FIVE FAVOURITES: Dolls

After sharing their debut EP Pop The Bubble in 2018, garage-rock duo Dolls have been busy writing new material and working with Producer Margo Broom (Hermitage Studio Works) to create more of their energetic guitar tunes. Filled with buoyant riffs, crashing percussion and strong vocals; their new EP, Eggshells, is a retrospective take on “Losing friends, creepy men, the strive for perfectionism, and day-to-day anxiety.”

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 Dolls’ vocalist & guitarist Jade Ellins to ask about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced her writing techniques. Check out Jade’s choices below, and scroll down to watch the video for Dolls’ track ‘Eggshells’ at the end of this post.

1. PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love
I felt like I got into PJ Harvey surprisingly late considering I have loved female-fronted bluesy rock for most of my life. When I first started gigging in London about 8 years ago, I used to get compared to her so I thought “I should really give her a listen2. This was the first PJ album I listened to and it blew my mind. I loved everything about it – her vocal performance, the production, the lyrics – it was all incredible. It really influences my song writing and I especially like the way she plays with dynamics on this album. She manages to make one riff sound interesting for over five minutes with her arrangements, which I feel is one of the hardest things to do. My partner bought me this on vinyl and I honestly find it hard to listen to records all the way through without zoning out but this album keeps my interest the whole time.

2. Deep Purple – Made In Japan
I used to listen to this album on car journeys when I was little all the time. I love Deep Purple, and this live album showcases how brilliant they are live, even if Ritchie Blackmore likes to go off and do his own thing a lot of the time! I love every song on this album but my favourites are ‘Highway Star’, ‘Lazy’ and ‘Space Truckin’. This album has a lot of good memories for me and Ritchie Blackmore is still one of my favourite guitarists. I wouldn’t say I directly use Deep Purple to influence my song writing but I feel like parts of them must come out as I have listened to them so much.

3. Pixies – Doolittle
I actually used to hate the Pixies, and I did see them live when I was 21 and was bored. Then about 4 years later I listened to some songs of Doolittle and it was a light bulb moment (I thought it might happen with The Smiths but I still hate them!) I think my music taste really changed as I wanted to be more experimental with song writing. Pixies have an amazing way of making certain songs that really shouldn’t work sound interesting and engaging. My favourite song off the album is ‘Hey’. When I listen to it I sometimes want to cry because it is so good. Every single musician brings something unique to the band and I feel like every part fits together perfectly. It’s probably why when seeing them live now it isn’t quite the same as they don’t have Kim Deal anymore. I have watched old live videos and she definitely brings the energy and has such a distinctive voice. Raspy and angelic at the same time! I love you Pixies, I’m sorry I doubted you.

4. Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
Is this one of the best live albums/shows of all time? I think so! I sometimes put the show on just so I can run around with them. The song writing is magnificent and I love how in the show they gradually build up the stage, I couldn’t believe it when I first watched it. The only thing I can’t work out is everyone is wearing a similar outfit but the drummer is wearing a bright blue polo shirt, it annoys me slightly but I’ll let it go one day. I love Talking Heads’ use of vocal harmony and much like most of the albums I have put on this list – every instrument has its own essential part. Some bands you can feel that they haven’t been bothered to push themselves to think of a better bass line or guitar part but each instrument and choice made on these Talking Heads songs creates an essential part in a well-oiled and groovy machine.

5. The Kills – Keep On Your Mean Side
A friend at music college introduced me to The Kills and out of the largely male led duos I was listening to at the time. I loved the fact that there were male and female vocal parts. I thought Alison Mosshart was the coolest person ever and such a brilliant performer. I don’t listen to The Kills much anymore, but when I was first starting Dolls they played a big role at influencing my song writing. My favourite song from the album is ‘Fried Your Little Brains’. Much like PJ Harvey, they manage to make one riff throughout a whole song sound brilliant. I think that is largely down to Jamie’s rhythmic guitar playing. I used to watch him a lot to help with guitar playing ideas for Dolls. Out of the big duos at the time (The Black Keys, The White Stripes) Jamie’s guitar playing was my favourite. Not too showy but still unique.

Thanks to Jade for sharing her favourites with us!
Listen to Dolls’ new EP Eggshells on Spotify.

Photo Credit: Keira-Anee Photography

Five Favourites: Why Bonnie

The latest full-band project from Texan artist Blair Howerton, Why Bonnie released their debut Water back in 2018 and have now returned, announcing their upcoming EP Voice Box, set for release next month.

Title track and lead single, ‘Voice Box’, oozes sunny uplifting vibes as shimmering hooks and Howerton’s rich, luscious vocals flow with a soaring emotion; a truly dreamy offering fuzzing with a dazzling, effervescent charm.

We think one of the best ways to get to know an artist is by asking what music inspires them or influences their writing. We caught up with Blair, who has shared her “Five Favourites” – five albums that particularly resonate with them. Check out her choices below, and make sure you watch Why Bonnie’s new video for ‘Voice Box’ at the bottom of this post.

Liz Phair – Exile In Guyville
I first heard this album in college and haven’t found anything to top it since. I‘d grown up with her big pop hits, but this album was a totally different vibe. She blended that classic ’90s angst with heartfelt sweetness so beautifully and all of the melodies are really subtle yet effective. The whole sound felt very familiar but in an exciting way. I’ve listened to the track ‘Explain It To Me’ maybe a thousand times and I never get sick of it. The album is also really long and has a really good variety of sounds, so I recommend it for anyone that’s currently self isolating!

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
This album will always remind me of my childhood. Out of all of the classic rock albums that I grew up with, this one was the most formative. Stevie Nicks was my idol growing up and we have the same birthday, so I’ve always felt weirdly connected to her. ‘Dreams’ is one of those tracks that will always bring me back to being seven years old on a beach in Galveston, Texas, twirling around with a towel doing my best Stevie impression. Also, that bass line is catchy as hell. 

Dear Nora – Three States: Rarities 1997 – 2007
This was my first introduction to Twee and the genre really resonated with me. This album in particular was sweet and sentimental but still had a fun, kinda sloppy, and whimsical edge to it. It’s poetic but not pretentious, and always puts me in a good mood.

The Breeders – Last Splash
Kim Deal is just a true fucking icon. Last Splash has such a good blend of disjointed scuzzy rock and pop sensibilities, which is something we strive for in our music. It’s the epitome of noise-pop and I believe it paved the way for a whole genre. Obviously we love Pixies as well, but The Breeders really honed in this sound in such a brilliant way.

Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Picking the best Pavement album is like talking about politics or religion with your family at Thanksgiving. Crooked Rain was my first introduction to Pavement, so that’s kind of the main reason for choosing it. What makes this record so special (and inspiring) is really the way they combine (both from a songwriting and performance standpoint) catchy, earworm-y melodies with absolute chaos. Pavement is such a special band because they’re able to mix seemingly contradictory elements into songs that you find yourself humming on a walk, in the grocery store, or waiting for the train. Tongue-in-cheek lyrics that with a beautiful guitar melody, dissonant guitar noise with heartfelt lyrics, or trying to play jazz as a slacker rock band. They remind me that it’s ok to not take yourself too seriously, and in doing that you can end up making music that’s incredibly catchy, inspiring, and meaningful. They kind of invite the listener to apply whatever kind of meaning they want to the songs, and inspire me to write whatever I’m feeling like playing or singing, knowing that it’s ok if a wrong note or nonsense lyric (or several) find their way onto the record. 

Massive thanks to Blair for sharing her Five Favourites with us! Why Bonnie’s new EP Voice Box is out 10th April via Fat Possum Records. Watch the video for the title track:

Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana