Playlist on Spotify at the bottom of each page.
20. Jay Som ”Pirouette”
19. Soccer Mommy ”Your Dog”
”…the premise of the song is the story, a quiet dark, graphic story that we were told by a friend. We were just so taken aback and shocked by what our friend had told us…”
18. Shame ”Angie”
(from Songs Of Praise)
Eddie: ”That song is quite a different vibe for us, it’s a bit Oasis-like, and that’s really not the direction I ever expected the band to go in. But the premise of the song is the story, a quiet dark, graphic story that we were told by a friend. We were just so taken aback and shocked by what our friend had told us. We made it into a song and I guess lyrically you can pick up some of the details. We thought it was such a harrowing story and we wanted to make something out of it. Any kind of further exploration of the details is not for us to say.”
Charlie: ”The name ‘Angie’ means ‘angel’. Sure, it might be fictional but after hearing a story like that there’s no way you can avoid focusing on it. A lot of the songs I love, like ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ by Roxy Music or ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ by Nick Cave, are discussing the dark depths of love. It’s just a topic that intrigues me. It’s natural human interest. After I heard the story I wrote the lyrics. Usually I have a few different note book, then when somebody comes up with an idea I’ll see if I have anything that works with it, otherwise I’ll come up with something. We wrote the foundation for this one at the Queen’s Head Pub in Brixton. Then Dan Foat and Nathan Boddy who produced our album heard it before one of our recording sessions and said they wanted it. I had, like, seven pages of lyrics.”
Eddie: ”We spent ages reworking the track. For me, it’s one ot the tracks on the album that I’m most proud of. Musically speaking, it’s in a different vein than the rest of our music and we worked quite a while trying to craft it perfectly. It’s not an easy thing trying to pull off a seven minute song. Not to sound too big-headed, but I’m pleased with how it turned out.”
Charlie: ”There were two girls who got it tatooed recently. I wrote ‘Angie’ on both of their wrists, then they did like a stick and poke and an hour later they sent us a photo of it.”
– Charlie Steen and Eddie Green
”…coincidentally, because everything in my life tends to blow at the same time, I was going through divorce from the girl that I was married to…”
17. Rhye ”Phoenix”
”It was actually the second song I made for Blood, the first one was ’Waste’. That’s when I knew I was starting that record. I did ‘Waste’, then all this crazy stuff was going down. I had to buy out the record label just to be able to make the second record. There was this contract on it that was holding back the ability to even put it out. It cost a lot of money so I had to make a lot of money. I played so many concerts to be able to pay off this record deal. Once I did that I was a free agent and I decided to make the record without a label. I had a really bad time with Polydor, it was just so difficult.
The reason I’m telling you that is there’s a couple of levels to ‘Phoenix’ and one of them is the reinvention of myself as an artist through this buy-out. I kept feeling this triumph, maybe, of being able to do it because it was financially daunting at the time. That was the first intention behind ‘Phoenix’.
The second intention behind the song was that coincidentally, because everything in my life tends to blow at the same time, I was going through divorce from the girl that I was married to, that I moved to L.A. in the first place for. Everything was kind of dismantled. It was a really weird time to have to realize I had all these bad things happen to me. So then there was this reinvention of myself as a person too; ‘Hey, who am I now?’. ‘Cause you know, you have this moment of where I’m not in a relationship, it was a bit of a bad break-up.
You have a sexual reinvention. For the first time, you’re open to touching another person’s body. Before, you were totally closed off to that. Then there’s an emotional and spiritual reinvention. And you have to kind of build yourself back up again. Looking back on it now, it was easy and fun, but in the moment it’s a little bit heavy.
The reason the music sounds that way – this is where it gets weirdly Freudian or Jungian – I used to love classic, psychedelic rock as a teenager. I was the drummer in a psychedelic rock band. Somehow this nostalgia for that sound started coming to me as I was reinventing myself. So it was almost as I was returning to an earlier version of myself, even musically. At the time I was starting to get bored with the electronic sound that everyone was making. Everyone was using laptops. I was missing the live drum sound. I started ‘Phoenix’ on my own but it wasn’t clicking until I bought this beautiful drum set, a 1965 Ludwig that I set up in the studio where I recorded the whole album. My bass player is the owner and it used to be Earth, Wind & Fire’s studio. The drum room there is fucking amazing. The room is all wood. The drumming I started on ‘Phoenix’ and that dictated the whole rest of the record. I knew I wanted the song to symbolize a lot of what Blood is about. Opening up to what life’s going to bring.
– Mike Milosh
16. The Beths ”Happy Unhappy”
(from Future Me Hates Me)
15. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever ”Talking Straight”
(from Hope Downs)
14. Adrianne Lenker ”terminal paradise”
”I agree that it has a kinship to ‘Song for Zula’, it feels like that kind of song. It’s a lot of instruments doing the same thing, the intro was made like a loop…”
13. Phosphorescent ”C’est La Vie No.2”
(from C’est La Vie)
”That was the last song I wrote for the record, it came together pretty quick. It’s not by accident it became the title track. For me, it was the final thing that clicked and put all the songs together like a record. Before that… I don’t know, they felt a little disconnected. They each had strong personalities and I couldn’t see how they were like a family until that song, which I recorded it as a solo endeavor.
