FIVE FAVOURITES: November Ultra

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.

Follow November Ultra on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

 

Photo Credit: Pauline Darley

FIVE FAVOURITES: Emma Frank

Toying with themes of love, lust, self-doubt, commitment and sadness; New York based songwriter Emma Frank is set to release her new album Come Back on 6th September. After spending time studying literature at McGill University in Montreal and performing vocals & brass with art-pop ensembles She’s Got a Habit and Malcolm Sailor’s Songs – she returned to Brooklyn to write more of her own music, having recently signed to Justin Time/Nettwerk Music Group.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is to ask them what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Emma to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced her songwriting techniques. Check out her choices below, and make sure you watch the video for her track ‘I Thought’ (directed by visual artist Ay Tsalithaba) at the end of this post.

 

1. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
I’ve always loved singers – singers where the music was happening but you could fully believe in every word the singer was saying. I grew up mainly on Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone, and then a little bit of Simon and Garfunkel. Towards the end of high school, and for all of college, I found Lauryn Hill and I listened to this record on repeat. The tone of her voice, the way she uses it – Lauryn Hill’s voice was just utter perfection to me and I tried so hard to sound like her (I couldn’t really, without trying too hard.). And that album. The production on those songs. The songs themselves. My sixteen year old self that had just gotten broken up with for the first time really needed all of these songs.

2. Hanne Hukkelberg – Little Things
This album came to me during a very lonely period when I was either nineteen or twenty and just blew my mind. To me, it was such a complete sound universe, that cast a very dark Montreal winter in a magical new light. I grew up doing musical theater so I was accustomed to lyrics and music pairing up to tell a story and advance some action. I really loved how Hanne built her compositions so that the musical changes reflect the lyrical story in a really playful, immersive way and how she used found sounds and objects as instruments. Her song ‘Balloon’ is told from the perspective of someone holding onto a balloon and floating high above the world, and uses the squeak of a blown up balloon throughout. The narrator eventually let’s go of the balloon and as she falls, what had been a more contained song expands into a lush, dreamlike fall. Or ‘True Love’ which alternates between free, almost demented sounding improvisation, and very beautiful, romantic, gestures.

3. Bernice – Puff: In the Air Without a Shape
These guys are so good and this album is so fun. Robin Dann has an approach to songwriting and singing that I find really calming. It feels cerebral in the best ways, and also really embodied and relaxed. Each person in this band is so talented and does all sorts of amazing things, but this project is especially great. I really love how they all come from improvisatory backgrounds, and it’s clear in how they interact, and also in this very wide but specific sound palette. Also they’re all besties and really silly and funny and smart. They’ve created a unique and immersive sound world that’s really nice to hang out in.

4. Tawk Tomahawk – Hiatus Kaiyote
A friend recommended this album to me right before I went on cruise ships as a lounge singer for six months when I was 24. It was the absolute strangest experience, and this album really helped me have a joyous, grounded space to escape to. I listened to it for the first time in Hawaii – we were doing a cruise around Hawaii before we went to Alaska. I’m from Boston and I had never been to Hawaii before. I’m so used to all of these cool greys and blues, some green, but mostly colors are muted. Hawaii was so vibrant. I just remember listening to this record while running underneath these brilliant magenta flowers with the ocean to the right of me. That’s how this record sounds to me. Just so lush and alive.

5. Andy Shauf – The Party
Each song is such a good complete story. And then the whole album paints such an empathetic portrait of a few different, interconnected characters at this one party. Sonically, it honestly reminds me of The Beatles, these beautifully orchestrated, fun songs, but then with these aching, sometimes very uncomfortable lyrics. Also, Andy Shauf plays all the instruments on it, so I am also blown away by it on that level.

Thanks to Emma for sharing her favourites with us! Follow Emma Frank on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut