The UK’s Matthew and the Atlas, who trade in updated folk/Americana, released their second full-length album, Temple, in late April of this year. Having made our Week’s Top Releases, we were thrilled to have the band share with us some songs that inspired the creation of Temple. Providing a stunning myriad of musical influence, this playlist further illuminates the nuanced complexities Matthew Hegarty and his bandmates have put forth in their second album. By transcending classic folk and adopting additional sounds through the use of synthesizers alongside Hegarty’s banjo, Matthew and the Atlas have created an genuinely unique album of drama, melancholy and introspection.
Neil Young – “Tonight’s the Night”
“Graveyard Parade” — This doesn’t have much connection with “Graveyard Parade.” It’s more to do with the whole record, Tonight’s the Night, and Neil Young’s approach to songwriting. He has probably influenced every artist on this list in some shape or form through the years, and he always seems to be looking for the truth in a performance. Tonight’s The Night was done in one session without overdubs and pretty much first takes, like most of his work, but this is especially beautiful and painful to listen to — his vocal breaks and veers off key at times, and they didn’t change any of it, which it’s all the better for. We didn’t do anything like that in the studio, but I always try to remember that, if I’m getting too hung up on a perfect vocal or guitar take, it really isn’t about that.
Strand Of Oaks – “Shut In”
“On A Midnight Street” — was a little late to the party with Strand Of Oaks. His songs just sound anthemic and big, yet raw and honest at the same time to me. There is also this energy to the recordings, like the energy you have on a demo, which always gets lost along the way, yet he seemed to retain that and make a great sounding record as well. His songs feel quite classic as well, which is something I was trying to do with “On A Midnight Street.”
Arcade Fire – “Sprawl II (Mountains…)”
“Temple” — I’ve been listing to Arcade Fire for a long time now, and I can definitely hear that influence on “Temple.” The song was actually written with a sort of rolling finger picking pattern and had a very different vibe originally. Even though I wrote it that way first, I could always hear it as a bigger song, so I’m glad we went down that road with it. I could have picked any Arcade Fire song, but went with “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” just ’cause it puts a stupid grin on my face.
Angel Olsen – “Windows”
“Elijah” — I love her album Burn Your Fire For No Witness, and I just found “Windows” to be a very effecting song. There isn’t much relation to “Elijah.” I was just listening to this record around the time of writing Temple and I think she is a great songwriter.
Damien Jurado – “Rachel & Cali”
“Modern World” — I think Damien Jurado is one of best contemporary songwriters around, and I love the journey he has gone on with his last trilogy of albums done with Richard Swift. I have a habit of writing simple, repeating guitar lines over verses or choruses and then layering them with other guitar lines and just seeing what sounds and textures emerge. I did that with the “Modern World” demo, and when I played them to Kev at Communion, he said it reminded him of “Rachel & Cali.” So I was thinking of the atmosphere of this track when it came to record “Modern World.”
Sufjan Stevens – “The Only Thing”
“Old Master” — Like me, Foreign Fields, who produced the album, are big fans of Sufjan Stevens. Eric from FF said to me he thought Sufjan was the sort of artist who lit the way for other artists, which I think is really true. He just gets on and does what he wants to do creatively regardless of any preconception people might have of him — and you trust him to follow him. When I first came up with the chords and melody for “Old Master,” it sort of reminded me of a Sufjan song. I think in some way that informed the way I sang on this song and on some other tracks on the record. My voice can sometimes be a bit heavy, so I tired to soften my approach, though it’s probably something only I notice!
Tame Impala – “‘Cause I’m a Man”
“Mirrors” — I got into Tame Impala really through the other guys in the studio. We were listening to different music before we really got stuck into the recording process, and Tame Impala would come up quite a bit. There isn’t any relation to “Mirrors,” we were just referencing them, as the production on their records is just so good!
Joanna Newsom – “On A Good Day”
“Can You See” — Like most of the artists on this list, Joanna Newsom has this ability to create a world that you get to live in for a short time while you listen to her records, which is something I think about a lot. My daughter was only a few months old when I was writing these songs, and my wife would sing on “On A Good Day” to her, as it has this sort of fairytale, lullaby quality to it. “Can’t You See” is a song to my daughter as well, and they kind of intertwined in my head during that time.
The National – “Fake Empire”
“Gutter Heart” — Boxer was the first album I bought of The National’s, and I got pretty obsessed with “Fake Empire.” Musically it’s just beautiful, and I don’t think I’d really heard lyrics like Matt Beringer’s before. They really got into my head! “Gutter Heart” started life quite differently as a demo — it had a different beat with a kind of surf vibe. That version didn’t really connect in the studio, and we ended up reshaping it to where it is now. I think the way The National arrange their songs was definitely an influence on this track. From the drum arrangements to different guitar lines playing off each other, they’re just really good at that.
Wild Beasts – “Palace”
“Glacier” — I talked about Wild Beasts a lot when doing the record. I’m always really impressed with how they arrange their songs — they seem so economical with their sound, everything seems to lock together like a puzzle, which in turn seems to create space, and allows each instrument to then have its own space within the mix. I tired to push myself more vocally on “Glacier,” and tried to add more movement in the melody. That was partly inspired by the singers like, Hayden Thorpe, from Wild Beasts and Anthony Hegarty and Joanna Newsom.
Kate Bush – “Running Up That Hill”
“When the Light Hits the Water” — There was a song on the record that I was very fond of that didn’t make the cut in the end because I felt it needed a better chorus. It did spark a conversation between Eric and I about Kate Bush when we initially began recording the song, though. We talked about songs being either male or female, which I thought was really interesting, and there are certain artist like Kate Bush, Joanna Newsom or Björk who create worlds through their music which go to an inherently female place. You just won’t hear that from a male artist. You do hear songs by female artists that feel more male or male artists that are more feminine, Wild Beasts and Sufjan Stevens I think have that. I don’t think you get too much of a feminine vibe from my music, but I hoped this song and “Glacier” had a touch of that.