Five favourite audio recordings for headphones from Hollie McNish

Hollie McNish. Photography: Damian Weilers

Hollie McNish is a published UK poet and spoken word artist who straddles the boundaries between the literary, poetic and pop scenes.

She recently recorded seven tracks at Abbey Road Studios exclusively for Society of Sound. The session was unique in that no poet has performed and recorded at the legendary studios in the same day. Produced by Grammy-award winning Jonathan Allen, Hollie used a vintage 1940s ribbon mike from the studios’ extensive collection.

Here she chooses five of her favourite pieces of audio for headphone listening.

1.     Dead Prez, Mind Sex.
I think the sexy side of headphones is something often overlooked. Sensual, soft, sexy music is great to listen to on headphones. Whispered directly into your ears, only for you, where no-one else can hear. Not even if you’re sat on a commuter train at rush hour (depending on how loud you like to hear whispered tones!) For that reason, I think Dead Prez ‘before we make love let’s have some good conversation’ Mind Sex is a must. If you like that sort of thing, of course. The blushing sometimes gives me away.

 

2.     Paulo Nutini, Live.
The difference between Paulo Nutini’s voice in live and studio recordings is immense. With two Glaswegian parents, I was forced (willingly) to listen to the live recordings on repeat on most car journeys. “Hear the accent”, “proper deep Glaswegian tones” repeated my dad. “You don’t get that from the studio version”. I could hear it then, in the enclosed car space. But on headphones, that confusion between scratching and beautiful, garbling but crystal clear clarity of this singer’s voice fills my ear drum. It makes me love his voice, as well as his words.
3.     Melanie, Alexander Beetle.
I love storytelling and I feel like this is such a great, beautiful, simple story. When I listen to this with a pair of headphones I feel like I’m hearing a friend telling me something that happened that day. And I can hear the guitar strumming almost as loud as the voice in my ear and if I shut my eyes and listen I feel more annoyed with the person who let the beetle out each time. I can feel the kid’s pain!T

 

4.     The Skuff and Inja Show, Sunnicide
Two UK rappers and I think one of the best hiphop duos around. They work because their styles contrast each other so well. Laid back mixed with hyperdrive. The tracks I love pose each rapper in one ear – Skuff to the left, Inja to the right and your head is right in the centre filled with the beat and two opposing vocals conversing, arguing or just getting excited by the other rapper’s words. Amazing.

 

5.     Roald Dahl, Mathilda
Perhaps a slightly random choice but as a child I loved listening to story tapes, but only on headphones. Especially when the characters have such a selection of different sounds. Mathilda features a very softly spoken Miss Honey and the mean, violent Miss Trunchbull. I used to love having both voices speaking to me, screaming or whispering into my ear, mixed with Mathilda’s childish chatter. I felt as if I was truly in the story. I used to dream that I could jump into the tv when watching Carebears and this is kind of my audio experience equivalent!!!

Watch a film of her performance at Abbey Road.

Find out more about her recordings on Society of Sound

http://youtube.com/holliemcnish

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