Re-Covered: Sally Anne’s Illustrated Favourite Albums

If you’re anything like us, throughout Lockdown you may have been seeking refuge in some of your favourite records, perhaps rediscovering some old classics along the way. So, for this new feature, illustrator Sally-Anne Hickman re-imagines her favourite ten albums of all time by painting their covers in her own unique style, using watercolours.

Check out the fourth of Sally-Anne’s choices below, and keep your eyes peeled for the rest over the next few weeks…

Smashing Pumpkins- Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
This incredible alt-rock concept album, ten times platinum, has it all. Its stylistic range is so varied that it opens with a sweeping piano instrumental and takes us on a sonic journey that encompasses layers of heavily distorted guitars with orchestral strings. Twenty eight songs in length, none sound the same but they are all unmistakably Pumpkins tracks. Heavy rock epics with phenomenal drumming, electronic pop tunes, operatic themes with time signature shifts that leave you with whiplash!

Sally-Anne Hickman
@sallyshinystars

FIVE FAVOURITES: OHMME

Formed of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart; Chicago-based OHMME blend driving beats and brooding, distorted guitars to create their deceptively simple, catchy songs. The pair are set to release their new album, Fantasize Your Ghost, on 5th June via Joyful Noise Recordings, and it’s full of snaking riffs and restless lyrics designed to relieve the feeling of being stood still. 

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Macie & Sima to ask about their “Five Favourites” – five songs and/or albums that have influenced their writing techniques. Check out their choices below, and scroll down to listen to OHMME’s track ‘Selling Candy’ at the end of this post.

1. Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum
Macie: Cate Le Bon is a new discovery for the both of us. We listened to ‘Reward’ a lot last Spring/Summer when we were touring, and then dug into some of her earlier records. “Mug Museum” really stands out as one of our favourites. The guitars weave together in this snake-like way which inspired a lot of our approach to the guitar part writing on Fantasize Your Ghost. She just has such great songs and arrangements that groove so easily and make you feel good. ‘Are You With Me Now’ is one of our favourites off of the record.

2. Kate Bush – The Kick Inside
Macie: It would be impossible to downplay how much we love Kate Bush. She has this ability to create a different universe on each record of hers, and listening to The Kick Inside woke something up inside of us. I can’t believe she was 17 when she made this record! She’s so young but her voice is so powerful and commanding, it’s really inspiring. It’s cool how this record plays with the aspect of performance in the theatre sense, she’s always embodying these characters in her songs and making them larger than life. It opens up a lot of possibilities of what a song could be.We have a dream of doing a Kate Bush cover night and performing the entirety of this record…We’ll let you know when that happens.

3. The Roches – ‘Hammond Song’
Sima: There’s something about the unison singing in the song that just cuts right through you. The Roches’ use of harmony, unison, and polyphonic singing has been very influential on us the last couple years as we play with all the different ways we can combine our voices. We also adore their songwriting; how direct and hilarious but also earnest it can be. The eponymous album that this song comes from also feels like it was written specifically for people (and maybe even more specifically, women) who are on tour all the time.

4. The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices
Sima: I grew up singing in a choir and was introduced to Bulgarian Women’s Choral singing at a young age and I always loved it. I love any singing where you can sing full-throttle – sacred harp, gospel – it just pulls your guts right up through your throat and I love that. A few years ago on tour, Macie put on the album made by this group and we we’re both just really excited about it. Its one end of the spectrum of singing that we love to indulge in and you can hear it pretty directly influence moments on Fantasize Your Ghost.

5. Neko Case – Star Witness
We’ve both loved Neko for a long time; her voice, her music, but especially her poetry. We sing this song sometimes together when we’re sitting around with acoustic guitar. Neko has an incredible ability to convey a mood without saying exactly what or who she is always singing about. The sound of her words works so well with how her melodies leap and bound around each other. This album came out at a time when we were coming of age as songwriters and is therefore immortalized in our brains forever.

Thanks to Macie & Sima for sharing their favourites with us.
Follow OHMME on Spotify and Facebook for more updates.

