Over the last few months, one of the things many people have been turning to during periods of isolation during the pandemic is music. Music for distraction, companionship, solace and joy. Whatever the reason, putting on a favourite album or discovering something new that pulls you in and hits the spot, intellectually or emotionally, can be a great and wonderful experience. In this series we check in with musicians, journalists and broadcasters to see what has inspired repeat listening and provided some special sounds for these strange times.

First up is Darren Cross, he of Gerling and Jep and Dep fame who has most recently been releasing solo material as D.C Cross. Under that moniker he’s created two excellent albums (Ecstatic Racquet (2019), Terabithian (2020)) that blend American Primitive guitar stylings with arcane English folk picking and immersive washes of new age-inspired drone and ambience.

Leonard Cohen – Songs of Love and Hate (1971)

When it’s cold near/in winter time, I love to listen to depressing music. I don’t know, it’s just the way it is. One year, in the coldest house I have ever lived, Jack Elias’ Chopping Board was the winter breakfast album in our Alaskan house kitchen. A local songsmith, influenced by Cohen but even bleaker than Cohen, the half Lebanese guy Elias really hits you were it hurts.

Songs of Love and Hate has been flipped on the record player many a time during this Covid time. Its weird, I watched the Cohen documentary Bird On Wire for the first time recently. It’s about a 20 date tour that ended up in Israel in the 70’s where Cohen and his band are tripping balls on LSD and he is crying during his performance of S’o Long Marianne’ – mind blowing!

The guitar on Songs of Love and Hate is astounding – highlighting what Cohen calls “his chops” – his distinct picking style. This album is tender and angry and evil all at once… and the sentiment is perfect for a heartless winter.

Trumans Water – 10X My Age EP (1993)

When I was a wee lad in the 90’s, Trumans Water really blew my mind. Hailing from San Diego around the time Pavement appeared, (before Pavement ended up sounding like the the Verve) Trumans Water were deconstructionist – dismantling pop-grunge-math-rock that sounded like Captain Beefheart playing the angriest parts of Sonic Youth but 10x angrier, while collapsing down an eternal staircase to infinity.

I bought this 10 inch as I just had to hear these songs on vinyl. I mean one song is just a lo-fi recording of the drummer trying to learn the drum beat (bit annoying) but tracks like ‘Empty Queen II’ and ‘Enflamed’ still impress the hell out of me.

I recently found a rad doco about the San Diego punk scene called It’s Gonna Blow!!! – San Diego’s Music Underground 1986-1996 – which was unfindable online until recent times. I am pretty sure the title of the film comes from the Trumans Water anthem ‘Aroma Of Gina Arnold’ which is another of my favourite Trumans songs. Hunt this down. Such a great band. The artwork of the albums was really inspirational as well, long before collage and dadaism became a hipster staple.

Liquid Mind – Liquid Mind I : Ambience Minimus (1994)

Being a restaurant DJ and working on Saturday mornings as a thrift store sorter (go through the garbage, mould, urns of dead people, to find things to sell to rich people in rich areas) was playing havoc on my sleeping patterns. DJ’ing until 3am (playing ‘Thriller’ to 20 year olds on MDMA) then getting up to work and sort through the junk was really whacking me out (so I quit the sorting job). Not being able to sleep led me to those YouTube ambient music sets of three hours of buzzing electronic drone sounds that hypnotise you into sleepy slumberland submission. Luckily for me I really love those sounds and dug a bit deeper and found Chuck Wild, the godfather of 90’s ambient music.

Chuck Wild’s Liquid Mind I : Ambience Minimus (1994) is probably my favourite and it seemed really fitting, during these Covid times, to reach for this CD and sail away on cloud Chuck.

Chuck Wild went from doing the music composition on that crazy, ground-breaking 80’s, MTV-loving TV show Max Headroom, to a nervous breakdown where he stunningly chose meditation over medication and help invent 90’s ambient music.

The first track, ‘Zero Degrees Zero’ goes for over 28 minutes and like the most of this album, creates understated wooshes of pure 90’s ecstasy drone candy. This album has made me fell less anxious in this really weird and eerie time of self-isolation.

Coffee. Sleep. Sitting on the couch. More sleep. Trying to forget I can’t travel overseas to see my friends in Europe. Play guitar. Beer. Forgetting Covid – Liquid Mind I : Ambience Minimus – Suits my many moods. Repeat. Repeat.

SONIC KICKS: Lisa Caruso


Lisa Caruso has been playing plenty of gigs lately, on the back of her great 2014 EP Take A Walk. With her distinctive phrasing and soulful voice she blends folk, country, soul and sophisticated pop music into her own distinct style. Caruso has released a new clip for the single ‘My Romantic’ and kindly took the time to answer our Sonic Kicks Q&A about some of the albums that shaped her musically.

