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Baker's Dozen

Arcane Lore: Alasdair Roberts' Favourite Albums
Neil Macdonald , April 2nd, 2013 07:59

The Scottish folk artist picks out his top LPs, going from Bach to Kraftwerk by way of Bahamian field recordings and 14th-century French polyphonic classical music


Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Love And Hate
This is probably the one record that I would take on a desert island. I've probably listened to this most out of all these records, since I was about seventeen. You're supposed to listen to Leonard Cohen when you're a teenager in your bedroom, aren't you? I've not really listened to him much recently, but it's stuck with me. I bought his most recent album, listened to it a couple of times then put it away and went out in the sun. Part of why I chose this is because it gives me hope for an artist's longevity, and the fact that you can start late. I started making recordings of my music when I was seventeen, and now when I think back to it it seems extremely early. Like when you buy the anthology of a famous poet and the first chapter's just juvenilia, everything they wrote from sixteen to twenty four or whatever, and I think a lot of my early music is too early to have put out. Even when I was eighteen, and listening to Leonard Cohen's first album, he seemed so old and wise to me, extremely sagely. Not just academically or in a bookish sense, but in the way that he really understood the world, and how humans - and human relations - worked, and I think that shows a lot more on Songs Of Love And Hate than on his first album. It seems to me like a remarkably complete record, in that it works as a whole. All the songs work together and each song works in itself, they all resolve internally then as a whole as well. The songs are all quite different, and I'm still figuring them out. With a lot of them, I can't really tell what's going on lyrically and I feel that they still repay exploration. I'll revisit them later in life and get something more from them than I do now, as my own maturity increases, and my own understanding of the world increases, my understanding of Cohen's songs increases. I realised in my selection here that apart from Pharaoh Sanders there are no artists from the USA. Cohen's a Canadian obviously, and it seems to me that there was something quite old world and European about Leonard Cohen's music, and that probably comes from the Canadian-ness, and the Montreal background that he has, and his Jewishness. There's the priestly past of the Cohens, and I think he has that rabbinical and priestly thing going on too.