As we know all too well, as lovable and quaint as St Andrews is, there come moments where not even the sight of the never-ending North Sea can alleviate the feeling that we’re being held hostage within the town’s three streets.
Here’s a thought: imagine if you were stranded on the sands of St Andrews..?
Taking inspiration from BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, every week our resident writers will deliver their choice of five albums and one track, to be their one and only soundtrack, if they were ever forever stranded on the beaches of St Andrews…
The first instalment of St Andrews Sands comes from Press Play’s Editor, and is a journey through neo-soul, R&B and rap with a just touch of psychedelic folk and classical music.
1. D’Angelo, Voodoo (2000)
Voodoo is the Grammy Award winning second studio album by neo-soul aficionado, D’Angelo. Released in 2000, after a five year hiatus of self discovery and disenchantment with the music business, this is an album which was intrinsically developed using every iota of D’Angelo’s musical creativity. Touching on the subjects of spirituality, sexuality, growth and becoming a father, the goliath talent of D’Angelo is showcased throughout Voodoo, as he wrote, performed and produced the entire album. For me, there are three notable tracks; Send it On is a tale of honesty and faith in love, featuring exquisite layered vocals and a soaring, soulful vibe. Africa, telling the reconnection of D’Angelo to his heritage and connection to his newborn son, is one of the most beautiful neo-soul tracks ever created. As for Untitled (How Does it Feel?), just watch the video…
2. Lauryn Hill, Unplugged 2.0 (2002)
Despite the near unanimous critical praise of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, this acoustic, live album surpasses Lauryn’s first album in sheer beauty and honesty. Recorded in 2001 in New York, Lauryn showcased thirteen new tracks interspersed with spoken interludes of her personal and artistic struggles. The album is intensely intimate and lyrically driven, leaving Lauryn vulnerable to her audience as she shares her thoughts on religion, society and love – there is even a breath taking moment during I Gotta Find Peace of Mind where Lauryn is reduced to tears.
Lauryn Hill has produced no album since.
3. Beyoncé, BEYONCÉ (2014)
I deliberated majorly over Dangerously in Love, Beyoncé’s first solo album, or BEYONCÉ, her fifth. Released in 2003, Dangerously in Love is a sensual and charismatic R&B record. Yet, it was released when Beyoncé was only 21, and therefore, sometimes verges on insecurity and cliché. Eleven years later, and Beyoncé has produced her best work to date. BEYONCÉ is a powerful, dangerous and slick album that challenges any expectations you might have had for Beyoncé’s musical direction. It also comes with a visual album; passionately and daringly creative. The “Power 3” are without doubt Drunk in Love (an sexual narrative of Beyoncé and Jay Z’s love affair), Yoncé/Partition (an unashamedly dirty double track) and Rocket (a sensual ballad of love and sex). BEYONCÉ is an album for the modern day woman; powerful, sexual and constantly challenging preconceptions.
4. Kendrick Lamar, Section 80 (2011)
Following five mixtapes and one EP, Section 80 is Kendrick Lamar’s 2011 debut studio album. A dedication to all the kids born to Reagan’s laissez-faire America, this record cemented Kendrick’s incomparable rise to the rap game. A fusion of melodic poeticism and Compton inspired lyrical grit, Section 80 is a concept album that doesn’t shy away from the true reality of 1980s America; drugs, prostitution and racism. It focuses primarily on the lives, relationships and hardships of Tammy and Keisha. The latter lends her name to the most heart-wrenching track on this brutally honest album. Keisha’s Song (Her Pain) is a 2011 version of 2pac’s Brenda’s Got a Baby, and the vivid and tragic tale of a young prostitute’s survival which culminates in her murder.
5. Devendra Banhart, Cripple Crow (2005)
My only deviation from the R&B/neo-soul/rap vibe, Cripple Crow is the fifth album from psychedelic folk musician, Devendra Obi Banhart, and thus perhaps the most appropriate soundtrack to being stranded in the wilderness of St Andrews. Delicate instrumentals, tender, lingering vocals and mysterious lyricism are the backbone to this record. The 22 tracks seem to be split into two sections; summery, up beat tracks (such as Hey Mama Wolf) contrast to introspective and confessional tracks. Dragonflies is of exceptional beauty; a duet with Matteah Baim of Metallic Falcons, it lasts only a minute, but it is a minute of gorgeous mysticism.
Ralph Vaughan Williams, The Lark Ascending (1920)
A soaring masterpiece that reaches the utmost heights of beauty, inspired by George Meredith’s poem about the skylark.
‘He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.
For singing till his heaven fills,
‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.
Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.’