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Outsideleft Week in Music Self Esteem, Graig Wedren, Shannon & The Clams, Big Thief, Jeremy Dutcher, Sara Schoenbeck, Parquet Courts, Saint Etienne, Larkin Poe / Nu Deco Ensemble, The Wild Swans and The Beatles

Outsideleft Week in Music

Self Esteem, Graig Wedren, Shannon & The Clams, Big Thief, Jeremy Dutcher, Sara Schoenbeck, Parquet Courts, Saint Etienne, Larkin Poe / Nu Deco Ensemble, The Wild Swans and The Beatles

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

approximate reading time: minutes

There is no stopping Rebecca Lucy Taylor and co...

"What a week for music" - Jay Lewis


SELF ESTEEM - How Can I Help You? (Universal)
by Jay Lewis

There is no stopping Rebecca Lucy Taylor and co. at the moment! The third track from the forthcoming 'Prioritise Pleasure' is drum-led dynamite. Imagine Gwen Stefani's 'Hollaback Girl' relocated to Rotherham and delivered by someone expressing '...34 years of anger and frustration at the hands of you men...'

Having released two of the best singles of the year (' I Do This All The Time' and 'Prioritise Pleasure' ), 'How Can I Help You?' is a lacerating swipe at both the misogyny and objectification of women that she's encountered (I'd hazard a guess that this is both inside and outside the grim world of music). And, as with all her work, it's a remarkable piece of pop music.

The album, 'Prioritise Pleasure' is released on 22 October on Fiction records.


SAINT ETIENNE - Penlop (Saint Etienne Limited)
by Jay Lewis

Saint Etienne always were in a  much smarter league than many of their Nineties contemporaries. The second single from their forthcoming 'I've Been Trying To Tell You' album shows that they still have that ambition to explore new territories. 'Penlop' is a five-and-a-half-minute cinematic adventure, built on shuffling beats and ambient keyboards, Sarah Cracknell's dream-like indecipherable vocals only arrive halfway through, and then, my word, the drama unfolds. It's quite breathtaking.

The album 'I've Been Trying To Tell You' is released on 10 September, followed by a tour in November.

GRAIG WEDREN - Are You Not Your Feeling (Tough Lover)
by Toon Traveller

For the first time, I listening to the Youtube adverts, many much better than some of the bands...

But not in this case, Craig Wedren, from Shudder To Think, brings Are You Not Your Feeling... Opening with a solo guitar, and angelic harmonies and lovely simple melodies, country sounds, flutters, and poppies dancing to the Breeze's tune. This is a perfect tune for a summer's day, evoking rolling hills, swallows swooping, and a pigeon's call. A tune that takes you away from the city, full of hope and wistful dreams. Complacent? Yeah is sure is, in another time-another place, yeup, but it's better, lovelier than where we are. Forget the Mosh Pit, and the crowd surfing with this free yourself song that's an antidote to the fake minimalist miserablism that so many love to feel, this is just a sit back, relax and smile song. Go to it.

by Toon Traveller

I love the gospel, revival intro that sounds like a street band singing their praises in a small southern states town sans bible punching, red necking, yeehawing, banjo twangers. There are echoes of that mix of southern rock, alt-country, and blues.  I love the feel and the beat, which I can bet sounds great at a festival with a little sun and beer, or in a solid wooden bar, tables & glasses thumping in rhythm.  This is a great feel-good, pick-me-up music, this is hope in a few chords, love, and compassion, in the high notes, swings, and sways. Love the raw voices keeping it live and real, this is a great band, I wonder if they're on tour anywhere near my hometown anytime soon? This is a song to escape from those dulled days, escape into the open spaces of the wide-open roads, the blue skies, sunbaked road signs, they're all here for me in this song, all that's needed are the lonesome whistles of a lonely boxcar in the New Mexico desert night. Great!

JEREMY DUTCHER - Ghost House (Transgressive)
by Toon Traveller

Earlier this year, Transgressive reissued American-Canadian composer and activist Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s 1986 masterpiece  Keyboard Fantasies, on the 35th anniversary of its original release. In December, he will release Keyboard Fantasies Reimagined - a collection of songs from the now legendary album, re-worked and re-imagined by a collection of creative kindred spirits. Jeremy Dutcher's interpretation of Ghost House gets going with a slow minor-key piano intro. A pained voice over the piano reminiscent of Scott Walker in his rarer manifestations, Antony and the Johnsons for modernists. Both can be heard here, pained souls, alone and conscious of the choices that got them to this point, the tears in the singer's voice spilling out of the laptop screen. 


