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Outsideleft Week in Music starring Tomberlin we're hearing from... Tomberlin, Mitski, Florence and the Machine, Laundromat, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Rex Orange County, Lion Babe, Methyl Ethel, Pierre Kwenders, St Cyrus, Vicky Farewell, Grace Ives, Steve Poltz , Joe Rainey, Brother Lee, Furtherset, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Girlpool, Springtime, Charming Disaster & Regina Spektor

Outsideleft Week in Music starring Tomberlin

we're hearing from... Tomberlin, Mitski, Florence and the Machine, Laundromat, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Rex Orange County, Lion Babe, Methyl Ethel, Pierre Kwenders, St Cyrus, Vicky Farewell, Grace Ives, Steve Poltz , Joe Rainey, Brother Lee, Furtherset, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Girlpool, Springtime, Charming Disaster & Regina Spektor

by Tim London,
first published: February, 2022

approximate reading time: minutes

It feels like this is the most important of important texts that has been thrust upon me in a while, Sarah Beth Tomberlin is the most mesmerising star.

Harder to the hear music this week.

SINGLE OF THE WEEK

TOMBERLIN - Happy Accident (Saddle Creek) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite
by Lee Paul

Tomberlin's Happy Accident lumbers into our hearts with gorgeous lumpy mumbling electric rhythm guitars and retrograde self-expressive lead licks... It's urgent; it's entropic; of course; it's slickerly slackery rock; it gazes deeply at the shoe. It is also endearingly perfect; it's musically deficient. "What’s the point of this if i know how it ends..." It feels like this is the most important of important texts that has been thrust upon me in a while, and so I just must press repeat; often. Sarah Beth Tomberlin is the most mesmerising star. There's just enough of a glorious edgy yelp in her voice. It's a voice that impugns. Are you listening? I don't like this kind of stuff but I love this. It's damagingly exciting. I am going to have to reappraise everything.


SINGLES

BROTHER LEE - Mountains (Dime) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Ancient Champion

Brother Lee seemingly never ever rests and the restless and languid acoustic gaze of the new track, Mountains, recorded at a rented apartment in the South of France (is bro' lee living my life or what?) is a gorgeous paean to that sort of post psychedelic country folk that can't be given up on especially when it sounds as gorgeous as this. From the first draw across the strings, with insidious yet straightforward guile, Brother Lee's Mountains evaporates into floaty, mildly climactic alto cumulus clouds. Overhead. The early splish splashes of iconic Dylan-y 60s sonics  gives way to the thinnest of chiming thinline's. Like fishing with the correctly weighted line, with a beautiful float and mercifully catching nothing all day. For once, all is not lost, Brother Lee reaches out so plaintively, so powerfully, in the most eloquent moment in music this week; "I'm still your man." 


FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE - King (Polydor) ZERO favorite_borders
by Tim London

The return of Florence Leghorn... If Celine Dion played Glastonbury.


LION BABE - Harder (with Busta Rhymes) (Lion Babe) favoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Lee Paul

Lion Babe. I'm always thinking it's about to begin, the vocal comes in, Busta Rhymes comes in goes out, the song comes and goes. I pushed harder just like I was told. And then I felt it. Like a moment under water. 


STEVE POLTZ - Can O' Pop (Red House Records) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Toon Traveller

Steve Poltz offers his witty insights from life on the American Margins. Love the States', name checks for Montana, Louisiana, and Savannah.  Anyone who gets a great rhyme out of those three gets a merit for that alone. Jerky, jumping percussion, sorta tex-mex, semi Latino, a good groove, spliced through with a few glorious slide guitar licks. Love the whole life, love, and a wife discovered on the road storyline. A life lived in the delights and 'what ever comes', living in the moment, that all those life coaches seem to eulogize over.
 
Can O' Pop is a track from Steve Poltz's 14th LP, Stardust and Satellites. The attraction? A lifestyle, here today, gone tomorrow, travel, sleep, beer slurp, jump a train, sleep in the rain, no day ever the same. A groove we all want, but in our hearts we're too scared, too safe, too tied, down. Kerouac's - ON THE ROAD, a wanna be bible for so many Middle Class, Middle aged, Middle Happy baby boomers updated in song? Hints at life we feel we've missed, and shoulda done, rather than that gap year in Costa Rica. A song all us middle aged dreamers who want to "jump a downtown freight" from Albuquerque to Kansas City, but realize we'll just fly the plane instead, and no mistake THATS ME TO A TEE, and yes i did read 'On the Road', and listened to Woody Guthrie's dustbowl songs.  I'm sure that's all in Steve Poltz's imagination, and sounds good BECAUSE Steve's got the same wistful day dreams, and rose tinted memories, and same 'tied down in Tulsa'  'bound up in Brooklyn' 'sold out in Sacramento', feelings we all have in our secret hearts. 


LAUNDROMAT - Combo (Brace Yourself) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Lee Paul

Laundromat take the time to deconstruct six string pop music and that makes for a pretty rewarding listen. The unhinged guitars in particular are very entertaining. Like Blur having a row in the studio and throwing their toys out of the pram. And Laundromat have such a lovely name too. This Combo's cool.