I agree that it has a kinship to ‘Song for Zula’, it feels like that kind of song. Those are all real instruments, there’s a melodica in there but it’s also layered with a piano and a Wurlitzer. It’s a lot of instruments doing the same thing, the intro was made like a loop.
Lyrically, it’s a sad song. It was a little bit of a question on calling the record C’est La Vie because I didn’t want sadness, or maybe resignation, to be the overriding thing. Acceptance is more the proper emotion.
Is there a ‘C’est La Vie No.1’? Well, like I said it came together really quickly and I first recorded a version on my phone which was called ‘No.1’, then when I did the second one I just named it ‘No.2’. I kept it slightly as an homage to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Chelsea Hotel’. Also, it honestly looks prettier. A lot of times you have songs and they have the version number next to them as you’re keeping track of it all but then you always take that away. Ha ha! It just looks so nice and it was a nice little thing to send up to Leonard.”
– Matthew Houck
”They lived through far more difficult times socially. People were mobilized by decisions of conscience. That, to me, is at the core of the spirit of protest…”
12. Hozier ”Nina Cried Power (feat. Mavis Staples)”
(from Nina Cried Power EP)
”It would’ve been written sometime early last year coming off the road. It was an amalgamation of a few ideas but I wanted to write something that spoke to a spirit of solidarity. It was a bit of a thank you note to songs and artists from the 20th century who had that spirit too. In the context of the time, of the year that it was, it kind of felt like a lot of negative aspects of civil discourse, bitterness and xenophobia were being given a mainstream platform 24/7 at the time. I just wanted to write something on the other side of that, I suppose.
Mavis Staples being one of those very, very important artists that were central, who sang the soundtrack in many ways to the civil rights movement in America. They lived through far more difficult times socially. A time of great redemption, I suppose. People were mobilized by decisions of conscience. That to me is at the core of the spirit of protest. I just wanted to credit that and everything we have to thank for it.
She really loved the song, I have to say. We sent an early cut of the song, an early arrangement, to her. I was really honoured, I have to say, to have her on the song. She dug where it was coming from. When we got to Chicago we went through the lyrics because I wanted to make sure she was okay with everything. There were a few lines before the last chorus that she really, really liked in particular, so I asked her “would you sing that?”. I was hugely honoured, she’s an amazing person.
That’s Booker T. Jones playing the funky part 2.45 into the song. He had actually reached out when I was on the road last time round but I don’t know how I arrived on his radar. I was amazed again, maybe he overheard me speaking of him in an interview. But he reached out to say if there ever was an opportunity to work together he would love to. It never came to fruition on the last tour, it was just wall to wall so there was never an opportunity to make good on that. This time round we were looking to put a Hammond across the record, not just that song, I thought I would send it out there to see if he was interested to join us. So we had him for a week in London recording across the record.
Her vocals were recorded at a studio called Chicago Recording Company. The drums and the organ were done in RAK in London, the piano in my house in Wicklow, Ireland and the rest in Markus Dravs’ studio in Hackney, London. A few different spots!”
– Andrew Hozier-Byrne
”…it just snapped together. Once Sasha added her response melody to the verses, we knew pretty quickly that it would be a stand out song…”
11. The Essex Green ”Don’t Leave It In Our Hands”
(from Hardly Electronic)
”So I could spend a bunch of time breaking down the lyrics for this song… but there are multiple ways that people are interpreting them and I like the idea of leaving that part undocumented – for now at least. I think most people get the gist.
What is just as interesting for me about this song is how it melodically came together. The bass line and chord pattern of the verses were from an instrumental demo I did nearly 20 years ago… I remember loving the demo but never found a home for it until I matched it with a much more recent melodic snippet for the chorus. It happened to have the same chords as the verse but in a slightly different order – so it just snapped together. Once Sasha added her response melody to the verses, we knew pretty quickly that it would be a stand out song.
Those kind of ‘aha’ moments are so rare – kinda like when a great song/melody idea makes itself known in a dream and you are able to remember it the next morning. No control when they happen… completely out of your ‘hands’…”
– Christopher Ziter
”I’ve always loved narrative song writing. Mark Kozelek and Josh Ritter are big heroes of mine, I’m glad I finally managed to crack one of my own…”
10. Luke Sital-Singh ”The Last Day”
”‘The Last Day’ was written, like a lot of my songs, very very quickly. I didn’t set out to write a narrative led song. I think the first line came out of me and I just went with it. I’ve always loved narrative song writing. Mark Kozelek and Josh Ritter are big heroes of mine, I’m glad I finally managed to crack one of my own.”
