Writing by Molly Mckew & Ro
Melbourne-based artist Ro hails from Margaret River in WA and grew up surrounded by folk music and bushland. Since her move to Melbourne she has been working away at new material, and has just released her latest single, ‘F**ked up over you’, a track about break-ups, ego, and moving on. With a both heartbreaking and energising voice, perfect pop layers, and intelligent lyrics, we are loving Ro’s vibe. She was generous enough to let us in on her record collection, collating a bunch of records that bring back another time and place – the songs of her past travels.
Andy Shauf – The Party
I love a *good* concept album. This one’s about a guy at a party, each song about a different character he interacts with, occasionally switching points of view. The themes are pretty heavy, revolving around heartache and misunderstandings, but they’re delivered by understated soft singing, with a stylized conversational accent.
I first heard this album in the middle of a 10 hour drive from Melbourne to Adelaide. I was just having a D & M with my bassist about how awkward and weird I had gotten because of my crappy relationship at the time. Watching the white lines of the road carving up the bland flat farmland, I was instantly immersed in the beautiful soundscape and sentiments of the album. It soothed me in the way that it painted the human condition to be so complex yet pitifully simple, full of love yet also full of room to grow in.
Shauf’s skills for storytelling and self-production makes this album in my top ten. I am a storyteller and am learning to self-produce, because I see the appeal in a hands-on approach to creating a musical bed that serves best the story I am trying to tell. Shauf is also multi-instrumental, which I relate to, and I think that makes for a pretty interesting approach to writing the melody and song structure.
Just wish he would tour to Australia already. I would totally corner him awkwardly at a party.
Feist – Metals
This album means many things to me.
The opening track ‘The Bad in Each Other’ reminds me of a picnic in Berlin, involving too much wine, sunburns and unrequited love. I listened to it a lot when I was travelling by myself through Europe. This album was the soundtrack to learning how to get out of my insular life, to be by myself for the first time. Nobody was around to see me so sensitive and raw, and I’m quite proud and elusive about admitting that stuff. Metals allowed me to wrench my heart open up so wide that it could contain the fear of a larger world than me. That hurt but it was also thrilling.
Feist has such a mysterious eclectic approach to music. She can be catchy and playful, and somber and sentimental. This album is chamber pop, orchestral, garage, indie. It’s a soundscape as much as a collection of stories. Feist’s style of music is infused with this gentile badassery that I love to see in musicians, especially women. I feel like she’s introverted, and has lots to say, but she doesn’t want to reveal everything all at once. I can relate. It’s how I aspire to present my own art. Her lyrics are playful, poetic, hard to catch sometimes. However, she tangles them up in these complex lilting melodies. I actually find that I’m moved by the singing itself more than the lyrics. It shows me there’s another way to write songs that affect a listener in a deep way.
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
I put Plastic Beach on at parties, on road trips, walking to the shops. It’s such a versatile album. On every listen something new pops out and waves at me casually from across the street, so chill, and with so much attitude.
As I grew up in a folk family band from south west WA, we listened to exclusively folk music. Though ‘folk’ is a massive umbrella term for a bunch of genres, I sometimes feel like I grew up under a rock. Mainstream and pop music didn’t cross my radar until high school. Amidst the myriad of social cliques, partying in the bush and silly small-town kicks, I got into Gorillaz in a big way.
Plastic Beach felt groundbreaking at the time in the way it carved its own sonic niche. The sound palate is electro-funk-hip-hop, and super hooky and punchy for us kids to latch onto. It features so many kick ass artists like Snoop Dogg, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Little Dragon, Lou Reed. The first time I listened to the album, I felt like I was listening to a whole team, a whole family of cool, talented people. It made me feel like there was a larger world of cool, forward-thinking artists out there to explore. Just had to wait to turn 18 and move 3700km away from my hometown. As you do when you’re young and hungry and trying to be bohemian.
Bob Dylan – Desire
I only got into Bobby D in my early twenties. It was a bit of a renaissance of musical education. I sometimes wonder about what it would have been like to listen to him as a kid. I suspect that I wouldn’t have understood where he was coming from.
Desire reminds me of Melbourne winters, dodging friends’ phone calls because I didn’t want to go out, and when I did, I would be brisk walking down the wind tunnels of Melbourne’s CBD to go to job seek appointments. My ex got me into Bob Dylan (that’s the one thing I thank him for ha ha) so it took me a long time to listen to Desire without being reminded of the heartache and rage I’d experienced in my past. Three years of tainted love and living on the dole. Years later, I listen to Desire and I feel myself getting swept away without thinking of past misgivings. I get lost in the poetry, the stories, the slightly loose all-in jam of his band, the vibrant, morose lone violin. I have a completely different experience listening to it now than I did a few years ago. I find it fascinating that there can be such a wild evolution in your relationship with music.
Dylan’s lyrics tread between political commentary, love stories and musings of soul-searching journeys. He’s a storyteller, an observer, a conduit of singular emotions and singular characters. Yet he also implies the multiplicities of joy and sorrow in the world. He hints at the chaos and the celebration of the great unknown that surrounds us all. I don’t know how he does it.
Perhaps he favours a good story over the truth. I believe there’s a truth in fiction though. Poetic license means that you can embellish the facts, but it can tell the truth of human emotion more convincingly. Or rather, make the listener feel the truth of human emotion. Whatever Bob Dylan’s self-fashioned mythology, I consider him to be a big influence in my writing. I love the idea that you can create truth through fictional storytelling. It inspires me to write in a more uninhibited way.