Every Record I Own: Lucy Dacus – Historian

Soon after this record came out I went through a big Lucy Dacus phase. I was a big fan of some of her first singles which I had discovered when I was doing a weekly radio show in 2016. And then in 2018 I found her first record in a cheap bin at a record store so picked it up.

I was vaguely aware that she had another one out but was too busy enjoying and listening to her first one (I’ll come back to that). And then when her new songs popped up in playlists etc I mostly felt disappointed that they weren’t the same as the ones I knew.

About a year after the album came out some of the songs from it, specifically Night Shift and Addictions had been regularly popping up in my spotify generated playlists. Night Shift became part of my regular rotation. It’s one of those songs you didn’t know you needed to describe a feeling you didn’t know you had.

This blog will come back time and time again to the algorithm and spotify/streaming because it’s something I’m really grappling with at the moment. Because I’m grateful for it for putting these songs in front of me, but I don’t like the way it makes listening so passive.

If I hadn’t already listened to the first Lucy Dacus album and gotten into it, I’m not sure I ever would have clicked through and actually listened to this album. There are dozens of other songs which at some stage I’ve listened to over and over again but have never explored further. And I’m someone who actively searches out new music. It would have been easy for me to instead of clicking through listening to whatever came up after, which I’m sure would have been perfectly good and would have fit well with whatever else was playing around it.

I don’t like that it seems to remove the artist from the songs, putting songs next to each other which have similar vibes. This distills their music into whatever is the most similar to the songs around it and strips away any uniqueness.

But once you explore the artists/albums themselves you start to see how different they all are. I like how her songs always have space. She has a unique cadance to her vocals, which points to a bluesy background but not in a direct way. The songs have a lot of dynamics, but when it gets loud it never seems to get messy.

I saw Lucy Dacus last year which was really amazing. Before that I decided to listen more to her most recent album, which again does a major shift from her previous work. It was exciting to see those songs transformed on the stage. But I’ve always come back to her first two albums when wanting to listen.

Fave songs: Night Shift, Timefighter, Pillar of Truth.

Every Record I Own: Brian Eno and John Cale – Wrong Way Up

Every Record I Own: Brian Eno and John Cale – Wrong Way Up

In late 2021 I went through a John Cale phase, spurred on by his song Dying on the Vine. I went and listened to most of his work post his Velvet Underground years. It’s an incredibly strong catalogue but the song that stuck out to me the most in the playlist I made was Spinning Away by him and Brian Eno. It has become one of my favourite songs of all time. If you listen to one thing from this blog, this is a good thing to pick.

(This also led me down a Brian Eno phase who I’ve never really listened to before, except for Music for Airports via my old flatmate Simon. Hi Simon! Brian Eno will come up here again in the future.)

I went from listening to Spinning Away on repeat to listening to this entire album on repeat. This was all happening around the end of 2021 when my girlfriend Elly and I went on our first road trip and holiday together, so she ended up listening to this album a lot too.

Then in February, Elly gave me this record for my birthday! What a great gift. What a great girlfriend.

I love this album so much. Even on paper two music weirdos who have always pulled whoever they’re playing with in experimental directions and further away from pop, making a straight up pop album together.

It’s an incredibly balanced album instrumentally. It’s full of strings and horns and synths and driven forward by drum machine or bloopy synths. But everything is restrained and it’s rare for any one part to take over. Just adding enough for the songs. The exception is the guitar in songs like Spinning Away and with the exception of the guitar which breaks out front and centre. The guitar is maybe my favourite bit of this album, which I think was played by a session musician because it’s not like anything I’ve heard from either of them before. (checked the liner notes, played by Robert Ahwai. I looked at his discogs page and he played on dozens of other released including George Michael’s album Faith)

Their voices complement each other so well. Neither has a voice that is particularly suited to pop music. They sing confidently within their abilities, which means quite a limited range and very simple melodies, but these are very effective and catchy nonetheless. I must admit that I find their voices difficult to distinguish a lot of the time.

Often when I get super into an album for a few weeks it ends up falling out of rotation and out of my life. It had already done so by the time Elly bought it for me. But now I get to relive that summer and that road trip and remember my birthday and my great girlfriend every time I listen to it. xxx

Fave songs: Spinning Away, One Thing, Lay My Love, Been There Done That.

Every Record I Own: David Bowie – Let’s Dance

Every Record I Own: David Bowie – Let’s Dance

There isn’t much to say about David Bowie that hasn’t been said a million times. I started writing more but I don’t actually have much to say about this record other than it’s fun and I like it,

My old flatmate Callum Devlin once slowed down the song Let’s Dance for a theater show, as if it was a 45 being played on 33. It sounds great and the saxophone sounds super creepy. I played it on the radio and got so many people calling up to tell me I was playing it at the wrong speed. One person didn’t like that I said it was intentional and called the office to complain about me.

