…The book thing naturally sparked a music version, and I am one of those infuriating people who thinks their taste in music is Right, and everyone else’s taste in music is inevitably Wrong.
So here are the 8 artists/bands that have had the most impact on my musical life… feel free to judge, ’cause I would.
1) Thea Gilmore
If any friends are reading this, it’s OK, I can hear the collective eye-rolling and “you’re banging on about her again?” Yes, yes I am. Because she really, really, really is that good. Every time I see her live I swear she gets better – and trust me when I say I have lost count of the number of times I have seen her live – and it’s been exciting to see how her style has matured and developed.
See for yourselves… Don’t be put off by the somewhat basic approach to video-making; she’s really not about slick marketing and selling herself as a product. What she is about is crafting intelligent, witty lyrics and not overcomplicating or over-producing her records. She deserves to be so much bigger than she is, but I’m a little scared that if she was, I wouldn’t be half the fan I am now. (And not in a hipster, “she’s sold out, man” kind of way. Honest.)
2) Alanis Morissette
Just as Anne Frank was a predictable choice for the book list, Alanis is no surprise here. I spent 7 years as a teenage girl, of course I was going to have an Alanis phase at some point. I started writing songs at the age of about 11 (interestingly, I believe my first song was called “Real Love”. What an eleven year old knows about real love is, well, bollocks-all, quite frankly, but I bet I could still hum it to you), and heard Jagged Little Pill for the first time about a year later. It did change the way I thought about female singer-songwriters – there’s a lot of female rage and bitterness on that record, as well as several lighter moments – and it was the first time, I think, that I’d listened to a girl singer who wasn’t slick and choreographed and polished to perfection. Her songs highlighted the confusion and conflicting feelings that relationships and their breakdown can bring, and that was a revelation at the time.
Though I doubt I realised it.
3) Michelle Branch
If those two examples aren’t enough, I’ll shut up and retreat with a sigh, shaking my head at your awful taste…
In all seriousness, though – Michelle Branch emerged about the same time as a certain Ms Lavigne, who seemed to nab Branch’s spot when it came to being the charts’ guitar-wielding girl singer/songwriter of choice. This was, to my mind, totally unfair. Michelle Branch never made it as big in the UK as Avril, but in my opinion is so much more talented. Her incredibly strong voice, her simple but never simplistic lyrics, the way she also gets better and better… Yeah. Little bit of a girl-crush going on here. Actually, I think I just want to be her. Just for a day. She plays a Gibson Hummingbird, too, which is the top instrument on my “guitars-to-buy-when-I’m-rich” wishlist.
4) The Calling
Remember them? “I’ll go wherever you will gooooooo…” (Actually, you probably do remember them, given that Charlene Soraia did a very yelpy, whiney cover of that song a few months ago.) Well, I’m somewhat loathe to admit this but it was the intro to that song, the soft guitar picking bit, that made me pick up the guitar in the first place. Their first album – incidentally I think the first album I ever bought with my own money – was actually pretty strong; it certainly wasn’t all soft-rock ballads like their most successful single, and it’s a shame they didn’t last longer than they did.
5) Damien Rice
Male readers, if they are anything like the Boy, may well be sighing and spluttering and generally finding it hard to believe I dare refer to myself as someone with good music taste, if I’m going to put Damien Rice on this list. I do not know many guys that admit to liking him, it’s true. Boy himself keeps extolling the virtues of Newton Faulkner over the Rice man, but I much prefer Rice’s lyrics. O was a funny little record – I only liked two or three songs on it when I first listened to it, but oh, how it grew on me. There are dark, bitter moments on it, and subtle, light moments, and it is the album that is home to the ultimate anthem of unrequited love: Cannonball. If you need any more persuading that Damien Rice isn’t simply the Irish version of David Gray, then go listen to “Dogs”, from Rice’s second album, 9. Then come back and tell me I’m wrong.
6) Bruce Springsteen
Stay with me… I expect, if my uncle knew how to use the internet, and could read this, he would be quietly punching the air with pride. He’s probably been waiting almost 22 years to hear me say that Bruce Springsteen has had any sort of influence on me. Because, as you’ve no doubt gleaned, my uncle is quite the Bruce fan. More obsessive than I am about Ms Gilmore. I don’t like everything Bruce has ever done – indeed, I haven’t heard most of it. But there are a few songs of his that really make me happy – Radio Nowhere, The Rising, Lonesome Day, and it almost goes without saying, Born to Run. Plus, anyone that comes up with the phrase “dancing in the dark” has got to be a songsmith of pretty high calibre…
She’s got an awesome voice, she plays guitar, she never seems to try too hard, she looks like she’d be wicked fun to get drunk with, and she’s mates with Ellie Goulding. I cannot love her more. Anything else? Oh, this:
8) Grace Potter (and the Nocturnals)
Who? This one:
Yes. Exactly. That voice is pure sex and grit and rock’n’roll. I am so jealous of her voice, it’s unreal. Why she’s not super-world-famous on a Lady Gaga scale is beyond me. Check out Medicine for further convincing. Like you need it.
All right, I’m off now. Only for more internet procrastination, I expect. You should check out at least one of the above if you haven’t already; I do have impeccable taste. Of course, if you’ve stumbled here by mistake and you’re more of a death-metal person, then I won’t be offended if you don’t. Much.