Doctor’s Orders: Palace’s Leo Wyndham prescribes 9 of his favourite records
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(Credit: Palace / Far Out)

Music

Doctor’s Orders: Palace’s Leo Wyndham prescribes 9 of his favourite records

@SamWKemp

    Palace are back with their new album Shoal, a record that wears its lockdown origins on its proverbial sleeve. Ahead of the much-anticipated album’s release on January 21st (today, as it happens) frontman, Leo Wyndham sat down with Far Out to prescribe nine mental health well-being records.

    London-based alt-rockers Palace formed in the autumn of 2012. Comprised of Leo Wyndham, Rupert Turner, Will Dorey, and Matt Hodges, Palace’s debut EP attracted the attention of fellow Londoner Jamie T, who asked the fledgling group to suppose him at his 2015 comeback shows. That same year, they released their follow up, 2015’s Chase The Lights, garnering them airplay by the gatekeepers over at BBC Radio 1. With a rapidly expanding fanbase, Palace set about recording their stonking debut album at North London studio the Arch in 2016. They walked out with So Long Forever, a crystalline swirl of an album produced with the help of Adam Jaffery (Mount Kimbie, Django Django).

    Their shiny new studio offering, Shoal, was written amid the UK’s initial lockdown in the spring of 2020. At that time, the general consensus was that the whole torrid affair would be over by Christmas. What poor sweet fools we were. During those fluid months, when one week bled seamlessly into the next, Wyndham found himself in the grip of several mental health issues, many of which he’d been running from for years. But, finally, without any means of escape other than music, he was forced to confront that sense of purposelessness all too familiar to so many of us of late.

    Continuing with our Mental Health Awareness campaign, Far Out has teamed up with the suicide prevention charity CALM to help connect you with your favourite artists. The series attempts to hear how music has helped them during their darker times and day-to-day lives and, in turn, how it can help others. The organisation, with the full working title of ‘Campaign Against Living Miserably’, offer a free, confidential and anonymous helpline for those most in need of mental health support. Now lockdown measures have eased, that doesn’t mean that the impact of the last 18 months has ended, and CALM still needs as much help as possible to carry on with its excellent work.

    If you’re able, and if you can afford to, please consider a small donation to help the CALM cause. £8 can answer one potentially life-saving call.

    Now, let’s dive into the music…

    Leo Wyndham’s 9 favourite albums:

    Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

    First up, Van Morrison’s iconic 1969 album Astral Weeks. Combining jazz, blues, and classical aspects, this nimble recording wasn’t particularly popular when it was first released. However, the world soon cottoned on to the stunning songcraft emerging from this Northern Irish icon.

    Morrison’s second album has been soundtracking his life since he was a child: “As I remember, it was one of the first things I remember hearing. My mum and dad had lots of good music in the car when I was younger, and it was the first thing when my ears sort of pricked up and tuned in. I think it maybe sparked – an emotional spark almost – a sense of romance and a sense of life and death. There’s something very spiritual about the album in its improvisational nature. I think in a youthful way, I connected with the spirituality of it. It made me feel something.”

    (Credit: Press)

    Jeff Buckley – Mystery White Boy

    “I’ve always been obsessed with Jeff Buckley, and Grace is the album that everyone goes to, but I think, for me, it’s the live stuff where the gold of Jeff Buckley is. I think I was 14 when somebody showed me this. It’s a live album that has live takes from different places.”

    For Wyndham growing up, Mystery White Boy offered a great deal of emotional catharsis. “I was a very sort of emotional, sensitive soul, and I think I didn’t know what to do with that, and I think this album helped me sort of understand this stuff. It gave me this vessel to direct my emotions through in a strange way. and that song specifically (‘What Will You Say?) sort of empowered me with my emotions and my sensitivities and these things that I was told when I was younger. People used to say ‘you’re so sensitive’ or ‘you’re so defensive’ and it always felt like a negative thing to be those things. And I think, to hear a man sing in this way, where he let his emotions free and let it all hang out, made me feel safe – It made me feel normal. When I put this album in the car, I just can’t help but sing it.”

    (Credit: Press)

    Nick Drake – Pink Moon

    Nick Drake’s legacy is intricately bound to his struggle with depression and the medication he was prescribed to combat it. Even so, his music – and especially this, his 1976 album Pink Moon – has the power to be incredibly joyous and euphoric.

    “I’ve always been completely obsessed with Nick Drave and his story,” Wyndham begins. “He was clearly someone who really suffered. His music seemed like somewhere he could express the dark sides of himself that he couldn’t tell other people. And I think I really connected to that, again in that sense of feeling like you’re an outsider and feeling the awkwardness and uncomfortableness of growing up. Connecting with these outsiders gave me a certain strength and comfort knowing that there were these people who could create beautiful things who were also feeling the same things that I was.”

