With his new single ‘I Cycle’ due out on Feb 19th, Singer Songwriter Richard Lomax talks us through five of the albums that got him to where he is today and shaped his sound.
1. Forever Changes – Love
To me the absolute holy grail. This has been in the back of the mind of every album I record since I first started writing.
I used have Wednesdays off college and I’d work at my mum and dad’s shop in Essex. Do 8 hours and walk out with £40, straight in Golden Disc record shop across the road. Albums were a fiver in there so I’d walk out of there with 8 albums and no money.
I remember the day I bought Forever Changes. I’d also got Bryter Layter (Nick Drake) and Astral Weeks (Van Morrison). That was a good day. I remember reading the stories about how Arthur Lee had had a premonition he would die the following Summer so he wrote this album. The chord structures in this are just ridiculous! They go EVERYWHERE. My band often describe my songs as ‘chord salads’ and this is definitely where I get it from. There aren’t many 4 chord tricks on this. Those weird little nuances still get me… that bit in ‘The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This’ that sounds like a record skipping, the long string drop in ‘You Set The Scene’ of the B to the F#, and of course that line in ‘Live and Let Live’:
“Well the snot has caked against my pants…”
2. The Love Below – Outkast
This is the album where Andre 3000 really nailed everything to the wall. It’s a huge technicolour sound that wanders everywhere whilst still taking time smash out the pop hits.
The album is obviously best known for spawning ‘Hey Ya’ now and a million bad pub cover versions have diminished its greatness a little but there is way more to the album than that… ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ and ‘Roses’, the swirling strings on ‘Intro’. The piano on ‘Love Hater’, ‘Dracula’s Wedding’, ‘Spread’, pure filth but what great sounding filth. The skits don’t necessarily stand up to the test of time but the music really does.
3. Hunky Dory – Bowie
I recently found out that one of my favourite tracks on this album ‘Fill Your Heart’ was written by Paul Williams (with Biff Rose). Williams also wrote the soundtrack to the musical about children in a brothel ‘Bugsy Malone’. Pop fact of the day.
It’s hard to pick a favourite Bowie album. Him and The Beatles occupy every corner of popular culture with their work and produced so many great albums that I would just stick their entire back catalogues in as two entries of this list if I could (*gasp* You bounder! You cheat!). Hunky Dory is the one I keep coming back to though. There’s a real downbeat nature to this. I like the lo-fi nature of it with its song title announcements and earthy acoustic guitars (Andy Warhol, Quicksand), before the glam of Ziggy took hold. It’s got ‘Life On Mars?’ on it too. Come on.
4. Debut – Bjork
It was while reading a biography of hers that I started listening to Bjork’s music. This album blew me away from the first second of ‘Human Behaviour’ – those downtuned toms (timpani maybe?) coupled to that shuffle create this instant groove and then those synth interruptions are out of nowhere! Again with this the melodies on this album just seem to go anywhere they like. ‘Venus As A Boy’ is so floaty and unexpected – it’s a real delight. I love that on ‘There’s More to Life Than This’ it sounds like she leaves the session halfway through the song and just goes and sits in the toilets for a bit. Twice.
5. 69 Love Songs – The Magnetic Fields
What do you say when someone writes an album called ’69 Love Songs’ and it is 69 songs about love? Across a variety of genres from showtunes to punk to disco to spoken word to jazzzzzzzzz. The scope and ambition of this album is incredible but its strength is in the little moments. Merritt never lets the epic nature of the whole structure undermine any of the 69 smaller ‘bricks’ that go to build it. The lyrics on this album are some of the finest, bitterest, most pithy, heartbreaking words committed to tape.
“The moon to whom the poets croon has given up and died/astronomy will have to be revised”
“The book of love has music in it/In fact that’s where music comes from”
“Or I could make a career of being blue
I could dress in black and read Camus
Smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth
Like I was seventeen
That would be a scream
But I don’t want to get over you”
“It’s making me blue/Pantone 292”
Special mentions to Dolittle (Pixies), Elephant (The White Stripes), Soft Bulletin (Flaming Lips), Stories From The City… (PJ Harvey), Deserters Songs (Mercury Rev), Guerrilla (Super Furry Animals), Terror Twilight (Pavement), A Different Class (Pulp), 13 (Blur) and every Beatles album. The album is by far and away my preferred artform and you’re an evil, naughty blog for making me choose between so many of my favourite things.