Alanis_Morissette_-_Jagged_Little_PillThe first album you bought.
I wondered if it was The Backstreet Boys Backstreet’s Back or Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill. It was Alanis. My teenage pop phase was real.

f0e5899aacc37252aa993cf2957eb2288a21c270The album that soundtracked a relationship.
Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. I had it on repeat in the car. Mainly at the time of the break-up. It was bittersweet, and good therapy. Still one of my favourite albums.

bluemitchell_1341175757The album that inspired you to form a band.
I was at Uni and Joni Mitchell’s Blue first inspired collaboration. I’d sing songs from it with with a friend that played piano. It was the first time I found a genuine connection with another musician. It was very exciting and influenced my writing too. Then came the rest.

The album that reminds you of your high school years.
I wish I could say Silverchair’s Frog Stomp but sorry no. It’d be the 100% hits series. I didn’t discriminate. The Cardigans, Jewel, En Vogue… I suppose The 90’s did alright with the charts.

51AhynGl12LThe album you’d love to hear live and played in full.
The Essential Leonard Cohen. Hands down. That man! Incredible writing and arrangements.

Bjork,_Debut_album_cover,_1993Your favourite album cover art.
Without thinking about it too much; Bjork’s Debut. There’s something very beautiful and honest about it. I like that the photographs not been overproduced. The sweetness in simplicity! A memorable portrait.

0060249860632_600Your guilty pleasure album.
An album my sister and I will turn up real loud (so we can sing real loud too) on long car trips is Hawksley Workman’s lover/fighter. I started my obsession after I saw him play live. So maybe not guilty. Just a pleasure.

An album you loved but now have no idea why you bought it.
That’s a tough one! The entire pop collection from my teens? Though I still can’t part with them, Ha!. At least maybe I can thank them for the pop sensibility in my writing. It’s welcomed.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 11.49.25 amThe last album you bought.
A local’s! Caitlin Harnett’s self titled. So pleased she is a Sydney-sider. I hear Joni Mitchell and Carol King in her voice and writing. It’s beautiful and timeless.

NEWS: LEONARD COHEN to play Australia + NZ…

The legendary Cohen and his 9 piece band will play dates in AU+NZ early next year, 24 years since he last played these shores.  3 hour shows earlier this year in Europe received rave reviews and this could well be the last Antipodean tour for the 74 year old.

The shows are in surprisingly large venues like Vector Arena and the Syd Ent Centre.  More intimate venues would have showed more respect to the songs and the man.  Why do the promoters feel they need to play one show, pack in the punters and move onto the next town?  A couple of nights at a smaller venue would be a much more desirable event for the fans.

The last time Sydney encountered his music was at the 2005 Sydney Festival where the Came So Far For Beauty triburte show played the Opera House.  That gig featured Nick Cave, Beth Orton, Joan Wasser, Jarvis Cocker, Rufus Wainwright, Antony and others interpreting Cohen songs.  It spawned the doco film Im Your Man.

Cohen’s songs have been covered by diverse artists such as Straitjacket Fits, Jeff Buckley, REM and Bob Dylan.

Tuesday 20 January
Wellington – TSB Arena
Ticketek 0800 842 538 or http://www.ticketek.co.nz

Thursday 22 January
Auckland – Vector Arena
Ticketmaster 09 970 9700 or http://www.ticketmaster.co.nz

Wednesday 28 January
Sydney Entertainment Centre
Ticketmaster 136 100 or http://www.ticketmaster.com.au

Saturday 31 January
Hunter Valley – Bimbadgen Estate, a day on the green
Ticketmaster 136 100 or http://www.ticketmaster.com.au

Tuesday 03 February
Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Ticketek 132 849 or http://www.ticketek.com.au

Thursday 05 February
Melbourne – Rod Laver Arena
Ticketek 132 849 or http://www.ticketek.com.au

Here is some footage of Leonard performing Hallelujah in Dublin earlier this year:

So Long Marianne Lyrics

Come over to the window, my little darling,
Id like to try to read you palm
I used to think I was some kind of gypsy boy
Before I let you take me home.

Chorus: so long marianne, its time that we began
To laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again

Well, you know that I love to live with you,
But you make me forget so very much
I forget to pray for the angel
And then the angels forget to pray for us.

We met when we were almost young
Deep in the green lilac park
You held on to me like I was a crucifix
As we went kneeling through the dark.

Your letters say that you are beside me now
Then why do I feel alone?
Im standing on a ledge and your fine spider web
Is fastening my ankle to a stone.

For now I need your hidden love
Im cold as a new razor blade
You left when I told you I was curious
I never said that I was brave.

O you are really such a pretty one
I see youve gone and changed your name again
And just when I climbed this whole mountainside
To wash my eyelids in the rain.