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VMP editorial had an ulterior motive at SXSW: To not only see the best bands and eat the best food in Austin, but to poll attending artists about their favorite records of all time and the memories attached to those albums. We caught up with five artists during the hectic festival week — read below to find out all about their picks.
In a quiet moment before the Father/Daughter + Bayonet showcase on Friday, Eva Liu, who performs as mui zyu, wearing that same fantastic green coat pictured above to fight off the surprising chill in Austin, gave us a thoughtful answer. Trying to narrow it down between a few choices, Liu said, “One of them is Scott Walker’s Scott 3. I feel like the sort of cinematic soundscapes that he creates on the album [have] shaped a lot of how I write and like, shaped a lot of sounds I go for. I just kind of love how it transports you into like a completely different space.”
She clarified that she loves other Walker records, but this one stood out after she did a big dive into his discography, and has become her “go-to.” “Scott 3 I feel like influenced the album a little bit more,” Liu said, referring to her debut full-length, Rotten Bun for an Eggless Century. “I just like his use of strings, and just, like, his lovely kind of velvety voice. Kind of sounds like a theremin.”
Asked at the end of a longer interview with VMP if he was willing to be put on the spot to name his favorite record of all time, former VMP Rising artist Ric Wilson said, “I think I told you guys last time, Mama’s Gun,” and he was right: Wilson already spoke about the Erykah Badu record for a VMP video series called HI-FIVES. But he was happy to elaborate again, saying, “It’s so fucking good. You put it on and just play the whole thing, front to back, don’t have to skip anything.”
“It was one of the CDs I stole from my dad that I [put in] my first car,” Wilson added, “[I] used to just jam that shit at all times — that and Illmatic were the two CDs in my car,” Wilson added.
Singer-songwriter and producer Baby Rose had a packed schedule at SXSW, but was kind enough to answer via email about her pick, Donny Hathaway’s Never My Love: The Anthology: “He touched on so many elements and themes of life in his work with such honesty and warmth,” Rose said. “His sound selection and recording style on ‘Jealous Guy’ is so raw and fits right in with the intention of the lyrics. I have a memory of hearing ‘Someday We’ll All Be Free’ sung at my cousin’s elementary school play and it brought tears to my eyes. ‘This Christmas’ is like a warm hug, and it inspired me to write a whole EP about the holidays back in D.C. Donny just hits different for me, in a very special way, he made music to live to.”
Indie artist Barrie Lindsay, who performs as Barrie, selected an alternative rock record from the ’90s as her pick. “Lost and Gone Forever by Guster is one of my all-time favorite albums,” Lindsay shared via email. “The songwriting, the melodies and harmonies, clean production and mix, instrumentation range — and Guster was my first concert. I keep finding myself drawn back to the melodic sensibilities of ’90s rock/alt artists. Such solid songwriting.”
Barrie added, “My dad was a big sailor, and people would ask him to sail their boat back to wherever after they did a race. He brought my whole family on one of those trips, from Bermuda back to Massachusetts. We hit a big Gulf Stream gale and had a scary couple days, but the night it cleared, my dad put this album on. I have a vivid memory of this sense of quiet relief and calm listening to these songs. Guster's next album Keep It Together is probably even better, but the emotional ties to Lost and Gone Forever run strong for me.”
Another former VMP Rising feature, the Australian band Huntly answered via email about a record that’s influential to them in more ways than one. “A core album in our shared musical identity — as well as our friendship — is James Blake’s self-titled 2011 record,” they wrote. “That was the year we met on a beach in the south of India when we were beginning our adult lives. It was innovative and experimental pop, but also marrying a clear influence of bass and U.K. dance styles, which are huge for us. It was his vulnerable lyricism, the rich synthesisers and lush harmonic progressions on the piano, and really precise production that all combined to create a really intimate sound. We began our friendship sharing stories of why we loved that music, and we began making music together soon after.”