by Claire Cronin
For what it’s worth, I’ve been listening to mostly non-male artists lately (Adrianne Lenker, Aldous Harding, Hand Habits, and others), but when thinking about which albums influenced me most, I decided to return to my teenage years.
Three records that I had on constant repeat:
Bright Eyes – Fevers and Mirrors (2000)
When I was 15, my edgiest friend played this for me with the warning that it was “the saddest music she had ever heard,” which of course made me immediately interested. I don’t think I agree with her assessment anymore, but there is still something exciting about Conor Oberst’s decadent, existential suffering and self-destruction. He’s like a late-18th century Gothic novelist or Romantic poet.
Songs Ohia – The Magnolia Electric Co. (2003)
I think about Jason Molina all the time and still feel sad that he’s gone. I’ve heard most of his catalogue, but come back to this record the most, where his voice is strong and the music stands behind him. Molina built a whole world of symbolism through his lyrics, but never in a way that felt heavy-handed. I think this is why so many poets like him. He reminds me of the American poet Frank Stanford.
Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
This is deeply spiritual music. What Jeff Mangum did with his lyrics and voice opened up new possibilities for me as a listener and a songwriter. Who knew you could belt out “I love you Jesus Christ” and not mean it in a praise song way? I know this record has become a meme in certain circles and so it seems like an obvious choice here, but it would be dishonest for me not to include it. I wore these songs like a shroud of protection in a time when I was struggling to survive.
A favourite book: Roland Barthes – Camera Lucida (1980)
On the surface, this book is a meditation on photography. It is also a strange and personal work, written in beautiful, lyrical prose that blends memoir and philosophy with black-and-white photos. Barthes wrote Camera Lucida shortly after his mother’s death, and because of his grief, he sees death in everything he narrates. Eerily, Barthes himself was killed in an accident shortly after the book was published.
A film that I love: The Others (2001) – directed by Alejandro Amenábar
My favourite film genre is the ghost movie, a sub-genre of horror. I could make a list of 50 ghost movies worth seeing, but this is a particularly beautiful and nuanced one that is beloved by even non-horror fans. It pairs nicely with Camera Lucida because both are about mourning, memory, time, and photographs.
A song that’s important to me: Greensleeves (songwriter unknown)
For as long as I can remember, this traditional folk song has been playing somewhere in my head. It’s a great mystery. It’s like an ur-melody to me: an ancient progression of notes which all my songs are built on. There isn’t a particular version that I recommend; it’s best just plucked out sparsely on an instrument.
Claire Cronin’s new album, Big Dread Moon, is out on 7th June through Orindal Records.