FIVE FAVOURITES: Sandunes

Mumbai-based producer Sandunes (aka Sanaya Aredeshir) has focused less on musical technicality, and more on emotional catharsis on her latest EP, Spare Some Time. While for some this decision might compromise high production standards, that’s not the case here. Spare Some Time is a polished, calming, electronic mediation on the necessity of expressing emotion. The four track creation is an aural salve for overwhelmed ears, flowing with shimmering synth textures and soothing beats that remind listeners to take stock of the love in their lives.

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 Sandunes to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that influenced her writing techniques. Check out her choices below, and scroll down to listen to Sandunes’ track ‘Love It Less’ & her new EP at the end of this post.

 

1. Bonobo – Dial M for Monkey
There was a phase when I was a college student in Bombay, where these tunes soundtracked life as we graduated from conformity into rebellion. My very first experiences of freedom or independence are so intertwined with this album, and it does that thing of physically transporting me to a blurry and beautiful time from a previous life, where with a group of friends in a beach town by the ocean, we woke up and fell asleep to this record for days on end. There is something so mystical, innocent and whimsical about it, and it is also what inspired me to start producing my own music. (I’d highly recommend this for nighttime winding down routines.)

2. The Books – The Lemon of Pink
This is another one I keep returning to. I think the idea of composing music from a formulaic place is usually looked at negatively, but the concept with this body of work was extremely gripping, and so well executed. I fell in love with the way this sound collage unfolded, and the combination of textures, tones and samples really inspired my awareness towards found sound in my environment. (I’d highly recommend this for long drives out of the city.)

3. Air – Moon Safari
Another piece of nostalgia in this album. I think the meaning of the term “classic” varies for each of us, and to me Moon Safari is just that. Also another sound track from a previous life, this one laid the foundation for all things trip-hop and definitely inspired some songwriting, attention to detailed production, and synthesis! I remember having an “Aha!” moment with ‘Remember’ at some point when I realised what I loved about the tune was all the synths. (I’d highly recommend this for the backdrop of your next potluck…in a post pandemic world when you can dine with all your friends again!)

3. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
I have had many walks, many drives, and shed many tears to this album. There is something so pure, honest and organic about how these songs have been written and recorded. It cuts through the clutter and hits the emotional nail straight on the head. I remember finding it especially gentle on the ears after listening to a lot of over-produced electronic music, going back to vocal harmonies and guitars feels like balm to the soul. (I’d highly recommend this for your next hike/solo trail up a mountain.)

4. 30/70 – Fluid Motion
A more recent addition to this list and what I’m currently listening to. I love everything about this album. I find it bold, I love the choices, the musicianship, and I love how the artistry with regard to musical skill meets production and delivery so well. Each time I listened, I felt like there was so much scope to absorb something new that was happening.
(I’d highly recommend this for your next dance party.)

5. Coco Rosie – Grey Oceans
I love this album and had it on repeat at a time when my ideas about songs and song structures were beginning to expand beyond traditional songwriting. There’s so much whimsical movement and magic woven into this record that it really captivated my imagination and always seemed to paint a very visual picture. Despite encompassing a range of emotions like sadness and melancholy, this record shines a light on the end of the tunnel for me. (I’d highly recommend this to deal with grief or loss.)

Thanks to Sandunes for sharing her favourites with us!
Listen to Sandunes new EP Spare Some Time on Spotify.
Follow her on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Abhilash Bhaishya

FIVE FAVOURITES: Low Hummer

Like most bands this year, Hull quintet Low Hummer are preparing to spend their summer in isolation writing new material, instead of gigging around the UK. Their latest single ‘Picture Bliss’ released via Dance To The Radio Records was written pre-pandemic, but its context is uncannily relatable during these (dare we say it?) “unprecedented” times. The track is a noisy, cathartic burst of guitars and crashing percussion, with dual vocalists Daniel Mawer and Aimee Duncan talking about two strangers who find each other moments before the world self-destructs.

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspired them to write in the first place. We caught up with Low Hummer’s Aimee & Steph to ask about their “Five Favourites” – five songs or albums that influenced the band’s writing techniques. Check out their choices below, and scroll down to listen to ‘Picture Bliss’ at the end of this post.

