Five Favourites: Fable

With acclaim from the likes of The Guardian, Rolling Stone and BBC 6Music’s Chris Hawkins, Brighton based artist Fable has recently made her return to music after taking some time out after suffering from depression and burnout following the loss of a close friend. Now an ambassador for mental health charity My Black Dog, her upcoming debut album is due later this year. Covering a range of poignant issues, the album is filled with heartfelt offerings that blur genre boundaries with a sweeping, dark majesty and hypnotic splendour.

Following the release of spellbinding recent single ‘Orbiting’, we spoke to Fable about the five albums that mean the most to her. Check out her choices below, and watch her video for ‘Orbiting’ at the end of this article. 

Radiohead – In Rainbows
This album crept into my life when I was in my early teens. It grew almost organically in my mind from a whisper of “Ah, this is agreeable, I’ll give it another go” to “I think this is the best album of all time…” Every song paints a picture in my mind – Thom’s delivery of profound nothingness is everything. ‘Nude’ is probably my favourite track with its glittering darkness that literally breaks me every time I hear it, and ‘Reckoner’ offers a cryptically wise piece of lyricism over the beautiful simplicity and a supernatural presence. I remember listening to it on the bus home from school feeling like the music understood me, not the other way around. And, if I could pick more, there are a few Radiohead albums that would make the list. The infinite possibilities of creative freedom that Thom displays in his writing is what I am constantly checking myself for.

Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love
Kate Bush is my inner child, she lifts my spirits and always tells the truth. My mum had the cassette and I would rewind ‘Cloud Busting’ for the line “… just saying it could even make it happen” – the open endedness and desperation in her voice is so moving, it’s hopeful and hopeless at the same time. I’ve definitely drawn from her work subconsciously, especially in my 4th release from the album that’s due out in the Autumn.

Gorillaz – Demon Days
The first album I ever bought on CD – I fell in love with it instantly. The theatrics of the intro setting the stage to drop straight into that filthy drum machine on ‘Last Living Souls’ is superb and the contrast between organic sounds and electronic are perfectly balanced. I love it when an album plays with the flow of time and really takes you on an adventure like this one does. I think Damon’s concept was to begin at dusk, take you to meet his demons with the last track representing the sun rising. When I heard that it all made sense. I used to go to countryside raves frequently and the last track ‘Demon Days’ would be the song I’d bang on the car speakers at sunrise.

David Bowie – Black Star
I’m still here wondering how this is possible – how someone can create such a relevant and stunning piece of work at 69, put on a staged musical production of the album, all whilst battling cancer. If anyone can, it’s Bowie, but it must have been exhausting. There is an urgency to the album which really breaks my heart. Here is a poet’s experience of mortality, documented in song. This album will always remind me of loss -I saw Lazarus the musical the night after hearing about the death of my friend and the music had such an impact on how I remember that time. It’s been really hard to pick a single Bowie album but this one will always be sentimental. 

Portishead – Dummy
There’s something really special about this album and it features in one of my earliest memories: I was 4 in my parents’ kitchen when I heard ‘Numb’ on the radio. Even at that age, this track completely enchanted me. Everything about it is an unsettling contradiction – it’s kinda like marijuana, in how it gets you loose and comfortable before unveiling the dark truths. Beth’s vocals are deliciously heartbreaking and reminiscent of Billie Holiday, who I also adore, along with the jazz influence. From that moment in the kitchen, they’ve been a huge influence on my writing. Their use of space and sonic contrast is so inspiring, it’s blunt yet silky and holds your hand through the haunted house of comedowns and urban decay. Everything about it is beautiful. My most recent single ‘Orbiting’ has had Portishead comparisons drawn in the press, which didn’t surprise me – I guess we’re having another societal comedown that needs a soundtrack.

Huge thanks to Fable for sharing her Five Favourites with us! Check out the video for recent single ‘Orbiting’ below:

 

FIVE FAVOURITES: Sunflower Thieves

Combining charming vocal harmonies and soft guitars to create their delicate pop-folk sounds, Leeds duo Sunflower Thieves write tunes inspired by personal narratives and nostalgia. Their musical creations have blossomed out of a sixteen year friendship between band members Amy and Lily, and their upcoming single ‘Don’t Mind The Weather’ is a warm reflection on staying grounded and safe within the relationships with the people you trust.

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 Amy and Lily to ask them about their “Five Favourites” – five albums that have inspired their song-writing techniques. Check out their choices below and scroll down to watch Sunflower Thieves’ lyric video for ‘Don’t Mind The Weather’ at the end of this post.

