New Spell travel 5 albums that helped define the band.
by Leanne Kelly
It was fun but challenging to pick out 5 albums that shaped us, because Jacob (drums), Max (production), and I (songwriter, keys, vocals) have all gone through a lot of different phases of music listening. There are many other works that are also a part of our creative journeys and memories, but here is a snapshot of 5 albums that we consider being influential to our sound, in this moment.
Radiohead – In Rainbows
We had some internal division on this one because we love ALL of the albums. OK Computer was my introduction to Radiohead and I’ve listened to it so many times that the intro guitar at the beginning of “Airbag” is like a familiar friend. Also, lyrically, the technological tension covered in OK Computer parallels my own topics of interest. Kid A is another top album because it put Radiohead on the map for experimenting with sound and expectations. But, forced to pick one Radiohead album, we chose In Rainbows. This album is full of
This album is full of spine-tingling chills, with music that takes its time to develop through soundscapes of loveliness. It gives me a beautifully sad feeling that I am addicted to in music. In Rainbows was released in the years after undergrad as we were entering adulthood, so it holds a special place in our hearts. Plus, this pay-what-you-want album heralded a new era (for better or worse) in how music was released.
Farao – Till It’s All Forgotten
Jake and I had known Max for several years through our band friendship with his group The Stages of Sleep. When we started working together on this album, we shared a lot of music with each other and were happy to find that our aesthetic tastes were in total alignment. Though we do have a lot in common in terms of what we listen to, this album is definitely the common thread between producer and artist. Max shared Farao’s “Hunter” from TIAF with me and I was hooked. I adore Kari Jahnsen’s voice, and we took a lot of production notes from her work. The songwriting, arrangement, musical performances, and production on this album are spectacular – full of ear candy for the repeat listener. Her music is emotional, honest, dynamic, and layered, and this album has been on repeat over the past years.
Bjork – Vespertine
Vespertine was highly influential to me during my high school years. Inspired by other female artists of the time like Tori Amos and Fiona Apple, I had already started dreaming of being a songwriter. And when I started listening to Bjork, she expanded my understanding of what the sonic possibilities could be. I remember driving in my car, listening to “Undo” on full blast, and noticing that her vocals were at times exposed, while at other times they were layered and weaving. That realization, combined with the lyrical message of the song, stopped me in my tracks. I still get chills when I hear the refrain, “It’s not meant to be a strife, It’s not meant to be a struggle uphill.” This album was the first time that I paid attention to production, and I was fascinated by all the weirdness and texture. Plus, I love that Bjork is unapologetically, relentlessly herself in everything she does.
Her confidence and commitment to pure artistic expression are inspiring.
Grizzly Bear – Shields
This was a big album as we embarked on our New Spell journey. We love Grizzly Bear’s hazy, distressed production and their choices of effects. All are wonderfully talented musicians, who play with precision but still manage to somehow generate a cacophonous energy at times. Jacob has taken a lot of notes from the drummer of this group, especially influenced by their use of toms. Personally, I’ve probably listened to “Yet Again” a million times – I love how it develops over time, finishing with an emotionally powerful screaming end.
The video by Emily Kai Bock captures it perfectly:
Tune-Yards – Whokill
Tune-Yards are definitely a distinct Bay Area voice, and this album really captures the reason why. It is as unique as it is familiar, with an assertive groove and exciting instrumentation. Merrill Garbus’ voice is amazing as she uses it like an instrument to deliver incredible, angular vocal lines – growling, howling, shouting, crooning, and whispering her way through the album. When Whokill came out, I was still acclimating to life in the Bay Area (having moved from LA not long before), so this album feels very Oakland to me, which is where I lived for seven years. Also, fun fact, I once met Merrill at Rooz Cafe near Lake Merritt in Oakland and awkwardly gushed and gave her my New Spell business card. Still waiting for her call…
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