Most of us are locked in, all of us have lost the chance to socialise, to meet and drink and talk and eat and see music and work out and enjoy things outside the house. But music doesn’t have to stop and The Great Confinement has opened up a chance to explore at home, to dig up old favourites and find new pleasures.
In this series we ask: what music is making your life better? Today, actor and playwright, Toby Schmitz.
WHAT ALBUMS OR ARTISTS HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING SINCE BEING CONFINED TO HOME?
I don’t listen to heaps of music - I am shamed by how much my friends listen to, and how they appreciate it - but I have always been thus. I didn’t grow up with a huge variety. Graceland and Roger Miller’s Greatest Hits. The White Album.
I bought my first Bluetooth speaker at the beginning of the plague - a big, fun white thing pretending to be a Marshall amp, I think. For the look of it mostly. I also purchased - to the disgust of my hi-fi nut friends - a Bluetooth turntable (Cambridge) imagining I’d start collecting vinyl.
Nearly two years later I have The Best of The Ink Spots, the Blur catalogue, OK Computer (OKNNOTOK - for Man Of War), Bobby Darin Live At The Copa, and Tim Minchin’s last album Apart Together. In fact, Tim, a chum, gifted me the first pressing of it - with a bonus track he decided to nix. It is a treasured thing.
WHICH HAVE BEEN GETTING MULTIPLE SPINS?
So, I put Spotify on maybe three times a week, often sitting on my balcony feeling melancholy, and sometimes when doing exercise through earphones - though I find podcasts about the world wars easier to zone out to. Unlike my mate Brendan Cowell, I could never write to music, until finding the Motherless Brooklyn soundtrack recently.
I know what I like. Multiple spins, has always for me meant worryingly multiple. I don’t play a song to death, I play it ‘til death.
Some examples. I think Taylor Swift’s Style and Carly Rae Jepson’s Tonight I’m Getting Over You to be perfect pop songs. I can do 30 minutes flat on the treadmill at the gym with them on repeat.
I have never stopped listening to The Ink Spots. High rotation doesn’t cut it. I can hear my neighbours in my apartment block get up and pace when I put them on again. I find doo-wop nostalgic, sweet yet aching, mesmeric, perfect. I know there were many Ink Spots, but it’s all the same ink to me.
HOW HAS LOCKDOWN CHANGED THE WAY YOU CONSUME MUSIC?
Stan Getz playlists are a thing. Sondheim’s Assassins I’ll often do all the way through, (I remember having to write a letter to the US begging someone to send a CD of that to Perth, WA), and a few tracks from Into The Woods are aired monthly.
Here are some tunes I probably listen to fifty plus times a year:
Old Cape Cod - Patti Page
Who Loves You - Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (ever since TISM sampled it)
I Can’t Give You Anything But Love – Django Reinhardt
Blur’s Battle and Entertain Me (Alex James’ bassline!). I’m thinking 13 is now my desert island Blur album, over The Great Escape, which was frontrunner for years.
State Trooper - Bruce Springsteen
When The Shit Goes Down - Cypress Hill
Wave of Mutilation – The Pixies: the UK surf version, probably just because I owned the Pump Up The Jam soundtrack.
Blue - The Jayhawks
Slow Jam - New Order
Ready Or Not - Fugees.
I’m a sucker for Debussy’s Claire De Lune and Khachaturian’s Adagio Of Spartacus And Phrygia, probably because of film soundtracks.
WHAT ALBUM FROM YOUR PAST HAVE YOU REDISCOVERED? WHAT DO YOU STILL LOVE ABOUT IT?
I don’t really discover; I sort of rediscover. I feel like a very old nostalgic man. But I felt like that when I was fifteen.
I’m back into David Essex’s Rock On. Groove Armada’s album Lovebox is having a revival. Travis’ The Man Who is never far away. Roger Miller Greatest Hits is back. My daughter, Ziggy, digs it, like I did at her age.
Sinatra’s Nice And Easy album is a hands down favourite.
HAVE YOU FOUND NEW MUSIC – OR AN ARTIST OR GENRE - THAT WAS UNEXPECTED? WHAT’S EXCITED YOU ABOUT IT?
A few recent-ish discoveries that I put on nonsense repeat:
Soft Cell’s cover of Where Did Our Love Go? (I used to do the Diana Ross on repeat on cassette.) K. Flay’s Hollywood Forever. Warpaint’s So Good. Tommy Flanagan’s Willow Weep For Me. And The Best Of The Hollies.
Ben Lee let me hear a rough draft of a tune from his latest thing - called Crooked Tree - which I have had on repeat. I really dig Timmy Minchin. I keep thinking different tracks off his last album are my favourites. Spotify told me his thing with Briggs, HouseFyre, was my most played track last year. Sugary, upbeat, clever, can jog to it.
WHAT’S THE BEST MUSIC TO FLATTEN YOUR (ANXIETY) CURVE?
To beat anxiety? Ladies and Gentlemen… The Ink Spots!
Toby Schmitz is between engagements. But if you have access to Stan, for the four seasons of Black Sails you may get your dose of T Schmitz while you wait.