PARQUET COURTS - Walking at a Downtown Pace (Rough Trade)
by Jay Lewis

The opening track from Parquet Courts' forthcoming (seventh), album is a much looser, even funkier number than we're used to. They've mixed more dance music into their musical palette and cited Talking Heads and Primal Scream's 'Screamadelica' as influences. Although Andrew Savage is in fine voice, it's the rapport between Sean Yeaton's bass and Max Savage's nimble drumming that makes 'Walking at a Downtown Pace' so exciting.

From the opening line, 'I’m making plans for the day all of this is through...' you can sense that the band are keen to get their lives back on board after lockdown. Savage may be reflecting on reflecting on regrets but the music is pushing forward to something different.  Add to that the chaotic Manhattan nightlife of the accompanying video to show that there is cautious optimism in the air.

'Walking at a Downtown Pace' was debuted when the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps walk through downtown New York City. A handful of other (international), events are planned before the album, 'Sympathy for Life' is released on 22nd October.

BIG THIEF - LIttle Things / Sparrow (4AD)
by Hamilton High

If there's such a thing, a double A-side single. Well, two songs really Adrienne and her supersonic pals have put together. The first totally new Big Thief music since 2019s Two Hands. Sparrow is the mellower, darker of the two. Beautiful, maudlin-y, gently magnificent.

THE BEATLES - Let It Be (2021 Mix) (Calderstone Productions Limited)
by Jay Lewis

So is this it then? After the final mixes, demos, and outtakes of the final Beatles album are put on sale can we call time on this whole repackaging of everything that they ever did? Please, can this be the end?

I'm loath to quote John Lennon, but he had a point when he said that: “The Let it Be recordings were the shittiest pieces of shit we ever recorded." He was trying to justify giving the tapes to Phil Spector to make sense of, but slapping syrupy strings over the project only made matters worse. The messy legacy of what followed has been extensively documented and other attempts to right those wrongs ('Let it Be ...Naked' anyone?) just show how underwhelming the original recordings were.

Giles Martin does a decent job of cleaning up the title track, although the live version of 'Don't Let Me Down' and the early mix of 'For You Blue' are undemanding.

Even as an (otherwise), Beatles completist I'm not convinced that I can find room in my life for the forthcoming 5CD deluxe edition of the album ( or even Peter Jackson's lengthy 'Get Back' documentary). I'll pass. 

SARA SCHOENBECK - O'Saris (Pyroclastic Records)
by Lee Paul

O'Saris is the first track from the forthcoming self-titled full length from Sara Schoenbeck, due in October. A 'bassoon pioneer' ('The Wire'), it's no surprise then that the upcoming album spotlights the diversity and range of the bassoon! Each track on the album is a duet featuring some of Sara's favorite people to create music with. Wilco's Nels Cline is among the number of musical luminaries here. “Collaboration is so central to my musical life,” Schoenbeck says, “that when I was offered the opportunity to record as a bandleader I wanted to make a bit of a survey of the people that I've loved playing with and have made an impact on my musicianship.” O’Saris, was written for Sara's partner the drummer, Harris Eisenstadt. The two have been performing the piece throughout much of their two-decade history... O'Saris is spare, sparse, and spatial. A last post for love. Like nothing else will ever matter.
from Toon Traveler - who can't let this one go...
Wow I don't usually read the blurb in these reviews, do I really care if they grew up listening to their dad's collection of 80's Seattle thrash and the mom's alt-country, tex-mex sounds. Or they play an eclectic mix of whatever. But a Bassoon, as a lead instrument, in a modern setting NOW that grabbed my attention. If you don't know the bassoon  - think of it as a person called "Mildrid", or "Morag",  and dressed in Tweed, Rock, and Roll, or avant-garde jazz it ain't, TILL now..... The music starts with a sonorous deep throated swell, cows lumbering, a dull misty sunrise, but then moves, upscales to reveal delicacy, fragility, tenderness. An underscored elegant percussion sets itself to a slowly stirring, morning stretching mood, splashes of cymbals, showers on a summer's day. This is a delightful unexpected piece of music, hard to genre-ize, but who cares, for anyone with an open mind, open ears, and open soul, this is a fabulous sound exploration. Who knew an instrument so overlooked, the quiet one at the back of the class, had so much to say, and say so delicately. I loved this more with each play. It is wondrous. - Toon Traveler.


SHANNON & THE CLAMS - Year Of The Spider (Easy Eye Sound)
by Spanish Pantalones

What more do you need to know? This is Shannon and the Clams...

Other Materials

THE WILD SWANS - Revolutionary Spirit (Cherry Red)
by Ancient Champion

Every time this gets thrown up somewhere or other I remember it as one of my favorite records of all time. Such hope, optimism, and ambition are embodied in the three minutes you get from these young men from Liverpool sometime around 40 years ago. I wonder how they feel, where they are now. Hope fades, or what?

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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