1. Sylvan Esso – What Now
Lily: Since I was first introduced to Sylvan Esso with their song ‘Hey Mami’, I just completely fell in love. Amelia’s gorgeously beautiful vocal alongside Nick’s impossibly catchy production is just the perfect mix to leap around your bedroom or just lie on the floor and weep. When this album came out I was absolutely obsessed and it’s all I wanted to listen to for a really long time. I remember every time that me and my best friend got in the car to go anywhere we’d blast it out on the country roads and just scream along without a care in the world.

I think the main thing I gained from listening to them was the reassurance that having a soft vocal does not mean that you can’t sing. At the time when we started singing together I felt very self conscious about my voice because I wasn’t/will never be a belter! But as I grew up and started listening to more and more music I realised that that wasn’t the be all and end all.

2. MUNA – Saves The World
Amy: I first came across MUNA through one of my Uni lecturers. I don’t think he would have predicted what an impact they would have on me. Lyrics are a big thing for me and there aren’t many people who cut straight through to your feelings like MUNA. It’s hard to choose between this album and About U, but Saves The World came along during my time at Uni and for me, it’s attached to a lot of my personal growth, new experiences and wonderful friends found during that time. I can’t wait to be back in a room with my friends, dancing to this album and celebrating loving each other and being exactly who we all are.

3. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps
This is our joint choice and always our reference for writing inspiration, production inspiration and general wonderful human being inspiration. We couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve been working on a song and one of us has said “you know in ‘Scott Street’ where she does this…we could try that!” We’d never heard anyone say things the way she says them before and when we first heard ‘Motion Sickness’, it was an instant “yes please.” Phoebe has helped us find our sound, inspired us to write the kind of music we want to write and we definitely aspire to achieve the kind of poetic realism her lyrics hold. In this album, Phoebe helped Sunflower Thieves’ writing grow and she hasn’t disappointed since.

4. Darwin Deez – Songs For Imaginative People
Lily: It was hard to choose which Darwin Deez album to pick! I think I know every word to every song he’s ever released. However, I reckon this album has really influenced the lyrics I write. The word play in his song-writing is something I strive for and all his outer-space metaphors excite me, I just love how geeky he is! I feel like we’d get on. I first heard of him because a friend at school recommended his song ‘Radar Detector’ and that was it, I was hooked. My favourite song on this album is ‘Alice’, it’s the song that plays automatically every time I plug my phone into the car stereo and I don’t hate it! I just love how honest and real he is, in a weird and wonderful way.

5. Sam Fender – Hypersonic Missiles
Amy: My ultimate go-to running/driving album (drumsssss + Springsteen vibes). I first saw Sam Fender play live at The Bodega in Nottingham in 2018 and have followed his journey since – I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about an artist’s debut album. I listened to nothing else for weeks after the release – my friends and housemates at the time can attest for that! I have Geordie family, so I guess that’s why I feel at home with his music.
It’s so refreshing to hear an artist address real, difficult subjects with such intimacy and fragility. This album makes me feel angry, powerful, vulnerable and uplifted. And probably most importantly for me, the lyrical content of this album makes me want to write songs.

Thanks to Amy & Lily for sharing their favourites with us!

Watch the lyric video for Sunflower Thieves’ new single ‘Don’t Mind The Weather’ below.

Follow Sunflower Thieves on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Photo Credit: Alice Ashley

FIVE FAVOURITES: Cuffed Up

“I have a bachelor’s degree in guitar performance but really I’ve just wanted to write songs and play in rock bands,” explains Cuffed Up‘s vocalist and guitarist Sapphire Jewell. “I had a sad realization this year that I’ve never had guitar role models. To think I’ve been playing guitar for 14 years now and I’ve never been taught anything on guitar by a woman…not even on YouTube or anywhere online. I wish I could’ve had more badass female guitarists to look up to, I think I’d be a better guitarist if I did.” Jewell doesn’t let a lack of representation hold her back though. She fronts LA alt-rock band Cuffed Up with genuine tenacity, stepping into the musical spotlight trying to fill the gaps she’s painfully aware of.

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 Sapphire Jewell to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five tracks that have inspired her song-writing techniques. Check out her choices below and scroll down to watch Cuffed Up’s video for ‘French Exit’ at the end of this post.

 

1. Foals – ‘Two Steps, Twice’
First of all, I love Foals and I love their debut album Antidotes. This song is so insanely fun to listen to. It just bops. It’s mathy, poppy and heavy all in one track. How is that even possible?! I think it was one of the first songs I’d recognized as being perfectly crafted to be played live. There’s so much room to change the arrangement and build it out as a banger live track. Now, whenever I write something new I think about the live aspect of it and what it could do in a live setting that’s elevated or different from the recorded version. Even now, 12 years after Antidotes was released, Foals close their shows with this song because it still rips. I gotta have a song like that someday.

