Rumer: B-Sides & Rarities

Photo: Kevin Westenberg

This odds and sods collection finds the Karen Carpenter-esque Rumer making these soft rock/pop classics largely her own.


B-Sides & Rarities

Label: Atlantic
US Release Date: 2015-02-10
UK Release Date: 2015-02-10

Already sounding of the era, it’s only fitting that Rumer’s B-Sides & Rarities is made up largely of ‘60s and ‘70s soft rock and singer-songwriter staples. Her crystalline, impeccably precise vocals are perfectly suited to the slick arrangements and performances associated with this particular era and style of pop music. And since so many of these songs were and are lovely to begin with, if not necessarily critically revered, her loving renditions simply serve to reaffirm their overall pleasantness.

Her take on Christopher Cross’ “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” deviates little from the original, remaining close in both form and arrangement with Rumer sounding as ever like a slightly more assured Karen Carpenter. Giving the song an even smoother (if that’s possible) take, Rumer’s voice is better suited to the material than Cross’ in that hers is a voice in possession of a certain level of weightless effortlessness that feels unhurried, unforced and completely natural. It’s an immensely pleasing and calming voice that manages to toe the line between beauty and pastiche.

Similarly, “Sailing” is slowed even more than the original, given a balladic reading that manages to sound just that much more profound than Cross’ somewhat silly lyrics and delivery would have most believe. Given the level of ironic detachment and loosely- defined enjoyment afforded these so-called “yacht rock” songs over the last decade or so, it’s refreshing to hear someone approach the material with a sort of wide-eyed wonder and earnestness that carries not a trace of irony.

Rather than using the songs as the basis for humorous interpretation, Rumer approaches these songs as someone who feels them deeply and wishes to do them justice. In this approach, she’s far more successful, imbuing her performance with a level of reverence not generally afforded such ephemeral pop fluff. It’s a refreshing take that allows these songs to be heard again for the first time.

Taking on a pair of Bacharach/David compositions in “Hasbrook Heights” and “Alfie”, she proves herself a deft interpreter, capable of a level of subtle nuance in her phrasing that would no doubt make the composer proud. Notoriously tricky arrangements and atypical in structure, Bacharach/David compositions have long been a favorite of many artists, but rarely are as successful as they are here. “Alfie” in particular, with its melodic jumps that tend to trip up lesser performers, is delivered with the same pleasant effortlessness as nearly everything else on the album.

While much of the material itself can be somewhat hard to take seriously (especially “It Might Be You (Theme From Tootsie)”), the casually reverent way in which she approaches these songs makes it hard to adopt an even remotely jaded stance. Rather there’s such a genuine affection inherent in her performances that it’s clear this is the era of pop music in which she finds herself most comfortable. It’s little wonder then that these songs could just as easily have slotted into her most recent collection of original material. In the hands of a lesser interpreter, it would be nearly impossible for these songs not to border on the parodic.

While many of these songs have been done nearly to death (does the world really need another version of “Moon River” or “Here Comes the Sun”? Turns out it does), Rumer manages to inject enough of herself into fairly tame arrangements to make them worth checking out. With a voice as pure as hers, it’s extremely difficult to find much in the way of fault. Her reading of Randy Newman’s “Marie” in particular is nothing short of heartbreaking.

The collection is not without its flaws, however. “Separate Lives”, a live duet with Stephen Bishop, sounds more like a contemporary Christian anthem than a soft pop classic. While their voices manage a relatively pleasant pairing, much like Karen Carpenter, her voice is best served solo or in tandem with itself (see her unlikely take on Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel”). Wisely, the only other pairing on the album, a lovely rendition of “That’s All”, finds Rumer accompanied only by Michael Feinstein on piano.

By no means essential, B-Sides & Rarities is a fine stopgap release for those already enamored of Rumer’s previous releases. Fans of soft pop/rock, singer-songwriters and musicians who place greater focus on subtlety and nuance in their performances will find much to like here.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.