Joff Oddie (Wolf Alice): 5 Albums That Changed My Life
Wolf Alice’s new record Visions of a Life is prayers and curses, gauze and granite. From echoing opening track “Heavenward,” written to honor the death of a friend, to feedback-replete riot grrrl screamer “Yuk Foo” (“I don’t give a shit,” shouts singer Ellie Rowsell) the record stays true to its title. It’s a look at a life that’s neither completely bitter nor bright.
And isn’t that what life is — at least when you’re young? A constant parade of tears and bravado cut through with explosions of joy? An eternal ping-ponging between trying not to “give a shit” and writing a crush’s name “all over [your] notebook,” like in “Don’t Delete the Kisses”?
“We’re part of an Internet generation that grew up consuming music in a different way,” guitarist-vocalist Joff Oddie tells TIDAL when asked about the range of the record. “It’s not as tribal as it might have been 20 years ago when you maybe had to make a conscious decision whether to buy punk records and become a punk or hip-hop records. We grew up in playlist culture. We flick around. None of us is tied to one particular genre.”
That’s a trait that the band carried over from their 2015 debut, My Love is Cool. As Pitchfork’s Laura Snapes said (in a glowing review), “My Love is Cool is being touted as grunge’s second (or, ninth) coming, when really it affirms the tentative coming-of-age story in guitarist/singer Ellie Rowsell’s lyrics by refusing to settle for a single identity at this early stage.”
Visions of a Life continues that search for identity, which isn’t surprising considering the majority of the band is still in their early twenties, and who the hell has anything figured out then? Wolf Alice started as an acoustic collaboration between Londoners Oddie and Rowsell, and after plugging in and adding a rhythm section, they released a series of buzzy EPs culminating in their debut.
“When you release your first record, there’s the great unknown,” Oddie says. “A lot of music lovers love the great unknown: ‘If this going to be the next big thing?’ But on the second record, you are being judged on past material to a certain extent, and you no longer have that underdog quality that people — especially in the indie scene — get behind. I wouldn’t be overly surprised if some people said they didn’t like it because it doesn’t sound like the first one.”
“Ultimately, the only gauge we can have for whether this record is good or not is if we could listen to it,” he adds. “If those are the parameters of success, I think we succeeded already.”
Leading up to the album’s Friday release, Oddie shared with TIDAL some records that changed his life.
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The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground & Nico
It’s just the most beautiful example of how something can be so abstract and weird and off-pace and just bizarre and still have all the same kind of qualities that pop music has. They’re bizarre songs and they’re bizarre structures, but they all have this kind of pop sensibility. I think, for me, it’s the best example of a crossover record — even though no one liked it back in the day. Our aspirations are to follow in that kind of vein. Obviously, I’d like people to buy [our record], but it’s just an astounding feat of pop and the avant-garde mashed together to create something absolutely unique and perfect.
John Fahey, The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death
This record is all acoustic guitar folk instrumentals. I play a lot of folk music at home. It’s kind of my hobby. There’s something so beautiful about his style of playing — how simple it is, yet how complicated and accomplished it is, even though it sounds very naïve. I don’t know why, but it just clicked with me, and I went, ‘I understand this music. I understand what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, even though I can’t really put that into words.’
Willy Mason, Where the Humans Eat
I think I heard this record when I was maybe 13. My stepdad had heard about it and went out and bought a copy. [Mason in] just the most amazing songwriter and someone I really related to when I was that age — lyrically. I hadn’t really heard anyone writing lyrics like his that was around my age. That’s another one that you kind of just understand straight away. He was my gateway into American folk music.
The Streets, A Grand Don’t Come for Free
It’s very, very, very English. It’s garage. It’s urban-ish. It’s the story of a guy who, in the space of a couple of months, loses a thousand pounds that was in an envelope and his life goes a bit bizarre because he falls out with a couple of his mates, he has a bit of a strange time with a girlfriend. Then he has an epiphany and goes on a last holiday. I think it’s the best concept album that’s ever been written.
Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan
This one is mainly folk standards. I think he only wrote a few songs on it. You can hear what his influences are. It feels to me like the starting point of what became Dylan. It’s fantastic. I love it. Great guitar playing. You kind of forget how much a great guitar player Bob Dylan is.
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