Five Favourites: The Ophelias

Having just released their new album, Crocus, Ohio band The Ophelias continue to charm our ears with their stirring, shimmering creations. Showcasing a dreamy, folk-strewn allure, each track on the album flows with a beautifully captivating emotion, rippling with a heartfelt ethereal splendour.

We think one of the best ways to get to know a band is by asking what music inspires them. So, to celebrate their new album, we caught up with The Ophelias to ask about their “Five Favourites” – five albums that they love the most. Check out their choices below and scroll down to watch the unique new video for latest single, ‘The Twilight Zone’.

Joanna Newsom – The Milk Eyed Mender 
The first time I heard a Joanna Newsom song, I lay upside down with my head hanging off my bed, put it on repeat, and let my eyes well up and blood rush to my head. It was ‘Peach Plum Pear’ and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was such a clear moment of eye-opening world expansion that I can still feel the vivid, confusing excitement of learning that this music existed. I was sixteen, and immediately bought The Milk Eyed Mender in full. I stalked around my all-girls Catholic high school with Joanna Newsom in my ears and Docs on my feet, staring off into space in the library as she sang about dirigibles and fruit. I make music that sounds nothing like Joanna Newsom, partially because no one else can sound quite like her. But the poetry of her lyricism and fullness of her harp, alone and rich on this record, have absolutely influenced me and my songwriting. The harpsichord and chorus of voices singing “I am blue, I am blue and unwell” have never left my reference palette. The other Joanna Newsom records are fantastic – I especially love Have One On Me, in all its sprawling glory and drama. But The Milk Eyed Mender was the first album to change my life, and has influenced my taste and creative process greatly. 

Alex G – Trick
There’s nothing like a perfectly crafted, catchy song. Alex G has records worth of those, but Trick was my entry point. Freshman year of college is great for becoming friends with people, soaking up their music taste, and never seeing them again once your schedules change and welcome week ends. I’m grateful to the fellow freshman who put on ‘Mary’. The thing about Alex G songs is that they’re not revolutionary – guitar, bass, drums. But they’re so perfectly executed that they feel new. Most of Trick’s songs are short and to the point, so when he chooses to extend an outro or repeat a chorus it feels purposeful. I see that reflected in my songwriting – trying to be purposeful about extending things only if they need to be extended. The Ophelias as a whole have super varied music tastes, since we come from different backgrounds and approaches to music, but have all coalesced around Alex G. He makes songs that are sometimes accessible, sometimes experimental, sometimes vulnerable, sometimes silly. We can all find something we relate to or want to emulate in his work, since it covers so much ground. I graduated a couple years ago now, and Alex G has created songs beyond just guitar-bass-drums, but Trick holds a special place in my heart.

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless 
The first iteration of The Ophelias formed in high school, when Andrea and I were seniors and Mic was a junior. Jo grew up in Madison, WI, and they joined later, so at this point they were pulling pranks and applying to film school. Andrea and Mic played in another band together with friends of mine, which is actually how I met them both. That band was playing at a warehouse show that I booked, and in the middle of their set they burst into a cover of ‘When You Sleep’. I watched Andrea play the iconic melody line through fuzzed out, pedal-laden violin and was completely obsessed. I loved the song already, but hearing it in that new context made me rethink how violin could be intertwined into the songs I was writing. My Bloody Valentine is another band who we sound nothing like, but we all definitely take influence from. The layers of sound, the soft octaved vocals, and the unexpected use of items like vacuum cleaners are all exciting, specific sounds that have affected the creative choices we make. Loveless is a whole world within an album, something that sweeps you up into it. 

that dog. – Totally Crushed Out!
I’m not sure how I found this album – maybe the public library, maybe somewhere on my parents’ shelf – but I’m very happy I did. It appeared in my life one day and became the closest parallel to the music I currently make. ‘She Doesn’t Know How’ is one of my favourite songs of all time, and the way that this record bobs and weaves through more punk-inspired tracks and softer, violin-and-harmony focused songs inspired me to not only expand my songwriting to harder, faster places, but to also feel content and settled in softer songs. The violin acts as a second (or third) guitar in a lot of songs as well, sometimes carrying the melody line or engaging with the vocals. Andrea’s parts are extremely dynamic, and it’s always fun to watch her figure out ways to slide a harmony into a guitar chord or mimic a vocal line with her own twist. I started listening to Totally Crushed Out before I had a band at all, and originally didn’t think to name it as an influence. But as the songs evolved, I realised how much I wanted to emulate that dog., and how I had been moving towards that for a long time. 

Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do 
I struggled with which Fiona Apple album to include on this list. It came down to this one or Fetch the Bolt Cutters, which even though it only came out in 2020 left me reeling and full of new ideas for ways to stretch and evolve. But as I was re-listening to both that record and The Idler Wheel, I realised just how much of an impact The Idler Wheel has had on my creative process and decisions. Jo and I were obsessed with the ‘Hot Knife’ music video in college, watching it over and over again to see her avoid eye contact with the camera. Fiona Apple is a master of tension, building it up both in her voice and the piano as they caterwaul and thunder. Her records feel organic, like you can hear moving parts in the rooms where she recorded. Her lyrics are twisty and literate – she fits more into a single stanza than most say in a whole song. I try my hand at that every now and again, seeing what can fit in the container I’ve created for myself. But the other lyrical side that makes Fiona Apple so particularly gut-wrenching is when she forgoes the poetry and says it straight out, like “All that loving must have been lackin’ something / If I got bored trying to figure you out.”

Massive thanks to The Ophelias for sharing their ‘Five Favourites’ with us! Watch the new video for ‘The Twilight Zone’ here:

Crocus, the new album from The Ophelias, is out now via Joyful Noise Recordings. Buy it here.

Photo Credit:  Cam Whaley

FIVE FAVOURITES: Aerial East

Described as a deeply personal coming-of-age record, New York-based musician Aerial East is preparing to release her poetic new album, Try Harder, on 12th February. Set to be released via Partisan Records, the LP tentatively explores East’s experiences of disconnection, loneliness, suicide, friendships, gender roles and breakups, whilst also embracing the simple beauty that life can unexpectedly bestow upon us.

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 Aerial East 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 Aerial East’s latest video for ‘Try Harder’ at the end of this post.

 

1. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
This album just keeps giving. When I first heard it in 2010 I had a really negative reaction to it. I was already a big fan having binged The Milk Eyed Mender and Ys after high school. A friend of mine made a comment about her during this time that was something like “I would marry her without even meeting her” and I followed an immature impulse to prove that she wasn’t that amazing by rejecting the overwhelming 3 disc record. By 2011 though I was feeling heartbroken and I found myself uncontrollably humming and singing ‘On a Good Day’, the most digestible song on the epic breakup record. The more heartbroken I felt the more I threw myself into the record. I must have listened to this album thousands of times – probably more than any other. It is so familiar to me and feels like home. It still makes me cry. My friend Kelly once said that she feels like herself when she hears it. I feel that way too. I still don’t always know what is going to happen next when I listen though. I haven’t yet memorized the lyrics, melodies and structures of the songs and that makes for stimulating repeated listens. I saw her perform again in 2019 and it sent me into a satisfying spiral of obsessively analyzing her lyrics and reading about her that really helped me think and write about my own songs.

2. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
The Kick Inside gives this one a run for its money but Hounds of Love is the record I put on to cheer myself up when I’m feeling depressed. I actually first heard the song ‘Hounds of Love’ in high school when the Futureheads covered it and didn’t discover Bush until years later when I moved to New York. I was immediately drawn in when I first saw her dancing in the red dress video for ‘Wuthering Heights’. I remember thinking I had heard the song as a child but I later realized I was remembering ‘Come to My Window’ by Melissa Etheridge. Anyway, Bush’s videos are all amazing. I wanted to study mime for a long time because of her. I still kind of do. Hounds of Love is one of the best records ever made.

3. Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou – Ethiopiques, vol. 21: Emahoy (Piano Solo)
This record centers me. It was all I could listen to in 2016 and I don’t play piano but I wanted my record Try Harder to feel like this. I first heard it when I was working at Dimes, a restaurant I have worked at since 2013. I used to listen to it often while setting up for my night shift that the closing daytime server would put it on when they saw me arrive. Emahoy, homemade pizza, and David Attenborough got me through 2016. A good remedy for anxiety.

4. Joni Mitchell – Blue
I mean, come on. It’s so good! I actually didn’t get into Joni Mitchell until Teeny Leiberson and Rachel Pazdan invited me to perform in their HUM Joni Mitchell tribute show. There was a lot to dig into and I said yes obviously, but then I had a deadline to familiarize myself with her work – she is pretty prolific – and choose a song I wanted to sing. I ended up doing ‘My Old Man’ because I don’t really write love songs even though I’m very romantic and ‘Hana’ from 2007’s Shine, because I wanted to acknowledge her as a contemporary artist. This is one of those records that just makes me feel good when it comes on. It came out the same year as Carole King’s Tapestry and I like thinking about the two different song-writing styles. Tapestry has so many crazy big hit songs that you are like “wait, she wrote that song too?!” They are such perfectly written pop songs but Blue is full of weird idiosyncratic songs that only really make sense if Joni is singing them. I love both albums so much and I imagine Carole made more money off of Tapestry because those songs are so widely covered and licensed, but if I could choose I would rather have made Blue.

5. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
Beautiful melodies, beautiful harmonies, dizzying layered vocals, heart-breaking lyrics produced joyfully. I’m not sure if it was the first time I heard this record but I remember listening to these songs upstate and crying and everyone in the room politely pretending not to see. Pet Sounds was a big reference when I was producing my first record Rooms.

Thanks to Aerial for sharing her favourites with us!

Watch Aerial East’s video for ‘Try Harder’ below.

You can pre-order Aerial East’s new album Try Harder here.

Follow Aerial East on Spotify, bandcamp, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook 

Five Favourites: Kama Vardi

Having spent a nomadic youth travelling, experimenting and creating, Tel Aviv based artist Kama Vardi has released a stream of solo material to much acclaim, and is now set to release her new album this week.

Showcasing Vardi’s unique sparkling majesty, the collection is filled with a beguiling allure and captivating mysticism as the shimmering splendour of Vardi’s distinctive vocals flows throughout each strikingly beautiful offering.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspires them or influences their writing. So, we caught up with Kama to discuss the five songs that inspire her the most. Have a read and watch her latest video for ‘The Gate’ below. 

Nina Simone – ‘Stars’ 
My first choice is this brilliant, heart breaking live version of Janis Ian’s song ‘Stars’, performed by Nina Simone. Nina Simone’s life was not a simple one, to put it lightly, and when you listen to her play this song you get it all – you mourn that life of glory with her, you make peace with her pain; you see her as she really is – a true performer. Simone is known for never leaving the stage, not for a moment, and when you watch this show, and you witness her breathtaking personality as it’s showing here, full of kindness and anger, you realise why. 

Syd Barrett – ‘Dark Globe’
Even though I rarely listen to Syd Barrett anymore, I had to put him in this list. Barrett was one of the first artists I ever got deeply into, and definitely the one that influenced me in the most meaningful way. His raw nature and wild, intuitive writing and performance got me from the first second. Barrett is not the relatable kind. He is not Joni Mitchell who wrote all her songs just for you, nor is he Tom Waits who will pull you from your deepest pits with a cuddle. But he will expand your horizons in a very real way, he will put you in a foreign land and stay with you there. This song, also called ‘Wouldn’t You Miss Me?’, is a perfect example of Syd Barrett’s world; a gorgeously hectic, beautifully broken, dazzling world.

Joanna Newsom – ‘Sawdust and Diamonds’
I admit, when I first heard Joanna Newsom I didn’t believe her. All I could hear was squeaks and, despite everyone around me praising it, I just couldn’t buy it. But then I broke up with my then boyfriend and band mate, and something about being twenty and alone cracked me wide open, and I decided to give it another chance. I sat down to listen to her album YS, and when I did I just couldn’t believe I couldn’t hear it before – it was so gorgeous, so profound; I listened to it on repeat for a week, waking up every morning excited to press play again, and when it reached a boiling point I sat down and within one sleepless week wrote my entire first solo album. It’s hard to pick just one song from this album, but ‘Sawdust & Diamonds” is a good one to start with. The words are everything in these songs, so reading them as you listen is very good advice. Here is a quote from that song, for appetite:
I wasn’t born of a whistle or milked from a thistle at twilight
No; I was all horns and thorns, sprung out fully formed, knock-kneed and upright
So enough of this terror, we deserve to know light
And grow evermore lighter and lighter
You would have seen me through but I could not undo that desire…

Oren Lavie – ‘Note to Self’
Sometimes you hear a song and you immediately feel so close to the person singing, you’re sure you and them are meant to be, and if you only got to meet each other you’d fall in love, become best friends, live happily ever after. I know that isn’t usually true; it’s disappointing, but artists are often very different on their canvas than in person.
Nevertheless, after I heard Oren Lavie’s ‘Note to Self’ I had to find out. I got his number and asked him out for a drink, and that drink turned into a night of wandering the streets together, which turned into the greatest love of my life to date. Oren Lavie is one of the most exciting, honest and timeless songwriters I know, with a voice so deep and soothing you’re gonna want to forget yourself in his arms every night, which I strongly recommend. 

Tom Waits – ‘Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night’
When you’re young and seeking adventure, everything means something: the street lights flickering, your cousin calling, your weekly pay – all these things are like clues to help you find it. When you grow up you start filtering, you just can’t afford the waste, you don’t have time. But Tom Waits didn’t write this song when he was seventeen and this agelessness is one of the things I love about him. He could write a convincing fifty year old when he was twenty three, and he can capture this teen spirit as an adult. When I first listened to ‘Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night’ I was a deeply committed youth participant myself, and I was drawn to this world he described like a moth to the flame. A world that is happening, the real thing. And he helped me up there, and still is. 

