Having recently announced the first installment of his epic two-part record – My Big Album, Tom John Hall has sat down with us to talk about some of the music, film and literature that is important to him. Alongside the album announcement, he also unveiled a new single – Who’s Watching You – a quirky pop lament on the inner moral turmoil of being a ‘progressive millennial, on the left’.
Talking about the single, Hall said, ‘It’s written from the perspective of an imaginary voice of authority who represents the opposite side of the argument, raising a condescending tirade at ‘You’ (you/me) for, basically, biting the hand that feeds us.’ Continuing, he added ‘If you want a cathartic telling off from an imaginary conservative set to a solid power-pop piano chord progression then this is it.’
These are his Sound & Vision picks:
Three favourite albums:
Randy Newman – Dark Matter
There’s nobody quite like Randy Newman. He just does things differently – his characters, his stories and incredible sense of humour have this addictive quality, but under the sarcasm and layers of irony there’s usually two things; a prescient criticism of injustice and hypocrisy, and maybe more importantly, a truly kind heart. He loves even the worst of his characters, and invites you to empathise, which is way, way more powerful than just inviting people to agree with you. There are a few records of his which are equally special to me, but this most recent release from 2017 opens with a kind of Newman-doing-Newman self referential masterpiece called The Great Debate that I think everyone should hear.
Paramore – Paramore
This album is so, so good. There’s something really magic about it, just to hear a band come into their own in such a definitive and authentic way. It’s fearless, loud pop music and it glows with an inspiring dedication to the cause of making fearless, loud pop music. Hayley Williams has this natural affinity with melody, and a knack for a beautifully arranged lyric – poetic but never contrived. Cuts straight to the bone. I grew up with guitar music so I’ll always have a special place for a proper rock album, and I think this is one of the best.
Grawl!x – Peeps
Grawl!x is a band which began as the solo project of Maria, a deeply talented musician from my hometown Derby, which now features other great musicians from said hometown. Grawl!x’s albums are all stunning, and watching Maria perform live (as Grawl!x and equally great dreampop solo project (( MARIA )) ) is proper awe inspiring stuff – we’ve played a lot of shows together back home, and it’s great to have a like minded friend to share those shows with, especially one who has inspired me so much over the years. Peeps is a beautiful reflection on friendship, and has been a soothing remedy for these weird times.
One Film That I Love:
You, The Living
This is a film a friend of mine got me years ago as a really unexpected gift just because they thought I’d like it, and it was unlike anything I’d ever seen – it’s weirdly hilarious and sort of dreamy. It’s visually stunning, sort of like a comedy sketch show for museum curators or something, and sometimes there isn’t really a joke and it’s just a lovely bit of art to look at. You get the sense there must be some technical cleverness to it that only film making people would really get, but it’s better not to know and to just soak it all in as it comes.
A book that I love:
Cybernetic Revolutionaries by Eden Medina
I stumbled across this book when I was spending a lot of time trying to wrap my head around technology and politics, I don’t remember whether it was before or after all the Cambridge Analytica stuff (which I crazily got to record the select committee hearings for in the job I had at the time), but I remember being immediately drawn in by the the cover photograph, and the subject matter capturing my state of mind perfectly – it’s about Project Cybersyn, a short lived but historically unique approach to a different kind of state management with technology at the centre. It’s this wonderfully weird crossing point between Latin American socialism and a Star Trekky, extremely 70s, technological optimism. It’s a fascinating moment in history, thoroughly researched with a bunch of great diagrams and clippings – you get a vivid sense of the time and place, but there are also a lot of (usually tragic) parallels with our own time, too.
A song that is important to me:
The Suffering by Coheed and Cambria
My brother introduced me to Coheed and Cambria when I was just getting into music, guitars,
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, etc etc. His enthusiasm for this band was infectious, and he would sit me down to describe the various plotlines to the epic sci-fi backstory and the universe Claudio Sanchez had created for these albums. I’ve loved this band ever since, and this song in particular is just a perfect song. The band I’ve been in for many years with my best friends (Papayér) also come together in a shared love for Coheed, and I’ll be forever trying to write something that feels as urgent and inspires as much joy as this song.
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