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Outsideleft Epic Week in Music We're hearing from... Courtney Barnett, Little Simz, Manic Street Preachers, JPEGMafia, Bob Marley & The Wailers, TORA, Kanye West, ABBA, Usain Bolt, NJ, Johnny Marr, Nico, Charli XCX, Gregory Isaacs, Iron Maiden, The Vaccines, Pink Floyd, Space Afrika, Nite Jewel, Diane Warren, Rita Ora, Sofia Reyes, Reik, New Order, Gorillaz, Kat Von D, Common, Black Thought, Seun Kuti, Olivia Rodrigo, Jelly Cleaver and Selena Gomez

Outsideleft Epic Week in Music

We're hearing from... Courtney Barnett, Little Simz, Manic Street Preachers, JPEGMafia, Bob Marley & The Wailers, TORA, Kanye West, ABBA, Usain Bolt, NJ, Johnny Marr, Nico, Charli XCX, Gregory Isaacs, Iron Maiden, The Vaccines, Pink Floyd, Space Afrika, Nite Jewel, Diane Warren, Rita Ora, Sofia Reyes, Reik, New Order, Gorillaz, Kat Von D, Common, Black Thought, Seun Kuti, Olivia Rodrigo, Jelly Cleaver and Selena Gomez

by Alarcon, Founder / Managing Editor
first published: September, 2021

approximate reading time: minutes

Courtney Barnett's I'll Be Your Mirror, from the new Velvet Underground covers collection...


COURTNEY BARNETT - I'll Be Your Mirror (Verve)
by Spanish Pantalones

As far as Velvet Underground covers go, this isn't the best or the worst you'll ever hear. If the Cowboy Junkie's "Sweet Jane" is a perfect 10, Barnett's "I'll Be Your Mirror" rates around a 6, out-of-tune folk guitar and all. Maybe the whole of the tribute LP this single is preceding by three weeks (I'll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico) will fare better? All that said, young guitarists should listen to this single, if only to note how one can still be a part of an album released by the prestigious Verve Records despite clumsy guitar playing and half-assed vocals.

PINK FLOYD - Learning to Fly (2019 Remix, 2021 Edit) (Parlophone Records)
by Katherine Pargeter

Ah, a week after 'Let it Be (2021)' here comes another re-evaluated, remixed, stripped back record.  It's the popular music equivalent of a kid that has to redo their homework because they went off on a strange tangent and didn't answer the question properly.  

Here, Gilmour, Mason, and the ghost of Rick Wright apologise and mumble something about 'will this do' as they hand in their second stab at one of their post-Roger Waters numbers.  Unsurprisingly it is as stultifyingly dull as it ever was.   An entire album of this silk purse/sows ear 'product' will be available next month.

by Ancient Champion

Well, Common has been great forever. Given. When We Move with Black Thought and Seun Kuti is a massive intercontinental slap.

JPEGMAFIA - Trust (Republic Records)
by Tim London

A thought fragment, leaking from the brain of a young man sitting next to you on the bus. ‘I’m not chasing plaques’ states Mr JPEGM (AKA Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, which is a much better name), so we know he’s not on a sight-seeing trip, chasing down Broadstreet to look at Jasper Carrot’s pavement memorial. He seems relaxed about life, which makes a change for an American rapper. A bite-sized breeze. Refreshing. This is a man who released an album called Communist Slow Jams which is a refreshing name. But it seems he’s a bit anti-Jewish which just rots everything.

THE VACCINES - El Ps (Super Easy)
by Katherine Pargeter

Here's a tip. If your single opens with lines as clankingly wrong as
'You Take Bad News/Like You're Shooting Up Heroin' it's probably not best to make one of those 'lyric' videos.

This may be the only time that I'll ever be anti-Vaccine.

USAIN BOLT, NJ - It's A Party (A-Team Lifestyle)
by Tim London

Tropical! It’s a party! The girls are getting narly! The kind of tenuous ghost rhyme that puts my mind in a spin! Scratch a runner and you’ll find, apparently, writhing about beneath the skin, a red coat enabler at a cut-price Caribbean resort, the sort you worry about. A very thin separation between this and The Birdy Song won’t stop some lively interviews that will see Mr Bolt have a long and fruitful career as a chat show interviewee.

TORA - Put Down Your Phone (Lustre)
by Katherine Pargetere

One can only assume that whatever it is that is on her phone is far more exciting than having to put up with TORA's miserable song. 

