Emily Saunders has crafted a reputation for cool, sophisticated songs blending Brazilian themes and rhythms with a clean, precise, almost Scandinavian delivery. On this, her second album, she includes electronic sounds and distorted vocals, moulding the typical Latin aesthetic to her own musical identity with great confidence. Saunders composes music and lyrics, and also produces, so has been able to build a soundworld both unified and unique. Her lyrics are much more substantial than is frequently the case in these genres: a slickly rhymed combination of dense, highly coloured imagery and intriguing biographical detail, they veer between the gnomically terse and almost squirmingly (psychologically) explicit. “Reflections”, for example, packs an extraordinary and suggestive quantity of detail into three short verses, the last of which, beginning “People say why high fly/ Pain impacted hatred high”, conjures all manner of psychological allusions without giving away any specific life detail. The lyrics to “Descending Down”, by contrast, have the bitter pang of autobiography, such as: “For life has the cruelest joke to turn you on your head/ To replicate one’s childhood ‘til you wish that you were dead”. Saunders’s lyrics work as (and begin as) poetry in their own right, which is not something one can say of much songwriting of any genre. Musically, Saunders is restlessly inventive but never self-indulgent. The swooping, distorted melody of “You Caught Me” captures the disturbing, all-embracing mind warp of infatuation (love - you hope not), while title track “Outsiders Insiders”, beginning and ending with brief, exquisite snatches of Byron Wallen’s free-jazz trumpet playing, is for much of the central section a spare, contemporary samba tune of unusually philosophical bent. It symbolises the range, depth and ambition of this highly impressive release.

Fantastic 4-star review of Outsiders Insiders from March 2015, courtesy of The Arts Desk.
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