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 to Jean Grobler, the South African synth-pop mad scientist better known as St. Lucia, who dropped his September EP late last year.
Fleetwood Mac – Tusk/Rumours/Greatest Hits (1979/1977/1988)
Listening to these three albums will give you the best overview of Fleetwood Mac’s Buckingham/Nicks phase. Rumours is obviously an amazing album, everyone knows that, but Tusk is such an incredible statement of intent, and in a way has even more tension and conflict in it than Rumours. Some argue that it should have been more concise, and maybe that’s true, but there are so many amazing moments that it’s an easy double album to sit through. The Greatest Hits (the one with the green cover) contains some of the best moments from Tusk and Rumours, plus a lot of the great moments from the albums after that, all of which were hit and miss. My favourite Fleetwood Mac song, “Gypsy,” is on there as well. The only thing missing is “Landslide.”
Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)
This is the album that used a wrench to open up what I thought was possible in music. I was literally obsessed with this album for three or so years, and probably listened to it 20 times per week or something ridiculous. The songwriting is amazing, the production is groundbreaking. It influenced me a lot.
Listen: OK Computer (full album)
Mew – And The Glass Handed Kites (2005)
Another album that I was obsessed with for a few years, and one of few recent albums that had that effect on me. I feel like a lot of people overlooked this record, but I think it’s one of the greatest musical works of the last ten years, at least. Maybe it’s the fact that it was made at a time when most people were trying to make music that sounded small and intimate, or intentionally amateur sounding, and they just made this insanely huge and epic vision of an album. There are so many interesting elements at play, from ferocious drumming and crazy time signatures, thrashing guitars, and then Jonas’s angelic vocals that drifting over the mix, and the way all the tracks are joined together. The only thing I could liken it to for anyone who hasn’t heard this album is Air meets Genesis meets Led Zeppelin meets The Knife. An incredibly beautiful album.
Kate Bush – The Hounds of Love (1985)
This was the album that got me into the ’80s again. I think I heard it for the first time in 2005, and I just loved the way that she used all the familiar sounds from the ’80s that, at the time, I thought were cheesy, but they’re used in such unexpected ways and in different contexts, they don’t seem cheesy anymore. I also loved the way that she put all of the pop songs in the first half, and then had this crazy experimental second half that probably completely alienated anyone who bought her record because they loved the pop-songs. Such a brave and subversive lady.
Listen: The Hounds of Love (full album)
Air – Talkie Walkie (2004)
This album took me a while. I loved Moon Safari, and I think that when this first came out I listened to the first two tracks and didn’t like it so I gave up on it. Then, a few years later a friend of mine gave me a bunch of albums as a gift, and this was one of them. I didn’t have anything else to listen to at the time, so I listened to this and it really started getting under my skin. It might be one of the most elegant albums ever made, an exercise in restraint. It never feels like they’re doing too much, or too little, and I wish that I could achieve the same thing, but I always feel like I need to add more to my recordings. For a long time one of my favorite things to do was to listen to this album while paging through interior decoration books in a bookstore/coffee shop, and something about those two things together, the elegant almost architectural music and the beautiful arrangement of these spaces in the books would ignite this flame of inspiration in me. Almost every single time I would do that I would walk out of the book-shop and some up with a new song.