Playlist on Spotify at the bottom of each page.
20. Yola ”Lonely The Night”
(from Walk Through Fire)
19. Lady Wray ”Come On In”
18. Ibibio Sound Machine ”Tell Me (Doko Mien)”
(from Doko Mien)
17. Strand Of Oaks ”Keys”
”…I thought to myself ‘I make music and I’ve never ever thought I would write a 12 bar blues song”. It’s funny, it’s a musical institution, a formula of arrangement…”
16. Metronomy ”Salted Caramel Ice Cream”
(from Metronomy Forever)
”The thing I’ve learned about music is that quite often the most flipping ideas you have become the best ideas in a way. Or, I guess there’s a thing about pop music that it works on this totally instinctive level. People try to construct it, but ultimately no one really understands it.
With this song I was sitting down one day and thought to myself ‘I make music and I’ve never ever thought I would write a 12 bar blues song”. It’s funny, it’s a musical institution, a formula of arrangement which has been used time and time and time and time again. Like a tool in music. So started mucking around for fun making an odd song about nothing in particular, comparing someone to random stuff. Like the Prefab Sprout song ‘The King of Rock’n’roll’. A catchy song just because it mentions random stuff. The more I did it, the more I thought ‘you can’t ignore these silly ideas’, ha ha!
The thing I didn’t realize about novelty songs in the past is that all novelty songs are comments on novelty songs. ‘Salted Caramel Ice Cream’ is a novelty song, but it’s thoughtful in its own way.”
– Joseph Mount
”The indie rock type of chorus is the way we’ve been moving for a while now – it’s a way of bringing together our love of live dance music…”
15. Groove Armada ”I’ll Be Searching (For You)”
”We’ve been working on a version of this tune since 2010, so in that sense it’s probably got the longest build up of any Groove Armada track ever. The indie rock type of chorus is the way we’ve been moving for a while now – it’s a way of bringing together our love of live dance music – this track really represents that marriage of the two.
Can’t name names, but Paris Brightledge who features on this version of ‘I’ll Be Searching (For You)’ is – I think – the seventh vocalist we’ve tried on this song, so seventh time lucky or something like that. He brought some funk, that was always the vibe we were after – there’s a bit of ‘Hey Ya!’ in the tune, so that vibe was always there in our minds.
The track features the Groove Armada band, recorded in Andy’s Auch studio ten years ago, but it’s been brought bang up to date on this version. We laid the drums down in France eight years ago, but when we came back to the track this year we overlaid it with some samples. A technique we’re using a lot now. The bass synth line was also added recently and kind of became the hook.”
– Tom Findlay
14. Little Simz feat. Cleo Sol ”Selfish”
(from GREY Area)
13. Hatari ”Hatrið mun sigra”
12. Jessica Pratt ”Aeroplane”
(from Quiet Signs)
”The lyrics were written by Nai Palm and influenced by her connections she was having when we met in the Los Angeles music community…”
11. Shafiq Husayn ”Cycles (feat. Hiatus Kaiyote)”
(from The Loop)
”‘Cycles’ was a song that was put together on the very first day I met Nai Palm in Los Angeles. We shared the same manager at the time. It was a Tuesday, at Joseph Liemberg’s studio in Eagle Rock, CA. Kelsey Gonzalez from the Free Nationals played bass, Vicky Nyguen played keys, and both were co-writers in the sessions for the track. After the first draft was done, Nai Palm took it back to Australia and then Haitus Kaiyote replayed everything. Once that was done they sent it back and I added trumpet from Emile Martinez, flute from Camille Ramirez, guitar from Wes Singerman and extra keys and synth sounds from myself and voilà: ‘Cycles’.
The lyrics were written by Nai Palm and influenced by her connections she was having when we met in the Los Angeles music community, people in general and the seamless admiration as if it we were just picking back up from the last life time and just meeting up again in this Cycle.”
