‘Five Albums That Made Me’ is a new weekly series written by TCOS’ favourite artists discussing five albums that have shaped their sound, musical outlook and career. There’s no limit on genre or passion – just a firsthand insight into the artists’ influences. The series begins with London-based jazz singer-songwriter Rosie Frater-Taylor. Her 2020 single ‘Better Days’ has gained nearly 100,000 streams on Spotify, while her latest release ‘Think About You’ has garnered universal acclaim. Listen while you read below…
Every Kingdom – Ben Howard
A very nostalgic album for me. I think my love of acoustic guitar stems from absolutely rinsing this album in my early teens. I’d learn all of Ben’s guitar parts with agonising accuracy and in doing so learned a lot about fingerpicking and guitar arrangement; techniques I’d say I carry forward to my writing to this day.
A perfect example of this crazy beautiful and, to some degree, intellectual arranging of parts for guitar can be heard on the track ‘Everything’ with the interweaving lines and vocals punctuated by super satisfying rhythmic slaps. Ben’s guitar playing is so expressive, his voice consistently folky and meaningful and his songwriting striving for some alternative or ‘intelligent’ form of pop – all concepts I try to replicate in my own music.
Weightless – Becca Stevens Band
I was 16 when I first picked this album up, at which point I was pretty avidly studying jazz guitar, standards and improvisation. Weightless appealed to both the jazz musician and songwriter within me. There was even a sort of epiphany moment for me watching Becca perform these songs live at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse where I was like, “yes this is it, this is where I want to take my writing”.
Weightless seriously opened my ears to the idea of genre-blending (which Becca does as fluidly as ever on all her projects !) as well as the idea of extremely intricate, complicated yet accessible song writing. Harmonically this album is a triumph. It’s out there for sure but it seriously works and moves me. Some key tracks are ‘Traveller’s Blessing’, ‘No More’ & her arrangement of Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’ on which Becca combines the jazz, folk, indie & pop with particular competence. In fact, that’s what inspired the next single which is a cover of ‘Crazy’ by Seal!
Still Life (Talking) – Pat Metheny Group
Pat Metheny is one of my three jazz guitar heroes! The other two being George Benson & Lionel Loueke. I chose this album by Metheny over one by Benson or Loueke because my music is inspired by his guitar playing and compositions in very equal measure.
Still Life (Talking) has an especially anthemic quality; the chords twist and turn and really give me goosebumps. ‘Third Wind’ is an absolute journey punctuated by an unbelievable solo, you get to this piano-led outro where the chords are going off. Pat’s sense of building an arrangement with vocals in particular here is great & makes me very happy indeed.
For me, Metheny just gives the listener what they want, he makes the jazz in his music accessible to a wider audience for which some purists shame him but for which I have been irrevocably inspired!
Blood – Lianne La Havas
Lianne La Havas is a real hero of mine and I was struggling to choose between this album and her debut Is Your Love Big Enough? which has a particularly delicious, raw quality. I’m still not entirely sure why I feel more nostalgia towards Blood but with my forthcoming album in mind, I feel I was inspired by the groovier, guitar-y, dense, chordal quality Blood takes on.
Both ‘Midnight’ and ‘Green & Gold’ use very interesting chord voicings and rhythms in a super poppy context of course. For me, Lianne’s voice ties everything together so nicely. She’s got a big pop voice but underpinned by a very characterful lilt which gives her some slightly alternative vibes – I love it!
Stoned, Part I – Lewis Taylor
My most listened to artist of 2020 according to Spotify’s mad algorithm, so Lewis had to be on the list! He’s another great example of seamless genre-blending but more on the soul, rock, funk, jazz side. Also, another very nostalgic album. I was first introduced to Stoned by my parents with this music being a consistent soundtrack around the house for pretty much my whole life.
It’s a very live sounding record underpinned by the instruments and playing. The album sounds quite uniquely ‘human’, which I feel a lot of modern records lack. This is something I desperately try to retain in my productions. This so-called human quality is subtle on Stoned, but I really feel it adds to the emotion of the album.
Like Weightless, the harmony on this record is triumphant in my opinion and sets it aside from other music in this genre. Lewis Taylor has a sound that is so identifiably him in every sense – harmonically, vocally, tonally, melodically in terms of production and guitar too. The music to me is so unapologetically what it is which is a mindset I am constantly trying adopt when writing. Trying to tap into exactly what I’m hearing in my head and expressing it in it’s rawest form. For me the tracks ‘Lovelight’ and ‘Shame’ are great examples of Lewis’ musical ‘stamp’.
Thanks to Rosie for kicking off the series! Check out her website here, and her Spotify profile here. Our guest contributor next week is South African rapper Yugen Blakrok. Check it out next Sunday!
One thought on “Five Albums That Made Me | Rosie Frater-Taylor”