– Luke Sital-Singh
”‘Scream Whole’ began as a complex organ loop. I unpicked it’s harmonies and arranged them, ultimately charting out what is heard now…”
9. Methyl Ethel ”Scream Whole”
”‘Scream Whole’ began as a complex organ loop. I unpicked it’s harmonies and arranged them, ultimately charting out what is heard now. After adding a bridge that was written in a green room somewhere in rural Victoria the song was complete. Thematically, ‘Scream Whole’ wants to reconnect and repair damaged relations, guided by instinct.”
– Jake Webb
8. Phantastic Ferniture ”Dark Corner Dance Floor”
(from Phantastic Ferniture)
7. John Grant ”Love Is Magic”
(from Love Is Magic)
6. Low ”Rome (Always In The Dark)”
(from Double Negative)
5. Patrick Watson ”Melody Noir”
”…performing it onstage always gives me a jolt of wild energy. It’s time to rebel against the confines of the self and smash some shit up while wearing my prettiest dresses…”
4. Half Waif ”Lilac House”
”On a day off in rural Ohio, I set up a makeshift studio in a friend’s bedroom and let off some steam by writing ‘Lilac House’. The song describes a utopia in which every feeling and every desire a woman has is valid. Want to play princess in a house made of flowers? Go for it. Want to get your knees dirty in a field and scream your lungs out? Knock yourself out. It recognizes the plurality of what it means to be a woman and rejects the way our prescribed roles have been reduced to a narrow swath of the feeblest activities.
I see in my constant politeness a kind of brand of the patriarchy, as if from a young age my tongue was straightjacketed. ‘I never was a corner cutter – I never wanted to be a bother’. I’ve always tried to be good and keep my place in line, to do what I was told. But now I see that that plays directly into the hands of what a male-dominant society wants of me, so ‘now I’m looking for trouble’. This song is my reminder to let loose and be whatever I want to be, and performing it onstage always gives me a jolt of wild energy. It’s time to rebel against the confines of the self and smash some shit up while wearing my prettiest dresses.
– Nandi Plunkett
”There’s a lot of anger there, but also a strong sense of solidarity, and a determination to remain positive, as that seems like the only way forward…”
3. Tracey Thorn ”Sister (feat. Corinne Bailey Rae)”
”I wrote the lyrics for ‘Sister’ shortly after I got home from the Women’s March in London, which took place on the same day as lots of Women’s Marches around the world, especially in the US, in the immediate aftermath of the election of Trump. It was a moment of despair trying to turn into hope, and that’s what I wanted to capture in the lyrics. There’s a lot of anger there, but also a strong sense of solidarity, and a determination to remain positive, as that seems like the only way forward.
Musically I knew it had to be a strong, uptempo song – and in the studio, playing live with Stella [Mozgawa] and Jenny [Lee Lindberg] from Warpaint, it evolved into a deep Grace Jones / Compass Point [Studios] style disco groove – propulsive bass, and some very martial drum fills from Stella, as befits a song inspired by a march.
Then I also knew I wanted at least one other woman to sing on it with me – and I approached Corinne, who I think is a phenomenal singer, knowing that she would be able to sing parts I couldn’t, and take the song onto an even higher level. She worked on her harmony parts in her own studio, and sent them to me, and they were just perfect.
And the production of course, as on the rest of the album, was from Ewan Pearson – who is the most sympathetic collaborator – understands what I mean even when i don’t have the words for it – brings so much into the performance and dynamics of a track – and is also just a joy to work with.
So that’s how it all came about. Out of a moment of feeling despondent, I tried to create something uplifting, and even celebratory, while not losing sight of the frustration and rage that fuelled it. And still does.”
– Tracey Thorn
”…because after the spectacle of explosion like that is over and the initial damage is done, there are harmful repercussions that last decades, even centuries…”
2. boygenius ”Stay Down”
(from boygenius EP)
”‘Stay Down’ is a song about responding to confrontation, sort of an analysis of the feelings that arise when a person is trying to deal with a conflict and sifting through healthy and unhealthy ways to respond. The first verse uses the principle of physical combat in which leaning into a blow lessens its impact a as a way to illustrate how a person anticipating conflict or argument could start to anticipate negativity in a way that enables conflict instead of diffusing it, and how surprised that person would be if the other party turned their cheek—that is, if they were merciful or patient instead of antagonistic.
The chorus is a narration of those presupposed, self deprecating thoughts, essentially mocking the recipient of the song to show me how I’m always wrong, or always the villain of a situation. It’s meant to be sarcastic, showing how unuseful that kind of bitter and sullen perspective is. The very last part describes the aftermath of a vitriolic argument using imagery of a nuclear explosion, because after the spectacle of explosion like that is over and the initial damage is done, there are harmful repercussions that last decades, even centuries, that make the site of the damage uninhabitable. So essentially it is a forewarning or a forecast of what ends up happening after a violent emotional reaction, it ends up taking a toll on the people closest to you, and if it isn’t ever neutralized, will cause people to flee that environment out of necessity to preserve their own health.”
– Julien Baker