2. Nick Drake – ‘River Man’
I’ve loved this song for many years now. It flows so smoothly despite being in an odd 5/4 time signature. I am enamoured by the chilling chord changes, the way his voice sounds like a breeze passing through a quiet town and the strings that just melt me away. It’s so mysterious and fleeting. This song is hauntingly beautiful. Maybe this isn’t a desirable sensation, but it makes me feel old and almost wise for those few minutes. Nothing has ever moved me in that way before. I think more people should know Nick Drake and this song.

3. Grizzly Bear – ‘Yet Again’
Okay, so no one has the right to make such a perfect guitar tone! Especially not in the first four chords?!? God damn this song is unreal. Literally every time this song starts I’m just like “this is IT.” The best part?! It feels new every time I hear it. How can that be? It’s one of those songs that I wish I’d written. I’m not sure I could pinpoint exactly what it is that’s so perfect about this song, but Grizzly Bear sure knows how to layer and produce marvellous music and this is my favourite of theirs.

4. Beach House – ‘Zebra’
This song and this band take me back to the better parts of my life in high school. I didn’t have many friends who were passionate about music, really just one, and we both loved Beach House. Most of my friends didn’t pay much attention to what they listened to but my friend Deric and I would share music with each other. That was really special. Whenever I think of Beach House I think of him. ‘Zebra’ was one of my favourites of older Beach House. They have a zillion amazing songs and they all remind me of the good times during those hellish years of high school.

5. Miike Snow – ‘Genghis Khan’
So this song RIPS and the music video is BRILLIANT. The song stands on it’s own but the video just seals the deal and now it’s unforgettable. It grooves so hard and makes me feel all giddy. This song and its video are untouchable. It’s too good. It’s too fun. I love it way too much. I can’t explain further, it’s one of those you gotta see and hear for yourself. You’d be a fool not to thoroughly enjoy the might and power of Miike Snow’s ‘Genghis Khan’!

Thanks to Sapphire for sharing her favourite tracks with us!

Watch the video for Cuffed Up’s single ‘French Exit’ below.

Follow Cuffed Up on Spotify, bandcamp, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Photo Credit: Ana Karotkaya

Five Favourites: Tyler Holmes

I’ve only recently become acquainted with innovative artist Tyler Holmes, but I have fast fallen in love with their poignant, affecting and utterly unique sweeping electronic soundscapes. Holmes (They/Them) is a singer-songwriter, visual and performance artist who uses music as a therapeutic device. Coming from a turbulent and traumatic ‘cult-like’ early life, they have spent a lifetime crafting their own Black, Queer narrative by pushing the limits of their imagination, Holmes envisions themselves as the imaginary child of Björk and Tricky, using a surrealist lens on a wide variety of genres, often blending diaristic narratives with dark, dream-like whimsy. Autobiographical and absurd, their writing is alluring and uncomfortable. Both brutal and beautiful, bringing the audience into a shared space of healing and catharsis. They perform with a constantly changing electro-acoustic arrangement, always finding new ways to showcase an intimate horror.

Ahead of the release of their upcoming new album ‘Nightmare In Paradise’ via Ratskin Records next month, we spoke to Tyler about the five albums that mean the most to them. Check out their choices below, and watch their latest video for single ‘Nothing’ at the end of this article. You can also listen to their recent rendition of SOPHIE’s ‘BIPP’ over on bandcamp now.

Mariah Carey – Butterfly
Butterfly was a departure for Mariah. A record that embraced Hip Hop and Mariah as a sexual and sorrowful entity, which I have always related to. I have always been obsessed with Mariah and I’ve been singing her songs for as long as I can remember. This was the first album that I would listen to all the way through, over and over and over. There is a real variety to the record and I can now see this as the first in a series of emotional breakdown albums (this one even has a song called ‘Breakdown’ which is unbelievably beautiful and rich and has the amazing Bone Thugs N Harmony guesting). The through-line through this quite varied record is sadness, longing and identity struggle; all running themes in my life and music as well. My favourite track is ‘Outside’ – about being a weirdo, just singing the melody makes me cry.

The Knife – Silent Shout: An Audiovisual Experience – Live In Gothenburg
Reinvention is something that always turns me on. This album was the electronic equivalent to dying your hair black and doing acoustic renditions of your record. The Knife was this mysterious band back in the early internet days and Gothenburg showcased them reborn in a syrupy goth trance inducing void that was even more mysterious than they had been. It was as if they had this colourful image and they thought “let’s give them even less information and appear in a black abyss as ghostly floating lights…” The songs are darker, gothic, stark and beautiful. Dance music made for crying and being a freak to maybe more so than dancing. I love a singer who can be different characters and Karin plays a whole cast on this record and a cast of ghouls, sea monsters, aliens and demons. She is so otherworldly, possessed and perfect. My favourite track is ‘Kino’, which I covered a long time ago. They took an old track and brought it back through the Pet Cemetery. The mourning in that song will haunt me forever.

Tricky – Pre Millenium Tension
A theme of coming back darker, and more vulnerable emerges. While Tricky’s first record was murky and muddy,Pre Millennium is obsidian. A dark smoke filled room. I love how Tricky always has two singers of varying genders singing the same lyrics at the same time creating one genderless or many gendered being. The opening song ‘Vent’ talking about someone hiding their lover’s medicine to watch them suffer and need them speaks volumes about the album in front of the listener. Very much about codependency, dark urges, self destruction. The gnarling, repeating loops grind nightmares into your head like noogies. The reimagining of ‘Bad Dreams’ by Chill Rob G gives the song a chilling, fever dream realness that is necessary and sadly timeless.

Astrud Gilberto & Walter Wanderley –  A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness
I listened to this album on repeat while writing my new record. It’s vintage goth. Astrud Gilberto, best known for the timeless hit ‘The Girl From Ipanema’, is practically motionless. Her stoic and serious performance even over more dance oriented tracks like ‘Nega do Cabelo Duro’ really sets the tone without beating the listener over the head. There is a bittersweet breeze blowing through every song on an album that has some rather peppy tempos and almost chipper organ lines. The theme of the album is dark, not quite hopeless but almost. The opener ‘A Certain Smile’ sets the tone that, like love, peace of mind and temperament are cyclical. “That certain smile to haunt your heart again.” OUCH. ‘Smile’ is followed by ‘A Certain Sadness’ (JOKES!!!) that lays the cards on the table and directly discusses unrequited love, longing and depression. To me it is so interesting and inspiring to hear these jazz chords that have over time become associated with elevator music here set to such depressive and moody themes. Even the fast songs contain some really ‘ugly’ chords and organ solos that hint at a jazzy, almost punk antagonism that alongside the subject matter and vocal delivery make me really see Bossa Nova as a precursor to New Wave music (Bossa Nova means ‘New Trend’ or ‘New Wave’ after all.) ‘Tristeza’ and ‘So Nice’ are absolutely brilliant, tongue in cheek songs that in a heavy-lidded tone hint at a sunny life in a bitchy way that seem to me as sarcastic as they are dreamy.

Björk – Post
Choosing a Björk album to discuss is really difficult but this is probably the singular record that has influenced me the most. Eleven songs that are all different genres and on different planets. This record has such anger, such venom, such sadness and such spacious, calm, quietness. It is truly a rollercoaster masterpiece. It calls to mind Goldie Hawn’s famous line (from First Wives Club) about emotions “I’m an actress! I have all of them!” That’s what Björk showcases here; every emotion, texture, and sound in her body at the time and it is resplendent. ‘I Miss You’ is one of the best and most original takes on the standard longing pop song, with horn freak-outs, screaming, and a panic attack about “cuddles” for a bridge. The song sounds like a cartoon zoo where the animals train the humans just like the surrealist nightmare of a music video that is as amazing as the song. The album features one of my favourite songs ever; ‘Enjoy’, where mother weaves a bizarre love triangle over a beat made by one of her boyfriends at the time and one of my biggest inspirations: Tricky. The intimate tabloid lyrics are leaked over a beat that sounds like a jungle full of haunted wildlife that know your secrets and want to punish you with electrical torture. It’s one of the most titillating experiences you can have as a listener. An album that is full of so much motion and noise ends with the purely ambient ‘Headphones’. It’s built on barely there electronic bass notes and Miss Björk whispering about falling asleep to a transformative tape! I had this on cassette as a kid and it was a meta experience, this is one goal I have definitely taken from Mother. Her goal was to give others the same transcendental experience that music gave her, passing on the gift. Post is one of her greatest gifts.

Massive thanks to Tyler for sharing such beautiful words about their favourite albums!

Nightmare In Paradise, the upcoming album from Tyler Holmes, is set for release 26th March via Ratskin Records. Pre-order here. And watch the poignant video for ‘Nothing’ below: