Listed is Dusted Magazine’s series of music-related lists compiled by artists we admire. This week: Ben Ayres of Brit-pop royalty Cornershop and Robert Earl Thomas of Brooklyn’s Widowspeak. (The T. Rex picks are a complete coincidence.)
Listed: Cornershop + Widowspeak
Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres are probably sick of hearing this, but together they wrote one of the all-time great singles in “Brimful of Asha.” The rest of that album, When I Was Born for the 7th Time, is historically awesome as well. But that was 15 years ago now, and Singh/Ayres have more recent laurels on which to relax. In 2011, they released a wonderful collaboration with Punjabi singer Bubbley Kaur, and more recently, they’ve assumed the role of A&R and added bands to their own Ample Play record label. Their latest acquisition is the French garage band Beat Mark, which releases its debut album next month. Ayres took part in this week’s Listed.
It’s so hard to narrow things down to 10 influential records, but here’s some strong contenders.
1. Tappa Zukie - MPLA (Front Line, 1976)
Great upbeat, righteous roots/DJ reggae. Tappa Zukie is such an inspiration, on so many levels. His late 1970s/early ‘80s recordings are especially hard to beat…full stop.
2. T. Rex - Futuristic Dragon (EMI, 1976)
Such an underrated album, we all love T.Rex. Marc Bolan’s later tracks deserve so much more attention than they seem to have got. “New York City,” “Soul Of My Suit,” so many others… All genius nuggets, classic singles, each are three minutes of some of the best music ever laid down.
3. Yellowman - Mister Yellowman (Greensleeves, 1982)
This album has been a Cornershop tour bus and driving-to-the-studio (and back) drive favorite since the beginning of time. Every track is incredible. The recording/production is spot on, and captures a special time in reggae’s history with aplomb. Reggae went severely downhill shortly after this album was released, in my opinion, but then, how could this be bettered? A seminal album. Special mention to Fathead too…
4. Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers - Rockin’ and Romance (Rough Trade, 1985)
I could have chosen any album Jonathan Richman has recorded, but this, his first for Rough Trade in 1985, blew my mind when I first heard it — I remember hearing Andy Kershaw play “My Jeans” on Radio 1 one evening and I knew I needed to buy the album the next day. I’ve been listening to him and his music regularly ever since.
5. Pussy Galore - Sugarshit Sharp (Matador, 1988)
Pussy Galore were a real inspiration to me in the early days of Cornershop. They were the shit. Their attitude and the ferocity of their sound was incredible. We later worked with Bob Lawton, he was our booking agent in the U.S. and the fact he was married to Julia Cafritz sealed the deal for us. “Sweet Little Hi-Fi” set the standard round then.
6. Steppenwolf - Steppenwolf (ABC, 1968)
Rock ‘n’ roll that’s perfect in every way. We used to have a four-track 12" EP of Steppenwolf that we nearly wore out — “Magic Carpet Ride,” “Born To Be Wild,” etc., and this album is spectacular. They are right up there with the best rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time in our opinion. Could’ve picked albums by The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, all of whom we love, but Steppenwolf are too underrated, so here’s to you…
7. Buddy Holly - Buddy Holly (Coral, 1958)
I’ve always loved the simplicity and brevity of Buddy Holly’s songs. Short, sharp, effective and so, so memorable. I first learnt “Peggy Sue” on guitar, too. He started it all way back then.
8. Love - Forever Changes (Elektra, 1967)
This album constantly amazes me. I love it. It’s magic on vinyl. I think Arthur Lee managed to create a new dimension when he made this record.
9. Kraftwerk - The Man Machine (EMI, 1978)
Genius album, so groundbreaking and inspirational. Still sounds timeless and I don’t think it really has ever been bettered in the electronic field — an astonishing record.
10. Ananda Shankar - Ananda Shankar (Reprise, 1970)
A long-term favorite. We’re more Ananda fans than Ravi, really, when it comes down to it. This album was pioneering and out there for the time and remains so… the sign of a true classic.
Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas make up the warm ‘n’ cozy rock duo Widowspeak. The band’s self-titled debut was full of shoegazer textures and Hamilton’s understated sighs — something old souls young and, well, old delightfully ate up. For the new album, Almanac (out this week on Captured Tracks), the two still sound addictively familiar, but the time machine extends further back than the early 1990s. Hamilton and Thomas retreated to a barn in the Hudson Valley without a rhythm section and got creative with tradition. You can listen to the entire album over at NPR Music, but before you do, here are 10 albums that Thomas took with him (metaphorically speaking) into the 100-year-old studio.
1. Neil Young - Harvest (Reprise, 1972)
Neil Young, specifically with this record, may have been the biggest influence on our Almanac album. We absorbed everything about Harvest, from its cohesive tone, to its rustic instrumentation, to its cover font. The songs are all gorgeous and play together so well, it’s really a fantastic moment.
2. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Damn the Torpedoes (MCA, 1979)
Tom Petty has this slanky, undeniable cool about him. His songs groove, but he always seems a little backwoods. Half the credit goes to the Heartbreakers rhythm section and half to Petty’s irresistible drawl. Not to mention all those Rickenbacker guitar tones…
3. The Hallelujah Chicken Run Band - Take One (1974-1979) (Alula, 2006)
Some of these songs are really fantastic, some not so much. Regardless, this collection gave us a lot of new ideas about guitar-band music. The rhythms are tight and driving, yet inexplicably relaxed and carefree. The guitar and vocals get all their power from a cyclical nature, something that we’ve tried to incorporate into our own music.
4. Television - Marquee Moon (Elektra, 1977)
The first half of Marquee Moon is a masterpiece guitar duet. Both Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd play lyrical passages, but never step on each other’s toes. Plus Verlaine’s words blend Patti Smith’s poetry with Lou Reed’s cool. It doesn’t hurt he chose the name of a French poet with an affliction for absinthe.
5. Fleetwood Mac - Tusk (Reprise, 1979)
This is arguably not Fleetwood Mac’s finest endeavor. It does, however, bridge an astonding number of genres and provide a lot of intriguing musical ideas, even if they aren’t always realized. It’s a tonal influence for us as well. We really tried to replicate Tusk’s subdued snare/hi-hat sound as well as Lindsay Buckingham’s thin guitar sound.
6. The Byrds - Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia, 1968)
We listened to this a lot on our European tour last year, maybe out of homesickness, maybe because it’s got a good dose of everything we like. Somewhere amidst the slide guitars, tight country harmonies, religious pining, and hippie idealism sits a truly great testament to a time and place.
7. The Carter Family - Can the Circle Be Unbroken: Country Music’s First Family (Columbia Legacy, 2000)
The Carter Family, especially in its original incarnation, is the epitome of a sound and culture all but extinct. What’s better about this (or any) collection of their music is how viscerally enjoyable it is. The songs draw you in and stay with you, even if you think you recognize the genre standards.
8. The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street (Virgin, 1972)
There’s something primal about this record and these Stones. They produce an aura as much as they reflect it. Exile on Main Street might be the epitome of being a rock band, and that’s pretty hard to beat.
9. Dolly Parton - Jolene (Buddha, 1974)
Dolly Parton writes amazing songs and has kind of an unbelievable story. This is her at her finest and an awesome example of classic ‘70s country. That whole genre, and decade for that matter, has been a recent influence and infatuation of ours lately.
10. T. Rex - Electric Warrior (Reprise, 1971)
Marc Bolan may be a lot of flash, but this record hits an ethereal middle ground between freak folk and groovy glam. Like some of the country on this list, his songs are at once familiar and unique. From a guitarist’s perspective Bolan shows it’s not always the notes you play, but how you play them that counts.
By Dusted Magazine