Fave Five: Hayden Thorpe - Five Albums That Show Me How It's Done

Evan Sawdey
Photo: Broomberg & Chanarin

We all miss the now-defunct UK outfit Wild Beasts, but with his solo album, singer Hayden Thorpe is aiming to make something more personal, and raw. Guiding his way? His "Five Albums That Show Me How It's Done".

Hayden Thorpe


24 May 2019


We all know how rock band solo albums go: the group breaks up, the lead vocalist feels like he's free to do what he wants now, and ends up making an album that sounds like it could've been released during his time with the band.

This isn't the case for Hayden Thorpe. One of the things that made his group Wild Beasts' so intriguing was how they changed their sound from album to album, going from a wild English alternative rock outfit to a much more focused, stylized electro band over their decade-long career. Landmark albums include 2009's breakthrough Two Dancers and 2011's sexy, stripped-down highlight Smother.

Now, with Diviner, Thorpe has crafted something altogether different than what he's done before: a piano-based album with lyrics that are raw and personal. From the cascading sadness that is "Anywhen", a song about developing a new identity, to the stellar title track, which alludes to a spiritual recompense that may or may not have actualized in his life. The melodies are deftly composed, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Thorpe is baring it all here, with obtuse-but-meaningful lines and aching performances.

To mark the release of his first proper solo album, Thorpe dove in deep and answered PopMatters' Fave Five, working under his chosen category of "Five Albums That Show Me How It's Done".

Marvin Gaye - What's Going On (1971)

The album was recorded in nine days. I recently learned that the multi-layered vocals were an accident as Marvin was picking which take to go for and listened to both simultaneously. He said the songs were given to him from a higher power. It's the most beautifully realized record, from the playing to the execution of the sleeve design featuring a bearded and defiant Marvin standing in the rain. I would listen to "Inner City Blues" on repeat on my lunch break at the shipping warehouse I worked at after I left high school.

Kate Bush - The Sensual World (1989)

This record marks Kate's retreat into semi-hiding in the country. Her release and clarity is palpable, it sounds like resonating glass. It's a very sincere record whilst being pretty quirky in a way only Bush could pull off. The songcraft is a wonder to me, the compositions contract in scale, it's big budget emotion that pivots into experimentation and oddity. It was my driving record for a whole year; landscape music.

Leonard Cohen - The Best Of (1975)

I think it's okay to include a Best Of? They recently updated it to include his ham-fisted "Hallelujah". This was my gateway drug into Cohen, a mere window dressing, but one that I became umbilically attached to. It was my main mode of preparation for sleep when I was a late teen, my hormonal pacifier. He's gravity as a songwriter. The lines bow and ache under his guidance, so simple in design yet so ornate in meaning.

Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me (2010)

Such a decedent record. A triptych box set kind of epic, songs meandering over eight minutes at a time. She previewed the album before its release at a show in Brisbane, Australia. I couldn't believe what I was watching. It felt so intuitive experiencing her move through the arch of the songs, it was much less dense than it ought to have been. It inspired me to do something similar with my own release of Diviner. I've been sure to play the album in full unapologetically, trusting that the spell of the songs will summon the listener's will.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - Before the Flood (2016)

It's the soundtrack of the environmental film by Leonardo Di Caprio. It also features Mogwai and Gustavo Santaolalla. It's music to walk to. It broods and shifts glacially. I always come to a resolve on some crunched emotional equation if I set off up a mountain with this record. The compositions speak of a kind of mechanical dystopia with nature appearing and receding again. It's a blueprint for production, delicate but bloody loud somehow. I guess it's a demonstration of heavy sonics made translucent rather than black.





The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.


Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.


Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.


Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.


Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.


The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.


Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.


The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.