Everywhere up and down the land, doors are opened to reveal dressing gowns and groggy, sheepish faces afore Deliveroo drivers who have seen it all before and then some. These are the scenes of a modern Sunday morning. The working week is long and weary but thanks to the same perpetual forces that make it a struggle, you barely have to move a muscle on the Sabbath.
This fine balance of dreaded hangovers, sacred peace and inaction or casual activities makes a Sunday morning a delicate beast to soundtrack. As the late great Hunter S. Thompson once wrote: “If Sunday is the Lord’s Day, then Saturday belongs to the Devil. It is the only night of the week when he gives out free passes to the Late Show at the Too Much Fun club.” The miasma of that club still sometimes lingers, so you don’t want to be treading into the Monday morning club with the sounds you welcome into your daybreak of bliss and bleary eyes—there’s still a fraction of fun in the air.
Thus, we have taken all of these filigreed factors into account below for a list of the finest albums you can slap on the turntable while you await your munchies, get cracking with a roast, or wrap up in headphones for a stroll around the park before Super Sunday gets underway. From Silver Jews’ gentle gruffness to Bob Dylan’s most leisurely effort, we’ve got you covered.
15 albums perfect for a Sunday morning:
Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea – Silver Jews
Somewhere between groggy and still drunk… Bill Callahan once wrote in tribute to his late friend and label mate: “The world is and always will be a David Berman lyric.” If that’s the case, then on a drunken Sunday you pray that it’s the one about the stars being the headlights of angels on their way to save us.
Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea is somehow simultaneously gruff and melodious like the sound of sandpaper on silk, and the poetry that props it all up whisks you towards a sense of earthly wonder in the wink of an eye. From start to finish Berman crafts perfectly realised boons that transfigures a reality perfectly realised with a windfall of lilting musical laments and love letters.
Idiot Prayer – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Songs of praise… The cacophony of Nick Cave’s back catalogue is distilled down to a sketch of sheer beauty that has you marvelling at its majesty in a fixed gaze for a solid 90 minutes of wonder. It’s just one man, a piano and a massive empty room, but you could drop a bomb into the bottomless bounty of unfurling poetry and euphony on display and never hear it explode.
If Sunday mornings are a time for reflection, then Cave cares to listen to all of your floating thoughts as he regales you with transfigured introspection riding on melodies he seems to have lassoed from the ether and sent back raffling at the rafters of the firmament. The performance is awe-inspiring, but it never daunts or gets ahead of itself either.
Nilsson Schmilsson – Harry Nilsson
Papering over the cracks… The album cover says it all. Nilsson’s dressing gown is the uniform of a Sunday morning, and his dishevelled hair has its own tale to tell. The songs contained therein similarly carry the air of a musician happily out of focus and fuzzed to thrilling formless freedom.
Playfulness sits alongside poignancy in a little sandpit of Nilsson’s own playground of imagination. He belts out the ‘Without You’, a power ballad that has threatened to fry karaoke machines, and then the very next song he regales you with the seemingly meaningless tale of an odd remedy for a tummy ache. This is the sort of irreverent balm you need to get you through a Sunday morning and set up an upbeat day.
Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
Soothing it out in style… Al Green might not be the greatest singer of all time, but he’s certainly in the top one. With butter-cutting ease, he squeezes more juice out of every note than a Vorsprung durch Technik lemon zester. And that same German engineering clearly presides over the pure perfect production.
There is simply something about Let’s Stay Together that smells of fresh roasting coffee. It also never seems to be anything other than sunny any time you listen to it even if your blinds are firmly drawn. With a voice of honeyed belle and Hammond organ overtures of sumptuous sexiness floating around, you may well keep those curtains closed a little longer.
Return – Katy J Pearson
Bopping along to the park… “I went to a show of Katy J Pearson’s. She played The Village Underground. It was class, she’s class. It was really, really good,” Tom Coll of Fontaines D.C. recently told us. Here at Far Out, we happen to agree. Her debut record, Return, was a hook-laden mix of the ethereal world of pillow-propped folk and the rather more visceral edge of the sort of seamless pop that Fleetwood Mac offered up with Rumours.
Her debut record has soothed me into action on many mornings with its unravelling balm of hooks. With horns and strings seamlessly entering the musical mix, nothing ever treads out of place as discordance is shunned in favour of perfect pop sensibilities. And what a voice she has too, it never strains beyond silken and without any pretence, it remains alluringly original.
To Love Somebody – Nina Simone
Setting the day up with soul… The aforementioned Nick Cave once opined that Nina Simone was probably at her best when she was singing other people’s songs despite her brilliant songwriting. This stunning covers album is a great testimony to that statement. As rousing as roaring sunshine through your morning window, the album is as brisk and gentle as weighty beauty ever gets.
Complete with works by Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, the LP is where all your favourites meet in one place. That party shifts clouds as Simone seasons stirring classics with such originality that it’s like you’re hearing them for the first time all over again.
At Last! – Etta James
A sofa-bound soul morning… Etta James once said, “I wanna show that gospel, country, blues, rhythm and blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll are all just really one thing.” She folds all that into a single album without ruffling a single feather along the way. After all, she had a voice that made silk seem coarse and satin about as comforting as a bailiff’s letter.
