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Baker's Dozen

Bon Appétit: James Acaster's Favourite Albums
Emma Garland , February 9th, 2022 10:36

From the tiny emo scene of noughties Kettering to a love of underground hip-hop and the undying appeal of a cult classic, comedian James Acaster takes Emma Garland through the albums that have defined his life


Camille – Le Fil

Camille is a French artist who does a lot of acapella stuff, but in a really innovative, weird way. This is my favourite album of hers. I remember seeing her on Jools Holland when I was a teenager. She was playing a song from this album and a part of the performance included someone rhythmically hitting her in the back over and over again while she was singing, like a masseuse, and making her voice tremble. I thought that was really fun and she was clearly being inventive in an interactive way with music.

I went back and bought a load of her albums, but this is still my favourite. She’s really gone all in thematically in terms of the sound. Lyrically it’s all in French so I have no idea what she’s saying. I just love the sound of her voice and the harmonies that she's doing. As far as I know, most of the album is her voice. She beatboxes and there’s a lot of sustained vocal noises to mimic synthesisers or keyboards, but she doesn't try to disguise the fact that it's her voice, There’s one sustained note that starts at the beginning and goes all the way through the album – I don't know if it ever changes what note is, but that's a nice, simple thing that ties the album together and really cements how minimal it is. Some of the songs are quite short and a bit nursery rhyme-ish as well, which is cool. The feel of the whole album is very positive and playful, while having really sticky hooks all the way through.

She's done some stuff like that on other albums, but on this one she gets to the heart of her music, which is her voice – playing with her voice and messing around with her voice and seeing what she can get out of that. Her live performances retain so much of that too. She'll strip songs from her other albums down to acapella, and they’re my favourite versions of her songs. On some radio show she did a version of a song from her debut album in the fashion of the new one, with a sustained note in the background and just her vocals and building it up with loop stations, which made me instantly want her to do all of her songs like that – just very bare and exposed.

She's either got perfect pitch or she’s fearless and doesn’t care about getting it wrong, so you really get carried away by her voice. It’s very easy to get into. Even that sustained note all the way through – it just carries you through the album and before you know it you’re at the end and you want to start it again. It’s kind of like that J Dilla album, you could put it on repeat and it’ll loop around and you wouldn't notice because the note would just carry on.

It's interesting that you've picked a couple that are not English language albums. It just goes to show that a lot of the time, the way that music connects with people, is often on more of an energetic level.

I can really get caught off sometimes by lyrics. Bad lyrics or cringe lyrics can really turn me off of a song. She could be saying anything on this, I don’t know, but the words sound nice phonetically. Equally, I find it hard to really find instrumental albums that I really love, so I always want vocals to be on there but I’m not as bothered about lyrics. Unless the whole album is about the lyrics and that’s what they’re putting on the pedestal, if it’s Leonard Cohen or whatever, and that’s all they want you to listen to is that. Then they really do have to be good, like a poet. But most of my favourite albums I haven’t noticed what they’re singing about.

I appreciate when people do lyrics that are really simply put and just cut to the heart of something and really sum up the human experience. I think that resonates with me. But when people are quite clever with their language, like ‘This is great because it’s a double meaning that can also mean this’... I don't know if it's because of being a comedian, but I'm like, well, that just sounds like doing a pun. It’s like going on stage and doing a bad dad joke. So I don’t always connect to lyrics that much, but Camille's voice sounds incredible and unlike anyone else, and that's what I really want with a vocalist – that their performance and style is very recognizable. You could pick them out of a line-up. With lyrics I don’t mind as long as it's not making me cringe.