On Deck: George Barnett


UK singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist George Barnett likes to do things on his own – as evidenced by that somewhat detailed description.  We could also add video director to the list but that might seem like overkill, if no less true.  His habit of singing and playing every instrument on all his albums has led to each of his records feeling particularly insular and attuned to a unique musical mindset.  Not that this tonal specificity has affected his music negatively.  In fact, this individuality is what makes his songs so endearing and memorable.  Building on traditional guitar/piano/percussion pop templates by incorporating orchestral flourishes and electronic ephemera, Barnett draws inspiration from modern artists like Justin Timberlake and Nine Inch Nails (odd musical bedfellows, I know), as well as the gossamer radio pop of the 80’s.  His aesthetic is a style of acclimation and aggregations; each song’s influence can be easily divined, but it ‘s the way in which Barnett molds and reshapes his inspirations that cause his music to resonate so soundly with his audience.

Recently, Barnett sat down with Beats Per Minute to discuss some of his favorite records and those which had a profound influence on his own formative musical development.  From the alterna-rock funk of Red Hot Chili Peppers to the pastoral folk-rock of Fleet Foxes, as well as the R&B influenced beats and rhymes from Frank Ocean, he lays out a fairly extensive framework of inspiration that covers a handful of disparate genres.  Check out his full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik

I got this when I was 12 years old and I love every single track on it. Every song is a banger. Every song is great.  I’d play it and find a track and I’d think that’s my favourite. And then I’d play the album again and change my mind. The album reminds me of when we were living in this house that was a bit haunted. It was a huge house with lots of outbuildings and we were living in a converted stable.  The main house was where there had been a murder and the weapon was found in my room. Obviously not while I was in it – a long time beforehand! But it was a great house as we could make as much noise as we wanted as there were no other people around.  So it reminds me of being there. In a good way – not in a murder way. The album was produced by Rick Rubin and I like the story of where it was recorded – in a place called The Mansion and that’s supposed to be a haunted house. When I found that out I thought…ah a parallel.

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

This is a kind of a folk album and it’s really nice. When you listen to that record you can’t help think of nature and tress and stuff even if you’re somewhere quite far from that. The sounds and the way they use harmony make you feel like that. This is another album where I like every song. I don’t know the title to every song because I have always listened to the album the whole way through without skipping tracks. Oliver James was the best possible way to end on an album like this; the a capella drenched in reverb tailing off into silence completely sums everything up.

Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

It sounds like it was made in a day…in that every song perfectly follows the last in a cohesive musical way. Everything is so understated – it never feels too angry or loud against the mellow tone and his voice is just fantastic overall. Songs like Bad Religion and Pink Matter are exceptional, song writing-wise and Pyramids is a production masterpiece. Frank Ocean is an amazing artist – he will be a future “great”. This album reminds me of a beach but I’ve never been there. Listen to it.

M.I.A – Mantangi
M.I.A – Mantangi

I’ve been listening to this recently on my ipod.  All the beats and production on it hit so hard. There’s a lot of Indian Rhythms that she uses which sound great. I like the fact that she literally sounds like she doesn’t care about anything and it’s great! There’s some stuff on there that’s so discordant. Songs like Come Walk With Me – it sounds really rough and sing song and kid of nursery rhyme as if it was done all in one go , kind of like an abandonment of trying to sound ‘nice’. She has a pure personality and doesn’t seem preoccupied with what other people think and that’s exciting to listen to.

The Killers - Sam's Town
The Killers – Sam’s Town

I recently remembered how much I love this album. I got it for Christmas in 2006, I think. From start to finish it sounds like an album. There’s nothing I want to skip. There’s nothing that distinguishes itself as something that may have been done purely as a single. It’s all continuous greatness. I love Brandon Flowers lyrics and I love the shakiness in his voice as it gives it power; I like the way it’s louder and rawer than Hot Fuss. In fact I hadn’t listened to Hot Fuss until after I had heard Sam’s Town and it was the latter album that got me into the first one. I especially like the second half of Sam’s Town for the great song writing. The songs are a bit slower and you can really hear how good a writer he is – on songs like My List and Why Do I Keep Counting the writing opens up a bit. In the first half there are things that hit you but  a lot of the emotional close to the chest song writing comes in the second half which is annoying as I’ve never met  anyone who knows My List. Like when you mention the album they say, ‘Oh yeah, When You Were Young”. Listen to it all!

George Barnett’s latest release, the Animal Keeper EP, is out now.