At Last! is James’ debut studio album, released in 1960 after the vocalist had already made the circuits of the day swoon with her stunning live performance. The title track may well be ostensibly about finding a lover, but there is more than a hint that the eventually that James celebrates like a bursting party popper pertains to her musical dream coming to fruition. What a thing to share in on Sunday.
Forever Changes – Love
Singing the sixties in the shower… The Summer of Love was a wild time for culture and sadly some masterpieces got lost amid the welter of music’s most colourful explosion in history. Thus, Forever Changes peaked at a sorry 154 in the charts, and in a weird way, it’s not hard to see why the masterpiece went amiss.
There is something mystical about the compositions that Arthur Lee and co crafted for the record. Bombastic horns and Mexican guitar licks simply weave their way into proceedings as naturally as bird song into a summer evening. The album is a mad medley of an era in amber and everything that entails. Thus, perhaps its fitting that it roars all the more riotously in a retrospective sense.
New Morning – Bob Dylan
Not a care in the world… Prior to making New Morning, Dylan vowed to write songs that avoided any implications beyond his own personal thoughts. In New Morning, this simple and beautiful message soars to triumphant heights so lofty that even Dylan himself seemed surprised. He had been a complete unknown even when people were trying their darndest to define him and on New Morning he finally shrugged their grubby mitts off of his coat tails and found peace and a productive new page in the wilderness of creative freedom.
The album joyously invites you to join it out there on your Sunday morning. The album’s ever-deepening existential introspection upheld an even grander universal truth than his earlier works within the rapidly modernising world – society may underpin freedom, but our lives are not governed by circumstance. Dylan seeks exultation and offers it up sonically for all us sinners to bask in.
Take a Picture – Margo Guryan
Psychedelic Sunday brunch: Of all the so-called forgotten albums, with Take a Picture, Margo Guryan provided the world with one of the very best. There is an undeniable beauty to many of these records that often proved simply a little too delicate and filigreed for the blunt force of the gaudy mainstream and slipped into the ether only to be fished out when the time was right.
By all accounts, Guryan had the sweet soul to match her benevolent work that has gotten many of us through the depths of the worst hangovers on a Sunday morning, here at Far Out, we kindly salute you for that Margo. The colourful tones on offer are not only medicine for a haggard mind, they stretch beyond that and get you moving towards the door with a spring in your stride.
Hours Were Birds – Adrianne Lenker
Taking a coffee into the garden… Adrianne Lenker described her first solo effort as “basically just like a live solo show.” She had just moved to New York, she scarcely knew anyone and clearly felt subsumed into the swarm of the Big Apple. All of that is wrought out on an album of sheer simple grace.
The summation springs forth to any listener almost immediately: these are ten perfect tracks that will be endlessly open-armed for the warm embrace of a revisit when needed. Not many records can offer themselves up as simply as that, but Lenker beguiles with such calm and beauty that the album sits in the rare realm of LPs that have to be listened to all the way through and enjoyed with dreamy uninterrupted contentment. Such simplicity serves as a soaring reminder of the profound gift of music; it’s a record that asks for nothing and offers exultant bliss in return.
Mowing – Michael Nau
Whisk yourself back to sleep… There is a gorgeous, quilted lusciousness about Michael Nau’s debut solo album that soothes like tea and whispers sonic cuddles coaxed from the ether. The album does to the world what a quiet book shop does to the ceaseless racket of the city outside of its doors.
Along its wavering journey, you barely think of things like instrumentation or musicology, its seamlessness never asks you to do anything other than sink into the tapestry of sweet images and feelings that it brings forth like spring to the blossoms. If this is the soundtrack to your Sunday then it’s sure going to be a sanguine one.
Titanic Rising – Weyes Blood
Kickstarting the roast in style… Natalie Mering has the sort of enchanting voice that she could harp every cliché in the book and it would still stir like a siren’s call. But that’s a laurel that she buoyantly leaves behind in a splurge of infused creativity as she juices every element of her talents to the pith.
A lot of the reporting upon the release of Titanic Rising used the word “retro” all too often, considering that ‘Movies’ stills sits as one of the finest pieces of modern production that has ever been put forward. Sure, there is a timeless timbre to her soulful tones, and the bravura of the melodies could easily be transposed into classics for a time-travelling plagiarist like Skeeter Davis in the 1950s. But the brave brilliance of meddling that with the rich density of music’s culminating journey disavows the past and establishes Weyes Blood as one of the boldest innovators around.
Cosmo’s Factory – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Getting back on it… Cosmo’s Factory is one of many rollicking records that led Creedence Clearwater Revival to a brief explosion that at times even outsold The Beatles. Alongside classic rock arrangements is a level of introspection suitably matched to the moment you eye up the Sunday ahead of you.
On the record, the band achieve a tightness that has rarely been matched in music. Somehow they come together on every track to craft a self-contained sonic snatch of atomic energy. Bouncing along like a tour bus with dodgy suspension, this wild ride never lets up.
Tapestry – Carole King
Cleaning with constant hits: Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett cherishingly holds Tapestry and declares, “Every song is a hit, you’re kind of waiting for a moment to get up and go to the toilet or something and there is none!”
Bookended by the two masterful singles, the album retains quality right throughout. However, its peak achievement is that it is not simply a collection of hit singles, it swings and swoons through the moods while retaining the same creative thread, as is the measure of many great albums.