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Baker's Dozen

Chance-Taking: Stephen McRobbie Of The Pastels' Favourite Albums
John Freeman , June 3rd, 2013 08:53

With The Pastels releasing their first album in 16 years last week, original member Stephen McRobbie reveals the 13 albums that “defined his taste” and inspired his band

Late afternoon sunshine warms an apartment in Glasgow’s West End. I’m sat in a lovely reception room which houses a sofa and a wall-to-ceiling collection of vinyl. Two vintage speakers stand in front of a huge bay window that frames a view of the University’s imposing clock tower.

It’s a room designed for music listening, but today I’m talking with Stephen McRobbie, one of the original members of the seminal indie-rock outfit The Pastels - and owner of said apartment - about his 13 favourite albums. He sits across from me, clutching a copy of one of his choices, a choice cut of vinyl by German experimentalists Faust. He’s gazing at the cover with huge affection – each of the 13 albums is lined up neatly and is a treasured possession for McRobbie. As we discuss why a particular album is so special, there is a definite sense of wonder in his words.

Prior to our conversation, Stephen had played me four tracks from The Pastels’ first album in 16 years, the gorgeous Slow Summits. The new material sounds beautiful; there is an overwhelming sense of collaboration between the musicians playing on the songs and a desire to push the music in different directions within a particular track.

Later, I ask Stephen what he thinks connects his 13 album choices, and how they’ve influenced his own work. “Most of them have a strong sense of melody mixed up with a sense of adventure and a certain amount of chance-taking,” he says, referring to his Baker’s Dozen list, even though he could be talking about the songs on Slow Summits.

“The albums have a lot of personality. Many of them are the records I really like that not many other people like - so they are records that define my taste, in a way, and reflect aspects of my personality. I tend to prefer records with huge contrast - I like beautiful moments and then moments that are quite extreme.”

As for the albums that missed out on the list, Stephen reveals one particular band that narrowly failed to make his Baker’s Dozen. “I would have liked to have included a Swell Maps record because they led into so much music I really love,” he says with a tinge of regret. “Also, I totally love 60s soul but it was all about the singles. This would have been quite different if the list had been about singles, as I would have been digging out some great soul tracks.”

Even though we’ve spent most of the afternoon talking, we manage to run out of time midway through discussing Stephen’s selection of albums. I need to dash to catch a train, and we arrange to complete the interview by phone. When it comes to The Pastels, some things cannot, and will not, be rushed.

Slow Summits is out now via Domino; click on the image below to begin scrolling through Stephen's choices

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