JOE RAINEY - no chants (37d03d) favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Tim London

Fear soothes some people - experienced soldiers, I presume. I am not soothed, I am a little frightened, as much as a recording of any song not by Charles Manson can make me.


PIERRE KWENDERS - Heartbeat ft. anaiis (Arts and Crafts Records) favoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Tim London

‘Doo doo doo’ - if the Eurovision Song Contest was stoned on premium Californian Juna.


REGINA SPEKTOR - Becoming All Alone (Sire) favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Tim London

The epic sadness of the well fed American who owns their own flat.


SPRINGTIME - The Names of the Plague (Joyful Noise) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Alex V. Cook

Perhaps fitting that I had on one of the later Yes albums when word of this song hit*. It was nature abhorring a vacuum and filling it with dirt. 15 minutes of it. Springtime is the confab of Gareth Liddiard of The Drones and Tropical Fuck Storm, Jim White of Dirty Three and Xylouris White, and freakout guitarist Chris Abrahams. The suite starts a vague arabesque, morphing into a laser feedback sermon to the assembled dead. If Yes' name is the answer to the question of whether they should add one more part, and that is how band names work, then Springtime is not the season, but the sense of being sprung, catapulted at the wall, released from the cage, born into the bright and cold. By the 10-minute mark, the band is all fawn-legs on the ice in abstract wandering until the meteor hits in the reprise, a doomsday ballad subtle as the Book of Revelations. A Guernica of racket, this one. 

* I was also informed of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces at this same moment, so processing that kind of grand hubris and how it will be processed here in US, if it will even be processed, factored. The monstrous opening of a sealed book like that as I listened to Liddiard howl about the names of the plague, feels grimly prophetic. It is stupid and calloused to work an invasion into a record review, and in that, this song is the counter to the stupid and calloused. It will rasp those old dead nerves back to life. Springtime is here. Get ready to feel it.  


METHYL ETHEL - One and Beat (Future Classic) favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Toon Traveller

Unsure what to make of One and Beat from Methyl Ethel's fourth LP, Are You Haunted? It sounds and feels like one of the mini operas that used to 'chart' in the late 60s, a slow melancholic first act, pain and despair, angst and melodrama. A poodeling around middle eight, tempo change, finale, anthemics. Sounds at times like a less commercial more heartfelt  'Enya', everyone's favorite 90s mystic Celtic soul sister. This has hint's of those sensibilities, but there's a bit more heartfelt passion and integrity. I hear, too, hints in the phrasing, notes of Scott Walker, especially in the early passage, that's fine. The 'empty church' production feel, matches the song so well. There's a lot going on, and it's a grower, not in the earworm sense, as you may find, repeat plays revel hidden notes and melodies that move sympathy in my cynical heart.


VICKY FAREWELL - Kakashi (All of the Time) (Mac's) favoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Tim London

Microphones mean that singers no longer need to sing out. They aid crooners and… whisperers. But singers still need a song.


GIRLPOOL - Dragging My Life Into A Dream (Anti Records) favoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Tim London

It’s the credits at the end of episode two of a humorous thriller series on Netflix. You’ll only get about 15 seconds of the chorus before episode three starts but you’ll get the idea.


REX ORANGE COUNTY - Amazing (Sony) favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Lee Paul

Love Rex Orange County's brand of easy, latter day yacht rock. He is an undoubted genius. Remember when he sang to us, "Loving is easy, You had me fucked up" Audacious. Amazing is the second single from his forthcoming Who Cares LP. Came out on Valentine's Day I think. Amazing is about the getting together. Never easy to negotiate at any age. Rex OC looks like a contemporary young person. Has that look, right at home playing a gig at the local sports and social club or at Wembley Arena. Like he lived on camera. But not in a cynical Truman way. Way too self aware for a young person though. Probably get himself on a psychotherapy undergrad course and eventually make a great life coach, since, he is one already. Great! Just needs to be credentialised by old people who know better.


ST CYRUS - Sink or Swim (Philophobia) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by John Robinson

Wakefield based label Philophobia, about which I have previously written an article here, continues to impress with a diverse and eclectic range of releases. St. Cyrus is singer-songwriter Chris Charlton, who records indie-rock with power-pop hooks as well as more folk oriented material, as on previous songs such as "Firebomb" and "Away" from his previous self-titled set. On Sink or Swim he is singing about his childhood with his Grandad, a Scottish salmon fisherman. The driving guitar is straight-ahead folk-rock, Chris' voice reminiscent of Conor O'Brien, the effect something like the Decemberists in their more upbeat moments. His lyric is nostalgic, as he sings of this larger than life man who "knew the art of sink or swim", but who could not swim. Backing vocals lift the chorus as he states, almost as an intent, that he has "catalogued some things that spring to mind": memories of a childhood in Lunan Bay. This is a touching song, a tribute both to a family member and to the importance of all our childhood memories.


GRACE IVES - Loose (UMG) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Tim London

Walking, late, to a job interview. Needing confidence.


