First Impressions: B Sides & Rarities, Vol. 2 by Rumer

Certain voices linger in the soul in ways near impossible to put into print. In the case of British singer-songwriter Rumer, there’s a lustrous lushness to her timbre that, to my ears, is the aural equivalent of velvet—sometimes it’s plush, other times crushed or plain, yet it’s always silky smooth. At their best, such as on Seasons of My Soul, her songs resonate in much the same way as her vocals; at their worst, they’re eminently listenable.

As its title suggests, B Sides & Rarities, Vol. 2 is an odds-and-sods collection that gathers together two Into Colour castoffs (“Roses” and “Old-Fashioned Girls”), three This Girl’s in Love out-takes (“Anyone Who Had a Heart,” which previously was only available on the Japanese release; “The Windows of the World”; and an alternate take of “Wives and Lovers” that features organ player Rory More), plus two tracks left off of Boys Don’t Cry (Elton John’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” and Van Morrison’s “I Wanna Roo You”; the latter was released as a Christmas single in 2011, but now sports a different vocal mix). Other tracks hail from assorted projects, with a few (the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” and the Kathy Mattea cover, “Where’ve You Been?”) apparently recorded specifically for this album.

What’s remarkable is how, castoffs though they may be, the songs are as sublime as those that made the cut and, when placed together, they flow as if intended to share space together. In short, it’s a welcome return to the pop world after the country-pop excursion that was Nashville Tears. The songs do hew to the mellow side of the road, to be sure, but it’s the good kind of mellow.

One highlight is her rendition of “You’re the One” from Carly Simon’s Boys in the Trees LP, which she recorded in 2013 for a special project commissioned by Carly Simon herself. Another is her rendition of Elton John’s much-covered “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.” And another is her heartfelt interpretation of Kathy Mattea’s “Where’ve You Been,” which was co-written by Kathy Mattea’s husband Jon Vezner and Don Henry, and was inspired by Vezner’s grandparents.

And yet another highlight is the aforementioned “How Deep Is Your Love,” which makes me yearn for a Rumer Sings the Bee Gees tribute album. Imagine her dulcet tones delivering “Run to Me,” “Come on Over” and “If I Can’t Have You”—yeah, the mind runs wild at that thought, doesn’t it? The arrangement echoes the Bee Gees’ in part, but wisely eschews a karaoke approach. (That said, I do miss the Bee Gees’ harmonies.)  

I suppose I could blather on, but after a morning waiting in a car dealership’s service department and the typical Saturday errands, I’ll stop with this: At the end of your day, give this album a spin. It’s a wondrous set that should soothe even the most unruly of souls.

The track list:

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