Inside/Outside – A Review of Sid Stone’s Uplifting Isolation Mixtape

Inside / Outside comes from the studio of The Clash, but Stone’s no chip off the block.

 

Fresh, compelling artist Sid Stone has recently released his new single ‘Better Alone’.

Stone, originally from Somerset, released ‘Better Alone’ as part of his accurately named mixtape Inside/Outside, out now on Hotspring Music label.

The captivating new single was recorded in Mick Jones’ studio in North Acton. The thoughtfully created song was born out of a collaboration with Joy Anonymous, his close friends, and Fred Again, who has previously worked with the likes of Stormzy, Headie One, and Halsey.

Sid posts on his Instagram that “the world is filling me with despair and uncertainty at the moment”, but the whole album Inside/Outside is “inspired by ISOLATION”. Despite this, Inside/Outside actually boasts a mixtape which offers a stirring, optimistic set of songs, none of which made me want to wallow in how absolutely rubbish life can be at the moment! Despite Sid saying on Instagram that his mixtape is “not super cool trendy hype music” – this much is true, Sid is no Drake or Doja Cat, but what he offers is so much better, in my opinion.

 

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‘Better Alone’, his debut single, preaches the power of being alone, as Stone fits into a new life of quarantine. “No need to answer my phone / she’s always taking the last of me” – these lyrics feel as if Stone might be talking about ending a toxic relationship. But, it also feels as if the ‘she’ Stone alludes to, could be referring to social media and it’s demanding presence in our everyday lives.

I really enjoy this interpretation of ‘Better Alone’; the justification of taking a step back from the online world in order to enjoy the world around us as much as possible. ‘Better Alone’ presents a chilled out jazz-inspired, piano powered paean. Along with Sid’s laid-back vocals, makes for a great lead single. The handclap beat behind the vocals and the pub-Esque background noise, speak of a time left behind, whilst simultaneously offering a glimpse of hope for the future.

Sid’s video for ‘Better Alone’ is even more of a reflection of the suddenness of lockdown than the album itself, with half of it filmed inside, half outside due to the rapidly-changing restrictions inflicted by Coronavirus. The video begins in The White Horse pub in Shepherd’s Bush, full of people. These familiar settings are contrasted with a colourful hand-drawn animation by the talented Laura N-Tamara of Sid being thrust into outer space. As he comes back down to earth, the pub empties and clears, the music cuts off and is interrupted by an audio clipping of a news report on the effects COVID-19 will have on the country. The video feels like a throwback to years ago, despite it being only March, and resumes the music from “inside” rather than “outside”. Personally, I love this visual representation of the halting of life, and how Sid has chosen to present it.

It is undeniable that Sid is really quite clever when thinking out how to present his work. ‘Sid Fm’, a piano-led song, is interlaced with the crackle of radio and the far-away sound of the vocals offer an indie feel to the track. Meanwhile, ‘Styx and Stones’ slows the mood of the mixtape right down, as distorted piano and lo-fi beats match the lyrics perfectly. This song is one of my favourites of the EP. It features allusions to the Greek mythology of the river Styx, mixed with the commonplace feeling of striving to be better but feeling the struggle to do so.

The dreamy, ‘Now I’m Alone (At Mick’s)’ begins with far-away sounding vocals, and the background noise of a door closing, as Sid’s vocals fill the room, “West London lights / I’m moving on through / and now I’m alone”. For me, personally, this evokes the eerie feeling of walking through London on lockdown, the lights are all on, and everyone is home, but this time, no one can leave. Then, another sound of a closing door echoes, as if the listener has left the room. The song ends – a very clever ending indeed. ‘Through The Air’ is backed by what my dad would describe as ‘elevator music’, a ‘tinkly’ sounding synth-style background, but I feel it fits perfectly with Sid’s tangled, almost gravelly lyrics. The final addition of the guitar riffs, makes every audible element come together perfectly, for another zen track.

The mixtape comes to its conclusion with ‘Know Well’, another chilled-out, far-off drum charged song, sprinkled with brass and a bass guitar. “It won’t be long / until I see you in a place I know well”, allows the listener to hear the crucial words they need, during a time when people are separated from their loved ones. ‘Know Well’ has a really delicate blues edge to it, but Sid’s addition of bass and uplifting vocables spins it upward into an enlivened sound.

Sid has doubtlessly created the perfect mixtape to listen to in the sunny (or indeed rainy) evenings of lockdown. This collection of songs, with his “dishevelled yet eloquent” vocals, soothes the mind and soul and is the perfect antidote to the quarantine blues. I feel so strongly that Sid will make waves in 2020, and look forward to his new creations.

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