Top 5 is a new section we’ve added to TSOFD (The Sound of Fighting Dogs). We’ve gone that little bit further just to see what makes you tick. Here you’ll find the Top 5 musical influences on artists whose music we’ve reviewed. We’ll be getting our noses down in the dirt to see what really inspires them; old and new since time began. Today’s Top 5 comes from Derry songsmith Conor McAteer, whose brand new album I Was An Astronaut was recently reviewed on SOFD –
1/ Mark Kozelek and Jimmy Lavalle – Perils From the Sea (2013)
Mark Kozelek, aka Sun Kil Moon, has reached a level in his career where there is no point even trying to compare his work to anyone else. Nobody writes quite like he does, so it’s surprising that he is also such a generous and prolific collaborator. Here, Jimmy Lavalle’s ambient electronica gives Kozelek the perfect platform on this slow-burning masterpiece. Probably my favourite album by anyone at the moment.
2/ Kenna – New Sacred Cow (2003)
New Sacred Cow came out following label changes after difficulties coming up with marketing strategies for an album that was a tad out of step with what was around at the time. I’ve never understood this need to label everything; it means that great music like this can end up slipping between the cracks. Still, Chad Hugo from the Neptunes produces this diverse but very accessible electronic pop album. Melodies? Check. Beats? Check. Emotional content? Check. High profile connections? Check. It should have been massive but it feckin’ wasn’t.
3/ Matthew Ryan – East Autumn Grin (2000)
Speaking of albums that should have been massive…Matthew Ryan is criminally underrated – a prolific and often brilliant songwriter. I don’t know if I read it somewhere, but I’ve always assumed this record was written in the wake of a pretty difficult break up. Whatever the circumstances, Ryan has found real beauty in the rubble. Lyrics like “now the days they are unwinding like an alarm clock, and the drift it is as steady as it is strong” are worthy of Cohen, Dylan, Joni or anyone you care to name. Pure poetry.
4/ Machine Head – Unto the Locust (2011)
I’ve no idea how I Was An Astronaut ended up so folky; I had Unto the Locust on heavy rotation while I was writing it. I’ve been aware of Machine Head since the mid to late 90s but a friend sent me this album at a time when I needed to hear something heavy and complex and I’ve become a huge fan of the band since. Ambitious, deeply imaginative, melodic, immaculately produced and louder than the hammers of blue Jesus: Unto the Locust is damn near perfect.
5/ Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)
The first time I heard Paranoid Android, I went “what the hell is this?!” Then the second time I heard Paranoid Android I went “No, seriously, what the hell is this?!” When the penny dropped, however, I saw Radiohead were a band who wouldn’t allow themselves to be defined. They could no longer be shoehorned into any movement, becoming their own movement, exploring their creativity and repeatedly reinventing themselves the way so many of the greats did before them. Recently, I listened to this album in full for the first time in quite a while. Was it really the unbridled masterpiece I thought it was when it was released? Of course it bloody was!