 

1. Pixies – ‘Gigantic’
Aimee: Although we all knew of each other before we started the band, it was only really a quick hello if we passed each other in the street! That meant we had, and still have a lot of different influences and backgrounds to our music and don’t often agree on liking the same bands. However, one band we all manage to agree on is Pixies. We don’t particularly make radio friendly music, but thanks to a band like Pixies we realised we can still aim to write pop songs, with hooky choruses even if they’re heavily disguised by odd chord choices, screaming vocals and distorted noises. Frank and Kim’s vocal styles are at odds with each other but work wonders together, whilst Joey’s guitar work often goes for odd riffs that are still instantly recognisable as his. Dan used ‘Gigantic’ in particular as a reference when we recorded ‘Picture Bliss’, joint vocals play a big part in what we do, and Pixies inspired us, they show its manageable to convey sensitivity vocally whilst still chucking in a load of distorted guitars!

2. Lost in Translation Official Soundtrack
Steph: It’s one of our favourite soundtracks collectively, and definitely would have played a role in us working parts out for ‘Picture Bliss;. The inspiration of bands like Death In Vegas along with My Bloody Valentine would have helped us learn how to manage sensitive melody lines and lyrics with distortion and odd sounding riffs. Not forgetting Bill Murray singing along to ‘More Than This’ which helped us fall in love with cheesy riffs and catchy choruses, both of which we’d have written off when we were kids. The Jesus and Mary Chain are not a band we gravitate towards to a lot, but again, their song ‘Just Like Honey’ which features at the end of the film felt like a good reference point for ‘Picture Bliss’. It’s another song that has a joint vocal with plenty of reverb and distortion, our producer Matt played us a few 80s guitar bands whilst we recorded and we gravitated towards emulating scrappy sounding stuff from that era. Lyrically there’s plenty of melancholy, sadness, underpinned with determination which probably inspired us for ‘Picture Bliss’.

3. The Velvet Underground – ‘Femme Fatale’
Aimee: Navigating the dynamics between a male and female vocal was challenging for us at first, especially because of our style. It took a lot of discussion between me and Dan when I first joined the band. Prior to Low Hummer, I’d only ever really sang in my solo country-inspired style. I’d dabbled in some shouting in a few awkward teenage phases, but it didn’t stick. So, when I joined the band it took quite a lot of encouragement from Dan to nudge me towards a more assertive style. Admittedly, he was right, and I can enjoy breaking out of my comfort zone. (Thanks Dan).

One thing we always agree on, though, is a mutual love of The Velvet Underground. We use them frequently as inspiration as we explore the dynamic between our vocals. I sang ‘Femme Fatale’ on my soundcloud a few years ago – one of the reasons Dan asked me to join the band. It felt like a good reference point for me to grasp my vocal position within ‘Picture Bliss’. The song allowed me to find that point between pushy and delicate vocals, which is something I haven’t explored as much in our other releases.

4. Joy Zipper – ‘1’
Steph: This song was on a lot when we began writing ‘Picture Bliss’, we really admired how its neither a stereotypical quiet or loud song, it sits somewhere in the middle. Sometimes when we write simpler songs, we’re keen to throw them away as we don’t feel we’ve worked hard enough on them, it almost comes a little too easy! That’s how we felt with our new single and it took a lot of encouragement from our manager Sally to decide to release it. But sometimes the easiest ones to write are the best. Joy Zipper’s ‘1’ follows a familiar pop song format, but for a simple enough structure it has so many beautiful moments, from its playful, devilish and childlike lyrics to whirling feedback intro and grungy chord progressions, along with a hummable section during the bridge. It’s a really joyful melody line, with optimistic verses, but the chord progressions, and ending, send you off kilter just enough to feel a little unsettled,

5. Her Official Soundtrack
Steph: It’s never actually been released, so I’m not sure it counts! But the film score from Her definitely subliminally influenced the creation of ‘Picture Bliss’. As a band we’re all suckers for sad films, and that usually extends to the music that goes with them. The score was created by the people behind Arcade Fire, and, much like Lost in Translation, it feels other-worldly; full of elements you recognise but can’t always place or hold onto. Whilst stylistically, it’s almost the opposite to what we do, we really loved the way the simple, fuzzy, swaying melodies and carefully placed lazy keys capture the melancholy of the story. The film itself is futuristic and disturbing, which is something replicated in the post-apocolyptic world presented lyrically in ‘Picture Bliss’, and both are full of that all-too relatable sadness which seems to slowly creep up and bite you late on Sunday nights.