Massive thanks to Kama Vardi for sharing her five favourites with us!

Moonticket, the upcoming new album from Kama Vardi, is out 27th November via Bread For Eskimos.

Photo Credit: Goni Riskin

FIVE FAVOURITES: Leggy

Having recently shared stages with The Spook School, Personal Best and Pile, angular punks Leggy  have been functioning at full speed. Formed of Véronique (lead vocals/guitar), Kerstin Bladh (bass) and Chris (drummer), the band released their album ‘Let Me Know Your Moon’ via Sheer Luck Records this year, as well as playing a run of shows at SXSW and completing a successful US tour.

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 Véronique & Chris to ask about their “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced their songwriting techniques. Check out their choices below, and make sure you listen to Leggy’s track ‘Taffy’ at the end of this post.

 

1. Eisley – Marvelous Things
Veronique: Discovering this EP while watching some type of late night Subterranean MTV channel changed my life. I remember it was right before Christmas 2013, and I put this on my Christmas list and my cool Dad, who loves music, got it for me. The vocal melody in Marvelous Things is true art and hearing it the first time ran shivers down my spine! It’s so simple and yet so unique, brilliant and dark . Also, discovering this band which was being led by young womxn, MY AGE (13!!!!) was inspiring. I felt like I could picture myself doing it too. Some of the first tabs I ever learned were super early Eisley songs . I named this EP because it was the first one I discovered, but I delved deep into the back catalogue after that, and all of it was highly influential in my first several years of songwriting.

2. Kesha – Cannibal
Veronique: This album was the anthem of my 21st year. I have so many fun feelings associated with it. I also have a lot of depressing memories tied to it (21, amiright??) The album is amazing – the lyrics were extremely relatable to me at that point in my life, and still continue to be relevant. Kesha is a damn boss bitch. I love pop music and simple but super dope beats, and I especially think it can be super beautiful when a rock band incorporates that sound a bit. I have certainly been influenced by her songwriting style.

I’m also 10000% over “music people” or “punks” or “intellectuals” hating on pop stars. I know it hasn’t been the case recently (thank you LIZZO, Carly Rae, Lana Del Rey) but Kesha was underrated in her first years. Fight me.

3. Joanna Newsom – Milk Eyed Mender
Veronique: Milk Eyed Mender made me feel knock kneed and tongue tied. The fact that she was singing in such a bare bones and peculiar way felt like complete anarchy to me. It kinda felt like she had declared “anything goes” – you didn’t have to be the standard to make music. That mindset totally inspired me to start writing a bunch of weirdo songs when I was in high school. Some of them evolved and eventually made it onto our first two EPs. Her whimsical and narrative heavy style of lyrics (similar to Eisley’s in this way) was really wonderful for someone like me, who was obsessed with fantasy at the time and spent a good deal of my waking day dreaming about random mystical shit (Lord of The Rings, anyone?) Also, Joanna Newsom was definitely a crush of mine before I knew what it meant. That’s just a bonus though.

4. Mika Miko – C.Y.S.L.A.B.F
Chris: True concrete floor dance party anthems. Big rowdy punk heavy hitters with a relentlessly dancey rhythm section, shout along until your out of breath. It has on point bopping guitar, and swing from the chandeliers energy. Still slams in 2019. Remember getting this the day my suburban record shop got it in stock and it’s been on rotation ever since. Soundtrack to a lot of fun times and long late drives. Wall to wall banging fun with undeniable hooks. Fuckin sick. KRS classic imo. Not sure if this has been long enough of a review so I’d also like to add The Blow’s “Paper Television” to this favorite album. Similar reasons I guess, same kinda era etc. Way different but y’know both are influential, make me happy and totally rock!

5. Best Coast – Crazy For You
Chris: Front to back contemporary classic. Every song is a hit. Love everything about it. The guitars and vocals and lyrics and drums and videos and everything. One time like years ago, my roommate and I were tripping in different parts of our place down on 12th Street and when I went to her room to see what was up, she was wearing shades, drinking a cocktail, blasting this record and lounging on her bed under a heat lamp because it was like 4am in the dead of winter. This album is like that y’know, a warm sunny day in summer, or a stoned heat lamp on a cold winter night, whatever you need it to be. Still really heavy hitting emotionally though, not just all fun in the sun. But also yeah. Just great. Love this album!

Thanks to Véronique and Chris for sharing their favourites with us. Follow Leggy on Facebook for more updates.