Some artists find an influence and, for better or worse, stick to it. You didn’t see Oasis fiddling about with neo-classical piano interludes or Slipknot hiring a string-quartet for their sensitive baroque-pop album, more’s the pity. Other artists are much more keen to, as Orange Juice put it, rip it up and start again.
While there’s unquestionably something to be said for finding your sound and working within the limitations it provides you. Most artists benefit from at least a subtle shift in direction, while many are willing to go even further and produced record after record that sound like almost entirely different bands. Music is a subject with no rules, and many of us like to dip into different genres on a regular basis.
One artist showing a propensity for an arresting change in direction is songwriter Ralegh Long. Despite the relative success of his well received debut album, Hoverance, Ralegh decided this was the time for a change of pace. In his own words, Ralegh’s second album, Upwards Of Summer was born from a place of crisis. Out on tour, wrestling with life choices, Ralegh strongly considered giving up music all together. Thankfully on a plane back from Japan, he stumbled across 10,000 Maniacs’ album, In My Tribe. The record conjured up memories of Ralegh’s earliest influences, and reminded him why he began to play music in the first place.
On returning home, Ralegh set about writing his new album, a process of, “remembering what it felt like to pick up a guitar for the first time and tapping into that place of instinct”. The resultant record replaces the piano-led pastoral folk of his debut with an all together more wide-screen approach. Working with producer Margo Broom, Upwards Of Summer was recorded with Ralegh’s live band, and benefits from the injection of energy they brought. Upwards Of Summer is a big sky record, a record drenched in the Americana tradition, recalling contemporary artists like John Murry or The War On Drugs, but also nodding back to Bill Fay and Todd Rundgren.
This new sound forms an intriguing juxtaposition with Ralegh’s tendency for lyricism inspired by rural England, this transatlantic hybrid giving him a sound almost entirely his own. Upwards Of Summer is both the sound of artist getting back to their musical roots, and taking a huge leap forward.
Today Ralegh has put together a tape of some of the musicians who inspired of Upwards Of Summer, including R.E.M, Lloyd Cole and of course 10,000 Maniacs.
1. The Db’s – Think Too Hard
I’ve been obsessed with this db’s album for about 3 years now. While a lot of people know their early singles like Black and White, this album gets unfairly overlooked. The way it weds their melodic songwriting to muscular, bold productions is a big influence.
2. 10,000 maniacs – Hey Jack Kerouac
Literally the genesis of the new record. I was flying back from Japan. I was feeling completely done in. And really, thinking that I might pack music in and get a real job. I din’t have my iPod with me and there wasn’t much music to chose from on the plane. I thought I’d listen to this as I’d heard the name but never listened to an album. In that messed up state you get in on long haul flights I listened to it 4 or 5 times… When I got home, I dug my old bike out of the shed and rode around listening to this song on repeat to ease my jet lag.I decided I would make a new record, something that would give me the euphoric lift I got from this. (Best bass groove ever)
3. Big Star – You Get What You Deserve
Eurphoria and minor chord sadness. My favourite Big Star song.
4. R.E.M – Life and How to live it
I chose Reckoning as the first album to play when I moved to University. I imagined someone would come in cos they heard it and we’d bond over obscure American indie. Instead someone knocked at the door and asked if I wanted to play a drinking game before going to the club. It was precisely that moment that I knew I wouldn’t fit in.
5. Lloyd Cole – Minor Character
Lloyd Cole was a natural meeting ground when Margo (Broom Co-producer of Upwards of Summer and producer of Fat White Family, Goat Girl, Phobophobes) and I were talking about this record. Margo loves Lloyd Cole. I was really into him when I was about 18, but I found, as with all distinctive writers, that he wasn’t a very good influence on my writing, so I sort of stopped listening to him. I like the second album, Easy Pieces, best.
6. The Triffids – Wide Open Road
Widescreen and sombre. Love it.
7. Lets Active – Every Word Means No
A college rock classic by Lets Active. Mitch Easter more famously produce R.E.M. A friend of mine at University got me into this.
8. The Rayvns – Don’t leave Me This Way
This is hilarious but also legitimately great.
9. Gin Blossoms – Found out about you
This is not hilarious, and not legitimately great, but there’s something to Gin Blossoms. I can’t say I love them. but there are some good moments, and the drummer knows how to rimshot. Harpal Mudhar provided the fantastic rim shots on Upwards of Summer.
10. Miracle Legion – Homer
Jack (Hayter – Pedal Steel) plays with Mark Mulachy (Miracle Legion frontman) so there’s a connection there. Good band.
Upwards Of Summer is out now via via Kartel Music Group/Make It New Records. Click HERE for more information on Ralegh Long.