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Baker's Dozen

Proper Stories: Emilíana Torrini's Favourite Albums
Tom Hughes , August 29th, 2013 07:38

Ahead of the release of her sixth album Tookah next month, the Icelandic singer-songwriter scours her record collection (mentally) to pick her top LPs


Nick Cave - Murder Ballads
This was my first introduction to Nick Cave. And it is the story record - proper stories. I haven't looked at this album in a long time.

As a kid my mum had this stupid stereo that really offended me later on when I started doing music. It had preset sound modes, you put a CD in and you picked live, disco, hall or something; it was awful. Artists spending millions trying to mix their records and make it sound just right, then people go, "Well, I want to make it sound live! I want to make it sound like it's playing in a big hall!" Anyway, something had happened to our stereo it and we couldn't set it back to normal. So I first heard Murder Ballads with a totally different sound and it was so annoying! But mainly it did something to me lyrically. Something only a few people can do to you: Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Bill Callahan and maybe sometimes Bonnie Prince Billy. You can feel that they're not lyricists, they're poets, and there's a rawness to their work. Cave's like this crazy painter, almost violent, there always seems to be these doom bells ringing in his music, and it's just such a thrill. The storytelling is so profound that it really had an impact on me, and it woke me up to the fact that writing lyrics is such a difficult form - there's the sense that somebody is really labouring and crafting what they’re doing. You have to say so much in such a short space of time, and Cave showed me stories that are like two hour films but happen in minutes.

When I lived in Brighton, Cave used to drink coffee in the same coffee shop as I did. One day, I was in there with my son who's tiny at the time, and Cave is waiting for his drink. My son's a really calm baby but he just turns his head like some weird Chuckie and looks at Cave, points his finger at him and goes, "aaaaaaaarrrrgh" - this heavy metal scream - then just sat down normally again! I was thinking, "What?!" Cave didn't know what to make of it. But if Cave was the devil I'd buy a ticket! Please take me! Some people are just extraordinary, and I love that feeling when I was in the coffee shop and thinking I come from a little island somewhere in the north and this person that I've been listening to all of my life comes in and orders coffee in some pink golf outfit! And it's so surreal - have I just entered some sort of art? I was really careful to keep this sort of psychedelic entrance into my life and not to break it by approaching him and saying, "I really love your music!"