Fave tracks: Let’s Dance, Riccochet, Cat People

Every Record I Own: Shipbuilding – Robert Wyatt

Every Record I Own: Shipbuilding – Robert Wyatt

Robert Wyatt was another significant artist of 2022 for me. Robert Wyatt was a drummer in a progressive rock bands in the 60s and 70s, but had an accident and was paralysed from the waist down. He then made experimental pop/jazz/indie/psychedelic music for the next 30 or so years. A lot of his work feels like what would be made in a bedroom now from someone playing with synths and drum machines and doing layers of percussion and multi tracked vocals, but it felt he was doing it way ahead of his time.

Early in the year I discovered his song The Age of Self on a playlist and I became obsessed with him. His mid-80s period where he was making weirdo political pop on synthesizers and drum machines was my favourite era.

This 7″ came up for sale when someone I follow on Instagram was leaving the country and selling all their records. Shipbuilding hadn’t been one of the songs that had stuck with me, but Robert Wyatt records don’t come up very often so I thought I’d buy it anyway. I didn’t realise until after I bought it but this is a cover of and Elvis Costello song, but this version has become known as the essential version.

Since buying the record this has become one of my favourite Robert Wyatt songs. Its the type of music that really benefits from a nice stereo. The piano is so full sounding and even though Robert Wyatt doesn’t have a classically amazing voice, his falsetto shines through.

I am not really an expert on protest music by any means. But what I love about Robert Wyatt’s protest music is how specific it is. Age of Self is about how the idea of the working class has been destroyed by changing our identities to consumers rather than workers, Pigs…in there is about factory farming. Shipbuilding is about how much responsibility do workers hold for the work they do? When they’re acting as agents of British imperialism.

This 7″ has been sitting next to my stereo for months. I often put it on in the morning or when I pop into the kitchen to make some toast or something. It’s really a perfect song. The B-side kind of sucks though.

Every Record I Own: John Carpenter – Anthology

Every Record I Own: John Carpenter – Anthology

It was John Carpenters 75th Birthday the other day and if I realised that in advance I may have written this for that occasion, but instead here it is now.

My fave guy, Tom Breihan, who I have already mentioned once in this blog and will come up again. Used to write a column for the AV Club called A History of Violence, where he wrote about the best action film of each year from 1968 (Bullit) to 2021 (F9). And John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 is 1976’s best Action film.

Before reading this column, the only John Carpenter film I had seen was Halloween. I was aware that he made the soundtrack to most of his films and people were really into them, but I’d never really explored that. Now a couple of years on, I have still not watched any more John Carpenter films, but I have gotten very into his music.

It has become regular writing/study/working music for me. It’s the right mix of atmospheric which still propulsive. It can sit in the background or come to the center of my attention and it feels like it makes my brain think differently.

It has also been quite influential in my own music making. I have a musical instrument called a Deluge, which is a sequencer/synthesizer/drum machine/sampler which feels like it was made to make John Carpenter-esque music.

Here’s a track I made for Josiah Morgan’s Show Ponies performance in Dunedin which was pretty heavily influenced by John Carpenter.

This is one of my most recent records. I bought it over summer from the Flying Out sale. This anthology is rerecorded versions of his tracks by his current band. Sometimes I feel like it’s really well done and effective and other times it feels a bit overproduced. The synths are a bit cleaner and the drums sound much more highly produced, which leaves me missing the cheaper drum machine sounds of the originals. However it does make the album as a whole a lot more cohesive, which works when you’re listening to the record.

My new goal of 2023 is to watch Assault on Precinct 13.

Fave tracks: The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween.

Every Record I Own: Pup – The Dream is Over

Every Record I Own: Pup – The Dream is Over

Put this on when I was making dinner and then when it was over i put it on again cos I wasn’t done.

I first listened to Pup after seeing the boy from Stranger Things in a music video of theirs, which was about pets dying. It is a great video and an even better song. Then I listened to the rest of the album and I couldn’t stop listening. This album spent months on near constant rotation on streaming. It’s probably one of my all time fave albums.

Every single part of this band is catchy. Every riff, every drum fill, all the shouts. The songs have a bit of a formula but over the course of the album it feels like there is movement through the album where the songs grow in complexity and emotionally (but not completely linearly)

I soundtracked my life with this record for years. My Life is Over and I Couldn’t be Happier was the intro song to my 2018 Comedy Festival show Dignity. Can’t Win had a prime spot in my emotions 2019 playlist. Sleep in the Heat was my most played song in 2017. It’s all sort of self loathing but not in a bad way, in a fun way which was perfect for me.

