Foundations: Nightlands | Features | Clash Magazine Music News, Reviews & Interviews

Some albums get under your skin. They are imbued with a certain atmosphere, a certain feeling, which remains long after the final note has ended. ‘Moonshine’ by land of night – the project of Dave Hartley from The War on Drugs – is one of those albums, a rich and in-depth sonic experience.

A cycle of songs both personal and political, ‘Moonshine’ seems to dive into another America, rarely seen by the cameras. Out the 15th of Julye through Western Vinylit is an enriching experience, a fully three-dimensional recording.

It’s the little details that count. The subtle but striking arrangements, merging the shadows of Heartland’s rock with ghostly sonic streaks, and colorful addenda like chiming bells and vocoder swaths.

Clash sat down with Nightlands/Dave Hartley to discuss his Foundational records, the ones that really mattered.

Frank Ocean – ‘Blonde’

This album does not wear clothes. It’s spacious and perfect and I keep coming back to it. “Self Control” is one of my favorite songs in recent memory and the arrangement/mixing is a big part of that.

It’s so good in the headphones, the way the harmonies start to shimmer at the end and the way the strings come in and tilt all the emotional lighting in the song. The absence of drums is revolutionary – our ears are trained to anticipate a beat-drop, but when there isn’t, it’s so liberating.

Everything Frank does is fresh and inventive, even on a granular level – the melodies that come out of him are so weird and stick in my ears like glue.

Neil Young – ‘Harvest Moon’

Foundations: Nightlands

This is my favorite Neil Young album lately. Completely comfortable with himself. A portrait of a songwriter aging with grace and power.

I listened to it with my brother-in-law on the banks of the Hood Canal in Washington a few years ago, under the stars. We were just laughing with joy the whole time. Albums come to life in times like this.

Much of my enjoyment of this record also goes to seeing Neil with Promise Of The Real at the Berkley Greek around 2015 – they played for almost three hours until the venue turned off the AP due to a curfew violation. It was an utterly masterful spectacle, filled with that rare combination of vulnerability and raw power that only Neil possesses, in his own way.

One of the highlights of this show was “From Hank to Hendrix”, which remains one of my favorite Neil songs.

ABBA – ‘Gold’

Foundations: Nightlands

I grew up in Maryland, but both of my parents’ extended families were in Nebraska and Washington State. So every summer we would drive across the country, listening to tapes until the end – ‘ABBA Gold’, in particular. It’s a real childhood memory that is close to my heart.

Their aesthetic really stuck with me – the huge harmonies, the cascading melodies. Unison is my favorite harmony and ‘ABBA’ taught me that. There’s also a playfulness and joy in the songwriting that is truly indelible to me.

It is music that is made to be listened to. Music for the people. There’s apparently no consideration of legacy or critical acceptance – it’s just music to blast on the way to grandma’s house.

Sigur Rós – Good start’

Foundations: Nightlands

This album was part of a deep musical awakening during my college years.

Until now, music was a very scary thing for me. A vehicle for pent up feelings of frustration and anger – grunge, metal, etc. Teenage rebellion. But then I went out with a girl in college who gave me this album on CD-R and changed my perspective. It was a technicolor moment. I started to learn to listen more deeply and with a richer gradient of emotion.

This record was way ahead of its time and foreshadowed our current obsession with ambient/atmospheric recordings. It’s amazing that this record became so popular, given its unpronounceable name and imperceptible lyrics – but the feelings it gave me were universal and changed the course of my life.

I still love this record.

Jeff Buckley – ‘Grace’

Foundations: Nightlands

My college roommate and I used to listen to this album over and over and over.

We were smoking weed and blowing Grace, from the start, and riding the wave until the end. It’s an album filled with huge dynamic shifts and sweeping gestures, but also minute details – like the sped-up, curvy little guitars on “Mojo Pin” or the band hiss and layered harmonies on “Lover, You Should.” ‘ve Come Over’.

This is another album that taught me how to listen to music and how to make music worth listening to (with care). It’s also an album filled with masterful playing and singing, but none of the cock-rock masculinity of music as a competitive sport normally associated with virtuosity.

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