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: Sophie Hutchings

A talented composer who produces mindful piano-led music, Australian artist Sophie Hutchings uses sound to ease the anxieties of everyday life. She recorded her recent EP, Love & Keep, between the hours of 12-4am, embracing her insomnia and offering her listeners a moment of stillness and serenity amidst her restlessness.

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 Sophie to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five songs that have inspired her song-writing techniques. Check out her choices below and scroll down to watch her video for recent single ‘Light Over The Moor’ at the end of this post.

Sophie: “I find it almost impossible to choose 5 favourite pieces, so I’ve chosen 5 of my favourites that had a significant impact on my formative years. Even though they are all quite different from each other, there’s a common ground of repetition in these pieces which I’ve always found quite hypnotising in music.”

1. Brain Eno – ‘Discreet Music’
I love Erik Satie’s invention and coining of the term “Furniture music” – sounds that were designed to be heard, but not listened to. Brian Eno fans will know this is the whole aim with ‘Discreet music’. It’s intended to blend into the ambient atmosphere of the room rather than be directly focused upon. This, to me, has got to be one of the most soothing ambient pieces I’ve ever heard and has always been one of my favourite go to late night listens. I grew up listening to a lot of Brian Eno but this one really stirred me. It always felt like a musical bedtime story. There’s a dreamy placid beauty about it that allows you to float and drift outside yourself without you even realising.

With a very simple organic layering of melody the piece never really changes which is what I love about it, yet it constantly and subtly evolves with the accession of various decay as the piece gradually and quietly repeats its motifs with all the sounds remaining continually tranquil and peaceful. It’s one of those pieces that feels like it could go on for infinity. It’s music that doesn’t demand your attention though still evokes a delicate sense of emotion.

2. Arvo Part – ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’
The first time I heard ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ it put a massive lump in my throat. I’ve listened to it countless times and there’s not a moment when it still doesn’t raise the same stirring response. Again, this is one of those hypnotising pieces due to the unchanging nature of recurring motifs in the piece and beautifully long sustained notes. I love how the minimalism relies on atmosphere and not on building towards a climax like a lot of classical music does.

Arvo Part is a true example of introspective music. It’s not how many notes are played but how they are played. It’s also about the space in between. Silence in music speaks and I find there’s almost as much strength in the pauses and space in music as there are notes. ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ hangs on the edges, yet there’s a restlessness over the quietness that balances the fragility in this piece of music and I guess being a sentimental person you don’t tire of this kind of beauty in music.

3. Susumu Yokota – ‘Traveller In The Wonderland’
Discovering Susumu Yokota was like discovering Alice In Wonderland as a child all over again (which I’m slightly obsessed with). I find him the true master of ambient electronica. Sadly, I only discovered him just before he died and I would love to collect all his albums on vinyl, which are few and far between. There’s a lush fanciful playfulness to this piece. It’s almost like nature talking to each other.

Yokota taps into the senses through melodic remnants taken from historical old classical pieces on his album Symbol, and in this instance on ‘Traveller In The Wonderland’ there’s some beautiful Camille Saint-Saens and a little Luigi Boccherini which gives it this mystic whimsical edge – still he reveals it in this almost anonymous way – placing a sense of nostalgia of some long lost place weaved throughout his dreamy melodic textural synths, wordless dreamy vocals and drum loops with romantic musical pathways of middle eastern tonality resonating around the circumference. To me, it’s like being under the trance of a magical child-like spell which takes me back to my Walt Disney imaginative heydays.

4. DJ Shadow – ‘Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt’
DJ Shadow was a revelation in my early adult years. He enthusiastically rocked my world. There’s this clever combination of moody and intense rhythmic melodious energy that just brings everything so alive in this piece. The haunting atmosphere that’s accentuated by the repetitive hypnotic group vocals, rich off beat bass and the urgency and drive of the eerie piano riff. I’ve always affiliated with a certain amount of intensity in music and hearing this song for the first time was like hearing an unexplored wilderness of dynamic addictive melody. I love how he brings to life all these old vinyl treasures and re-creates layers and collages of sound. It’s enticing, energetic, ethereal and ambient all in one – where happy and melancholy are competently one – it’s an intoxicating and timeless listen.

5. My Bloody Valentine – ‘Soon’
I grew up being surrounded by a lot of noisy indie rock and shoegaze music and as much as I don’t listen to this kind of music as much as used to, this piece stuck with me and was one of my favourites that bounced off the family household walls at high decibels thanks to my older brothers. I would always have a good dance to it!

If there’s ever a blurred latitude of noisy dreamy sound with a rhythmic propulsion, I say this is an iconic one. It’s one of those songs that feels like you’re lost in a sonic labyrinth which one will either grapple with or be enlightened by. I just listened to it again for the first time in years and it took me back to days of going for walks and blaring it in my headphones. When embraced, it’s like entering a woozy euphoric daze that you can get totally lost in and it taught me that you don’t necessarily have to always interpret music as long as you feel it – then to me, you understand it. Not everything in music needs an explanation to be felt.

Thanks so much to Sophie for sharing her favourites with us!

Watch her video for ‘Light Over The Moor’ below.

Photo Credit: Luke Dubbelde

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

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
The pioneers of shoegaze, MBV created such an original and unique sound that nothing has come close to replicating it since. Kevin Shields is an innovator of ethereal atmospherics, he introduced a palette of guitar textures that range from noise rock to undersea creatures. This album, a musical masterpiece, blends a blizzard of guitar noise with soft androgynous vocals from Bilinda Butcher and a trance-inducing tremolo to create a sonic carousel of sound.

 

Sally-Anne Hickman
@sallyshinystars

Track Of The Day: draag – ‘Trauma Kit’

Anxious thoughts melt away in a swirl of hazy guitars and uplifting electronics on ‘Trauma Kit’, the latest single from L.A. indie-shoegaze five-piece draag. Following on from their previous track ‘Ghost Leak’, ‘Trauma Kit’ continues to unravel the tensions that went in to creating the band’s upcoming EP, Clara Luz, which is set for release on 21st February.

Draag was originally a solo project fronted by Adrian Acosta, who was trained as a mariachi singer by his Father. After exploring the worlds of underground punk, no wave, and experimental jazz, Acosta soon met and added Jessica Huang, Nick Kelley, Ray Montes and Shane Graham to draag’s lineup. Together, the five piece create music that’s garnered comparisons to My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth.

The band have shared a dramatic set of visuals to accompany ‘Trauma Kit’, directed by Devonte Johnson, and co-directed by band members Acosta and Huang. They compliment the track’s cinematic, all-encompassing sound.

Having been tested by illness and personal turmoils throughout recording, draag’s new track and the collection of songs on their upcoming EP are about dealing with trauma, and how simultaneously difficult and empowering that can be.

Listen to ‘Trauma Kit’ below, and follow draag on Facebook & Spotify for more updates.

Photo Credit: Devonte Johnson

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut