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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


Jim Sullivan – U.F.O.

I’m really into cult classic albums. I don't know what it is about them, I think because they're the weirder a lot of the time. They’re a bit less conventional and that often appeals to me. Sometimes if I’m looking for new music I just Google whatever I’m looking for, so I discovered this on a list like ‘The Best Albums You’ve Never Heard Before’, something like that.

To begin with, I didn’t like how the songs faded out. I don’t like a fade out, so I was almost put off by it. I was like ‘He hasn’t written an ending to any of these songs!’ And when I first discovered the album, I didn't know that there was this whole thing about him going missing. He’d sung so much about UFOs and aliens and then he just went missing one day, and obviously everyone starts thinking he’s been abducted by aliens.

I don't listen to much country music, but whenever stuff is inspired by country music and mixes it with some genres that are a bit more to my taste, that can become my favourite album quite quickly. Jim Sullivan’s got a bit of a country influence, but he was also into Motown and rock and each genre is represented in quite a subtle way. Nothing really stands out. His voice is beautiful, too – he’s got a slight drawl to his voice. It’s like he’s quite absent-mindedly singing the songs and he’s… not dreamy, because that makes it sound like other types of music that typically gets called dreamy, but he does sound like he could be in a field in the summer, quite lazily singing the songs and you know he’s never going to hit a bum note.

I think there are a lot of artists like Jim Sullivan who get this type of stuff right, and I do find it quite irresistible. Gene Clark is probably the main example. But this for me is the best version of that, where it’s got this folksy, good-hearted feel to it. It feels quite wholesome, in a way. I really love his self-titled album too, but the wholesomeness there is a bit more on the nose and the melodies and the chord progressions kind of reflect that as well. With U.F.O., there’s a bit more sadness under the surface, and I don’t think I can relate to any album that doesn’t have some sadness in there. Even if he’s singing about something happy, the chords and the melodies are quite forlorn. For me, that’s what makes this such a perfect album.