If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This special edition of Desert Island Discs list comes courtesy of British singer/songwriter Cosmo Jarvis, currently promoting his viral phenomenon “Gay Pirates” and his upcoming album, Is the World Strange or Am I? Cosmo’s suitcase is a little bigger than most, so he decided to make his list a mixture of albums, songs, and films. Take it away, Cosmo!
Crash Test Dummies – I Think I’ll Disappear Now
(from God Shuffled His Feet)
Crash Test Dummies are one of the first bands I got into. Brad Roberts’ unusually deep and totally unique voice was the first thing that attracted me to their music. I have heard other stuff they’ve done but the most consistently outstanding album is God Shuffled His Feet. “I Think I’ll Disappear Now” was the first great song I had heard both melodically and musically,. The way the words and melody are sung blends the descriptive content and the idiosyncratic vocal style of Brad Roberts into one new instrument. You hear it all over this album. “I Think I’ll Disappear Now” is also one of my favorite songs on the album because of the way it is produced. It is one of the first albums that got me into deep harmonies. I didn’t know when I was younger what I was hearing, but I knew I liked it. Ellen Reid’s voice sounds like Jesus just cured a guy. From this record I learned that I could say anything in a song. It didn’t have to be meaningful, it could be meaningful and plain, it could just be plain. The drums and bass on this song plod along with power I haven’t heard anywhere else. This record taught me the most about how to use a bass guitar. Dan Roberts’ bass lines are as memorable as the main melodies. It’s the kind of record where if you’re gonna get pissed and sing it you don’t just sing the song, you would sing a bit of lyrics and then a bass line, then a harmonica part. It’s a musical phenomenon where every contribution to the noise in your head comes from somebody who hears exactly what they wanted the final record to sound like, and it’s all good.
I’m Looking Through You-The Beatles
(from Rubber Soul)
“I’m Looking Through You” is a song that suggests nothing and demands no more than foot tapping from listeners. However when I hear it, regardless of my circumstances, I am forced to
perceive the time I am existing within the song’s duration as something more than a passing moment of ‘ life filler’, more than just in-between time. Over simple kick/snare drums and a bassline that refuses to decide to stick to one code of conduct but skips in and out of a bouncy groove and a solid basic bedrock, we hear simple electric guitar playing thoughtful and considerate ornamentation allowing the boxy acoustic guitar to plough on providing an upbeat back and forward type rhythm. the acoustic guitar and beautifully out of tune electric lines seem so sincere. They’re not trying to sound quirky; It feels like they are there on the record simply because they didn’t need to sound any different. Good to think that there was no extra effort involved in painting this picture with a cotton bud instead of a brush.. The lyrics that hit me the hardest are before each chorus, thrown at me with harmonies I can only describe as being wise and stern. The chorus introduces Ringo on the Hammond organ. this is one reason why the chorus changes the songs tone so dramatically into a 1965 head bangers revolt. With one of the best placed tambourine parts in the history of tambourine, during the chorus you are allowed to forget meaning and rave in pure, selfish, joy. It deals with it in a shit’s-happening-but-your-still-alive kind of way. it’s a song of hope, reflection or just pop goodness. the melody is one of the most defined, pleasant and mysterious melodies I have ever heard. and I like that shit.
“Anywhere I Lay My Head” by Tom Waits
(from Rain Dogs)
This is one song that I was heavily influenced by in terms of both the mood of a song and production. It opens up with a very honestly presented brass section. The whole song is just brass and Waits. He sings with a worn voice (more so than usual) he doesn’t sound abused, or unhealthy, just like he’s at the end of caring anymore. Sounds like a man at the end of his trouble but not the trouble didn’t go away, it beat him. Bad. The chord changes, to me, are ridiculously moving. They progress into spirals, leaving you waiting for something solid to start, something reassuring. But it just gets sadder and deeper into an emotional confession, offered by a character who makes me listen to what he’s saying, on my terms. The production of the recording is half of what makes it’s tone so unique, the room the brass is coming from adds so much real ambience, which in turn tugs on the curiosity of listeners… ‘Where are they?’ Just sounds like a small part of a much bigger story. Waits’ roaring worn gospel just makes me want to know more about the “why”s and “how”s of the man he is singing as. My first education in ambient recording. I think this it is seriously a masterpiece.
System Of A Down Toxicity
The first album I got that had what I thought to be hard ass guitars in it. Loved it. Sounded at the time like melody prevailing in though anarchic attitude with a valid purpose. Loved Serje’s voice, very unusual and imperfect enough to get to want to know his idiosyncrasies. The grooves were sublime, they were hard and made me want to ‘fuck the place up’ – so to speak. My favourite track was “Toxicity” itself, god damn John Dolmayan was just nuts on that album. The songs were presented simply enough to be understood instantly by people, but had depth not many other metal bands had. This was not bad poetry. If you weren’t in the mood for the content you could be in the mood for the what the music could offer you to apply to yourself. Just good, solid, unusual melodies.
…and because Cosmo is a filmmaker in addition to being a musician, he decided to pack a couple of DVDs along for the trip!
There Will Be Blood (2007-Paul Thomas Anderson, director)
Probably my favorite film for a number of reasons. Straight away I realized I was watching something weird. I felt the discomfort immediately. The cinematography is stark, lonely, and vacant. It is a movie that is full of conflict and pain. I loved that the audience was just left to gather their own opinions of what they were seeing. There was little summary offered from other characters on what was happening in the plot for many of the events being shown. The film was just as much a deteriorating picture of Daniel Plainview as it was the audiences deteriorating opinion of him. Seems obvious but, how hard this movie hits you really depends on where you are emotionally. I love Daniel Plainview as a character. what was happening to him was understandable and I didn’t blame him in any way, others thought he was just a bad, bad man. Daniel Day Lewis’ performance was epic in every scene. He was very precise, and so consistent, but he never gave more to the camera than his character would. It inspired me to see that Paul Thomas Anderson chose simple close-ups and mid shots to convey some of the most extraordinary moments of the plot, allowing actors to be their characters without any interruption or distraction.. Sometimes I like to shoot things in a way that may be tedious because I feel it allows events on screen to seem more sincere and undeniably real. (in movie terms), as if captured by an unbiased all seeing eye who’s only purpose is to show a viewer really happened.
The War (1994-Jon Avnet, director)
This is a movie I watched as a kid, totally changed my life. It was a movie that just made you glad to be alive. To me, it made it OK to make a movie about small things, things that, unless captured in a book or a song or a movie could happily pass history by. I took a lot from the way the war made ordinary things like a huge water butt seem so epic using symmetry and a great soundtrack. like when you’re real young and the first time you stand on train tracks, I’m pretty sure the first time I did that I got one of the most compelling feelings I had ever had, but it only mattered to me. The War brought that back. I learned a little about how you make your own reality in a movie. There are still rules that operate, and if these rules are consistent, everything that happens in a film can contribute to the world that is being depicted. A little music, how things are framed, the level of realism characters exist in. Another thing that for me made this move special was how half of the story was about conflicts amongst children, occasionally leaking into an adult world. I loved it because really, it was a little story in a little place. But when I’m watching it, it’s huge-very affecting and moving. To me it was awesome to be watching a movie that was cool as a kid, with tree houses and bike jumps and a fight with ex military gear, great characters but also a real moral foundation. I think it took the message of peace and applied it to everybody watching, not in a ‘peace is just right and that’s that’ way, but in a ‘this movie has just shown you why peace is right’ way.
Taxi Driver (1976- Martin Scorsese, director)
The scale of this story was amazing. It got me into ‘one guy’ type movies. It influenced me in so many ways, one being its simplicity, and how effective it was in showing the audience the streets of New York trough Travis’ perspective, without being obvious about it. I liked that the whole concept was to show how and why a man did something out of the ordinary and that the reasons behind his decisions make up the audience’s education of the state of mind of Travis Bickle. I admire the way it felt like it was being presented from some strange place between fictional film and documentary, passing between the two creating a blend of a disturbed truth. And De Niro kicked it. He painted Travis in a way that left me never really knowing if he was insane or sane or just very mysteriously eccentric. Can’t make movies like that unless you’ve got interesting actors.
Cosmo Jarvis’s latest single, “Gay Pirates”, is exactly what you think it’s about. The compelling song and video has received quite a bit of notice in Cosmo’s native UK and is on it’s way to making waves here in the States. Check out Cosmo’s Facebook and Twitter pages.