EPs

FURTHERSET - Auras (-OUS) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Toon Traveller

For once, a press release drew me in, and the music does not disappoint. Delicate flutters, butterflies on the wing, on your skin, or the distant throb of helicopters, ahh that's for you and your imagination to determine . This the perfect track one of the best shows on BBC radio "Nightwaves" BBC R3  23:00. Everyone needs a little Nightwaves in their life And everyone could do with a little Furtherset in their lives too. Renaissance glories, tastes of a romanticized past, hints of harpsichords, whispered flutes, ethereal cathedral choirs, aural chambered comforts, now electronically reinterpreted. Music that somehow, despite the electro style and tricks, studio dubs, and keyboard flicks, STILL sounds like a town square in Tuscany, and that really is this music's delight. Despite, or because, of technology, this slice of electronic meditation reflects the place it's used, and composed not where it's binary source code was developed.


LPs

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono (Atlantic) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Alex V. Cook

I love when people cover Yoko Ono songs (Galaxie 500's "Listen, The Snow is Falling" for instance.) because they are doing it from a place of aggressive warmth. There is a certain culturo-contrarian zeal in declaring any of her music listenable to a world heavily invested in declaring them not-so. Everybody's Favorite Band Yo La Tengo makes a number of appearances personally (esp. the narco-"Wimoweh" reading of "Who has Seen the Wind?" with David Byrne) and in tenor. This is a snuggle up record for the most part. Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields) delivers the goods with a read of "Listen", natch, though I'm surprised Sufjan Stevens wasn't roped into this. Japanese Breakfast continues to astound, and Amber Coffman's ghostly "Run Run Run" is a heartbreaker. Everybody is bringing their A-game, even Flaming Lips, though there is nothing close to a freak out anywhere on this album. Deerhoof’s wild romp through the consent anthem “No, No, No” is as close as we get to racket. Which, sure, Yoko has some good songs, and we are in a time where prettiness is at a premium, but to ignore the abrasive side of Yoko Ono’s music seems overly editorial, maybe a little patronizing. Yoko help bring the id to popular culture, knowing full well they would not be into it.  Give me some rage-psychedelian ripping a hole in space-time with a cover of "Why." Someone be a fly on a nipple for a while.  A conceptual turntablist "destroying" a Beatles record. She's a lady of peace, but not contentment.


SARAH SHOOK AND THE DISARMERS - Nightroamer (Abeyance Records) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Alex V. Cook

I play with a musician whose head is permanently attached to a Sarah Shook hat. My wife has her on frequent repeat. She is everywhere in my life, so open the screendoor  and let her honky tonk into your parlor. She leans more bartender than tender, even on her wrenching ballads like the title track, and they make contact like a baseball bat on the twangier numbers, such as "No Mistakes." This record is more polished than the 2017's exquisite Sidelong, but you skip a stone across a pond enough times, it's bound to smooth up a little. The country revisionist might dub this a little too polished, but then they would, wouldn't they? Tell them to write a song as good at "Stranger" and I'll consider their point.


HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF - Life on Earth (Hurray for the Riff Raff/Nonesuch) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Alex V. Cook

Long worn away is Alynda Segarra's train-hopper folk patina, for they are bronzed and digitized by the world that made them. Their vocals unfold like a neon fan against the Kate Bushy rattle and roll of "WOLVES" and they are Debbie Harry cool on "PIERCED ARROWS." This is a pop record, even more so than the stunning The Navigator from a few years back. "RHODODENDON" is so urgent, like they are plugged direct into the drum machine. "LIFE ON EARTH" is an airy piano number plunged in digital gauze with a little New Orleans brass and clarinet peeking through. Honestly, I thought it might ruin the humanity that gets me about Riff Raff, but instead, the production is clear signage and adequate lighting guiding you to the adult emotion on naked display. 


MITSKI - Laurel Hell (Dead Oceans) favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_border
by Erin

Laurel Hell is... Reviewed by Erin, here


CHARMING DISASTER - Our Lady of Radium (OWN Records) favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite_borderfavorite_border
by Toon Traveller

Wow, listening to Charming Disaster's Radium Girls, a tribute to the young women who were poisoned by their work painting watch dials with luminescent radium-based paint, from the forthcoming LP Our Lady of Radium it's clear Charming Disaster offer a real surreal slice of weirdness. The instrumental backing could be straight outta Frank's Wild Years. There's dippy whistling, and slightly off-kilter slightly out of time vocals. Then when your firmly in a Tom Waits groove, a vaudeville vibe skips through, early 40s US music, and later a hint of The Kinks, in their "Village Green Preservation Society". Love the far away start, slightly off time percussion, not drums, not cymbals but something undefined. Inside the tune, there's a mixed up, mashed up, backing sounds, with swoops into other feels and sensory sources. The darkness and then again just sheer slow burn wistfulness. It's still a dark take on the world. 


Essential Info
Main Image: Tomberlin by Michelle Yoon
Last Week in Music featuring Murkage Dave

Tim London

Tim London is a musician, music producer and writer. Originally from a New Town in Essex he is at home amidst concrete and grand plans for the working class. Tim's latest thriller, Smith, is available now. Find out more at timothylondon.com


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