1. The Cure | Plainsong
This is my favourite album opener. It sounds like no one else but The Cure. The wind chimes sound ecstasy. It’s so sad yet so beautiful and euphoric at the same time. It also reminds me of snow, it has a really isolated wintery feeling to it, which to me makes it a really intimate listen. The production is so important on this record too as the unfamiliarity of it draws you towards it and envelops you inside it. You can happily nod your head to a catchy tune, but the really refreshing production on all Cure records make you feel like you’re in their world. It takes you out of the chaos of real life. It’s a beautiful form of Escapism.
2. The Shadows | Wonderful Land
The Shadows are the first band I remember falling in love with. Jet Harris, their bassist for a brief time, was my first real hero. He was blonde and cool, I was short and awkward, Jet was something to aspire too. Other than superficially, they’ve been a huge influence to my own music, this track in particular as I don’t think I’ve heard a more pure and beautiful guitar sound. Hank Marvin really made his guitar sing, there’s every emotion you could want from a song within his melodies. I used to watch footage of them daily from my dad’s video collection when I was maybe 5 or 6. I had a tiny green plastic toy guitar I used to hold while mimicking the shadow’s famous signature footsteps.
3. John Maus | Hey Moon (Molly Nilsson Cover)
John Maus’s cover of Hey Moon is spine tingling. When the high synthesiser line comes in, it’s like a whole world of Space and Sound has been opened up that you didn’t know existed. It’s also the kind of track that takes you to a really specific place, wherever you are, at whatever time it is when you listen to it, immediately in your head you’re alone in the dead of night. That’s the kind of track I’m always trying to write. I want people to relate my music to vivid moments, colours and landscapes in their heads. This John Maus track does that for me, it’s mesmerising every time.
4. The Flaming Lips | Race For The Prize
This sounds like a really messed up archaic Disney track. I love everything The Flaming Lips have put out. They’re always pushing their own boundaries, which is the most admirable thing a musician can do in my opinion. I saw an interview about The Soft Bulletin album where they said just because they didn’t have the budget to record an orchestra, they didn’t want that to limit them sonically. I really appreciate that approach. My album is effectively a bedroom recording, but we use that perceived limitation to create a swathes of washing sound from heavily effected keyboards and guitars that sound like our own warped Symphony Orchestra.
5. Vangelis | Heaven And Hell, 3rd Movement (Carl Sagan: Cosmos Original Soundtrack)
Vangelis is my favourite composer, and this is the piece that introduced me to him. I’ve always been interested in Space, so when I was 18 I was drawn to the Carl Sagan series Cosmos. It’s an incredible TV show, but as soon as I heard the opening theme music I’ve been obsessed with Vangelis. His music has a wonderfully Classical feel to it, but at the same time it’s progressive and Futuristic. I love that juxtaposition, it’s a wonderful way to appreciate everything that’s inspired your music, but not do it the disservice of simply recreating it. I’ve always thought that it’s the privilege of a songwriter or musician to try and develop and progress the Art and the industry. In my eyes, people like Vangelis have done this, and I thrive to do the same.
6. Serge Gainsbourg | Melody
I’m a big fan of Pop Music. It’s the music I love and make, but I feel like it’s often overrun by cretins, phoneys and the living dead. Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire De Melody Nelson is the kind of Pop Music that interests me. It’s a really bold album and this song is just one of many amazing moments. Jean-Claude Vannier worked with Gainsbourg on the record and the arrangements and orchestration he contributes make it truly one of a kind. I’ve never heard another album like this one, it’s so focused yet free. It’s basically a concept album, but in no way pretentious or irritating while the metaphors and themes never ware thin. I suppose the reason why this is one of my favourite tracks is it’s confidence too. It’s so unafraid to be slightly obscure and Minimal in places. It does nothing to compromise its goals. It’s perfect.
7. The Tornados | Telstar
When I started to produce my own music, Joe Meek was immediately who I thought of. Everything he touched had an otherworldly quality that rumbled and twanged with character. It was hard to single out one track of his, but Telstar is definitely one of the most exciting tracks I’ve ever heard. He was an engineer and actually built a lot of his own equipment, so it’s not surprising that all his work sounded so unique and hallmarked. He’s someone who I can definitely say has influenced all of my music. I think there’s probably a trace of him in every track I’ve ever recorded. We’re always thinking about what Joe Meek would do with particular parts and nuances on my tracks. I’ve tried to inherit his thought process of trying to make each sound individual and bespoke to the track, taking nothing and recycling no sounds from elsewhere.
8. Cocteau Twins | Heaven Or Las Vegas
Cocteau Twins are one of my favourite bands, this is probably their most well known song, but it’s also my favourite. There’s a beautifully fluid and organic aspect to the melody which tells a story much more vividly than even lyrics could. I love the dreamy quality to the production, it’s like a hazy memory full of spectrums of colourful light dancing around the vocals. It’s the kind of track you can swim in. It’s just the most enjoyable sensory experience. A true gem.
9. Gustav Holst | The Planets, Op.32: IV. Jupiter, The Bringer Of Jollity (Played by The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Conductor: Charles Mackerras)
There’s not too much I can say about this one, other than I used to have a Comic book that came accompanied by this piece when I was younger. Whenever I hear it, it takes me right back to the house I grew up in. As soon as I hear that flurry of strings at the beginning I can recall the scent of the pages and the texture of the artwork that was printed onto the accompanying CD. Any song that has that power must be special, but any song that can give a 9 year old a passion for Classical Music must involve some kind of sorcery.
10. The Beatles | Tomorrow Never Knows
When I was 14 I lived deep in the countryside of the midlands in England. I remember deafening myself with this song in summer when all there was to do at weekends was to walk through the surrounding fields. When the manipulated and reversed laughter comes in at the start I remember the feeling of my head spinning around the sound? I felt like I needed to duck to avoid an imaginary swarm of low flying birds in a V formation just above my head. It’s such a journey of a song, it grabs you by the jugular and I always felt physically moved by it, like I had been altered by it somehow, even enlightened. It’s the most powerful song I can think of.