JELLY CLEAVER - Forever Presence (Part 2) (Gearbox)
by Lee Paul

A product of the burgeoning London Jazz scene, Jelly Cleaver... release the first track from their November EP also called... Forever Presence. The lazy, late night vibe makes this perfect for late night listening. Lovely.

OLIVIA RODRIGO - brutal (Geffen)
by Spanish Pantalones

There's potential in Olivia Rodrigo. I like the Wendy James/Courtney Barnett influences, but I hesitate to do any research on her, nor do I want to listen to anymore of her music. As it is, I already know too much: She's a Disney Kid and she's from Murrieta, California (those who've been to Murrieta know). My suspicion is that the rest of the LP "brutal" comes from is disappointing. If this kid can find a good producer who knows how to make new music sound old (like a Mark Ronson), she has a chance to rise from being another failed teenage actor/singer. 

JOHNNY MARR - Spirit, Power and Soul (BMG)
by Lee Paul

Johnny Marr, looking more and more like Lux Interior looking in a mirror and seeing Shakin' Stevens looking back at him and pulling that face that anyone would if they saw that. From the forthcoming double LP, well four quarter LPs which make up a Fever Dream. 'Spirit, Power and Soul' is especially notable for Johnny's 9 pick up Stratocaster. Surely a Cronut of a guitar for a cronut of a guitar player? No one has done what Johnny Marr has done with a guitar. I turned the volume down. Play it quietly and it has those Smiths cadences you didn't care about. Altogether great for Johnny Marr fans.

SELENA GOMEZ - 999 (Interscope)
by Spanish Pantalones

Color-by-numbers soft pop, by another former Disney Kid who is far more talented as an actor than a singer. I'm watching her right now in Only Murders in the Building with Steve Martin on Hulu, and I can confirm that it's much more interesting than "999."

CHARLI XCX - Good Ones (Atlantic)
by Spanish Pantalones

Another case of a singer putting more effort into their image than the music, which is shocking considering Charli XCX's last LP (how i'm feeling now) used some interesting sounds and production tricks a couple of years ago. At least "Good Ones" video has a slight veneer of sexual appeal, which these days is all that matters anyway. 

ABBA - I Still Have Faith In You & Don't Shut Me Down (Polar / Universal)
by Spanish Pantalones

ABBA had it all. They made perfect pop songs that pop groups can still only aspire to. They were Swedish. They were Sweden's biggest export. They proffered the pragmatists pop albums that you played at home during family get togethers. Something for everyone to hate I often thought while putting the record onto the turntable. Then they stopped. And everyone began to like them. Maybe as much as anything thanks to the efforts of Meryl and Pierce. Alarcon gets to grips with their return, reviewing their new tracks and new plans, here.

by Tim London

If CSN&Y were a group of chipmunk voiced young women willing to remove most of their clothes to promote their latest release plus an estate agent on a nice LSD trip (guessing that’s Reik) then… oh, I can’t, the images this throws up are too painful. Let’s stick with the track. It’s a lilting attempt to corner the 20 second soundtrack bite in a holiday programme, as a retired couple from Berkshire try not to fall over on a beach in Portugal as they decide whether to buy their forever bungalow in a gated community of people Just Like Them. Sunshine in a disinfectant bottle.

NEW ORDER - Be a Rebel (Remixed) (New Order Limited)
by Katherine Pargeter

You know how New Order used to survive through their lean periods by living off the warmed-up bones of remixes of their much-loved songs? This is similar, but with the 'much loved' bit removed.


GORILLAZ - Meanwhile (Parlophone)
by Spanish Pantalones

With Notting Hill Carnival cancelled for the first time since its inception in 1966, Gorillaz decided to give their propers to the annual August bank holiday festival by dashing off an EP featuring Jelani Blackman, AJ Tracey, and Alicai Harley. Damon Albarn and his other Gorillaz capture the spirit with three songs infused with calypso, dub, dancehall-lite, topped off with a pop veneer. But is Meanwhile good enough make up for Ladbroke Grove's lack of festivities this week?


NITE JEWEL - No Sun (Gloriette)
by Spanish Pantalones

Considering I played the fuck out of her first two LPs, I wanted to fall in love Ramona Gonzalez’s latest, No Sun. Alas, as she’s spent more time in the studio, her records have become more sophisticated, which is fine, but I miss the uneven charm of Good Evening -- tape hiss, muddy vocals, and all. The polish of No Sun makes sense though: Gonzalez is currently in pursuit of a Ph.D. in musicology at UCLA, where she teaches Audio Technology. That said, there’s such a thing as knowing too much when it comes to technology in recording studios.

