I think the most important thing about music is the sense of escape.
Throughout the history of music, it has played a huge variety of roles. It has been at the forefront of political change, it has been a force that brings disparate individuals together into a shared togetherness, it has been the voice in our headphones, telling us that we are not alone in our emotions. One of music’s most powerful qualities is its ability to help us escape, the way you can press play and for a few minutes be whisked off to another world.
When the news gets too overwhelming, when the world gets too loud, music can offer a route to somewhere else. You can float into space with David Bowie, observe the seedy dive bar caricatures with Tom Waits, or step into the surrealist sketches of Cate Le Bon. The only limits to where music can transport you is your imagination.
One of our 19 for 2019, half-German, London based songwriter Vanessa Anne Redd recently shared her excellent new album, Zumbo Waxes. Described by Vanessa as a, “gothic folk fairy-tale of sin and salvation”, Zumbo Waxes is a fascinating record, one that pulls you into a technicolor world of intriguingly varied sounds. There’s light folk-pop moments, such as the Allo Darlin’-like No Sacrifice, placed alongside the PINS-like nocturnal rock of No More Alarm and the dramatic balladeering of Transcendence.
Vanessa plays at London’s 26 Leake Street venue tomorrow night, and ahead of the show has made us a mixtape of songs for escaping the everyday featuring the likes of Suicide, Patti Smith and Mazzy Star.
“I think most listening and making music’s to get us somewhere beyond the everyday, escape, take us to different places, change our moods. The way music can put you in different spaces is something I love and a real reason to make music too to share and create atmospheres. Here are my favourites of some musicians who do this for me, make me smile and those who are searching for a little slice of utopia too”.
1. Mama Cass Eliot – Dream A Little Dream Of Me
A slice of light and breezy heaven from Mama Cass from Mama’s and Papa’s. I float on that honky tonk twinkling piano, the oohs and aahs, the smoothness of that gorgeous voice, strings, melody and that cool laid back bass. Played and sung with such ease you can’t help but feel those feelings too.
“Sweet dreams that leave your worries behind you”
2. Suicide – Dream Baby Dream
Alan Vega was one of those effortless front people who made everyone want to be in a band. Luckily I saw him play a few times, once mid gig he walked behind the drum riser, at the back of the stage, sat down and had a fag like he was at home watching telly. This track makes me so happy when I hear that droney organ start in, the way it goes round the same three chords and tinkles that xylophone at you you can’t help relax into it. It makes me feel strangely strengthened in doing what I want to do, Alan Vega magic style.
“Makes you free you know” “Dream baby dream forever”
3. Tommy Allen – Get Out Of Your Head
Discovered this Tommy Allen track and got addicted, from his great album ‘Sea of Same’. I just smile and smile when I hear it. His chords and delivery make me instantly relaxed I feel like I’m walking those streets with him seeing what he’s seeing when I listen. The touch of psychedelia and roaming atmosphere takes me straight on a trip into his world. Lovely.
“Don’t have to feel sad when you’re busy dying”
4. Agnes Obel – Golden Green
I’m there in the white dress, in a field in this one. A simple, cyclical, folk chant vibe with an amazing change down on the piano and Agnes’ gorgeous very classical sounding voice and a lovely xylophone riff drifting high over you. She’s such a wonderful piano player and I love the imagery of the fire and the fields. Take me to the medieval forest now please, and leave me there smelling the grass.
5. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Loves – Astral Plane
“I’ll meet you on the Astral plane” I love the organ and scratchy guitar on this. Jonathan Richman makes you feel you’re as cool as he is when you hear this. His throwaway delivery and off the cuff manner remind you not to take anything too seriously.
6. 13th Floor Elevators – Roller Coaster
Spacemen 3 did a great version of this too but I love this original with the spiky drony guitar and that arpeggiator keyboard niggling in the back. Psychedelic rock spewing it’s newborn here. I love the way he sings it a bit angrily too telling you have to open up your mind or else!
“You gotta open up your mind and let everything come through”
7. Patti Smith – Gloria: In Excelsis Deo
Patti Smith the Queen, pure rock and roll poet Shaman! That rock and roll energy she’s pushes out makes you feel unstoppable. Her spitting lyric delivery hands that power straight over to you listening. Her storytelling’s a great way to get you into another place. I saw her do this track live and everyone in the audience was so hoarse with singing and crying with happiness when she was on. Thank you forever to Patti Smith. This is a great live recording from CBGB’s.
8. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – I Saw The Light
A Gospel singer songwriter and female guitar player legend, one of the first people to distort a guitar on her recordings. She got the title ‘Godmother of rock and roll’ and was definitely changing spaces. I’m sure she got lots of converts after this little number. I’m throwing my hands up in the air on every strumm, feeling that power. What a trailblazer.
9. Nick Drake – Pink Moon
I love the simplicity of this song and how it lifts your spirits. Nick was pretty melancholic himself and I’m sure writing something so uplifting was a good way to change that in the moment. The way his voice brushes past your ear with that soft guitar strumming and the little piano line, takes me away looking at the moon and riding on that dozy smile every time. Aw Nick.
10. Holly Golightly – There’s An End
Holly is a very cool, funny, hugely talented and amazingly prolific lady. I’ve very fortunately had the pleasure of being in on a recording of hers and singing with her on tour with which were both very inspiring! I feel part of the same analogue family having recorded my records in the same studios, Toerag and Gizzard Studios. Her relaxed garage rock guitar playing and gorgeous voice on this track sweep you into her cocoon which is a very good one to be in. Follow her on facebook and you will have lots of fun too.
11. Mazzy Star – Fade Into You
A classic for me. Great for that wide open road feeling. You feel the sun on your face with Hope Sandoval’s drawl, softness and the slide guitar. The ultimate relaxation song to keep you in a warm hazy state where everything’s a possibility. Another amazing female voice.
12. Steve Reich – Music For 18 Musicians
Repeat repeat repeat. Repetition’s a great way to get you out of your head and into another zone, this is Steve Reich making meditative music. There’s so much in this one piece, every time I listen to it I hear something else. The way layers keep adding and subtracting keeps you alert not daydreaming off but still in another space. I’d like this on repeat to soundtrack my life. Best finish with this one as it’s nearly an hour long!
Zumbo Waxes is out now via Sharp Attack Records. Click HERE for more information on Vanessa Anne Redd.
Vanessa plays at London’s 26 Leake Street on March 20th. Click HERE for details