– Shafiq Husayn
”There were also a group of men that closed the door and became very protective of their power and their money. The song is targeted at those men…”
10. Stella Donnelly ”Old Man”
(from Beware Of The Dogs)
”If I talk about ‘Old Man’ I also have to talk about ‘Boys Will Be Boys’. I wrote the latter years before the Metoo movement happened, very much in a time when no one was talking about these issues enough and we were being ignored as women. I wrote ‘Old Man’ after all of that. I’d seen the music industry in Australia shift a little bit to help protect women now. Lots of stories came forward of female artists being exploited and all sorts of things. It made me think about the power that had been held in many different industries by a very small group of people for a very long time. When the Metoo movement happened, a lot of older men were very supportive. They listened to women and came out to support us. CEO’s spoke up on their friends and changed things around.
There were also a group of men that closed the door and became very protective of their power and their money. The song is targeted at those men, the ones that aren’t willing to share their power with anybody else. It’s also meant to be a playful song. You can hear in the music it’s got a lot of percussion and movement. In a way, it was almost like a sarcastic celebration. Of women’s liberation but also that it hasn’t moved very far. Just a bit of reflection, I guess. I didn’t want to want to write anything like Boys Will Be Boys again, there’s only room for one of those songs in my life and in my set because it’s quite serious. So, I wanted to find a playful way to go ‘Fuck you’, ha ha!
Because I’ve been playing with the band Methyl Ethel for a while filling in on guitar for them I had to learn all these songs. They move around the neck a lot on guitar, so that got me thinking in that headspace being in a bit more movement rather than just C and G. I became a bit more flexible there. I wanted the leadline to be a bit more percussive, I actually used my nails as a percussion instrument! A bit like Dolly Parton with the nails amping them with the guitar mic. Then the guitar and drums just moved around that. I guess it’s got a jovial feel to it. We layered a lot of unplugged electric guitars, just using the mic with the guitar up against it, which gave it a steely kind of sound.”
– Stella Donnelly
”That first part of the song is that idea of when she’s in an aeroplane coming in. You know when you come back to your hometown or a place that’s got some bad memories to it…”
9. The Delines ”That Old Haunted Place”
(from The Imperial)
Willy: “It’s about a woman coming back to her hometown Portland to her family who kicked her out of the house, but she’s the only one successful and the family is going under. They’re behind on bills and are going to lose their house so they call her up and say ‘Hey, we took care of you when you were little’ and she’s like ‘Well, you kicked me out when I was little so why should I pay you back?’. But she goes back anyway out of guilt, out of that familial pull, even though the family’s fucked up and put her in really bad situation. She keeps telling them she’s not going to go back to them and then all of a sudden she is.
Amy: “Willy played it for me when we were in Melbourne, Australia. We learned it in the hotel room and did it that night, I mean, we tried it out at soundcheck. I liked it because I like the way the phrasing gets really intense when she’s like explaining the story. My phrasing has a really cool attitude to it, but then it goes back to a whimsical thing. A real rollercoaster of a song, I think. It’s fun to sing.
Willy: That first part of the song is that idea of when she’s in an aeroplane coming in. You know when you come back to your hometown or a place that’s got some bad memories to it, you could call it baggage. The second she sees the bridges, ‘cause Portland has got a ton of bridges. Once she sees them and the city she starts falling apart and getting shaky when the old memories come back. So that first part is all dreamy, sweet and sad. She leaned against an aunt, ‘Eileen’, who kept her from living on the streets, so it’s a rough song for that girl to come back to.
Amy: “I always thought that in a way, yeah, she’s going back, but she’s convincing herself maybe ‘I’m going back but I’m going to keep it together and not let myself get pulled emotionally into that’. When she gets an attitude in that midsection it’s real fun.
Willy: “Musically, it was really fun. We spent a lot of time trying to build it up, that section Amy is talking about where she’s talking about her family. We put strings on it and pulled them out, put horns on it and pulled them out, then we put the strings back again. We went back and forth because everyone in the band just liked that song and it just wasn’t working for a while. The producer, John Askew, finally got the mix right. I think there are some strings there at the end but we tried to tone it down a bit. Your tendency is to just keep adding stuff because it’s fun but sometimes it takes away from the story. I guess a lot of the time you keep mixing it until you start thinking of the woman. Her voice. Then you just stop caring about music. It’s like you’re inside a movie. That’s how I mix, you just wait until you forget it’s a song. Then it starts working. Felony Flats is the ending, it’s a part of Portland which is called ‘felony flats’ because felons lived there and felonies happened there. It’s just a bad part of town where I lived for a few years. That also sets it socioeconomically in a certain world which makes it even sadder for the woman coming back.
