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Outsideleft Week in Music We're hearing from Billy Nomates, Nick Cave, Megan Thee Stallion, The Wedding Present, Paul Weller, Alan Vega, The Horrors, Fela Kuti, Discodor, Sofia Kourtesis, Jane Birkin, Baby Queen, Dinsoaur Jr and more...

Outsideleft Week in Music

We're hearing from Billy Nomates, Nick Cave, Megan Thee Stallion, The Wedding Present, Paul Weller, Alan Vega, The Horrors, Fela Kuti, Discodor, Sofia Kourtesis, Jane Birkin, Baby Queen, Dinsoaur Jr and more...

by Jay Lewis, Reviews Editor
first published: February, 2021
The Horrors have never steered us in the wrong direction before

The sun may have started to shine but this hasnt meant that the Week in Music team have taken a break from sifting through stacks of new releases in order to go out on some ponderous walk. No, we've been as busy (if not busier), than ever in letting you know what's worth listening to. Are you sitting comfortably, then we'll begin...


SINGLES


PAUL WELLER
Cosmic Fringes
(Polydor)
Fans might want to be seated when they listen to Paul Weller's latest single, "Cosmic Fringes." It's the bewildering leadoff single to his forthcoming LP, Fat Pop (Volume 1) due May 14. Upon listening, you'll be besieged with processed drums and synthetic keyboard pulses (consider this your warning). If you can get through that, you'll recognize Weller's chord progressions and biting lyrics, but not much else. About Fat Pop (Volume 1), Weller says: "It's a celebration of music and what it's given us all. No matter what situation you are in, and we're in one now, music doesn't let you down, does it?" (Eh, sometimes it does.) I won't write Lord Weller off yet because of one single -- the album might be great, who knows -- but "Cosmic Fringes" is a somber reality that the flame that burnt for his brand of soul and R&B may be extinguished. --Alarcon


THE HORRORS
Lout
(Wolf Tone/Virgin)

The Horrors and I go way back. I first fell in love with them during the summer of 2006 on their debut single, "Sheena Is a Parasite," a 2-minute and 42-second tornado of cacophony and revved-up post-punk chaos. The Essex five-piece has since dabbled in shoegaze, garage sludge, gothic rock, pop, and bits of electronic music. But make no mistake, "Lout" (the precursor to their forthcoming EP of the same name due March 5) is full-tilt industrial along the lines of Rammstein and KMFDM. The sound will stun old fans, but The Horrors have never steered us in the wrong direction before. --Alarcon


SOFIA KOURTESIS
By Your Side
(Technicolour)
Has spring just suddenly arrived? Has everyone gone back to taking photographs of clear blue skies on their daily walks and posting them online? Is there a record that can soundtrack this splendid optimistic moment? The answer to those first two questions is 'possibly'. As for the third, then let me hand you over to Berlin-based but self-confessed "travelling bedroom producer" Sofia Kourtesis whose global encounters are intrinsic to her sounds. 'By Your Side' is an intoxicating percussive dance track that will drag you further across the globe than your daily walk has the power to. And as for that burst of horn section just after the two-minute mark? That may be the most uplifting sound of the year so far. -- Jason Lewis


DINOSAUR JR.
I Ran Away
(Jagjaguwar Records)

I've never been the biggest Dinosaur Jr. fan in the world. Oh sure, I loved the hits -- "Freak Scene" and "Start Choppin'" were wonderful, but you can only listen to J. Mascis and his caustic, over-amplified guitars for so long before the headache sets. If "I Ran Away"  is any indication of how his forthcoming LP will sound (Sweep It Into Space arrives April 23), maybe Mascis felt the same way. And for that, you can thank the album's producer Kurt Vile for a thoughtful, evenly-produced J. --Alarcon


BACHELOR
Anything At All
(Polyvinyl Record Co.)
Upon reading Bachelor's press release for their new single, "Anything At All," I already know what they sound like. --Spanish Pantalones


