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Baker's Dozen

Effort For Effortlessness: Neil Finn's Favourite Albums
Barnaby Smith , January 30th, 2014 07:32

Ahead of his forthcoming solo album Dizzy Heights, the Crowded House man talks Barnaby Smith through his 13 favourite records

Neil Finn is famous, to his fans and online followers at least, for his disdain for naming favourites, among his songs or albums or anyone else's. Therefore he prefaces his 13 albums here with a familiar mantra for this feature, saying, "I could never say that those are my 13 favourite albums. I have an aversion to favourites generally so there'd be another 20 that I could potentially point to. I just chose songs that I remembered as having an effect on my process.

"It's not in me to make music into a hierarchy of any sort. There's a specialness that comes through that informs you or inspires you."

He has, nonetheless, managed to name a selection of albums that span his entire listening life, and travels from New Zealand to England to America to Africa to Jamaica. As you might expect from the man whose journey began in 1977 upon joining Split Enz, melody and the structural craft of songwriting are the abiding things that thread through these records.

But the other thing is words. Finn's lyrics, particularly from the first four Crowded House albums, have grown more profound with time, with his turn of phrase in exploring the dynamics, mysteries and nightmares of all relationships unlike any other. With imagery drawn from nature and the elements that comes from a youth spent in semi-rural New Zealand coupled with decades of world travel and a lifetime that has straddled the age of technology, Finn's poetry has always combined the surreal with the often surprisingly direct and heartfelt. And across these albums he has chosen, he describes lyrics as a focal point a number of times. In fact, Neil Finn's 13 most influential books would likely be just as intriguing a read; he has, for example, said that Crowded House's magnificent 'People Are Like Suns' was directly inspired by Ian McEwan's Saturday.

The sensitivity in his music – which extends to new solo album Dizzy Heights – is reflected then in his listening habits, even if he is hardly a record obsessive or any sort of nerd (he is, however, a surprisingly committed, and amusing, Twitter user).

"I'm certainly not nearly as encyclopaedic in my knowledge of what's going on as people I know," he says, "but I actually have improved in my record scanning, because I was never a big record store guy – I don't like shopping generally.

"So when iTunes came along I started to listen to a lot more music because I can check it out immediately. And I've started listening to vinyl and I'm really enjoying records again, have been for a few years now. I guess because [sons] Liam and Elroy are involved and also know quite a lot of younger musicians, it's kept me interested."

Dizzy Heights is out on February 10 via Lester Records Ltd; click on his image below to begin scrolling through Neil's choices

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