Last week we reviewed mk II (part one), the forthcoming release from Belfast duo Hiva Oa. The four song EP is a lesson in atmospheric, slightly ominous music and explores themes such as isolation, fear and loneliness. That said, there’s also something cathartic in the tracks, green shoots of renewal poking through the scorching noise, the band utilising an assortment of musical styles to convey their nuanced ideas. As we wrote of closer ‘Johnny Brazil’ (in what could also describe the EP as a whole):

“[The song] feels like several songs coalescing into one, a magic formula emerging by chance from a radio set between stations…post-rock thump, dream pop drone and indie rock vocals shrouded in gauzy ambience… the various elements complementing one another to build into a squally climax”

With such a diverse and varied sound, we thought it would be interesting to find out who the band consider inspirations, and asked them to choose ten influential songs that have in one way or another shaped their sound or just seemed important through their lives.

Ten Songs

from Hiva Oa

Although a lot of fun, this was a near impossible task to whittle a list of what could have been hundreds of songs to a list of just 10. I guess the artists are just as influential as the tracks chosen, and I could have easily plucked 10 different tracks from each of the artists. None the less, here we go.

While collating this list, the one recurring theme from each track chosen was not just the initial impact of the track when I first heard it (often from my youth), but also how these have stuck with me for a number of years and songs that I continue to return to.

1. Ces gens-la – Jacques Brel

I guess it would make sense to start with the man who inspired our choice of band name. There are a number of tracks I could have gone with, but Ces gens-la is a notable gateway to his music. The real power of this track comes in the form of the live visual performance. No understanding of the French language required. His animation is self-explanatory.

2. Avalanche – Leonard Cohen

There is much of his discography that I am yet to discover, on purpose, but Songs of Love and Hate was a staple listen in my youth and still to this day. The desire to do cover versions doesn’t occupy my mind much, however, I have flirted with the idea of doing a cover of this for quite a while now. Maybe I will convince the rest at some point…..

3. Roads – Portishead

Portishead were the first ever band I saw live. I was 12 and couldn’t possibly appreciate the situation I was in (I have my older sister to thank for that), but it still remains one of the best gigs I ever saw. Again, it was hard to narrow down to one Portishead track. Roads….why not!

4. Love me or leave me – Nina Simone

Again, difficult to narrow to one track for Nina, but the musicianship in this track just blew me away the first time I heard it and continues to this day, particularly the contrast of the piano solo and accompaniment. No better example of the classically trained beast trying to burst through the jazz/blues surroundings she feels caged within.

5. Factories – Damien Dempsey

I would love to see the day where Damien is as well revered around the world as he is in Ireland, but I fear it will never be so. Brutal honesty in a disillusioned modern age. As much as I tried, Irish traditional music was something that I just couldn’t warm to. Damien bridged that gap perfectly. I guess I just needed a hero for my generation.

6. I Only Said – My Bloody Valentine

Throughout this list, it could be said that it is singers that are the focal point which first inspired me. Being a singer myself, it is always the aspect I get drawn to initially. Hearing this track for the first time however…..There is just something special about the melody and its delivery. Intoxicating.

7. Lullaby for Hamza – Robert Wyatt

Robert Wyatt is the blend of the above statement. A great unique voice, but with the same strange intoxicating delivery. This was the first Robert Wyatt track I ever heard and continues to be an album I return to. Recently, Daithi and I were having a conversation about Wyatt and Christine piped up to say she never heard of him. The following question being ‘what does he sound like?’……For passers by listening in, they would be forgiven for thinking that two strange animals had escaped from a zoo. You’re trying it now aren’t you…..

8. Clap Hands – Tom Waits

I was first turned on to Tom Waits while in my mid teens and was given his debut album Closing Time by a friend. I loved it but didn’t delve into his discography any further for some time. Imagine my surprise when the next album I heard was Rain Dogs a decade later. This is the opening track and is, again, an album I return to constantly.

9. Song to the Siren – Tim Buckley

I was difficult not to choose his son, but since we are just talking about individual songs here, I thought I would go with this. Something very special indeed.

10. Rez – Underworld

To close things off, I wanted to step away singers. This was the first electronic track that widened my scope of the limitless beauty of electronic music and again, served as the perfect gateway. Such a shame it only lasts for 10 minutes.

Hiva Oa’s new EP, mk II (part 1) is set for release on the 16th September and you can pre-order it now from Bandcamp.