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(Credit: Kawala)

Music

Doctor's Orders: Kawala prescribe their nine favourite albums

@jackwhatley89

Kawala continue to be one of the hottest properties of the British indie scene as we approach summer. In truth, it’s hard to envisage a season more accurately befitting a band as summer does Kawala. The group were made for open-shirted revelry and tank-topped sunburns. Given their somewhat sunny disposition, we thought the band were a perfect candidate to provide nine albums to help us through some of the darker times. 

In partnership with CALM, we’ve asked a selection of our favourite artists and public figures to share nine records that they would prescribe for anyone and the stories behind their importance. Doctor’s Orders sees some of our favourite musicians, actors, authors, comedians and more offer up the most important records, which they deem essential for living well. CALM, whose full working title is ‘Campaign Against Living Miserably’, offer a free, confidential and anonymous helpline for those most in need of mental health support.

For Kawala, the idea of circling in one specific set of good vibes was always going to be a difficult task. Not least of all because the members of the band operate as individuals as well as in their grouping. However, by flicking through the expert record suggested below, we can all bask in the group’s collective and concentrated culture.  

The group originated when vocalist Jim Higson and guitarist/vocalist Daniel McCarthy were studying in Leeds and realised that they ought to be pursuing a musical career. They returned to their hometown of London and added Reeve Coulson on bass, Dan Lee on electric guitar and Ben Batten on drums. They then released their debut EP, D.I.L.Y.D, in 2018, which gained plaudits from across the music world, an indicator of things to come. 

The band then rose quickly to become one the hottest prospects in British music, consistently churning out hooky tracks, confirming Higson and McCarthy as two of the best songwriters in this new wave of British acts. 

When they first started out, they described their music as “indie meets folk meets afrobeat”, and on the recent album Better With You, they stick to that recipe but augment it with some luscious production and experimentations with textures.

Below, we get another taste of this eclectic adoration for all types of sounds as the group prescribe nine of their favourite albums of all time. 

If you’re able, and if you can afford to, please consider a small donation to help the CALM cause. £8 can answer one potentially life-saving call.

Kawala’s nine favourite albums:

So Long See You Tomorrow – Bombay Bicycle Club

“It was near impossible to pick between this and A Different Kind of Fix an album that truly shaped and changed the landscape of indie (for the better) forever,” proclaims Dan, the band’s vocalist and guitarist. 

The record clearly inspired him to grab life and take it into a new direction: “Especially for a young lad also from north London, when that album came out, it truly rocked my brain and said, ‘yes I think I would like to be in a band actually’. But it was really So Long See You Tomorrow that rocked my brain & convinced me this was the pinnacle of what music could be & truly inspired us to get Kawala started.

Innervisions – Stevie Wonder

“It’s hard to say too much about this album when truly it can be summed up with the simple word ‘perfect’,” thankfully, Daniel had a few more words to share on the astounding release.

“I had the luxury of growing up in a family who obsessed over music. My dad has an intensely eclectic music taste, ranging from country, punk and reggae, to northern soul, jazz and ‘80s hip hop. Yet amongst all of it, one album always stuck with me. ‘He’s Missra Know-It-All’ is easily one of my favourite songs of all time.”

Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

“I’d consider myself a bit of a traditionalist in my views on the shift into a more electronic musical landscape,” confirms Daniel, with Kawala expertly towing their own line of dancefloor dalliance.

“But one artist changed everything for me — don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved the likes of Bon Iver & those blurring the lines of folk & electronic — But no one has done it better than this first Sylvan album. It just perfectly blends a gorgeous vocal and impeccable melodies, with constantly interesting & exciting electronic production. It also flows perfectly as an album, offering such a sonic range with the chill likes of ‘Uncatena’, balanced with big upbeat songs like ‘H.S.K.T’.”  

Acoustic Live – Nils Lofgren

“Music can be so momentary,” expertly notes Jim, Kawala’s vocalist. “I’m not always a fan of seeing your favourite artist live and it sounding like the record. I’ve always preferred something personal to that experience. The album I’ve chosen is Nils Lofgren Acoustic Live.”

Like many of our favourite go-to records, this album has been a part of Jim’s life for some time: “I’ve listened to this album since I was 16. It’s mostly just Nils and his guitar but because of the way he plays it never feels empty as I’m sure it didn’t for everyone in the audience that night too. It saddens me that he recently removed the album off of Spotify in solidarity with Neil Young and his efforts in protest against the pay gap for musicians. For me this album encapsulates everything a live album should. The adrenalin of the artist, the unique nature of playing songs in an alternative way and the buzz of appreciation from the crowd.”

Graceland – Paul Simon 

“Another album that left an impression on me,” continues Jim, “is Paul Simon‘s 1986 Graceland.” A true classic in every sense of the word, Jim notes not only Simon’s impressive songwriting but its connection to the Kawala project as reasons for its selection.

“I heard it for the first time on a car journey through Italy in the summer. Probably the first album I ever listened to from beginning to end. Even at the age of 12 I knew and felt like this was an important album. I love Paul Simon’s conversational melodies and guitar playing style. Two things I like to think have made occasional appearances in Kawala’s songs too. I definitely draw inspiration from him as a writer.”

Deja Vu – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Like many of us, Jim finds even more solace in the idea of a supergroup ad there really isn’t a group more indicative of the word than CSNY. “The third album I want to choose is Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Deja Vu.”

“It has some of my favourite songs on it,” confirms Jim, elucidating that “no matter when or where [I hear them] I’m happy to indulge in them. In my opinion, they’re the coolest supergroup and their combined voices in harmony feel incredibly natural and from the heart.”

Bop Till You Drop – Ry Cooder

“My parents used to play this album a lot when I was growing up,” reflects guitarist Dan Lee as he reflects on the positivity of sonic lullabies, “and it still makes me feel happy when I hear it.”

“It’s made up of covers of classic R&B songs and one original. It has great melodic guitar playing throughout, with Ry’s slide guitar taking the vocal part on ‘I Think It’s Going To Work Out Fine’. It’s the sort of playing I love that compliments the songs perfectly.”

Dark Side of the Moon  – Pink Floyd 

“I listened to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon a lot growing up with my dad,” bassist Reeve explains. the album is widely considered one of the greatest ever made, and certainly ranks as Pink Floyd’s best.

However, like most of our most highly cherished albums, this record is more keenly connected to Reeves’ familial association: “He always loved Pink Floyd. We used to listen to it when we would drive up to Sunderland to visit his side of the family in the early ‘90s. It’s my first memory of listening to an album the whole way through. Every time I hear it I think of him and the long drives up north.”

good kid, m.A.A.d city – Kendrick Lamar

“It’s hard to pick my favourite album because I was introduced to so much great music by my parents,” confesses drummer, Ben. “But I chose good kid, m.A.A.d city because I discovered it myself.”

Sometimes, music can provide us with our own gateway out of reality. As close to legalised escapism as I possible, some records just speak directly to our own rhtyhms. “I remember when I got my first car,” Ben continues, “I would pick up my mate and we’d drive around listening to it on full volume. Kendrick’s music was just so different from any other hip-hop I had heard at the time, the beats, bass, and melodies that he used in the album were crazy. Each song brings back so many memories, which is what a great album should do.”