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, to be their one and only soundtrack, if they were ever forever stranded on the beaches of St Andrews…
Turning the Century – Dr. Dog (Be The Void, 2012)
Hailing from my home state of Pennsylvania, Dr. Dog is most well known for their unique lo-fi indie rock influenced by 1960s artists like The Beach Boys and The Beatles. My dad was once in the bar in Philadelphia where Dr. Dog used to play before they were discovered and the bartender told him the owner always felt bad because the lead singer’s voice was so bad he couldn’t pay him some nights. What I love about Dr. Dog is the sprawling quality of their light, playful, summery sound that sometimes tumbles onto a rougher edge. Their album Be The Void, recorded in 2011, especially captures this cathartic, transformative quality. Despite how dedicated the band is to ragged, loose recording techniques the 12 tracks have rich composition and texture, with a beautifully overlaid sound. You get a sense of listening to a live performance. The band’s guitarist- vocalist Scott McMicken explains Be The Void “comes from our pushing toward a rawer, more powerful, somewhat jittery competence…music that’s got its roots in live expression rather than that studio-perfected sort of vibe.” Having seen them live, I’d say that jittery is the right way to describe it, but in a exhilarating, happy way.
Baby – Devendra Banhart (What Will We Be, 2009)
Devendra Banhart, a Venezuelan raised American singer songwriter and visual artist has an interesting sound that has been described as psychedelic folk, alternative folk, weird folk, or “trippy hippy tone poetry.” Part of the appeal of Devendra is his weird, disconnected but very loveable personality communicated through his music. One of Devendra’s more recent releases, ‘What Will We Be’, is perhaps his most ‘radio-friendly’ album. His trademark bouncy folky sound mixes with a slinky, jazzy element with Latin overtones, creating a group of 12 tracks that are perhaps less raw than previous releases, but in my opinion this new laid back side was a nice addition— a Devendra more suited for a lonely beach walk.
Warm Foothills – alt-J (This Is All Yours, 2014)
Formed in Leeds, England in 2007, alt-J debuted with An Awesome Wave in 2012. Their more recent release, This Is All Yours, departs from a deep, mysterious vibe towards one that radiates a sense of freedom, warmth, and nature. There are definitely lines to be drawn between the two albums, both feature minimalistic electronics, sparse but precise harmonies, and singer Joe Newman’s strange make believe language; it has been described as an “electropop Fabergé egg”. This specific track features Conor Oberst, Sivu, and Lianne La Havas and was inspired by Iris Murdoch’s memoir. I loved alt-J’s first album but I think this new, more inviting and engulfing
sound is an impressive addition, and is an all together more personal, warm album.
Salad Days- Mac Demarco (Salad Days, 2014)
Mac Demarco, born Vernor Winfield McBriare Smith IV, is a scruffy, gap toothed singer song writer slash goofball out of British Columbia. Despite the friendly slacker vibe he gives of, over the past two years his laid back, swaying brand of indie rock has catapulted him forward. His second full length album, Salad Days, was released this past year and is in my personal favourite album to come out of 2014. Lyrical guitar, wavering lyrics, and some seriously killer bass lines, what’s not to love? Aside from Demarco’s duality as a successful musician versus carefree hipster, the title track is another example of his paradox. The term “salad days” is actually a Shakespearean expression, referring to a time of carefree youth. Salad Days reveals Demarco’s anxiety over ageing, lamenting the passing days only to realise that he’s really only 23 years old. The album as a whole has a slow and slightly gloomy feel but what’s so great about Mac Demarco is that he doesn’t seem to want his melancholy to affect anyone else’s good time.
Girl from the North Country – Bob Dylan (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1963)
This album was Dylan’s second, and held more original songs than his debut had. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan became the anthem of the 1960’s folk music with ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, ‘Don’t Think Twice’, ‘It’s Alright’, ‘Masters of War’, and my personal favourite, ‘Girl from the North Country’. I was lucky enough to grow up in a musical family on my dad’s side, and at every gathering my uncles and cousins, all ages, would sit in a circle with their guitars and banjos and harmonicas and our big binder of folk songs and just play. It could cumulate into a big sing along or just casual background music. It’s one of my favourite childhood memories and folk music will always give me that sense of community and peace. ‘Girl from the North Country’ is sad and sweet, just like Dylan’s voice but comforting at the same time. It’s a song you can sway to, or smile to, or hold hands to and I bet listening to it on the beaches of St Andrews would make it feel a lot like home. I’m kind of a girl from the north country now, anyways. And the winds, do the winds hit heavy on the borderline.
Step x Medicine (Vampire Weekend/Daughter cover) ft. Stevie Lorann – Calvin Lamothe
The discovery of this cover grew from my love for all things Ezra Koenig. This mashup of Vampire Weekend and Daughter was put together by a very talented 18 year old singer songwriter out of Boston, and not much information about him can be found online— it seems like he mainly posts covers on his Soundcloud. And more power to him because this track gives me chills every time.
Words: Marie Davis