Lists

Alex Watts takes a good look at himself and the albums that shaped his music

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After the release of his visually delicious video for Hopeful, we wondered just what makes Alex Watts tick and how he came to develop his unique groove. Here, Alex gives us an insight into 5 albums that shaped and influenced his music and his life, you may be a little surprised.

Alex

Music is nothing without inspiration. These 5 records are elements of the blueprint that helped Alex Watts shape his own brand of eclectic pop.

Elvis Costello – This Years Model (1978)

This was EC’s second album but his first with The Attractions, the band put together to tour his first record. It’s an incredible ensemble performance, the amount of hours they had to put in on the road over the previous ten months or so are evident on every track. The aggression of the vocal and the tempo are indicators of a band that learned to play this pop music together in front of a thirsty 1977 UK audience and there isn’t a dud song on it.

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – Streetcore (2003)

Like most of the artists I’m really into, such as Prince, David Bowie or The Beatles, The Clash didn’t have just one great album but an incredible discography that changed popular music forever. Joe Strummer’s solo work is perhaps less iconic but is even more encompassing stylistically and just as ferocious.

The Mescaleros were on fire at this point and Joe had well and truly gotten his mojo back over the course of his previous two albums with them. Coma Girl is one of the best album openers you’ll ever hear and Burnin’ Streets is a brilliant update to London’s Burning. Joe had reached a creative peak he hadn’t managed since The Clash but unfortunately didn’t live to finish the record, which is possibly why it has a few non-essential acoustic numbers on it.

Atmosphere – Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EP’s (2001)

A collection of two EP’s, this was my introduction to Atmosphere and remains my favourite. At this point, Slug was testing his abilities as a story teller but not in the self conscious manner he acquired as he got older and more serious. This album is full of intelligence but is still playful, Slug’s charmingly arrogant persona melding perfectly to Ant’s simple but catchy production. It definitely sounds of its era but I still enjoy it. Like Today, Guns and Cigarettes and Free or Dead are all classics.

Nas – Illmatic (1994)

This album is just perfect. Nas was ready to take on the world as a rapper, his lyricism here is just dazzling and the production still beats anything that has come out since. DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, everyone was at the top of their game coming together to make something that is consistent in sound and quality from start to finish. Hip-hop is still in recovery.

David Bowie – David Live (1974)

It’s hard for me to pick one Bowie album, but for argument’s sake this 1974 live album captures a lot of his great elements from the period. Officially he was touring Diamond Dogs but he had already changed arrangements to suit the soul stylings of Young Americans, which he started recording mid-tour. Tracks from Dogs, Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust sit alongside Eddie Floyd and Ohio Players covers and Bowie sings his heart out reimagining the set as an American soul homage. Time (particularly for Mike Garson’s piano playing!), Sweet Thing and Rock’n’Roll Suicide are all phenomenal.

Catch Alex and guests at his upcoming residency at The Grace Darling in Collingwood:

Wednesday May 4 – Huntly + Seri Vida
Wednesday May 11 – The Bluebottles
Wednesday May 18 – Mandek Penha + Ubiq
Wednesday May 25 – Frida