I don’t listen to this band anywhere near as much as I used to. But every time I do I wonder why I don’t listen much. Feels so cathartic listening to it loudly. I can’t shout but pretending to shout along feels so good. I love owning this record because it means I will keep coming back to it and I’ll keep having this rediscovery.

Alex G – Trick

Alex G – Trick

I unsubscribed from Spotify in January, so I didn’t get the 2022 wrapped. Tidal does a monthly thing but not yearly and I haven’t added them up together, but I’m fairly sure Alex G would have been my top artist for 2022.

I got quite obsessed with the early singles for God Saves the Animals which sent me on a massive Alex G binge. I don’t think I have been as excited for a new album since Mitski’s Be The Cowboy. Anyway I don’t own God Save the Animals. It’s always been sold out or too expensive when I’ve looked for it.

But the Alex G binge sent me back to his earlier releases. I have owned DSU for many years, and it’s remained on pretty high rotation, but I haven’t got into any of his other albums quite in the same way. Sometimes I’ll go through a House of Sugar or Rocket phase, but hadn’t listened to Trick much. But it ended up being a fave, so was happy when I stumbled across a reissue for sale on his bandcamp.

(I was given a bandcamp voucher when I left Good Books, which was a really nice present, but because of some sort of currency and technology thing, you’re only able to spend bandcamp vouchers on certain currencies, not including NZD. I generally only buy things from NZ on bandcamp, especially physical releases which cost a lot to ship, so was very annoyed but ended up with two cool Alex G records so wasn’t all bad.)

His first 4-5 albums stick to the same formula pretty closely, similar guitar sounds. The melodies aren’t too different. All sort of mid tempo. Very similar bedroom production. But the songs are just really good. There are so many incredible moments in this album which capture my attention no matter what I’m doing at the time.

This version comes with a 7″ with both Adam and Sarah on it, which are not on the album proper but are some of his most popular songs, so counting them with this one.

Fave Tracks: Adam, Sarah, Mary, Animals

Mitski – Puberty 2

Mitski – Puberty 2

Mitski was such a huge part of my life from 2016-2019ish. In the editing of my Masters (which became my book) I listened to this album non stop on the university computers on bandcamp. Soon after that I bought the record. In my spotify end of decade wrap up Mitski was my number one artist (I think I only got Spotify in 2017).

When I did my reading of 2000ft Above Worry Level in the 2018 Fringe Festival I used a Mitski song as the closer (Townie). Mitksi has an incredible gift for making music which feels personal to every person listening, which has contributed to a really creepy response from her fans who seem to think Mitski’s experiences belong to them. They don’t. They belong to me 2016-2018. I haven’t listened to Mitski much in the past few years and now when I do it takes me back to the feelings from those years, which feel a bit foreign to me now. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to separate this record from that era of my life, which in some ways is good for nostalgia purposes but also makes me not really able to appreciate it without bringing up all this other stuff.

Mitski released a new album last year and I just couldn’t get into it. I’m sure it’s just as good as everything she’s done but I guess my Mitski era is over.

On a side note, this is maybe one of the worst pressings of records I own. I can’t start the record properly, it always slips as it’s starting a few seconds in, and it also slides into the label at the end of side 1. It also feels like it has less dynamics than the digital version and quite a lot of noise. Looking at the discogs page for the pressing it seems like there are quite commonly a lot of faults with it.

Fave tracks: A Loving Feeling, Happy

Sinead O’Connor – The Lion and the Cobra

Sinead O’Connor – The Lion and the Cobra

Sinead O’Connor has spent most of my life being a joke. I didn’t remember any of the controversy first hand, only from cultural references to her. I never really questioned whether or not she deserved it. Eventually it felt like she was reevalutated and (in the media I was consuming) it was accepted that she was incredibly unfairly treated. She was right about the catholic church and had her career and name destroyed and we just let it happen and turned her into a joke.

Even when I read about all the terrible things that happened to her I didn’t once consider to listen to her music.

The first time I actually listened to her was when I read The Number Ones column about Nothing Compares 2 U. I was kind of aware of the song and had probably heard it but had never actually considered listening to it as if it could be good. Anyway that song rules. I found the CD of I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got at an op shop and listened to it quite a bit, but it wasn’t until I found a copy of The Lion and The Cobra at an opshop that I really got into her.

Anyway this album is incredible. Big studio sounds and uses the pop sounds of the era, but uses them to make music that doesn’t fit neatly into pop music. It feels really angry without losing control or beauty.

Listening to this is what I love about records. I doubt that if I hadn’t picked this up I would have properly given it the time of day. I might have put it on streaming in the background while I browsed the internet but after that was done it would just get lost in a sea of things I had listened to. It also really benefits from being played through a stereo and taking up the room rather than headphones.

Fave tracks: Just Call Me Joe, Mandinka, Drink Before the War