London-based artist and songwriter Zoee released her debut album, Flaw Flower, just a couple of weeks ago. It’s a beguiling mixture of classic British humour and sardonicism set to modern alt-pop production. It’s a showcase for the unique personality and voice of the emerging artist, who has plenty to say – by turns cutting, unsettling, and heartbreaking, but always compelling. It’s an album full of adult themes, but Zoee’s sing-song chirp always wrong foots; one minute she’s disconcertingly innocent and in love, the next she’s losing her mind over a break up – she keeps us inside her mind as it sways wildly back and forth.
We wanted to know more about how she developed this unique voice, and, obligingly, Zoee has told us about the albums that shaped her as a teen. As you’ll see – the albums she’s chosen all make sense as the early building blocks towards Flaw Flower. But ahead of that, enjoy her single “Host”.
Ms. Dynamite – A Little Deeper
I was about 14 in 2002 when Ms. Dynamite released her debut album. I think this was the best possible kind of album to have got into at such an impressionable age. I just remember feeling like Ms. Dynamite was just so incredibly authentic and true to herself. It made me feel like it was possible as a teenage girl to be able to express myself and that music could be used to communicate something important and that an album can also have all different kinds of musical styles. Also the front cover image is just SO good. Ms. Dynamite forever.
Amy Winehouse – Frank
In a similar way to getting obsessed with the Ms. Dynamite album, Amy Winehouse came along with her debut Frank and blew my mind. Again, there was just so much authenticity in her songs, traversing genres but with such a strong sense of identity. I felt like listening to her songs was like reading her diary. The lyrics are so genuine and confessional, she wasn’t afraid to be totally vulnerable with lines like “you sent me flying when you kicked me to the curb.” And then swinging to being so playfully cutting and forthright in relation to her own desire like in “Love Is Blind”, where she basically explains to her boyfriend why she cheated on him; “why are you so upset? / Baby you weren’t there, and I was thinking of you when I came.” She also so eloquently confronts the darker parts of human behaviour and relationships in a song like “What Is It About Men” – this line is so deep: “Emulate all the shit my mother hates / I can’t help but demonstrate my Freudian fate.”
Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
It’s impossible to explain all the reasons why this record is so incredible. I loved that it was more like two albums in one. The production was so off the wall, the lyrics so bizarre and exciting to my ears. It’s just such a fun and provocative record, it really pushed everything forward. I would listen to this loads in my mum’s car on the way to college which was a really long journey, it literally felt like stepping into some sort of alternate universe whenever I put it on.
Alicia Keys – Songs in A Minor
[J Records; 2001]
I remember this was a summer holiday album for me. I listened and sung along to it over and over again. It was just such a delight to listen to. So deep and emotional.
I loved the stripped back simplicity of the music and production.