All of the songs listed below were personally chosen by the artist or blogger above. I got in touch with a lot of artists and bloggers who were all kind enough to get back to me and take part in Desert Island Discs. If you’re unaware of the concept behind Desert Island Discs, check out the basic pitch I gave the artists and bloggers I got in touch with. If you’re an artist or blogger and want to take part, just send your submission with the eight pieces of music (not the actual mp3s) and some words about each one to admin (@) listenbeforeyoubuy (dot) net.
Today’s Desert Island Discs is brought to you by Alice Gun, A classically-trained multi-instrumentalist who records at her home in North London and in an isolated Lakeland farmhouse. She released her debut single, “The Swimmer” in 2009. Since I featured her back in February she has been a “Tune of the Day” with Rob da Bank, had sessions on the BBC and most recently received 4 star review in Artrocker. Her debut album Blood & Bone, will be released digitally on 21 March 2011 and physically on 4 April 2011 through Ambiguous records.
I only discovered Thelonius Monk’s music recently, when I was in the process of recording Blood & Bone, and it was a revelation. This number in particular, with its irreverent, honky discordant-ness sets your teeth on edge in a uniquely pleasurable way. It burrowed into my imagination immediately, and ended up having a big influence on the last track I wrote for my album: Ravens. His name isn’t half bad either.
This duet is all the more heartbreakingly beautiful for its restraint – a wonderful piece of songwriting. I first heard it performed live by Mark Linkous and PJ Harvey at the Barbican about ten years ago at a night run by Howie Gelb. I was going through a real musical desert at the time – I thought I was never going to play again – but this night changed everything.
I also play cello with Mr David Viner and we spent the summer of 2007 touring Europe with the White Stripes (which ultimately turned out to be their last tour). This track takes me back to the first night of the tour, in Vienna. We arrived at this gigantic venue in our tiny van, and walked into the empty auditorium carrying our one battered instrument each. They were soundchecking Catch Hell Blues and all I could think was: OH MY GOD.
Picking a favourite PJ Harvey track is hard. She follows her own musical path with a bloody-minded determination which I admire enormously, and even when I hate what she’s doing I find it hard to tear myself away – my very first gig outing was a trip to see her Dry tour back in 1992. Is this Desire will always be an eternally interesting album for me – I wanted something of that shifting texture for Blood & Bone – but there is no beating Rid of Me for absolute sweat-licking, visceral power.
An album rather than a track, the Happiness Project is a collection of instrumentals built around samples of interviews Spearin did with his people in his neighbourhood talking about happiness. It is funny, moving, disorientating and incredibly imaginative – and amazingly, his band can recreate it all live too. If I’m ever feeling disillusioned or uninspired about making music, this album gives me a joyous kick up the ass.
Writing a good love song, without falling back on sexiness, is just about the hardest thing you can do. But the Yeah Yeah Yeahs nail it with Maps. Her crazy performances often overshadow that fact that Karen O is a beautiful top line writer (which really comes through when you listen to their acoustic versions), while Brian Chase is a genius drummer – and Nick Zinner’s guitar playing just makes you want to drop your trousers. I love them.
7. Heinrich Biber – “The Mystery Sonatas”
I trained as a classical cellist and that plain, stately style that you find in string music from the late 17th/early 18th century is something that underpins a lot of the music I write. I am a sucker for an open fifth. If I wasn’t taking this piece for violin by Biber – which aches with an other-worldy melancholy – it would probably have to be something from the Bach Cello Suites. Or fast-forward to the 20th century and the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1.
For no other reason than it’s a perfect pop song. I wish I’d written it.