DISCODOR
Ascension
(Wonderful Sound)
The critically acclaimed Discodor, post a decamp to the South of France, I am anecdotally informed and so, believe, as really what else is there to do? Get to their second single of 2021 already. When an artist begins with great graphics you know you're onto something. Discodor's Ascension is an instrumental giant sum of small pieces. Vibe and instrumentation... Vibe and instrumentation... Space and Air... Space and Air and a few histrionics. I love the bass and the drums and the woozy wah-wah and the overall control. It's a gentle, thought-through, flowing piece for sure. Let's say, not unwholly redolent of where Air comes from. In every sense magical and an unmissable tune this week. Do listen. Look here's link to make it easy for you. -- Ancient Champion


GREEN DAY
Here Comes The Shock
(Reprise)

I heard elements of two Clash songs and one Buzzcocks song in "Here Comes the Shock" within its first minute. Derivative nonsense. --Spanish Pantalones


ALAN VEGA
Nike Soldier
(Sacred Bones)

As is so often the case, the original is Still the best. Nike Soldier is the first track from the forthcoming 'lost' Alan Vega LP, Mutator. A lost Alan Vega is something to celebrate although, I mean how do you 'lose' an album? Nike Soldier is the first track from the LP. I love the '70s synth start, paintbrush sound sweeps, autumn's leaves in the wind, the doom-laden, grey clouded vocals menace, threats, violence, the darkness in the soul's heart. Sound like a mad scientist amalgam, Joy Division meets Depeche Mode, and then a haunting slice of Scott Walker, deep in his dark, dark, soul thrown in to drop you into a dystopian vision of today, somewhere near you, Alan Vega lurks in the shadow influencing everything ever since. -- Toon Traveler


MEGAN THEE STALLION
Southside Forever Freestyle
(Atlantic)
Megan Thee Stallion raps through long verses over garden-variety beats as she flexes about her Houston roots, her lavish lifestyle, and dissing her haters. Megan suffers from a lack of personality, which rappers like Roxanne Shante and Missy Elliot always had, but right now, Meg has momentum and a great publicist, and in the world of pop music, sometimes that's enough. --Spanish Pantalones


BILLY NOMATES
Heels
(Inavada)
Billy Nomates brings a repetitive semi-electro beat with a great riff running through the song. Billy Nomates voice is knowingly confident, with the hint of something dark to come, or something survived distant memories of a past apocalypse, or the threat of one to come, environmental, political, medical. The phrasing: redolent of a modern Grace Jones, words semi-sang, semi-spat in contempt. Some great lines on hugging tree, and the saving the whale and the enviro hypocrite in us all. Full length available soon. -- Toon Traveler


HALF WAIF
Party's Over
(Anti)
A B-Side issued with a video from what I can gather. I love the purity of the voice and the Asian feel to the backing underpinning the Party's Over. It's angular, slightly disjointed, but the voice of Half Waif is pure, poignant, pensive, somehow captivating, echoing the... Ahh-ahh-ahh's could have come from that great performance artist -- Laurie Anderson, but then the voice floats and I'm imaging if Joni Mitchell abandoned jazz and takes up performance art. Seriously. -- Toon Traveler


BAD VISUALS
Closing Doors
(Streaming)
Swamped vocals, hints of dismal wetness between the sun and rain. Strangely reminiscent of Coldplay, that guitar sound? Perhaps, the structure, may be. It's well played. Shadows with dimmed light, not frightening, no sense of terror, more the sense of waiting for the sun to wipe the clouds away, and sweep into a sunny day. But for me the clouds, just clouds. Keep the blinds down. -- Toon Traveler


JANE BIRKIN
Oh! Pardon tu dormais...
(Kachalou/Barclay)
(Lights Gitanes. Voiceover.) Chanson is an outfit one puts one when you are "being like that." Aloof, sensual but not exactly sexual, intellectual but flighty. You have that one jacket reserved for it. All those things Serge Gainsbourg embodied. I caught myself thinking Jane Birkin's comeback (it is a comeback, nest-ce pas?) was being like that until I remembered she was and is that. Plus, I wandered the office halls humming "Cigarettes" just now in mildly ecstatic ennui, a remove from the peur americaine, so the record works. Ballad of Melody Nelson, non, but what is? --Alex V Cook


STEVE VON TILL
The Emptiness Swallows Us All
(Neurot)
Taken from the forthcoming long player, A Deep Voiceless Wilderness, "The Emptiness Swallows Us All" reaches inoffensively with a great start for some very '70s synths. Delusions of grandeur...? Sounds like Tangerine Dream in their almost pop-dance phase. Steve Von Till slows down, it's slow and haunting, with hints of spring after the blizzard, and a slow awakening from enforced hibernation, the sun rises over the icy pond, a bird on the wing, for a full-on experience upload a version of "The Hunters return" a fantastic capture of survival and dashed hopes. -- Toon Traveler


DAYGLOW
Something
(Very Nice)
Inoffensive, bouncy pop, de-de-de da-da-da '80 synth sounds, Casio keyboards tribute -- good for breakfast radio, school bag pick up, tie straightened, car remote unlocked, smiley toothy wave to partner at the door, radio on and this fills a dayglow space? -- Toon Traveler


SPEED THE PLOUGH
Soul To Keep
(Soundcloud)
Lovely call and response arrangement easing us towards the slightly 70's guitar middle eight, best bit of the song. Like Malkmus meets the Band! The harmony vocals are strangely enticing and keep me listening. There's a great and unusual laid back groove to the instrumental passages, the guitar is just perfect for drifting and daydreaming. Here's one I'll listen to more than once this week. I enjoyed this. -- Toon Traveler

WALLICE
23
Following on from the anthem to unrequited friendships of "Punching Bag", LA singer Wallice sings of the delusions and uncertainties of youth, the feeling that everything will be better when you are just a little older and wiser, unaware that you only feel more lost as you move on. "23" is a delicious blend of West Coast indie, Gen-Z ennui and classic pop. The earworm chorus and harmonies ensure this will stick with you, along with clever and witty lyrics, as Wallice describes how she misses her "Ohio fake id" and dropped out of jazz school "just for fun". The general lyrical mood reminds me of "24" by Game Theory, another West Coast act whose ennui soundtracked an earlier generation. Where Scott Miller mused "I get around, but I don't get closer, is it because I'm 23, not 24?", Wallice similarly bemoans her own stagnation, "same old nothing every day, too old to be a runaway". As she mourns her receding youth she also seems prematurely nostalgic for a future that might never appear, with three bedrooms, a dog and a partner she forces to "get a job" Mixed in with this musing is an acknowledgement that the "best of my years are still to come". We all hope that, and it's certainly true for Wallice. --John Robinson


KERO KERO BONITO
The Princess and the Clock
(Polyvinyl)
Old childish innocence, slightly playful voices. This music has lots going on in the back what with those quirky electronics. The overall effect sounds like I'd imagined '90s Japanese pop. But Japanese pop was real. Kero Kero Bonito not annoying, not a hard listen, not too much there. It's play, pass, and you're unaware the song is over. -- Toon Traveler


BABY QUEEN
These Drugs
(Polydor)
The songs' themes around drugs are very powerful. The self-loathing, the doubt, the sense of helplessness, forget "the Drugs don't work" -- this is a way more powerful be aware, and realize what you lose, according to Baby Queen. It's part of yourself, and from other people, podcasts, radio, Louis Theroux, it sounds real, who cares if she's been clean all her life, there's pain and self loathing there, one a lot should listen to. -- Toon Traveler


