Sound & Vision with Michael Cormier

Former Friendship drummer and Hours’ singer/songwriter, Michael Cormier, released the first single, Dinners, a couple of weeks back. The song, which is taken from his first solo album since 2017, Days Like Pearls, is a beautiful snapshot into childhood memories with hints of Mount Eerie and Neil Young, and precedes the LP, which will be the first release through Cormier’s not for profit Dear Life Records imprint.

Days Like Pearls is out on CD, cassette and streaming services on 7th June. In the lead up to the LP’s release, we caught up with Cormier to find out what provides his inspiration. These are his Sound & Vision picks:

– Three of my favourite albums:

Arrest – Powerdove

This is the record I’ve been listening to the most this year. It has torn my expectations to shreds about what constitutes written song. It’s the project of composer/improvisor Annie Lewandowski. A friend of mine who lived in Ithaca, New York introduced me to her intoxicating blend of experimental sound collage and sparse, dulcet vocal melodies. Her deftness as a lyricist elevate the complexity and alien nature of her arrangements. Her songs are mantras whispered in a world disintegrating all around them. The transition between Into the Sea and Easter Story is breathtaking, and she does an achingly beautiful cover of Arthur Russell’s You Can Make Me Feel Bad.

Big Sur – Bill Frisell

I’ve held this record close to my heart since it was first released in 2013. It helped me understand a record’s ability to conjure up a very specific time and place in a way that feels cinematic while remaining true. The instrumentation is guitar, drums, and string quartet, which astounded me when I first watched a video of them performing these songs live. It also emboldened me to start a band (Hour) without a bass guitar. Bill Frisell synthesises a reverence for folk traditions with a brilliant harmonic vocabulary that is completely inspiring to me. It’s damn good driving music too.

Violet – Karen Peris

The Innocence Mission is a band that keeps unlocking a lot of doors for me, but this solo record of Karen’s was an absolute revelation when I first heard it. A ten song record that barely breaks the 20 minute mark, it’s everything I wish I could do in a recording. When I first heard it, I felt like I was sitting in the Peris’ living room, listening to Karen reading from that day’s diary entry. It is a mix of songs with lyrics and instrumental piano pieces. The album feels like it isn’t supposed to have an audience, like it should be preserved in amber in the Peris’ household, left high on a shelf to collect dust. When I listen to it, I am flushed with gratitude to be allowed into their hushed, intimate world.The Innocence Mission’s output for the last 30 years has been steady-handed and bursting with generosity. I can only aspire to write such deeply personal songs with such a lightness of touch.

– One favourite book:

To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

I studied British Modernist literature in college and this was the book (and author) that left the biggest impression on me. Virginia Woolf had already mastered and expanded the form of the Victorian novel when she began slowly dismantling it from the inside out. Her characters are being tugged towards and away from each other, liking buoys out at sea. She writes with a naturalism that is then refracted through a prism, latching on to the tiniest movements of light and colour across a windowsill. Days Like Pearls is heavily influenced by this novel, as well as her book The Waves. The last song on the record, Night After Night, borrows and riffs on passages from the middle chapter of this book, entitled Time Passes. It is a monumental achievement in English literature, where all the human characters exit offstage, leaving nothing but an empty house and its abandoned contents to carry the narrative weight. I’ve read and reread this book, and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who appreciates singing the beauty of the very small.

– One favourite film:

YiYi – Edward Yang

This film is so endearing! Edward Yang directed Taipei Story and a handful of other beautiful, character-driven movies but this one completely stole my heart.  I first heard of the film after watching an interview with Sean Baker where he said he had used similar techniques that Yang had used with his child actors when directing the kids of the Florida Project. Yang patiently spends so much time with each character, introducing us to their hopes and fears, their slights and grudges, and all of the other tiny dramas that flutter in and out of their daily lives. The son of the family, Yang Yang, is a perfectly distilled image of a budding artist as a child and the kindness that is so inherent in the earliest days of discovering one’s creativity (he takes pictures of the backs of people’s heads because they aren’t able to see them on their own). I watched this movie three times last year. It’s pretty long but every time I watched it I completely lost track of time.There is just so much unabashed humanity depicted in this movie, with very little flourish or fanfare. No one is perfect and no one is awful. We see every motivation for every action in the film and are rendered incapable of casting judgement.

– One song that’s of importance:

Come in from the Cold – Joni Mitchell

The work of Joni Mitchell is a wellspring of inspiration for me, in particular her quiet masterpiece from the nineties Night Ride Home. This is the stand out track from that record, a seven and a half minute song that is ten verses long and anchored by warm swelling synths, the tinny scrape of acoustic guitar and an infectious, loungey groove. The narrative of the song spans over 40 years, hopping back and forth from the electricity of hands touching at a school dance to two late-in-life lovers brushing each other’s feet while seated at a table. She can employ huge poetic language when describing the tiniest moments, something it should be abundantly clear at this point I am really attracted to. I love how she triple and quadruple tracks her voice, becoming her own backup singers. There is a lot added to the narrative by these greek-chorus-like interjections. This song makes me feel like I’ll be able to live life and grow old, and though it will be a dynamic and uncertain process, it has been done before and will be done again.

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