– Willy Vlautin and Amy Boone
”I think we’re very drawn to isolation, particularly the Paris, Texas feel to it with the American white desert. I know it’s a well-trodden cliché but it’s still a magical place…”
8. Lost Under Heaven ”Serenity Says”
(from Love Hates What You Become)
“We thought we were going to record in Texas with John Congleton but we ended up going to L.A. instead because he had moved there. During the sessions me and Ebony did before this as a last minute song, we started picturing this image of us holding a utopian conclusion of all our efforts. It came from being in this farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. I think we’re very drawn to isolation, particularly the Paris, Texas feel to it with the American white desert. I know it’s a well-trodden cliché but it’s still a magical place. When we finished the album we drove to the Joshua Tree and had some time there and we felt very reflective of the song.
Playing around with the riff, it just felt like this atmosphere, a sense of freedom being in a car driving towards who knows… This wide landscape. So we mad the song around it. I like the strangeness of the guitar, ‘cause it’s got this incredibly ambient, Brian Eno-esque, full delay-reverb swirling but still very clean.
There’s a strange piano line that is actually the lead hook of an unreleased song. I just played along with it. It’s almost a bit dissonant in a way and it spurs interest when the two are sat together. I quite like the idea of reusing themes from songs in songs that in a way reference classical music where one melody has character and the other has feeling. Different times, different pieces. I’m very interested in that. Some people say it’s recycling ideas, but as long as they sound fresh…
The line ‘silence amplifies your love’ is about when you can get away from all distraction and be centered in something. It’s quite nice playing it live. When we wrote it using the drum machine it had a, not lo-fi, but a sort of containedness to it. We played it the way The Kills would play it with just the beat and guitar. Our friend Oliver Cooper plays bass on the album version. Live, it more reminds me of Echo & The Bunnymen and I really enjoy how it has evolved as a live song. My dad likes it a lot. He’s from Liverpool and an Echo & The Bunnymen fan, so I think it strikes a chord with him.”
– Ellery James Roberts
”I was sitting with a friend sharing a glass of wine, and we ended up talking about what happens to those of us left behind after someone you love either attempts to take their own life or succeeds…”
7. Over The Rhine ”Broken Angels”
(from Love & Revelation)
”When it comes to writing songs, people often ask us what comes first: the words, a melody, a few chords on the piano or guitar? The truth is our songs arrive in every imaginable way. We’ll take them any way we can get them. ‘Broken Angels’ started with just a melody and a simple guitar part years ago. Bones waiting for flesh and blood.
And then I, Karin, was sitting with a friend sharing a glass of wine, and we ended up talking about what happens to those of us left behind after someone you love either attempts to take their own life or succeeds. What are we left with here on this side of the veil? We carry them and that act with us for the rest of our lives. We process. We hurt. We wonder, ‘What if, and why?’
If depression is a river, suicide is the sea.
And it’s dangerous trying to save someone who is drowning. If you don’t know what you are doing, aren’t strong enough, don’t know the tools for survival, they can inadvertently take you under with them. My friend suffered a tremendous loss when he lost his partner to suicide. I shared with him that someone very close to me in my family had attempted to take her own life multiple times as she struggled with a then-undiagnosed disorder.
On the drive home after lunch, I had to pull the car over to the side of the road and write down the words to the chorus – all these broken angels… I sang it into my phone so I wouldn’t forget. This song was born out of an honest moment: two survivors sharing their experiences, processing together.
But most good songs have layers. Hopefully ‘Broken Angels’ is big enough that there is plenty of room for anyone to process their own bits of heartache, their own story, even if the personal details are different from mine. ‘Broken Angels’ was the first song we finished for Love & Revelation, and provided foreshadowing for all the songs that followed.”
– Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler
6. Ari Lennox ”I Been”
(from Shea Butter Baby)
5. Yak ”Blinded By The Lies”
(from Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness)
”As with all the songs on this EP the stories are somewhat based on real-life experiences for me, mostly from when I was in my 20s and single and living in Long Beach, CA…”
4. Sam Outlaw ”Humility”
(from Hat Acts)
“Humility” is the third and final song on my new EP “Hat Acts”. This mini-album uses scripted “skits” to weave together the storyline of three songs that reveal a lonely character out drinking and dancing and doing drugs. All the typical things young people do to have fun because they’re feeling rejected and insecure. The final song of the album is about the inevitable ‘come down’ after a night of heavy self-medication and foolish indulgence. In “Humility” the character considers drinking more to ease the hangover, but something tells him that maybe what he needs instead is a little bit of humility. Sobriety gives us perspective.
As with all the songs on this EP the stories are somewhat based on real-life experiences for me, mostly from when I was in my 20s and single and living in Long Beach, CA. My parents’ marriage was dissolving at the same time as my own divorce and I was feeling very alone and abandoned. On many occasions I’d go out to drink and have fun and try to escape my sadness because it’s easier to medicate than to grieve. It was about that same time that I put together a country band and started playing my original music in bars in Long Beach and L.A. Some people thought it was cool but a lot of folks thought it was strange that I started a country band. I got teased for wearing a western hat and all that. It’s really funny to look back on, but at the time it all combined to put a chip on my shoulder.
“Humility” is about the importance of giving up the tough front and asking for help. In this case the character asks God for help and while I don’t go to church I do believe in the transformative power of love, forgiveness and grace. At my worst I am only aware of what I deserve and who has done me wrong. But for me to thrive I must embrace a more humble approach to myself, my work and my fellow man.
“Humility” is not meant to prescribe anything in particular but I’m thankful for the ways that self-love and forgiveness has changed my life.”
– Sam Outlaw
”Sometimes I think we can magnify our faults and it’s something I feel strongly about. The first thing we go to try and change is ourselves but most of the time we need to try and change that…”
3. Michael Kiwanuka ”You Ain’t The Problem”
“’You Ain’t The Problem is a defiance against my own mind. The way we view ourselves. Sometimes I think we can magnify our faults and it’s something I feel strongly about. The first thing we go to try and change is ourselves but most of the time we need to try and change that view, really. Stop beating ourselves up.
I love psychedelic soul and I’ve been influenced by that music from the early or mid-seventies. We just came up with it in the studio by experimenting and having fun with instruments and studio gear. More abstract and vivid ideas, rather than having seen things as linear rock songs, seeing it more like 3-D pictures. The sounds I’ve chosen of the guitars and strings gives that dreamlike state I love about psychedelic music. The dinging at the beginning of each bar is a fusion between a piano and a distorted guitar through this pre-amp, then there’s another keyboard. We layered them with some crazy effects. It made for a cool way to start the album, a real attention grabber.”
– Michael Kiwanuka
”…a place is defined by the people who make it up. I’m from small places. I’ve spent most of my adult life in big cities but the characters are harder to find and most of the corners have been rounded off…”
2. Frankie Lee ”Downtown Lights”
”I grew up in the town of Stillwater, where Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard lived and raised their children. So, I guess the song was started a long time ago. After we had both moved away someone sent me an article where she was talking about why, I could relate. Not long ago I had a dream where we were standing on main street together and talking about what happened to the town and how it broke her heart. Those images were all in there.
I think everyone has a feel for what they think home is. Wether it’s a small town or a big city. The heart of it is usually the family, a place is defined by the people who make it up. I’m from small places. I’ve spent most of my adult life in big cities but the characters are harder to find and most of the corners have been rounded off. I try to write about the folks who are a part of a place. For me it’s easier to find in a small town.
I don’t remember writing it really, but I do remember we recorded it in one or two takes. I had the riff in my head for a long time and I think its doubled w/ baritone and telecaster. Simple production really, maybe 8 tracks total. That was pretty much it. I think I wanted more synths or pianos on the choruses but never got around to it. I don’t tinker much in the studio… If anything a lyric will change or the phrasing, but the music is pretty much the same.
One of those that just goes through you and you put down with no real thought or effort. A dream inside a dream about a dream.”
– Frankie Lee