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Monday Mixtape: Callum Orr

Ahead of the release of his highly-anticipated debut album The Trials of Knowing this Friday, Dublin folk artist Callum Orr waxes lyrical on soe of his all-time favourite songs, featuring Tom Waits, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Frightened Rabbit and more

Photo by Tadhg O Brien

Ann Mayo Muir, Gordon Bok & Ed Trickett – How Can I Keep From Singing

I came across this song only in the last year, but this recording immediately imprinted on me. It’s an old hymn from the 1800s, but a new verse was added in the 1950s in protest of McCarthyism, which I think balances its religious tone nicely. The gelling of the vocals, the warmth of Gordon Bok’s bass, and the ecstatic, revelatory content of the lyrics always moves me and fills me with a sense of hope.

Ryuichi Sakamoto – Bibo No Aozora

This song plays over the end credits of the film Babel, and my experience of it is forever coloured by the heart-rending conclusion of that film. The main descending idea that morphs throughout is a clinic in simple but effective composition. It’s wonderful that a ubiquitous i-VII-VI chord progression like this can have such life breathed into it by context and texture.

Declan O’Rourke – Marrying the Sea/Til Death Do Us Part

‘Marrying the Sea’ sounds like the living tradition of singing here in Ireland. It sounds like a traditional song which has had all the fat stripped away from the storytelling over hundreds of years. Declan’s impeccable vocal tone and phrasing and subsequent shredding on the mandolin gives the thing a gorgeous dynamic range.

Tom Waits – Come On Up To The House

At risk of sounding hyperbolic, I feel like the message behind this song is the one that God would want to convey. The perfect balance of tough love and stoicism with the soft call to community resonates with me somewhere very deep down. He implores us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, stop panicking, and be present and enjoy the precious moments in the warm light of the people who love you and whom you love. It’s a stirring gospel song.

Josin – Oh Boy

This might be the song I’ve listened to most in my life, and I reckon about 80% of those listens happened in a 6-month very low personal ebb. I love the unusual arhythmic arrangement, and Josin is one of the modern greats at capturing crushing, nostalgic melancholy. The abstract nature of the lyrics allows you to free-associate imagistically and enjoy the haunting vocal and piano chords underneath. I obsessively listened because it seemed like the only song that captured my exact internal emotional tone. I feel a sense of gratitude towards this song.

Jon Hopkins – Emerald Rush

Bit of a departure in style here, but there’s an amazing fusion of styles in this song – like psychedelia, trance and industrial techno – that I find amazing. I think Jon Hopkins has a genius level understanding and control of texture and stereo space. As the song rises the beat starts to sound as if it is tumbling forward and tripping over itself, but it never loses a sense of groove. The chord progressions are simple, but he lingers on each one for just long enough that when it resolves, you forget where you were and the resolution comes as a surprise. It’s fractal and polyrhythmic but still has a pounding mechanical feeling.

Frightened Rabbit – Things

I couldn’t write a list like this without including Frightened Rabbit. I’ve had a decades-long love affair with Scott Hutchison’s songs, and this one captures him at his most lucid. Washed out production that borders on anaemic, but propelled forward by his trademark kitchen sink vocal, singing a poignant anti-materialistic message. I remember reading somewhere that this was Scott’s favourite of his own songs, so maybe my including it here is affected by that? In my 20s I idolised him as an artist.

Tiny Ruins – Me at the Museum, You in a Wintergarden

A perfect love song! I love Hollie Fullbrook’s guitar playing in this, and the dreamy, treacly world it creates. It captures the careless euphoria of new love. The main hook is such a tasty little epigram “Nobody feels old / At the museum / Nobody feels cold / In the wintergarden”. Her vocal reminds me of old-timey crooners like Jo Stafford, and that adds to the sense of peaceful nostalgia.