Throughout 2021, OUTSIDELEFT's Week in Music delivered an idiosyncratic array of opinions and comments on the records that reached us, and mattered to us and some that really didn't matter to us at all. Way too many titles to list here. Instead, throughout this week a totally randomized smattering of what we called Singles reviews. A mere 50 fab tunes revisited and reordered, from A-Z by song title!
SOME OF OUR BEST FRIENDS ARE SONGS
50 Singles from 2021: Magnificent - Satie
Elvis Costello and the Imposters
After a couple of French classes with Iggy Pop and Isabella Adjani, followed by a crash course with some of the finest Spanish-speaking vocalists, EC has returned to his vocal duties.
What this amounts to, alongside the visceral joy of his last couple of albums with the Imposters, is that Costello is finding ways to make this whole music-making shebang fun again. And 'Magnificent Hurt' is the best of this recent blast of brooding beauty and those sinister fairground keyboards from Steve Nieve make it all the more exciting.
(One Little Independent Records)
See, proper musicians don’t need to mime - they’ll play live and it will still sound gorgeous. Although there are moments during this video when it’s just Poppy’s head and shoulders and only the evidence of the piano hammers striking the keys to prove she’s not practicing her typing. I’m going to sit down and examine which strings are being hit by which hammers connected to which keys to make sure it’s really not Memorex. No, I’m not. This is presumably a musical painting of the murmurations of huge flocks of starlings that, when I see them myself, make me wonder whether life is just a psychedelic prank when comparing them to the more mundane things, like a squashed snail or dumped fridges. And it is, as Poppy smiles at the end, ‘the one’. Image. Captured.
The Linda Lindas
Punky powerpoppy new wave from Southern California's The Linda Linda's. Has a touch of the Redd Krosses about it and can be a bit Bangly too if you need references. But they're no revivalists. Half Asian / half Latinx. Two sisters, a cousin, and their close friend and massive, massive commercial appeal, surely. That's what's happening here. I Love it.
(Saint Etienne Limited)
Saint Etienne always were in a 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.
No, 'Prioritise Pleasure by Self Esteem' is not the title of a well meaning self-help article in a glossy magazine, (you know, the hefty ones that smell of umpteen perfume samples). No, it's much more important than that!
Rebecca Lucy Taylor and co. follow up one of the best singles of the year (' I Do This All The Time'), with a swaggering ode to moving out of the darkness and into the light. The percussion-led verses break into the fabulous juxtaposition of a gospel choir with a blast of electro noise in the chorus. It's a jolt to the system - a cry for release. And it's just a shame that the verse where Taylor breaks out the straightjacket guilt to find joy, defiance, and, err, pleasure won't get played on the radio.
The album, 'Prioritise Pleasure' is released on 22 October on Fiction records.
Ari Lennox creates joyous and generally sultry pop songs. They are the good ones. Pressure posits itself around an insouciant, classic pop hook, something you might pick out on the guitar, bass or piano while dabbling and never get it to sound as fresh, simple nor as lovely as this. Ari Lennox absolutely restores faith lost in rnb pop. Delightful.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Push The Sky Away
Taken from the B-Sides and Rarities thing that's going on. The poignancy and drama lent to an already gorgeous song by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the choral support is grounding. I can't fly while I listen. I can only cower in tears. How can music be this beautiful?
Ready For The High
The sound of a band. Doing band things in a rehearsal studio. They’re looking forward to going to the pub for a swift bottle of an amusingly named lager before catching the tube back to Wimbledon. Hold on, that’s The Wombles, not The Wombats. It’s all a bit of a waste, though. There’s time, wasted, listening to this. The waste of a horn section which they squeeze in before the end. The waste of the bass line from Air’s La Femme D’argent, which, admittedly, is 1960’s groovy bass line number five anyway. And the waste of the ambitions and desires of the bands that this band’s existence displaces. Or was that The Wombles?
Satie: Gnossienne No.3
Simone Dinnerstein is an extraordinarily gifted pianist. She may be best known for her delightful adaptations of Bach’s Keyboard Concertos, the rawness of her rendition of Purcell’s ‘Dido’s Lament’ with singer Tift Merrit and this year's performance of Richard Danielpour's 'An American Mosaic.'
Erik Satie may be far too familiar territory for some, but there is something so delicate and haunting about this interpretation that is so fresh and captivating.
(NB, as we're unable to locate any video of this, here's a clip of Simone working with another master of minimalism...)
Main Photo: By Elvis Costello performing live at Riot Fest in Chicago, 9/16/2012
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