Thanks to Aimee & Steph for sharing their favourites with us.
Follow Low Hummer on Spotify & Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Credit: Shoot J Moore 

Re-Covered: Sally Anne’s Illustrated Favourite Albums

If you’re anything like us, throughout Lockdown you may have been seeking refuge in some of your favourite records, perhaps rediscovering some old classics along the way. So, for this new feature, illustrator Sally-Anne Hickman re-imagines her favourite ten albums of all time by painting their covers in her own unique style, using watercolours.

Check out the second of Sally-Anne’s choices below, and keep your eyes peeled for the rest over the next few weeks… 

Janis Joplin- Pearl
Feisty blues rocker Janis Joplin was regarded as the best female rock singer of her generation and was a true original. The album Pearl, her final in her brief life, was more polished than her previous releases with a big band sound backing her undeniable vocal power. The songs are emotionally powerful and perfectly show her range of dynamics, from her softer blues singing to her tormented rasp which she was widely known for. Janis was a ’60s wild child who was not afraid to let it all hang out.

 

Sally-Anne Hickman
@sallyshinystars

FIVE FAVOURITES: Julia-Sophie

Describing herself as finally finding her “hullabaloo within the storm”, new electronic artist Julia-Sophie shared her mesmerising debut EP, Y?, last week, and we cannot stop listening to it.

Y? is a sublime four track record of emotionally intelligent, electrifying electronica. Music which builds and layers, over and over, resulting in an almost painfully blissful experience; much like listening to a Gazelle Twin record. Julia-Sophie is clearly an artist who has a solid understanding of producing sound, removing boundaries and letting music speak for itself.

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 Julia-Sophie to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that influenced her own writing techniques. Check out her choices below, and scroll down to watch the video for her single ‘x0x’ at the end of this post.

 

1. Thom Yorke – ANIMA
I’ve been listening to a lot of Thom Yorke this last year and feel very drawn into his latest album ANIMA. For me, it feels dark and tender and addresses emotional holes in my life. I’m attracted to his lyrics that have a dreamlike quality, like a stream of consciousness; like a beautiful nightmare. I love the way the album floats through unease as it slips and slides all over the place without ever becoming boring. It’s a left of centre electronic album with jabbing pulses, syncopated rhythms, spring loaded grooves and wheezy synths surging in waves; I love how effortless it all feels. I only dream of making music with that apparent ease. I love feeling like I can hear his whole creative process. The album makes me feel like I’m listening to art, like a sculptor mastering textures and layers; as I drift off the album catches me unawares. I love it and can’t recommend it enough.

2. James Blake – Assume Form
James has an infectious take on post-dubstep and downtempo, minimalistic electronica. His vocals are otherworldly, airy and his productions boundary-breaking. When the way that you relate to the world becomes difficult I look for artists who express emotions that I cannot; that I am searching for. I felt particularly connected to this album; it is melancholic yet hopeful. The record is full on emotion, and like all the best things in life, it doesn’t reveal itself immediately; it deserves time. As a producer, his sounds make me want to explore the record further and as I do, I capture themes that I didn’t quite grasp the first time round. When I feel dulled by emotion and trauma, James’ music makes me feel safe; his music makes me feel like I’m being held; arms wrapped around me delicately; all unencumbered by musical form. The guests on this album are incredible and are definitely worth revisiting, most notably Moses Sumney’s performance on ‘Tell Them’ blows me away. There’s definitely something particularly special about this album.

3. Art School Girlfriend – Into The Blue Hour
I’m not sure where or how I first came across Polly Mackey, aka Art School Girlfriend (knowing me, I was probably stalking Paul Epworth’s Wolftone Records as I’m a guilty Glass Animals and Harry Edwards fan). Art School Girlfriend self-produces music that for me shares the hypnotic euphoria of trance music. Her ability to create surreal, ethereal bodies of work laced with moodiness not only blows my mind and inspires me, but also gives me feelings of lustfulness and space; within this space I find myself free to think, feel, bend and reflect. I love that place she takes me to. Her music is all very dreamlike but packed with emotion and feels as menacing as it does beautiful. As someone who loves and is obsessed with electronic sounds, I love her use of electronica and only dream to be able to create hazy soundscapes like her, that are tied together with an innate pop understanding. Her music to me, feels quite sad and melancholic, but all tinged with beauty and mystery; it draws me in. Definitely music worth escaping to (plus she has a really cute dog, so what’s not to love about her and her music?)