EPs


JOSHUA HENRY
Hold Me
(S-Curve/BMG)
Hold Me is from Joshua Henry's March 4th EP, Guarantee. What you get here is fake low volume intro -- makes you turn sound up, (old Virginia Plain trick ) worked with me, so turned up! Great, great pop single. "Hold Me" is warm and passionate, JH's voice reminds me of Terrance Trent D'arby, and nothing wrong with that. A great voice, falsetto and pained, passionate and pleading. He's really got something. Would I see him live? Too bloody right, I can think of a couple of clubs he's singing a storm in. The band is tight as shrink wrapped glue pack. -- Toon Traveler

(and stick around for his take on James Brown)


LPs


NICK CAVE AND WARREN ELLIS
Carnage
(Goliath Records)

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' Carnage is out now on streaming platforms, with a CD and vinyl release in May. Read Alex V Cook's full review here --Alex V. Cook


THE WEDDING PRESENT
Locked Down and Stripped Back
(Scorpitones)
"The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the Rock 'n' Roll Era. You may dispute this, but I'm right and you're wrong!" (John Peel, September 1999)

Peel was, of course, right and if there are still any lingering doubts, then this lockdown enforced reinterpretation of some of The Wedding Present's finer moments should put the record straight.

The charm of 'A Million Miles' and the loss of 'My Favourite Dress' still feel achingly sincere. There's warmth and maturity brought to the previously dark corners of 'Seamonsters' ('Blonde' and 'Crush'), but best of all, is Melanie Howard's vulnerable and pained rendition of 'Sports Car,' which is the most heartfelt moment here. -- Jason Lewis


JOHN COLTRANE
On Impulse: John Coltrane
(Impulse)
I have no idea what this is, On Impulse: John Coltrane. It's branded like it's part of the Impulse at 60 series. But maybe my search techniques are only the best in my house and maybe not world-class because all of the info I can find seems to relate to other Impulse at 60 releases. Is this maybe an online sampler assembled for/by Spotify? It's got a Feb. 12th release date. No reviews. Solve this mystery. It's hours of amazing music and you can hear it here -- Lee Paul


REISSUES


Fela Kuti
Confusion (Edit)
(Knitting Factory Records)
Chopping down any of Fela Kuti's lengthy epics into accessible radio/playlist-friendly chunks may seem like acts of blasphemy. I may sympathise, but "Confusion" is such a significant song in the Kuti canon, that if you're going to discover its raw brilliance via the funkier cut-down six-and-a-half-minute version then so be it. And if you succumb to its magic, then the full 25-minute original is there to indulge in on the flipside.

In its unedited glory "Confusion" builds from a dark atmospheric beginning (Kuti's solo organ is so reminiscent of 'Riders on the Storm' in parts), before Tony Allen's scintillating Afrobeat drumming prepares the fevered setting for one of Kuti's most wide-ranging tirades against the shortcomings of Nigerian authorities. Whichever version you choose to explore, "Confusion" is a remarkable record. -- Jason Lewis


ODDITIES & OTHER THINGS WE'VE MISSED


A LOVE SUPREME ELECTRIC
A Love Supreme and Meditations
(Cuneiform)
Released last November, A Love Supreme Electric is Vinny Golia, John Hanrahan, Henry Kaiser, Wayne Peet, Mike Watt (Mike Watt on Thunderstick!) This massive epic, epoch of a record, melding John Coltrane's A Love Supreme and his Meditations with a 16th notes staccato barrage of electricity and what ifs? What if Coltrane survived cancer? What if he went electric? Henry Kaiser says he'd "known that Coltrane intended his Meditations to be a spiritual sequel to his A Love Supreme suite, the two suites really do fit together to actually be one two-part suite, where all the individual sections inform, deepen, cross-reference, and expand on one another, in both the musical and spiritual domains." And for an answer these guys are saying you've got 1 hour, 47 minutes, and 41 seconds to think about it. -- Ancient Champion


Main Image: Screen grab from the Billy Nomates video, 'No'.

Jay Lewis
Reviews Editor

Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason'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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