Xander Smith

Xander Smith

Xander Smith



With such a dearth of truly prolific singer/songwriters on today’s music scene, it is refreshing to connect with Xander Smith and his wistful sophomore effort, Outside, which was co-produced by himself and Mike Harrison as was Smith’s first solo record. Frontman for Los Angeles-based indie rockers, Run Run Run, Smith once again slides into the solo world with a ten-song, acoustic-based collection of Simon and Garfunkel/Nick Drake-inspired, Jack Johnson-flavored folk gems boasting catchy hooks, inspired melodies and haunting strings. In addition to lead vocals, Smith plays a variety of instruments including guitar, piano and bass, not to mention glockenspiel – the troubadours love the glock!

The intriguing aspect of this record, which actually boggles my mind (in a good way), is the inclusion of many notable musicians, among those Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, Tom Chapman, Phil Cunningham and Jack Mitchell, all connected to Joy Division and/or New Order, and even to Johnny Marr. I never would have imagined the 80s synth pop kings teaming up with a folk singer, but here you have it – and it works.

Kicking it all off is “Say Anything,” a breakup song that smacks strongly of Simon and Garfunkel and incorporates the funky sounds of a mellotron as well as Bernard Sumner on backing vocals and melodica. Following on its heels is another track about parting ways, “Until Always,” with its New York backdrop, drum-driven beat, and a touch of Smith’s glockenspiel thrown into the mix – So sad I saw you, So mad I saw you, so bad don’t want to say goodbye now.

The doleful, cello-driven, French-horn accompanied “Spiders” is followed by “Seventeen,” a teenaged cry for help – But if you think that nothing is the matter I know you’re just not listening. Heavy subject matter aside, there is a steady, upbeat flow.

“99” touts the all-too-familiar, coming-of-age tale about leaving home with mixed emotions. Kara turns up the “paint it black” so Fresno knows that she’s never coming back… Kara stares at the dotted line she cries all night as we drive down 99 .

With its Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” guitar style, “Washington Square” adds a slice of countrified acoustics with additional pedal steel.

In the vein of a Johnny Cash-fueled groove and despite its drunk-driving anthemic tone, the peppier “Didsbury Bound” bounces right along, while the title cut, “Outside,” looms with its ominous acoustic theme and bleak outlook.

Without a doubt, the most moving aural coup is “Lullaby,” with its full orchestral arrangement, ethereal cello and lyrical hope of love and simple pleasures overcoming the ugliness in the world and the adversities of life. This has been played and replayed (and replayed again) by yours truly.

Wrapping up on a brighter note is the acoustic guitar/cello-based love ballad, “Leilana,” followed by a short bonus piece, “Valencia Girl,” with its Hawaiian-tinged, ukulele-colored spirit.

Smith has created a spectacular batch of nuggets with “Outside,” both musically and lyrically, and with Herb Alpert as his mentor, it is not surprising. This one is a thumbs-up all the way.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Tom Tom Club
    Tom Tom Club

    The Good The Bad and the Funky (Nacional). Review by Julius C. Lacking.

  • Barnes & Barnes
    Barnes & Barnes

    Pancake Dream (Demented Punk Records). Review by Carl F. Gauze.

  • Jeremiah Lockwood
    Jeremiah Lockwood

    A Great Miracle: Jeremiah Lockwood’s Guitar Soli Chanukah Album (Reboot). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Metallica: The $24.95 Book
    Metallica: The $24.95 Book

    From an underground band that pioneered the thrash metal sound, to arguably the biggest rock act in the new millennium, Metallica has had a long and tumultuous history. Ben Apatoff scours a myriad of sources to catalog this history in his new book.

  • Araceli Lemos
    Araceli Lemos

    Shortly after AFI Fest 2021 wrapped, Generoso spoke at length with director, Araceli Lemos about her award-winning and potent feature debut, Holy Emy. Lemos’s film uses elements of body horror in her story about the exoticization of two Filipina sisters living in Greece and how that exploitation creates a distance between them.

  • Southern Accents 55
    Southern Accents 55

    A woofin’ good time with cuts from Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Delta Moon and more from KMRD 96.9, Madrid, New Mexico!

  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

    Absurdism with a healthy dose of air conditioning.

  • Mixtape 172 :: My Old Bassist
    Mixtape 172 :: My Old Bassist

    Like pre-teens throwing every liquid into the kitchen blender and daring each other to drink the results, Woody and Jeremy fuse all manner of sounds legitimate and profane into some murky concoction that tastes surprisingly good.

  • Demons/Demons 2
    Demons/Demons 2

    Synapse Films reissues Lamberto Bava’s epic ’80s gore-filled movies Demons and Demons 2 in beautiful new editions.

  • Sylvie Courvoisier and Mary Halvorson
    Sylvie Courvoisier and Mary Halvorson

    Searching for the Disappearing Hour (Pyroclastic Records). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

From the Archives