On the eve of the release of Joan & The Giant’s latest single, ‘Just For You’, co-songwriters, Grace Newton-Wordsworth and Aaron Birch share songs that inspire their work. And, because we just can’t resist joining in, we’ve added five more we think that should have a listen to.
‘Just For You’, due for release on 10 September, delivers a painfully important message that touches on themes of mental health and loss, accentuated with stunning soundscapes and delicate delivery. You can get our review in this week’s edition of Sunday Singles.
Have a listen to the playlist here and read on to find out why these songs inspire Perth’s finest proponents of heavy pop.
Grace Newton-Wordsworth, Song Writer, Vocalist and Multi-instrumentalist, Joan & The Giants
1. Twist by Dizzy
I first heard this song on Triple J, and I had no idea who this band were but the chorus lyric stayed with me. It kept going round and round in my head and eventually I looked up “there’s a hole that’s inside of my chest, in the place of a heart, in the shape of your fist” and I then found them – my fav band, all the way from Canada – Dizzy. This lyric blew me away, their ability to describe an entire feeling in such a delicate and well written way. It’s the opposite of cheesy, it’s eloquent and just punches you in all the feelings areas. I love this band for their production, and their lyrics. They have so many sad songs, that make you somehow feel happy and connected because it’s just real and relatable, and the music is hopeful and upbeat with great quirky, well written pop elements that make you want to dance in your living room with your cat (or is that just me?).
2. Light On by Maggie Rogers
Maggie has inspired me the most out of any artist or writer I’ve come across since the release of her album ‘Heard it in a Past Life’ in 2019 – which she can personally thank me for all 84 million streams on ‘Light On’ haha. I am inspired by her ability to take elements of folk and place them so perfectly in the world of pop. Her use of vocals and harmonies, are something I love as she creates little moments that you want to wrap your ears around and hold onto. I love that she cares about every element of her music and production from the sound of the snare, to the arpeggiated synth that drives so much of Light On. She made me want to be more aware of my own production thoughts, and what builds the music and creates the colours. I also love her as a live performer, she is captivating from the start to finish and takes the whole audience on a journey that we all want to go on forever.
3. Fix You by Coldplay
This song has to go on my list, as it just got me as a teenager, I would listen to it on repeat when I was 15 at boarding school and struggling quietly with a lot of things. I also produced my own cover version and backing track on Garageband, and got myself a 5am slot on Telethon, which was very cool for me at that age. To me this is the perfect song; I love the vulnerability of the lyrics and the power of the production that showcases how effective simplicity is. They aren’t trying to show off or prove anything with their guitar solos, or the singing – it’s performed and produced to support the meaning of the lyrics, and you can feel this in every moment.
4. Rise to the Sun by Alabama Shakes
There was a time when I would listen to Alabama Shakes every day and it definitely influenced our sound when we first started as a band. Brittany Howards vocal range is unreal, she has the ability to belt low and high, make you feel every lyric and shred on the guitar at the same time – just wow. I particularly fell in love with ‘Rise to The Sun’, which we used to cover. The lyrics are relatable, and there’s so much power in the music “Well my eyes are full of stars, But I just can’t reach them, Oh, how high they are, I got to believe what I’m seeing can come true, But in a modern world that can be so hard to do.” – relatable.
5. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
I have to mention this song, as it’s the starring role in some of my most treasured childhood memories. I’m from a farm down South, and I used
to perform in the regional eisteddfod at the Narrogin Town Hall. I remember I chose this song to sing one year because it’s one of my grandmas favourites, and because I loved the way Louis sang it with such warmth and a soul like no other – when you listen it takes your breath away – his voice is raw and unprocessed, and carries so much emotion. I remember singing it at the eisteddfod and I could feel every word in my chest, one of those beautiful moments where you’re fully present in what you’re doing.
Aaron Birch, Song Writer and Guitar, Joan & The Giants
1. I Miss You by Blink 182
This to me is the perfect pop song. It’s everything I love about Blink 182 and music in general… it’s immediately recognisable from the very start. I love how dark the lyrics are, I love the amazing chorus hook with two vocal parts and I love how they bring the hook back at the end of the song on the piano… perfect, amazing songwriting. Probably the band that has influenced me the most, I played guitar along to their records, wearing fake earrings as lip piercings, alone in my room and pretended to be Mark and Tom. I’m a Blink fan for life.