4. TT (Theresa Wayman) – Lovelaws
I was never a huge Warpaint fan, not because I didn’t like them, but because I was late to the party. Warpaint’s music was so big that it seeped into my life all the same, always playing in the background at friend’s houses or in cafés, and so I’ve always had a wispy notion of their sound. When I heard Warpaint’s Theresa Wayman’s solo debut, I guess because I’ve become more into electronic music than guitar-led music, I was immediately drawn in. Her vocals felt intimate and her use of electronica excited me. This debut record feels really honest; where she explores themes of motherhood, isolation and romances. Her songs are dreamy and I feel she allows me to dream with her; the sound of skin on skin, she journeys fragile threads of human connections and makes me feel a certain sense of companionship and loneliness, all given in equal weight. The album never overpowers; it is warm and comforting: its songs mutate in ways that are unexpected and offer different kinds of rewards. She reminds me that we are all human, obsessing, disconnecting, passionate and jealous. I love her and this record for it.

5. Double Negative – Low
I first discovered this record at my local record store, Truck Music Store in Oxford, as they made it their album of the year. I remember Carl who works behind the counter waving it to me as I asked for recommendations. He was telling me about this album and I loved it from the get go. It’s an immensely creative, ambitious, warped slowcore album that takes you on an experimental journey from start to finish. It’s a radical record in many ways, creating all kinds of atmospheres; sometimes through drone and then also through using song as a conduit. It thumps, crackles and hums, is as oblique in its nature as it is haunting and on first listen sent shivers through me. I was hooked; I found myself lost in its noise, its darkness and heartbreak and yet the album somehow made me feel good even when I was falling apart.

Thanks to Julia-Sophie for sharing her favourites. Listen to her EP here.
Follow Julia-Sophie on Instagram for more updates.

FIVE FAVOURITES: Harkin

Multi-talented Harkin has been a touring musician since her teens, and in addition to her own bands, she has shared stages with the likes of Sleater-Kinney, Wild Beasts, Flock of Dimes, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett. She’s now set to release her debut self-titled album on 24th April, via via Hand Mirror – a label she founded with her partner, poet & live arts organiser, Kate Leah Hewett.

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 Harkin to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that influenced her own writing techniques. Check out Harkin’s choices below, and scroll down to listen to her single ‘Dial It In’ at the end of this post.

 

1. Donna Summer – ‘State Of Independence’ (Extended Remix)
I’ve lived in London a couple of times, for Uni and then again around the time I started playing with Wild Beasts. I lived in a ground floor flat share with no living room and a galley kitchen, so we’d just hang out in each other’s bedrooms all the time. My flatmate had the 12” of this single and we’d put on the long b-side version and dance on her bed. That’s a feeling I come back again and again when I need to find some extra fuel for my fire.

2. Quack Quack – ‘Conversations’ (Live at The Brudenell Social Club) 
I feel so lucky to have grown up going to gigs at The Bru. Quack Quack were such an inspiration. Unquestionably virtuosic players, but it’s their passion that was so remarkable. Truly an alive live band.

3. Björk – ‘Crystalline’ (Jools Holland Live)
I feel the urge to listen to this song every winter as the cold creeps in. I saw one of the screenings she did of this album, it’s such a masterclass and was a real revelation for me as to how human electronic performances can be.

4. Ryuichi Sakamoto – ‘Forbidden Colours’ (Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence Soundtrack)
I discovered Sakamoto through a synthesiser compilation and there are a few different versions of this song, all wonderful. His melodies can inhabit so many different forms, it’s staggering.

5. David Axelrod – ‘The Mental Traveller’
I started recording my debut album in LA, and I listened to Axelrod a lot whilst driving around. I’d love to be able to sit in on one of those Capitol sessions from back in the day.

Thanks to Harkin for sharing her favourites with us. Follow her on Spotify and Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Tomm Roeschlein