To celebrate the launch of the P5 Wireless headphone we asked some of our favourite artists to give us 10 tracks they’d never interrupt while listening on headphones. First up, East India Youth
Fela Ransome-Kuti & The Africa ’70 – Alu Jon Jonki Jon
I think the first time I heard this was on headphones, and while it may be more appropriate to be played out and danced to, I think being able to hear the stereo separation of the drums and percussion really adheres you to the hypnotic groove.
Donna Summer – State of Independence
Brian Eno said that this song – specifically Donna Summer’s version – is one of the high points for art in the 20th Century. I often listen to it while in transit for some reason, perhaps because the unbounded joy of the track plays well against the sometimes depressing prospect of the London Underground. If you see me on the tube with my headphones on, smiling, then there’s a good chance I’m listening to this.
Caribou – Niobe
There’s a lot going on in Dan Snaith’s stereo field. I think all of his music works just as well on headphones as it does in a club setting. The whole of ‘Andorra’ is a rich tapestry of sound, and I think the way stuff is screwed about with in terms of phase-shifting and panning on this track makes it a highly rewarding listen.
My Bloody Valentine – To Here Knows When
Is Loveless the ultimate headphones album? Nothing envelopes me more. And besides, you’re going to need headphones to be able to get a sense of the vowel sounds the barely audible vocals are making.
Cass McCombs – County Line
This album (‘Wit’s End’) is a dark but constantly warm affair and I think its lower-end moments are best enjoyed with your cans on. The reverb on the whole album seems very specific, and I think you can really get the best sense of the space created by listening closely.
Philip Glass – Act IV: Spaceship from Einstein on The Beach
Something everyone should do is listen to the entirety of Einstein on the Beach on headphones and become completely lost for a few hours. You tune yourself into a new way of listening to music and, perhaps, you will reach a new astral plane.
The Flaming Lips – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
I like to be saturated with sound and really get into dense atmospheric music, usually quite high on the midrange. The Flaming Lips with producer Dave Fridmann have given me that gift on many occasion, so it was hard to choose just one recording. This version of the classic written by Ewan McColl is easily one of the most beautiful and strange things I’ve ever heard.
Scott Walker – Clara
I’m really sorry if you’ve never heard this before and it scares the living hell out of you, but it’s quite nice when music does that, isn’t it? Easily one of the most terrifying tracks recorded. So many frequencies from barely audible highs to screeching, doom-laden atonal strings. Don’t listen in the dark. Or do, if that’s the sort of thing you get off on.
Factory Floor – Two Different Ways
Once again straddling the ability to be played through a PA and danced to, or to have a more intimate experience with, this absolute classic from Factory Floor has much percussive and shifting frequency detail that headphones enhance.
The European – Tearaway
I love this song so much. A beautiful ballad ending up being absolutely torn to shreds and into fragments of several different songs and sound sources introduced in the final section until grinding to a glorious halt.
Photo by Charina Pitzel, courtesy of KEXP