2. Smoke Signals by Phoebe Bridgers
Talk about amazing lyrics, amazing tone setting and gorgeous melodies. Smoke Signals was the first Phoebe Bridgers song I ever heard, she has completely changed the way I think about lyric writing and song writing in general. I love how dark and brutally honest her lyrics are. I could put any Phoebe song in this list, but for me, Smoke Signals hits home hard, I love it!
3. Last Goodbye by Jeff Buckley
When I was 16, I’d put in headphones, lay in bed and obsess over Jeff Buckley’s album Grace. That voice is the most mesmerising I’ve ever heard. The thing I learnt most from Jeff, is that music truly is an art, and you can approach it from a beautiful, poetic angle, even if it means sacrificing pop elements. Grace is a record that changed my life, it helped me through a lot of tough times, especially as a teenager and Last Goodbye is my favourite on the record, such brilliant songwriting!
4. Born & Raised by John Mayer
I personally relate to Born & Raised more than any other song on this list. John Mayer’s songwriting has always been something I have admired, but for me, this song is the peak of his story telling. In such a clever way he fully expresses what it’s like to grow up and try to find your place in the world. The musicality of John has always been ridiculous, but on Born and Raised, the lyrics shine through. It’s crazy that him singing such personal lyrics about his own life, can relate to my life in such a dramatic way. That’s the power of music.
5. Master Of puppets by Metallica
The absolute kings! Metallica has been one of my favourite bands forever, it’s something I’ve related to my dad, my brothers and my sister on. We all love Metallica, seeing them in 2010 was one of the highlights of my life. I’ve learnt so many things from Metallica, but maybe the most important thing, is that work ethic trumps skill! While they are amazing, there are so many people that don’t consider them great musicians (which is crazy) but it’s they’re work ethic that makes them, literally, the biggest metal band of all time and one of the most influential bands ever. They’re amazing and were a huge reason for me picking up the guitar.
Around The Sound’s picks, by Andrea Thompson
‘That’s The Way’ by Led Zeppelin
From the heavy-acoustic Led Zeppelin III, ‘That’s The Way’ is a mournful song of childhood loss, although who know’s what messers Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones were really on about? You can’t get much heavier than lyrics like, All that lives is born to die, but that’s the sort of magical reality Zeppelin dealt in during the early 70s. They were the original wearers of hearts on sleeves and, if you can get past the drugs, violence and misogyny that were their signatures when not playing music, there’s still a lot in the Led Zeppelin canon worth emulating.
‘Jumpers’ by Sleater-Kinney
Credited with starting the Riot Girl movement and inspiring a tsunami of female bands all determined to do it themselves, Sleater-Kinney are a band that plays music as if their lives depend on it. That’s part of the attraction, the no holds barred approach to their instrumentation and vocal delivery that is Sleater-Kinney’s signature. ‘Jumpers’ is a stand out track on stand out album, The Woods, whose protagonist says, Don’t push me / I am not OK, and ultimately takes their own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Hence the line, Four seconds was the longest wait. Sleater-Kinney’s willingness to deal with the most difficult subject matter in such a tender and brutal way is just one of the many things that makes them one of the greatest bands ever.
‘Identity’ by X-Ray Spex
One of the first wave of English punk bands, X-Ray Spex pre-dated the Riot Girl movement by about 20 or so years. Writing about her experiences of growing up, ‘Identity’ is X-Ray Spex singer, Poly Styrene’s take on gender politics, railing against the establishment with piercing vocals and the anthemic line, Identity is the crisis / Can’t you see? No wonder I liked them so much as a youth! The music and words still stand tall today.
‘Ghosts’ by The Jam
The Jam was the first band I ever saw live and they changed my life as 3,000 or so punters sang along to every word of every song while systematically tearing apart the storied concert hall the band was booked into that night. Talk about being part of something! Vocalist and main song writer, Paul Weller, had a knack for writing lyrics that spoke on behalf of a generation and so it was with ‘Ghosts’, a song that still makes me cry every time I listen to it, because it still feels like it was written about me. Lift up your lonely heart and walk right on through — Thank you, Paul.
‘Zombie’ by Jamie T
Because, sometimes, life should just be fun 🙂