The Divine Comedy, “The Booklovers”
My father was a book lover, he edited English language literature from Wales. Anglo Welsh Poetry was his delight, and his expertise. I got into the Divine Comedy when I was 15, this strange Northern Irish lyricist who seemed obsessed with literary figures. I worked back from his Casanova album, my entry point to the band, and found this. My dad explained to me the band’s name was from Dante’s The Divine Comedy, and he was into this. I think he was ok with me going off to see them play after that.
I would cleverly miss sport lessons and go and sit in the Ankst Records offices in Cardiff of an afternoon. Hours spent taking it all in, as Super Furry Animals, Catatonia, Gorky’s, Topper and Llwybr Llaethog would drop into the office; Owain Rogers and Emyr Glyn Williams patiently explaining to me what was going on, their enthusiasm wholly contagious. They taught me that music was to be taken very very seriously, that this stuff could change lives. And that organising stuff around the music being made was to be taken very seriously too. Best lessons I ever had.
Sian James, “Gweld Ser”
Sian James is highly respected singer and harpist from mid Wales, a queen when it comes to the tradition of Cerdd Dant, a traditional form of Welsh music. This song floored me when I first heard it, her lyrics asking "Who am I?" and "Why am I alive?". It all becomes clear as she brings it back home, as she mentions seeing the mischief on the local schoolyard, and even more mischief in the local male voice choir. It's odd because it’s not from my world, it’s not even my kind of music, but It brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it. And it helped me move from London, home to Cardiff.
I heard this song at exactly the right time in my life. My father had passed away, and my son wasn’t a year old. I lost my dad and became a dad and, of course, that is going to be a lot. And Guy Garvey puts into words what I hadn’t said out loud yet, that my dad lives on in my son. I found the song completely overwhelming and listened to it, crying, for months after I first heard it. I’ve never had a song take my breath away and make complete sense lyrically, speaking to my exact emotions at that time.
Antony and the Johnsons, “Hope There’s Someone”
The sadness, the heartache, desperation, beauty and magic of this track has remained with me. I was on radio when this came out, and it was such a privilege to invite the band to Maida Vale studios around the time this came out.
Huw Stephens’ new show on BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Sounds is on Tuesday to Fridays (4-7pm) from Tuesday 9th January.