There has been some talk lately about getting people to post the songs/albums that they listen to while writing, so I thought I would lead off by posting five of my current favourite artists and links to some of the sounds that are currently helping me put pen to paper. Hopefully this inspires a few others to make a similar post (or leave a comment with links to your fave writing music) so that we can all broaden our musical palette and get a sense of the music that makes our writing tick.
Balmorhea – All is Wild, All is Silent
Balmorhea’s third album is a swirling masterpiece. The musical landscape these Texan’s create slowly draws you in and then let’s the fireworks ignite. And importantly there is enough silence to let the words come freely. Here’s links to two songs from the album – Remembrance and Settler (a great live version)
Tortoise – Beacons of Ancestorship
Tortoise’s latest blends scrappy rock, cool jazz and fuzzed out synth-pop… sometimes all in the one track. They are band that never let you get too comfortable… each change in dynamic making your blood surge and hopefully the words along with it. Check out Prepare Your Coffin and album opener High Class Slim Came Floatin’ In.
Because of Ghosts – This Culture of Background Noise
Recorded at the legendary Hotel2Tango in Montreal, the Melbourne 3-piece have taken their spidery melodies and scratchy percussion to new heights. While their crescendos may make your limbs buckle (in the best kind of way), the journey to the top and down again is studded with beauty. Just watch the clips for “…in 2050 when we know we’ll all be dead anyway” and Dreaming is Essential.
Explosions in the Sky – The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
I saw this band a while ago and they made my ears melt. Their blistering guitar attack and percussive drive is both melodic and angular. This album has been on regular rotation in my house since its release in 2003 and it has lost none of its shine. Get a taste here: First Breath After Coma and The Only Moment We Were Alone (live… where they are at their absolute peak!)
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
For me, the band that started it all… I discovered Lift Your Skinny Fists through a review in The Big Issue and it changed the way I listen to music. Their sprawling instrumentals blend rock, chamber music, samples and field recordings to create some of the most cinematic music of our times. My writing would not be the same without them. So to finish, here’s Antennas to Heaven pt 1 and Antennas to Heaven pt 2
Here are three more albums that have got these ears excited in 2008.
Forget the radio!
No One is Holding a Gun to Your Head (Songs To Run To): Bremen Town Musician
Bremen Town Musician are a three-piece experimental folk-blues freak-out. No One is Holding a Gun to Your Head (Songs To Run To) is the second album and charts new sonic territory for the band. This album smoulders, opening with the instrumental tracks Song to Run to and Governor Wren. The introduction of vocals on Steady lifts the intensity again and segues perfectly into Sailor Song; Marissa Allen’s voice bristling above the swirl of violin, drums, guitar/bass. Each song takes on its own character – the ethereal Love; the abrasive Disco Frogs and Shooting Stars Under Midnight; the delicate You Don’t Have To. No One is Holding a Gun to Your Head is one of those rare albums that demands high rotation. Every listen takes you somewhere new, uncharted… so throw away the map; this is an album of discovery.
Tell Tale Signs (The Bootleg Series vol. 8): Bob Dylan
Well, here is a man who needs no introduction and with 40+ albums already available why buy another bootleg? Well first up, there is never a definitive version of any song for Dylan. Each recording is a time capsule; the song as it was at that moment. Tell Tale Signs captures 27 songs from the period 1989 – 2005, including 5 live tracks, 6 alternate versions, 3 songs previously only available on Soundtracks, demos and other unreleased gems. Red River Shore is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful songs Dylan has ever penned. Possessed by the love that damned him, Dylan spins an old school narrative with his trademark mix of religion and existentialism. Another stand out is the song Mississippi. Three versions are included and it is here that Dylan’s ability as a singer is showcased. By exploring tone and phrasing Dylan uncovers new possibilities for this song with each take.Version #1 a soft-spoken lament, Version #2 dog-tired and raspy and Version #3 a powerful last stand. Tell Tale Signs is not a fan only affair. This is Dylan capturing moments of truth.
This Culture Of Background Noise: Because of Ghosts
This is the second long player from innovative Melbourne 3-piece. Recorded at the legendary Hotel2Tango, This Culture Of Background Noise, is anything but (background noise, that is). Each track (all instrumental) is a soaring mix of inticiate guitar, drums and live sampling. Each creates an atmosphere, somewhat akin to that electric feeling that prickles the skin just before a summer storm cracks open. The drums gather and build the momentum, the guitars stir and tremble. Importantly, this album has space for the mind to create its own narrative. The sound never too busy, never too dark, never too moody. Just the right amount of melancholy and raw noir introspection to hold you entranced.