Four Albums To Write To

Whispering into your notes app (again)? here are some albums for when you need to get writing.

By quinton mulvey


Whether you’ve started whispering into your Notes app, signalling to your followers that you’ve been “writing again,” or gone as far as buying a shiny new monocle, here are some albums that I listen to when I need to get writing.

Check out the full playlist here.

I have yet to crack the code that connects the related-artist-dots between the quietly sincere albums of h hunt, r mccarthy, Infinite Bisous, and Column. I’ve found that all these artists are signed to the same small record label Tasty Morsels and trace back to a musician named Rory McCarthy in one way or another.

Regardless of who actually recorded Playing Piano for Dad in 2016, the album is one of my favorites to sit down and write with. Comprised of eleven piano sketches, presumably created as a gift for the artist’s father, the recordings feature raw details like the clanking of the pianist’s fingers on piano keys and irregular hums in otherwise instrumental tracks.

There is what sounds like a faint sniffle in the last few milliseconds of the final track “Go Home,” signifying an emotional end—a blowing out of a candle, a “goodbye to all that.” It is a haunting yet comforting release. Similar to successful writing, there is power in minor details.

Highlight Track Pêche (Sketches)

It seems as though we are graced with another posthumous Arthur Russell piece biannually at this point. I cannot (will not) give a brief description of this prolific artist—if you haven’t already dove into his archives, you’re about four decades late.

First Thought Best Thought is comprised of 2 discs—a vinyl-informed separation that Spotify was cheeky enough to maintain on its digitized platform. The first fifteen tracks, entitled “‘Instrumentals’ Volume 1” and “‘Instrumentals’ Volume 2,” are prime examples of Russell’s fascination with merging avant-garde music-making approaches to his obsession with popular genres like symphonic pop, new wave, and, famously, disco.

Apparently a combination of semi-improvised and composed sessions, these recordings create a robust instrumental experience as opposed to his more pop-y, lyrical work. What if each of these Instrumentals were intended to be film scores? What do these scenes look like? A bit more sonically jarring, the second disc features the seven-part composition, “Tower of Meaning.” It is slow, full of high-impact drama, and sets a somewhat catastrophic arc for you to insert a story into.

Highlight Track: Tower of Meaning, Disc 2, Track 2

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, an Ethiopian nun and pianist, insists that her music does not fall into the Ethio-jazz genre coined by her contemporaries. However, there is a nostalgic, almost ancient-sounding tonality to her work that is commonly associated with music of that era in Ethiopia.

Éthiopiques, a series of compact discs featuring Ethiopian singers and musicians, released this compilation of her piano solos from the mid-1960s and it, somehow, remains one of the only accessible bodies of her work on the internet.

The most recent news article about her states that she is still alive at 93, living “barefoot in a hilltop monastery, perfecting her bluesy, freewheeling sound.” What a vision. I chose this compilation because each song title feels like a writing prompt, i.e. “A Young Girl’s Complaint,” or “Tenkou Why Feel Sorry.” You can usually find me journaling to this work in the morning with a cup of coffee.

Highlight Track: Homesickness, Pt. 2

The soundtrack of La Ragazza Dalla Pelle di Luna, an Italian film directed by Luigi Scattini in 1973, perfectly compliments the film’s erotic tale of a couple unraveling on a scenic vacation to Seychelles in West Africa.

The score’s arrangement combines sultry jazz instrumentals with strong tropical rhythms, creating a lush and seductive soundscape that is perfect for a horny, vacation-deprived writer to run free within. Imagine wordless, harmonic vocals floating over sweet stepping bass lines.

Umiliani sneaks in somber, melancholic undertones throughout even the most upbeat moments of the score, mimicking the demise of the relationship of the main characters in the film. More notably sad, yet still sensual, “Un’Isola Felice” creates a moment of lonesome pause by pairing back the featured instruments. An echoing coquette hums over a distant steel guitar and a simple electric keyboard.

This album is a warm breeze that caresses your face as your lover walks away. It leaves you alone in paradise.

Highlight Track: Ricordandoti