Sound & Vision with Carter Tanton

Carter Tanton’s latest, self titled record is a sparsely intimate collection of songs – bound by wisps of stunning melodies and plaintive, yet entrancing guitar and piano lines. Written and recorded in his empty childhood home in Baltimore, the record creaks and groans with the burden of the past, while yearning for a brighter dawn. 

A unique and compelling singer/songwriter, in what can sometimes feel like a saturated genre, here, Tanton walks us through the art that has shaped and influenced him.These are his Sound & Vision picks:

Three Favourite Albums:

Mazzy Star – She Hangs Brightly

I used to play this record at night in my room to drown out my late night phone calls to my high school girlfriend. I’ve never been a shredder on the guitar and have never wanted to be. The people in music who I have been inspired by are artists who happen to choose music and not ‘musicians’ so much. David Roback’s guitar playing is no different. He’s 1000% feel and zero flash. I still listen to this album all the time.

John Frusciante – Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-shirt

I was fortunate to hear this record the week it came out in ’94 when I was 14. My best friend brought it over and I’ll never forget hearing the first words John sings – ‘when you got a clean smile you can walk with style / you can be naked with your brain / in your pussy I’m cumming and I love you and I always had to, thank God I found you.’ Of the many ‘before and after’ moments I experienced around that time, none were more impactful to the person I became than that album on that day. That record shaped not just me, but nearly every one of my close friends – we all felt radically altered by its sprawling tracklist, androgynous album cover and subversive lyrics. I thought of John a lot again while making my current album, specifically on the track Willowy Five.

Thelonious Monk – Genius of Modern Music Vol. 1

A few years later, I was living in Charleston, SC dropping a lot of acid and working in a seafood restaurant. The house I was living in had an old VHS copy of the Thelonious Monk documentary made by Clint Eastwood. The way Thelonious didn’t give a fuck, stomped his feet, mumbled over his own ingenious playing resonated with me in a punk sort of way. Really though, it’s his songwriting. He’s the Hank Williams of jazz – he never wrote a bad second of music. He introduced me (as he has done to countless others, no doubt) to the beauty of dissonance and, although it’s probably not obvious, I consider his influence on my own songwriting vast. This album collection is from many of his first sessions, the earliest of which date to 1947. The trio with Art Blakey on drums is particularly amazing. Everyone should watch that doc and spend some time with Thelonious; his genius transcends genre.

One film I love:

Five Easy Pieces – Bob Rafelson

In high school, an English teacher played Five Easy Pieces for a class I was in. I had seen art house movies before, but this was my first experience with that particular 70’s malaise-heavy type of film. I relate to the character played by Jack Nicholson a lot – in ways which change unexpectedly every time I watch it. He’s kind of my Holden Caulfield – sometimes I watch it and think he’s a complete bastard: spoiling everything he touches, and other times I empathise with whatever chip on his shoulder is keeping him from finding and holding onto the good things in life.

One book I love:

House of Mirth – Edith Wharton 

It’s too difficult to name any book as a favourite; I wouldn’t know where to begin. I recently read The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton and it was a really heavy experience. I didn’t expect it to be so devastating. Only a few stories have ever that visceral shattering effect on me – Testimony of Pilot by Barry Hannah, and a few Denis Johnson stories. It was published in 1905 and takes place in Manhattan during the 19th Century Gilded Age. She’s a savant with language and weaves sentences together that sparkle in the daylight of the page. It’s a perfect book.

A song that is important to me:

The Byrds – Turn, Turn, Turn

My parents didn’t listen to the radio much growing up and my dad’s musical taste was mostly 50’s jazz like Dave Brubeck. So aside from Elvis and Michael Jackson, I didn’t hear too much pop music as a young kid. The first time I can remember hearing a song which gave me an out of body experience was when I was about ten years old in a friend’s mother’s car and this song by The Byrds came on. It took a few more years to pick up a guitar, but this song was the first time I ever felt that kind of connection with music.

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