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…
1. Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004)
The first and finest album from Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, the enigmatic songwriting force behind Arcade Fire. Funeral at once evokes sickness and death – both Butler and Chassagne lost close family members during the months before the album’s recording – and the importance of community and family. This is represented by the recurring motif of a ‘neighborhood’. ‘Neighborhood #2 (Laïka)’ is a personal favourite because it mixes Butler’s faltering voice with a powerful, rock-oriented style. Funeral is emotionally raw throughout – but there are glimmers of optimism.
2. Foals, Total Life Forever (2010)
Although Foals won a lot of acclaim for their recent album, Holy Fire, their second offering is still my favourite. This is partly due to the grand departure it takes from their debut album, Antidotes. Total Life Forever marks a new direction for Yannis Philippakis and the rest of the band. Whereas before their music contained layer upon layer of sound – guitars, horns, synth, it’s all there – Total Life Forever is more stripped back, and as a result is easier to connect with as a listener. This is mainly because you can understand what Philippakis is saying. The sprawling ‘Spanish Sahara’ is the album’s best moment.
3. Radiohead, In Rainbows (2007)
I got In Rainbows as a gift for my seventeenth birthday and until that point I had not heard anything like it. It is Radiohead’s seventh album and although it does not depart totally from their famous brand of British gloom-rock, there are a handful of lighthearted undertones. For example, in ’15 Steps’ Thom Yorke’s apocalyptic falsetto competes with a children’s chorus. ‘Reckoner’ is a monumental track, which mixes Yorke’s raw falsetto with heavy percussion. Finally, ‘Videotape’, is an emotional conclusion to the album. Heavy piano gives way to rickety percussion and brings In Rainbows to its ethereal end.
4. Disclosure, Settle (2013)
Although I am not usually a fan of house, I cannot deny Settle. (Despite my flat mate’s pleas that it is both mainstream and poor.) It is definitely one of last year’s best and brightest, and is an incredibly confident debut from the fresh-faced Surrey duo. Part of the album’s appeal is its wide range of collaborations with both male and female artists. Friendly Fires front man Ed MacFarlane makes a sultry – and unexpected – appearance on ‘Defeated No More’ and Sam Smith makes an awesome appearance on ‘Latch’. The girls make an impressive effort, too, and Hannah Reid’s (London Grammar) appearance on the ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’ is possibly the best of all.
5. Crystal Castles, (II) (2010)
Crystal Castles are best known for their seizure inducing live shows and Alice Glass’ bizarre onstage behaviour. Their second album, which is self titled like the rest, is an improvement on its predecessor in pretty much every way. Although it is not quite as loud as their debut album, it is much more focused and streamlined. Whereas Crystal Castles sometimes felt all over the place, (II) has some sense of progression; ‘I Am Made of Chalk’ mixes monstrous distorted vocals with crystal clear shoegaze synth. Crystal Castles are still capable of making sonic shockwaves when they want to. ‘Doe Deer’ is nothing short of brutal.
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, ‘Home’ (Up From Below, 2009)
‘Home’ is, in truth, the highlight of what is otherwise a fairly forgettable album. But what a highlight it is. It is a charming and original duet between the band’s front man, Alex Ebert, and his then girlfriend, Jade Castrinos. It is wonderfully catchy and folky.
Words: Lewis Dorer