    (Credit: Press)

    Robbie Basho – Visions Of The Country

    Robbie Basho is surely one of the most mysterious figures on this list. Despite being a talented guitarist and innovative songwriter, he never achieved commercial success or critical acclaim in his lifetime. However, this ‘Father of The American Raga’ did manage to make a series of mind-boggling albums between 1965 and 1974. Visions Of The Country is perhaps the greatest of those recordings, all of which see him blend aspects of traditional Indian music, folk, and modern classical.

    “I was shown this guy several years ago,” Wyndham says. “He died very young, but he made this beautiful American folk music, and he’s very unknown still, but he’s this hidden gem. This album is very much about America and it’s about the landscape and it’s about the beauty of that. And when you hear it, there’s a transportative quality to it, that takes you away to these landscapes and this beauty and these mountains. This album takes me out of the everyday. It’s one of those records that takes you to another place, and it’s so soothing. I love music that takes me away, to where I can just be completely enveloped in the sound, and that album is the one that does that.”

    (Credit: Press)

    Nirvana – Nevermind

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind. With angsty dirt-driven guitar lines and Cobain’s unrestrained vocals, it’s no wonder so many have been drawn to this deeply therapeutic album.

    Nevermind became a bit of a pillar for me,” Wyndham said. “It made me feel good about myself and made me feel understood. It was hard to choose this one because I love In Utero too, but I had to go for this one because it was the first I heard. But it definitely introduced me to heavier music and grunge and all that sort of stuff. I think it was this pillar for people who felt like outsiders or a bit awkward or weird. It got me into the guitar as well. I think the first songs I started to learn were from Nevermind and it was the thing that got me interested in music.”

    (Credit: Nirvana Nevermind Album)

    Donny Hathaway – Live 1972

    Another live album now, this time from the immortal soul singer Donny Hathaway. Recorded at two separate concerts – side one at Hollywood’s The Troubadour, and side two at Manhattan’s The Bitter End – this stunning live album from 1971 is perhaps one the most joyful recordings imaginable; a dose of exuberant, free-moving funk and soul.

    “This one, for me, is the most uplifting album I know,” reveals Wyndham. “I think it’s interesting that I’ve chosen live things and I think that’s because I love the energy of live performance. I love hearing people and hearing the energy in the room, and, with this album, you hear a lot of the crowd, and there’s this electricity in the air. There’s this incredible vibe and connection between Donny Hathaway and the crowd. At one point, he sings ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ and whenever I put it on, and I have friends around, you can see people tuning into this song because there’s this joy in the performance and the experience of what’s happening in the room. It’s not even about him, it’s about the crowd. It’s really magic.”

    (Credit: Press)

    Daniel Johnston – 1990

    like Drake and Cobain, Daniel Johnston’s work is inseparable from his struggles with his own mental health. Written over four years between 1984 and 1988, this stunning album was recorded while Johnston was visiting New York in 1987, the infamous ‘lost year’ in which he became increasingly unstable.

    “I think he’s one of my favourite artists of all time,” explained. “I saw this amazing documentary about Daniel Johnston a few years ago – I think it’s called The Devil And Daniel Johnston – and I became obsessed with his music. It’s a very pure form of music because there’s this simplicity to it, but it’s the perfect example of how the most beautiful music can sometimes be the most simple. I’ve had experiences of going through terrible terrible breakups and going through all-time lows and finding the songs on this album incredibly comforting. ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’ at one point became this thing that propped me up and kept me going.”

    (Credit: Press)

    Arthur Russell – World Of Echo

    It’s only right that Arthur Russell appears on a list that has, so far, been an ongoing celebration of outsider artists. Like Basho, Russell didn’t see much in the way of commercial success in his lifetime, but that never seemed to be his ambition anyway. In his short life, Russell crafted hundreds of otherworldly and utterly unique recordings – using his Cello to conjure up textures that hadn’t previously been explored in the songcraft of the 1960s.

    “He’s an amazing person: groundbreaking and talented, but I specifically like this album because it’s very improvisational and free,” Wyndham begins. “A lot of his albums are like that, but this one is especially haunting. Again, it’s one of those records that takes me away and puts me in this dreamy place and feel very at ease and comfortable. I have an incredibly overactive mind that I’m continually trying to control, but I find that his music just does that.”

    (Credit: Press)

    Hailu Mergia – Wede Harer Guzo

    Rounding off the list is the infinitely enriching Ethiopian keyboardist Hailu Mergia. After establishing himself as one of the leading lights in Ethiopia’s ‘golden age of music in the 1970s, Mergia relocated to Washington D.C, where he now works as a cab driver. Despite his humble trajectory, Mergia is responsible for some of the most nostalgic and evocative albums ever to emerge from the horn of Africa.

    Wyndham explained: “The music is just incredible. It has this jazz element, and it has some funk elements in there. It’s the piano playing more than anything though. It’s completely uplifting, and I think we need that sometimes in music. Sometimes we do need that music that is just a distraction and that gives you great joy and pleasure to listen to.”

    (Credit: Press)

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