St Andrews Sands: Part Twelve

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…

Dr. Dog – We All Belong (2007)

Coming out of West Grove, Pennsylvania, Dr. Dog tries to capture the nostalgic 60s Beatles-rock sound. Similar to the Beatles, Dr. Dog recorded all of ‘We All Belong’ on a 24-track tape machine, giving the music that authentic analog quality. Overall, the record has a much warmer tone due to the recording process. “My Old Ways” is a great classic rock song, incorporating piano, organ, soft strumming acoustic guitar and a very lo-fi drum sound. I love this album not only cause every song on it is really good, but also it tries (and succeeds) to recreate that Beatles sound with such genuineness. In fact, the other day I was listening to a John Lennon song and a friend proudly remarked “ahh, is that some dr. dog?”

Blonde Redhead – 23 (2007)

Blonde Redhead formed in the early 90s due to a chance encounter at an Italian restaurant in New York. After leaving Milan to study jazz in the US, twin brothers Amedeo Pace (guitar/vocals) and Simone Pace (drums) met Japanese art student Kazu Makino (guitar/vocals). Their album 23 is like alternative rock meeting the eerie, reverb-laden soundscape of “shoegaze” or “dreampop.” Their sound is very dense but out of the wall of sound shines through Kazu’s vocals. “Dr. Strangeluv” starts with an electric guitar line that repeats throughout the whole song but gradually more instruments, more effects and more background sounds add into the mix creating a densely-textured track. What I really like in this song and the album overall is the drummer; Simone’s training in jazz is evident in his carefully crafted drum beats and use of auxiliary percussion.

DJ Shadow – Endtroducing….. (1996)

I discovered this guy from a good friend of mine, and I haven’t stopped going back to this album ever since. Some would call it “trip-hop” but I think of the album a little more deeply, as a reflection of the very fundamentals of hip hop. Released in 1996, Endtroducing….. is an album almost exclusively composed of samples and it’s produced very minimally with an Akai MPC. Indeed, Shadow has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of music that he uses when producing; he has a personal collection of over 60,000 records. Hip hop nowadays is all machines and computers, but this album reminds me of the reason why I got into hip hop in the beginning: the truly impressive talent of those not holding the microphone. I think it’s also important to remember the era in which these pieces of technology existed: the MPC could only hold 750 KB worth of sample data and operated exclusively through MIDI inputs and outputs. Nevertheless, Shadow’s “What Does Your Soul Look Like” is a masterpiece, a downbeat and mellow tune revolving around a soothing jazz sax stab.

Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) (2008)

Dubbed the “Queen of Neo-Soul,” Erykah Badu has had a musical career in hip hop, rnb and soul since the late 90s. “Master Teacher” is one of my favorites from New Emerykah, sampling Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead” over the repeating chorus “I stay woke.” Erykah’s distinctive voice pierces through about 2 minutes into the song––she sings with this sultry and quite airy tone but is also able to sprinkle in these crazy vibratos. Halfway through the song the beat fades away and gives way to a delicious Rhodes piano playing with a new more fluid jazzy sound. The vocals sing over a delicate balance of soft electric piano, gentle upright bass and a tight-ass stripped-back drum beat.

Explosions in the Sky – The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place (2003)

This album is great for so many different types of moods. If you haven’t stumbled across any “post-rock” bands before, Explosions in the Sky is the band to start with. Their signature multi-guitar layered sound coupled with thick, deep bass lines as well as the simple yet rock solid feel of the drums capture you instantly, especially in “Memorial.” ‘The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place’ also features the right balance between being under and over produced: really apparent in the drummer’s sound, this album strikes the right chord in letting there be some sloppiness in the mix yet ensuring the sound as a whole is tight. It almost feels like each Explosions song is a neatly and carefully crafted movement that flows from one to the next – a post-rock orchestral symphony of sorts.

The Track:

The Chi-lites – “Have You Seen Her?” (1971)

Hailing from Chicago, The Chi-Lites are the quintessential 70s black soul vocal group. A group popular during the days of Soul Train, the Chi-Lites is obviously soul, but they also borrow heavily from funk and rnb. “Have You Seen Her” starts off with an interesting fuzz-box bass line, almost sounding like a mixture of a clavinet and a guitar. Then comes in a spoken word narrative telling the story about a down-on-his-luck man who lost his girl. He tries to reminisce back to the good times “but it still doesn’t ease my pain.” Why would I choose this song for being stranded on the beaches of St Andrews the rest of eternity? Cause it’s that voice, man, it’s that daaaaamn voice.

Words: Scott Silberberg

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