by 'I Will Be Your Shield.' It's a delicate, piano-led ballad that allows Billy the space to deliver his tale of empathy and support. Imagine Carole King's 'You've Got A Friend' and Springsteen at his most personal and stripped back, then stirred up together by The Milkman of Human Kindness.

Billy Bragg's forthcoming album 'The Million Things That Never Happened' will be released in October.

CINEMA CINEMA - A Life Of Its Own (Nefarious Industries)
by Toon Traveller

Taken from their forthcoming full length, CCXMDII, the understated confidence of Cinema Cinema's A Life Of Their Own is a thrilling way to begin a Toon day. These 16 minutes open up with great burbling instrumentation, wonderful swirling phased and acoustic dub sensations, it's a sound full of mystery, echoes and hits of Pharoah Saunders, or Sun Ra, both fabulous exponents of 60s psycho jazz.  The slightly threatening voices fit the mood, a rising frustrated repressed anger found at the music's soul. 
Screaming sax, sharp razors above the competing sounds, kinda capturing  COVID world we all still live in. there's a rush, push, shove, and community in this music, there's mind's open and understanding that in darkness comes light. There are repetitive sounds like a screendoor banging on the wind. 
If you start to listen - and you need to - this will reward you with insight, hope, and happiness, this is a delightful slab of jazz, avant-garde music, that opens ears, hearts, and souls. Sit back and go with the music's flow. Go where the music takes you. 


OLAFUR ARNALDS - When We Are Born (Mercury KX)
by Jay Lewis

When his tour to support the album ('some kind of peace' - 2020), got postponed, Olafur Arnalds turned his attention to making a film that would convey the feelings captured in the album's exquisitely sparse music.

What emerged was a performance piece like no other. Olafur moves through each scene, like wandering through a dream. Arnalds performs a handful of pieces from 'some kind of peace' as well as the new number 'Saudade', but that's where any comparison with a conventional live film ends. Co-written and directed by Vincent Moon, there is an autobiographical narrative to the work. Its beauty unfolds with every view.

This EP captures these performances (even more stripped back than the originals) plus 'Saudade' and the moving words by Lhasa de Sela that gave the film its title. It is a captivating and emotional listen.


SNOH AALEGRA - Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies (Artium)
by Lee Paul

'Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies' is Snoh Aalegra's third LP and a worthy follow-up to 2019s 'Ugh, Those Feels Again'. Temporary Highs is another adventure in Snoh's trademark, scorchingly slick contemporary, hip-hop adjacent, RnB. The hurting here feels pretty adult. Tyler, the Creator is on hand to reinforce the devastations... You might be forgiven for asking, are the temporary highs worth the near 10 years now of terrible relationships spun out over three LPs? I'm still having trouble forgiving Vince Mensa for his behaviour on - 'You Keep Me Waiting' from her 2017 debut, Feels.

Although, that remains one of the greatest pop singles of the decade. 'Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies' here are punctuated with moves more crushing than "a stranger's hand on my favorite dress..." Here are the guys with the destructive touch that Snoh bares with good grace and a knowing fuck you - it's gonna be your loss. The dreamy qualities insidiously take you. It's an LP of many, many irresistibly high emotional lows, beginning with Indecisive, before sliding into Lost You, a nothing is simple, and nothing is straight, and nothing ever is forever, song for sure. That's just for starts. But Snoh eats when she needs to. 

DEE GEES - Hail Satin (RCA / Roswell)
by Spanish Pantalones

Quarantine was a challenge for Dave Grohl.

ANCIENT CHAMPION - Music Inspired By The Museumgoer of Baton Rouge, Louisiana (OLRE)
by Spanish Pantalones

There’s a playlist I shuffled together made up of a small collection of songs that are more atmospheric than rhythmic. They’re subtle, hypnotics grooves that I listen to when I need to magically come up with 1,000 words within an hour before Lamont’s strident midnight deadline. I keep that playlist tight and sleek; it’s meant to drown out the world and focus by unfocusing. I just added Ancient Champion’s 'The Cure' to that playlist, it’s one of the strongest songs off his latest LP, 'Music Inspired By The Museumgoer of Baton Rouge, Louisiana'. The eleven-track LP is a thick brew of dub, classical, art rock, carnival fare, punk, and drone-y minimalism. No vocals, but the Champ doesn’t need ‘em. The music stands on its own and expresses what he’s thinking through tones and patterns. Sidenote: I interviewed the Champ earlier this month titled 15 Questions with Spanish. Click here and read all about it.

MUCK SPREADER - Abysmal (Brace Yourself)
by Lamontpaul

We've talked about the first track we heard from the Muck Spreader's 'Abysmal', (Would He), a while ago. We liked it then and still like it. 'Abysmal' continues in a similar vein. There's a vibrant, demanding UK scene of loosely gathered I guess, talking punk jazz bands - sounding like they're tearing the pages from the Saccharine Trust, Universal Congress Of playbook, and why not. So sure, you know this is happening, you now know what it sounds like without listening, but you might not know that what's happening is just happening here with more verve, more sturm und drang and more humor, and more Joe Baiza than Vivian Stanshall. And... Muck Spreader are the sound of Vivienne Westwood. Pretty brilliant from beginning to...

Other Materials

by Lee Paul

File under One that got away from us earlier this year. "You think you don't deserve it, But you are so damn worth it, baby..." Amber Mark never shirks from exposing her exposure to her emotions, which in itself can be exhausting for any person. Sheltering, if you can do it while waiting for the storms to pass, can be easier maybe. Never disconnected, with Worth It, Amber offers a beautiful and heartfelt uplift for us all, and an animated machine learnt R'n'B which can't contain her voice. Hold on, help is on its way. If you're a going-outer type in the UK Amber will be performing at the Lafayette in the UK in August.

ALLISON RUSSELL - Outside Child (Fantasy)
by Lee Paul

Outside Child came out a couple of months ago and well I just don't know what we were doing that we missed it. Recorded in Nashville, it's got that lovely gentle Nashville swing to it. But mainly of course it's got Allison Russell, her soul on her sleeve, her voice effortlessly mainlines its way to whatever's left of your heart and defibs it. The record does have a bit of the cavalcade of stars to it. Yola is on there, more besides. But this is just one of those great records that reaffirms if you mean anything it is a great time to be alive.

Main Image: Laura Nyro youtube screengrab

Jay Lewis
Reviews Editor

Jay Lewis is a Birmingham based poet. He's also a music, movie and arts obsessive. Jay's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.

about Jay Lewis »»



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