In an ongoing effort to better understand the musical influences behind new music, we’re asking artists to tell us about their be-all-end-all essential albums of all time ever forever. This week we spoke with How To Dress Well’s Tom Krell, who takes us through an emotional whirlwind of disorienting and crushing music. Prepare to get that sinking feeling in your heart. You can grab his latest record Total Loss via Acéphale / Weird World.
Antony and the Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now
To me it’s the most beautiful, the most sad, most mystical record. The arrangements are amazing. The drumming in particular is amazing. And obviously, Antony’s just brilliant. The vocal performances across the record are really brilliant. When you compare it to the self-titled record preceding it, lyrically he just went to another level. On the one hand there’s a real loss of literal lyrics, you can’t always follow what he’s saying. But the poetry is so rich and deep. Every time I listen to that record I’m just fed so much to think about it and process. A real spiritually rich record.
Listen: I Am A Bird Now
Ezekiel Honig – Folding In on Itself
It’s like a weird found sound contemporary composition record. It’s a lot of weird trailing piano, voices—but not singing, often talking or whispering. Sort of like overhearing conversations. It’s I guess an ambient record, experimental record. But it’s just so incredibly gorgeous. I feel like you can get lost in this record so easily. You put it on and you’ve just discovered some mansion in the woods. And you’re walking around, investigating the ballrooms and the courtyards and shit. It’s just a really exciting record.
Janet Jackson – The Velvet Rope
Everybody knows this record, but it’s underemphasized how ridiculously weird it is. Basically, there’s a song for every genre. And then these interludes that she’s somehow making totally coherent. She sang like intensely depressing things and these kinds of mantras for overcoming depression. “You don’t have to hold onto the pain to hold onto the memory.” Listening to her play that back over and over again on the tape recorder between totally brilliant pop songs. Pretty rare experience. “Together Again” is just an absolutely [classic] song. People forget that even though it’s a joyous dance song—it’s quite house-y, it’s even got a bit of a kitschy house breakdown—that it’s also a song about her friend who died of AIDS. I think most of that record has that weird ambivalent emotional punch. Where you think you’re hearing one thing, something poppy and exciting, but you’re also hearing something really emotionally honest.
Listen: The Velvet Rope
Robbie Basho – Visions of the Country
He’s a kind of weird folk mystic. And the record evolved from that kind of sound, really eccentric and beautiful guitar playing. Really crazy piano compositions. Really, really weird ghostly whistling. He’s a ridiculously good whistler. And across the whole record is his unmistakable voice, which is just like, the strangest, most alien, yet most down to Earth, Earth being sound and voice. It’s a really special album.
Cam'ron– Purple Haze
A record I’ve dedicated myself to a lot and plan to continue to dedicate myself to. I have a goal to know all of the lyrics by the time I’m 40… it’s gotta be the best rap record ever put out. The lyrics are just absolutely mental. So intricate. His metaphors are fucking wild. Just unpredictable. The beats are brilliant across the board. He’s also got another record that’s kind of a track for every single style of hip-hop. It’s kind of like a hip-hop education and it’s also feature oriented. He never did anything even close to that record again and I don’t think that another rap record for me could top it.
Listen: “Purple Haze”