Advance Base: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Advance Base: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

With 5 Albums That Changed My Life, we ask artists to gush about the records that affected the way they listen to and make music. In this edition, Advance Base (a.k.a. Owen Ashworth) tells us about five records that he keeps close to his heart.

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Owen Ashworth initially started out recording music under the moniker Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – a project that sounds exactly like the name suggests.

Armed with his beloved Casio keyboard, Ashworth wrote and sang his drony and nostalgic 3-minute synth-pop songs centered around loneliness, longing and looking back.

The early music of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone was very, very lo-fi, slightly depressing, wonderfully melancholic, painfully sincere and endlessly charming – as if Hank Williams or John Prine hooked up with the Magnetic Fields and decided to form a band.

After almost a decade Ashworth felt it was time for a change, and so he retired the Casiotone name and introduced Advance Base to the world. Luckily, not much has changed.

Ashworth is now the father of two young girls, which he addresses beautifully in the lyrics. The production quality has improved since the early bedroom recordings, the Casio keyboard has been replaced by a Rhodes electric piano as well.

But on his excellent new album, Nephew in the Wild, the songs still clock in under 3 minutes. Ashworth’s voice still sounds like a nostalgic sigh. And the lyrics still read like small scenes from a movie from the film school dropout he is.

Here the opening verse from standout track “Might of the Moose”:

On my way home from Traverse City
I hit a moose it wasn’t pretty
Walked til I found a Citgo payphone down the road
And I called your house – it’s the only number that I know

A dead moose. Sometimes that’s all you need to write a great love song. Here’s Owen…

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Magnetic Fields: Holiday

The worst roommate I ever had brought this CD home one day, and my life was forever changed. It all just sounded like magic to me. It was like Pet Sounds and Pet Shop Boys at the same time; like Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” done in MIDI with the saddest singing ever recorded. “Take Ecstasy with Me” is a perfect song, and there is no more direct influence on my own music. I can’t emphasize enough how awful that roommate was, and it really says a lot about the quality of this music that I could still love it even though the guy who played it for me was human garbage. I’ll be forever grateful to that horrible creep for telling me about The Magnetic Fields.

Nina Simone: Emergency Ward

I don’t throw around the word “transcendent” very often, but the side-long “My Sweet Lord/Today Is a Killer” medley that leads off Emergency Ward is a real hypnotizer. It’s 18 minutes of pure gospel exaltation, crazy edits, build-up after breakdown after build-up and totally mind-bending tambourine playing, all brought to a close by an insane gut punch of an ending. You will lose your mind.

Sly & the Family Stone: There’s a Riot Goin’ On

I love that we live in a world where “Family Affair” is a colossal hit song that gets played at the grocery store. The sound of this album is like ASMR to me. The wild EQ treatments on the vocals and drums on “Just Like a Baby” were an enormous influence on the way I mix my records.

Arthur Russell: World of Echo

The great Nicholas Krgovich turned me onto World of Echo, and it was a revelation to recognize Arthur Russell’s influence on Nicholas’s excellent and inspiring music. World of Echo was the first Arthur Russell album I ever heard, and after voraciously consuming as much of his music as I could get my hands on, World of Echo remains the perfect distillation of his lonely, weird genius. I only listen to this when there’s no one else around. It feels too intimate to share.

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Chronicle

I grew up on Creedence Clearwater Revival. John Fogerty went to my parents’ rival high school, and his high school band played my parents’ homecoming. We had all of the original CCR vinyl albums at home, but Chronicle was the tape that lived in each subsequent car my parents owned, and after hundreds of listens I’m still not sick of it. I love every song on this thing, except for “Sweet Hitch-Hiker,” which sucks. My heart goes out to the poor young woman who found herself stranded by the side of the road on the day that John Fogerty drove by. She probably just needed a lift to a service station and yet she ended up the unwitting subject of the one bad Creedence single.

[Photos by Jeffrey Marini]

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