French bedroom-pop sensation November Ultra creates tender, heartfelt tunes that reflect her passion and joy for writing and performing music. “Technique is important, but singing is more about how you feel, because your body is the instrument,” explains the classically trained musician. This is something that permeates the sounds of her recently released debut album, Bedroom Walls, on which she blends elements of folk, pop and indie music to create her lush, emotive sounds.
We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with November Ultra to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have inspired her song-writing techniques. Check out her choices below and scroll down to watch her video for ‘le manége’ at the end of this post.
1. Andy Shauf – The Party
I love albums. I always have, I always will. There’s something very special and precious with the relationship you build with them. I’ve always compared it to the stages of meeting and falling in love with someone: there’s the love at first sight song (‘Quite Like You’ was the first Andy Shauf song I stumbled upon very late at night and I suddenly felt the rushing need to listen to his entire discography), then there’s the deep conversation songs that make you fall even harder (‘Early To The Party’ truly, that cello bridge with the harmonies and the swelling – pffff even talking about it, makes my heart beat faster!) There’s the falling in love with the quirks stage (‘Alexander All Alone’) and then there’s the peaceful, joyful comfortable moment of sleeping next to the one we love and know so well by now (the last song ‘Martha Sways’, the last dance of the party with those strings that come and go in the song making you waltz in this special space between dream and reality late night early morning slowdancing creates.) This album is a masterpiece, it tells a story, a party from beginning to end, you close your eyes and when the album is finished it feels like you’ve lived the party, met all the characters, the songwriting is exquisite, the arrangements too. An album is a spell, no wonder the album opens with ‘The Magician’.
2. Rosalía – Motomami
This album just came out, but I already know it’s an album that I’m going to love until the day I die. I know it because I’ve felt the same exact sensation I felt the first time I heard Frank Ocean’s mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra, or James Blake’s first album: that tingling sensation going through my body, that same excitement, unrest, that feverish hunger to listen to every single song obsessively, but also wanting to pause them every two seconds to take in the lyrics, the melodies, analyse the production, the sounds. It has that double organic-machine quality to it: it makes human-me feel a lot of things that are unexplainable, and it makes artist-me incredibly excited to try and find out why. Rosalía, just like Frank Ocean, is an exceptionally inspiring artist because she makes bold moves, bold choices, but most importantly she puts a lot of meaning and detail into all of it. There’s so much life, heart, intelligence, joy, and FUN in every single movement. To me, she’s a fencing queen: she skillfully aims for the heart while looking like a ballerina, as complex and light on her feet as a butterfly.
3. Frank Ocean – nostalgia, ULTRA
My name, November Ultra is a homage to this mixtape. That’s how much I love it. I love its story, the fact that it was a download-for-free mixtape he made because his label wasn’t paying attention, the sense of freedom and independence, again, the boldness in the choice, in that move, the sheer intelligence and creativity too – being able to rework songs, use big tunes like ‘Hotel California’ or Coldplay and make something new with it while telling a story through noises like tapes being played, stopped, rewinded. This mixtape is the work of an alchemist. Frank truly transforms, transmutes and breathes life and emotion into everything existing, crystallising feelings and turning them into precious songs for other people to hold, allowing us to understand our own selves. I couldn’t believe my luck the first time I heard it… I still can’t, a million plays later.
4. Tiny Ruins – Some Were Meant For Sea
New Zealand has so many precious gems, Tiny Ruins is one of them. I love everything about this album, Hollie Fullbrook’s songwriting is immaculate, as intricate and delicate as an old ring passed on to you by your grandmother who had it from her grandmother. You almost don’t want to wear it, and yet you can feel the power and strength it encapsulates when you hold it in the palm of your hand – like holding generations of life stories. That’s how the album makes me feel. So many lives, so many stories, so many heart beatings told with so much talent and wit. One of my favourite lines in the album probably comes from a song called ‘Priest With Balloons’ based on a true story of a Brazilian priest who jumped off a cliff, helium balloons attached to him, Fullbook writes “what was he looking for? Truth or was it heaven? Or did he just want to go out with a bang, so to speak… It’s funny but I can understand why… I want to live”
5. Lifafa – Jaago
It was so hard to make a choice, there are so many albums I love and while I still think James Blake’s first album has been a turning point in my life (yes, I said “turning point” haha please don’t judge me, music is my everything, I take all of it very seriously), I couldn’t pass the opportunity to talk about Lifafa’s Jaago, who got me ultra obsessed for most part of 2019 and early 2020. Lifafa’s part of another amazing musical project called Peter Cat Recording Co., they’re exceptional musicians and songwriters but with this one, Lifafa’s decided to sit behind a computer with a midi keyboard and compose songs in ways he wasn’t really used to, with no precise goal in mind other than to explore and have FUN and that’s exactly what I love about this album: it’s a trip, but oh boy such an intelligent, lively, well-executed one! The sonical landscapes are endless, it’s no easy-fit to be able to capture spontaneity, and I feel this album does that. A song starts and you never know where it’s going to land, and you don’t care, you’re just happy to be part of the ride, makes you feel alive. Bonus points? Lifafa has probably one of my most favourite voices in the world, AND the album cover is iconic.
Thanks to November Ultra for sharing her favourites with us!
Watch the video for ‘le manége’ below.
Photo Credit: Pauline Darley