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The records that influenced the debut album from Agnes Manners

When former Hellions member Matthew Gravolin announced his debut record under the moniker of Agnes Manners, it was clear that this project would be a fresh start. A little sweeter, with a little more vulnerability, Agnes Manners has been the vehicle that Gravolin can finally take the wheel of, in the form of debut album Fantasia Famish. Matt shared the records that influenced this journey for him with Blunt Magazine below.

Bon Iver – Bon Iver (2011)

Bon Iver’s self titled album opened my eyes to a whole new world, musically. After repeated listens, I began to understand instrumental layering and the virtue of a slow build – you don’t need a series of big bangs to emotionally involve the listener, attention can be kept with nuance. Vocals don’t need to be blaring and acrobatic to be emphatic. Hearing ‘Holocene’ and ‘Towers’ back to back for the first time is probably the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to a spiritual epiphany. I remember the gooseflesh that accompanied the lines “I ain’t living in the dark no more – it’s not a promise, I’m just gonna call it” near the album’s apex in ‘Beth/Rest’.

Fireworks – Gospel (2011)

Fireworks don’t fit cosily into any one genre. They’re often labeled as a pop-punk band which is a slight disservice to the rational nature of their music. The genre typically leans further toward petulance than poetry. To me, that’s the nature of pop-punk and why I enjoy it so much, but this album sounds like your early twenties feel: there’s the unbridled joy in ‘Arrows’, all the weight of new heartache in ‘Teeth’ and anxious vacillation on ‘Summer’ – you’re coming into your own and running as fast as you can, grateful and afraid.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

Kendrick has been described as the ‘street poet of mental health,’ due to his thorough exploration of difficult topics. Dozens of genres are woven seamlessly together to bring further colour to the dissection of Kendrick’s self and the world at large on To Pimp a Butterfly. The narrative sequence gives it a feeling of immediate familiarity and ultimately one of timelessness. 71 people contributed to the 3 year writing and recording process and the sheer scope of it allows for unlimited revisits – I discover something new every time I listen to it.

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear (2015)

For me, this was the most powerful demonstration of conversational, humorous lyricism and its power. You can be funny and credible all at once! This realisation would later be bolstered by The 1975’s I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It. In honesty, a few of the songs missed the mark for me but the ones that hit, hit hard. I liked the dichotomy between how Josh Tillman is often portrayed (something of a narcissistic clown) and the existential depth he is capable of – ‘Holy Shit’ is the best example of this, it holds a firm place in my top 10 favourite songs of all time. On top of all that, this record showed me that the one-man-band thing can work. 

Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – If I Can Dream (2015)

Shane Edwards introduced Hellions to this album in the early days of the ‘Rue’ sessions. The album features archival vocal recordings of Elvis accompanied by new orchestral arrangements by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Each song featured is embedded in the fabric of Western history and hearing the new renditions put stars in our eyes. It’s like witnessing The King come out of a long slumber in a new suit. Opener ‘Burning Love’ and closer ‘If I Can Dream’ are highlights. The chord changes in the latter track had a profound effect on me and you can hear their influence in several spots across Fantasia Famish.

Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps (2017)

It seems as if the better part of the Western world is enamoured with Phoebe Bridgers at the moment, and for good reason. Her new record Punisher is my favourite offering from Phoebe (one of those rare albums where the back end is unequivocally stronger than the front) but Stranger in the Alps was my introduction to her music. It was, for me, another valuable lesson in ‘less is more’ and it taught me the virtue of employing vulnerability over verbosity. I’m a glutton for sad songs and ‘Funeral’ is one of the saddest I’ve ever heard. It still affords me the lovely ache I felt when I first listened to it.

The new album from Agnes Manners, Fantasia Famish, is out now.