1. Talk Talk | April 5th
My mother passed away on April 5th 2011. I’ve had a connection with Talk Talk for a long time; Spirit Of Eden is an incredibly emotive record, and it’s predecessor The Colour Of Spring - although much Poppier, overall - has some heart-stopping, contemplative moments too, such as this song. It’s particularly resonant now, of course.
2. Underworld | Dark & Long (Dark Train Mix)
They occupy the same part of my Musical Brain as Talk Talk, actually. In the same way Talk Talk pre-empted and informed Post-Rock in the 90’s, Underworld’s sound injected something otherworldly into Electronic Music, a warmth and soulfulness that moves me both physically and emotionally, that still sounds relevant today. This mix is a classic, Karl Hyde’s fractured lyrics floating over propulsive waves of sound. Getting to support them on tour a few years ago (as Silver Columns) was a dream come true.
3. Fun Boy Three | Our Lips Are Sealed
Perfect Pop - so many great wee hooks. That descending piano part, the close girl/boy harmonies, the subtle-but-spiky guitar line. The album version is only just over 3mins 30secs, but it’s worth it for the extra half-minute percussion work-out at the end. Produced by David Byrne, y’know. I really love the sweetness of the lyrics, and the vulnerability in Terry Hall’s singing.
4. Nathan Fake | The Sky Was Pink (Holden Remix)
It doesn’t really get much better than this. It almost feels a bit corny singling this tune out, because it’s such a massive reference point for so many musicians I know. Hypnotic. That experience of listening to it for the first time hasn’t left me a million plays later.
5. King Biscuit Time | I Walk The Earth
The Beta Band were a huge influence on me, and Steve Mason’s way with a melody always gets me hooked. The sounds on this song are impossible not to like; a baggy beat, handclaps, nostalgic 80’s synthesiser, driving guitar line, reverb-soaked vocals, juddering bassline. There’s something so relaxed, so effortless about it - and yet it’s still really insistent.
6. Tuff Love | Penguin
This band are a three piece from Glasgow, newly signed to my Lost Map label. For about four months or so their songs were like my own little secret; I listened to their 5 track EP over and over and over again, in my caravan. On headphones, eyes closed, lying on the couch; full blast through the Stereo while doing the dishes; on my crappy laptop speakers after a few cans of lager on a Friday night. The songs were in my head all the time. I was nervous about playing it to other people, 'cause I didn’t want anyone to not enjoy it as much I have! Everyone I have played it to has loved it, though, thank God. In fact, witnessing other people’s enjoyment of it has been a joy in and of itself. Penguin is the closing number on an EP of perfect, summery songs, and it makes my heart swell.
7. Loudon Wainwright III | The Swimming Song
I don’t know why, but there’s something I really like about songs that don’t try too hard. Songs that just exist, and that you can imagine were not the product of some arduous process. Just really relaxed songs. Most of Michael Hurley’s output gives me this feeling. And a lot of Loudon Wainwright’s stuff. It’s comforting.
8. Perfume Genius | Mr. Peterson
I was in a car crash a few years ago. We were in a small car, overtaking a lorry carrying massive logs, which tipped over on its side and nearly crushed us all to death. I was in one of the rear passenger seats, and had to push through to the front, the small of my back scraping on the shards of glass hanging from the front passenger window that I crawled out of. Our friends, who were in the car ahead, drove us in their car back to their house - and we listened to this Perfume Genius album on the way there, in stunned silence. Shaking. It’s kind of fitting, 'cause the songs on this album are like lullabies - really soothing melodies, but often about quite harrowing experiences. Mr. Peterson is especially sad, but beautifully so.
9. Beck | Jack-Ass
It’s a strange invitation. There’s something about Beck’s lyrical style that is often quite willfully dislocated and abstract … But it works so well. He has a way of conjuring such vividly mysterious images. This recording is absolutely one of my favourite pieces of Music. The sample he uses is genius, and the pace of the whole thing is majestic.
10. Belle And Sebastian | Slow Graffiti
There’s definitely something quite grim happening in the narrative of this song. Stuart Murdoch’s voice is so resigned, here, and I find that such an amazing thing to be able to express. It doesn’t sound like he’s just singing a song, but it doesn’t sound theatrical either. It almost sounds like he’s just talking to himself, sighing a melody. There is something about his voice that carries a world weariness - particularly on those first 3 or 4 albums, and EPs. The song The Chalet Lines has this feeling, especially. Maybe this is how people feel about Leonard Cohen? I feel this way about Morrissey. There’s something particularly evocative about Stuart Murdoch’s singing - maybe it’s a Scottish thing? Whatever it is, it’s what I love.