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.






A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

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.