MANIC STREET PREACHERS - The Ultra Vivid Lament (Columbia)
by Spanish Pantalones

When did it happen? When did the Manic Street Preachers wiggle their way into being universally accepted as an interesting band among music scribes and fanatical rock fans? The Ultra Vivid Lament floats mightily through the choppy seas of mediocrity with generic, paint-by-the-numbers singles like "The Secret He Had Missed" and "Orwellian" – utterly toothless and without edge or verve. If Richey Edwards is indeed living off the grid, The Ultra Vivid Lament ain't gonna bring him out of hiding.

GREGORY ISAACS - Gregory Isaacs Dub Versions (Vinyl Cut) (Tads)
by Lee Paul

I was noting that while Dylan is about to release his 40th studio album, Gregory Isaacs has released something like 125 LPs over a similar period. Here TADS reissues 2014s (I think) Gregory Isaacs Dub Versions (Vinyl Cut) - quite beautiful and lovely songs for a perfect double LP collection. Even heavier than Kanye's effort this week, weighing in at 20 songs and nearly two hours if you are a value shopper. If sumptuous is a word we can still use, should be applied to this great and immersive collection.

LITTLE SIMZ - Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (Age)
by Ancient Champion

Little Simz 4th LP, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, is so great, it's gonna need more than a paragraph here to let you know how important it is that you go directly to your vinyl fetish or streaming store and listen hard. Shop hard. You've already loved the great pop singles, Introvert and Woman. And now the sublime Point And Kill ft. Obongjayar. Featuring the greatest motorcycle handlebar accoutrements you'll find in a pop video this year. That much I know. Check out Little Simz Tiny Desk concert available this week too. More and more to come from Little Simz. She is on a different level right now.

VARIOUS - Music For The Eagles (Nyege Nyege)
by Ancient Champion

Nyege Nyege Records grew out of the Kampala Club Nights they'd been hosting a few years back and we first encountered the label documenting a certain East African underground sound when we encountered the thunderous power of the band Nihiloxica in 2018. Music For The Eagles is sort of soundtrack to a the latest Soundcloud 'Scenes' short film documenting the sounds emanating from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Music For The Eagles is an unparalleled collection of these nations, underground. And guess what it's not always still the 1970s in Africa. 

KAT VON D - Love Made Me Do It (KVD/Kartel Music Group)
by Spanish Pantalones

I’ll admit that I didn’t expect a light pop album from Kat Von D. Considering the tattoo artist inked herself with the logos of Slayer, Guns N' Roses, AC/DC, HIM, Misfits, Turbonegro, and ZZ Top (presumably among others), I was expecting her debut LP to sound like clumsy Skinny Puppy-meets-Motorhead disaster. Instead, Love Made Me Do It hops from dream pop to frantic ‘80s New Wave, and synthy, Industrial-lite disco. Overall, the LP sounds OK for what it is – disposable pop for the mall goths who loiter around the local Hot Topic.

by Hamilton High

Here at last, without the authors' permission?

IRON MAIDEN - Senjutsu (Parlophone)
by Spanish Pantalones

If you liked Iron Maiden's first 16 albums, which have been spread out over the past 40 years, you're probably going to enjoy the Senjutsu, as well. No judging, it just sounds like everything else they've done... no nuance.

BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS - The Capitol Sessions '73 (Tuff Gong)
by Spanish Pantalones

You know. The whole world knows. And you don't need me to tell you. But I will. Tuff Gong is putting out the Capital Sessions from 73. And the Wailers were already what they were to become when you traveled the world and their music came out of every bar from London to Lagos to Laos. Sublime melodies and I always cry at Bob Marley leaving way too soon. Emotional.

SPACE AFRIKA - Honest Labour (Vinyl/CD/LP)
by Tim London

Tim London gets the interstitials with Space Afrika. Full LP review, here

Other Materials

NICO - I'll Be Your Mirror (MGM/Verve)
by LamontPaul

Todd Haynes' Velvet Underground movie debuted at Cannes in the summer and now it's ready for release through cinemas and Apple TV. Todd Haynes has taken an iconoclasts approach to big musical beasts in the past, and we can't really contain our excitement about VU although it does kind of look like a VH1 doc from back in their day with added grainy. Meanwhile, ah-here's a companion piece to Courtney Barnett's I'll Be Your Mirror, Nico's I'll Be Your Mirror with footage from Andy. See the OUTSIDELEFT preview of Todd Haynes' Velvet Underground, here.

Main Image: Courtney Barnett video still

Founder / Managing Editor

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.

about Alarcon »»



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