Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Aurora June 2018 Photo by Mathew Parri Thomas 032
Nine Songs

Ahead of the release of her third album, Norway’s greatest pop export talks Thomas Harvey through the songs that have shaped her life and sound.

31 May 2019, 08:00 | Words by Thomas Harvey

From a bustling city to the stillness of the forest; one of the first things that AURORA says to me is that as much as she loves music, she rarely listens to it. Instead it’s the sounds, sights and smells of the world that truly influence the Norwegian singer/songwriter.

Aurora Aksnes grew up without a television or radio. It’s not been the study of listening that’s carried her craft as a songwriter, rather the experiences and feelings she’s discovered and observed. Consequently, when we meet in London to talk about the songs that have made an impact on her, she references the memories attached to each of them, rather than musical influences.

AURORA feels it’s important to take solace in the finer details of a piece of music, as well as the core of good song-writing. Many of her selections are from timeless, legendary artists, unsurprisingly for a writer whose productions can often be modernised on songs like ‘Queendom’, from 2018’s Infections Of A Different Kind - Step 1, the follow up to her debut All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend.

With the next chapter of the songwriters musical story arriving with A Different Kind Of Human - Step 2, AURORA explains how these nine songs have helped to shape her during the different periods of her life, from the feeling of kinship she felt with the audience at a Mastodon show at the age of eleven, to her honour in playing in the name of Leonard Cohen, to whom she paid tribute in a museum exhibition to his memory in Montreal.

“Perfection is impossible” AURORA explains, an idea that’s an important reminder to herself when creating her music. Nonetheless, her relationship with music always stays with her as a friend.

“Rez” by Underworld

“I discovered this song and this band a year ago, quite randomly. I love going to rave parties alone and of course I don’t drink, because I don’t want to be vulnerable to an attack and get into any trouble. I don’t drink, but I stay safe and I just dance.

“I just really love to dance. It’s kind of like a workout for me, because I’m very energetic on stage. I was at a rave party in France on a boat and I heard this song and I had to ask someone ‘What song is this?’ and I found it later.

“Now I listen to it sometimes when I cook - everything techno is my cooking song. The last meal I was cooking and listening to it with was waffles I think. I have a new waffle maker and it can cook two waffles at a time.”

“Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen

“May he rest in peace, the lovely little angel. I love this song. Musically we only heard Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Enya when I was a child, there was nothing else as we didn’t have a radio. I love Enya as well, especially the way she just stays the same and doesn’t change her sound. She knows what she’s here to do and she does it.

"This was one of the songs that I really loved when I was unable to understand what he was saying, because I didn’t know English then, or at least I didn’t know these lyrics yet, because they were so complicated. I ended up learning my English mainly from online gaming or computer games like World Of Warcraft.

“’Suzanne’ is my childhood, safety, my mother, discovering music and English and falling in love with a song again and again the more that I grow. It’s like a forever growing song, because it grows with you while you grow.”

“A Seated Night” by Moby

“This song was on my computer, by a mistake I think, and on our family computer. We had a computer much later on - before computers were normal to have in every house - and we didn’t have a radio or MTV when I was growing up.

“I didn’t discover music when I was a kid and I still don’t really, because I don’t have many music platforms on my phone, but ‘A Seated Night’ was randomly downloaded through LimeWire onto our computer and it was the first song that I discovered through technology.

“I really love Moby, although I haven’t dived deep into him yet. I love the choir and I think that’s why I fell in love with this song, it’s just so nice. I love arranging myself into a choir and I’ve used a real choir for my music, a gay choir from Norway called Faggots. They’re really good, they just sing like real people and are really talented, more than I ever knew before I was working with them.

“They’re on “It Happened Quiet” and “Churchyard” and they’re also on my new record, where you can hear them quite promptly. They’re gorgeous. Ever since I heard this song, it had always been my dream to have a choir on my record.”

“Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles

“This was the first song where I really enjoyed some of the production stuff in it. I really love different cultures and I’m really into this kind of vibe. I really liked it when I was a kid, I heard it when I was a sixteen-year-old kid, not like four, I was a bit older.

“I found all my music through CD’s, even though there were other platforms, I was just really slow. We didn’t have stuff at home like a TV or radio, so I discovered this through a CD because I really liked the cover and that’s why I bought it, an LP actually, so old-fashioned! It was the second LP I ever bought for myself.

“The cover was really nice, and I just really liked it. And of course I knew about The Beatles, I knew that they were a big name, and I should listen to them and see if I like them or not. I just really realised that you can play along with things, and that’s when I became a producer.”

“Born Slippy” by Underworld

“I was driving through Iceland listening to this song and it’s just really gorgeous. I think this is how people feel when they take drugs - they begin on this floating cloud and then it becomes a bit chaotic at the end.

“It sounds like they were on drugs when they made it, but it doesn’t make me sad when I think about it, there’s something with it, it’s positive without making me vomit, which I really enjoy. Sometimes happier music is hard to listen to, because you can question as to why you aren’t as happy as the people in the song, but I like this song.

“I discovered this song much later, after ‘Rez’. When I hear one song I don’t automatically go and find the whole album, I kind of stop and just have fun with that song for months - I get really patient with songs and I can listen to them for months. I saw that ‘Born Slippy’ was on the same album as ‘Rez’ and now of course I have the whole album and I have rave parties for myself, just me.

“I also love to listen to this song whilst I paint, when I paint something without meaning. I’m full of opposites or coherent contrasts, one day I like to be at rave parties and then I like to be in forests. I like to see what the world has to offer me.”

“American Beauty: Original Motion Picture Score” by Thomas Newman

“This is my alarm clock; I wake up to it every morning. It’s so brilliant because it begins with this... and then I listen to it when I read books on a loop and it’s enough for me. It’s all I need. I have like one song for every mood.

“I heard this way before I watched the movie American Beauty. It was many, many years ago and it was one of the first songs I had. I had an orange iPod which I got for Christmas and I only had this song on it for years. I still think if I went into that iPod now, this is the only song I would have on it. I haven’t had it for years though, and they were such nice colours.

“It’s good for walks in the forest, it’s like everything is still. Another is the Finding Nemo soundtrack which is also good for timeouts or when you go for walks. It’s really lovely.”

“The Hunter” by Mastodon

“I really love heavy metal. I’m very open, so I don’t really care about genres and often with heavy metal I just like it. I was a huge fan of many heavy metal bands when I was a kid, the first concert I went to was Gojira and then Mastodon and then Slayer. I was eleven and I really loved it.

“None of my friends liked the music and so I remember feeling at home at the shows, because I met people who understood it. It’s so angry without being hostile if you really listen to it, but it can sound hostile to people who don’t understand it.

“This is quite a calm song by Mastodon. It’s a childhood memory, but a song that allowed me to discover Mastodon with a more melodic song than most heavy metal bands I knew. I saw them play two times actually.

“I try and turn what I love about heavy metal into something that more people can understand, like in songs like “Under The Water” and “The Seed”, the single I just released, is more heavy. I like the weight.”

“The Partisan” by Leonard Cohen

“I did this song for an installation at a museum in Montreal, I covered it in one of the rooms in his memory and it was really an honour. It was all of his life and achievements as pieces of art in the museum, and they asked artists to showcase his art so that people could see those that he influenced.

“I really love this song. I know that he speaks of the Second World War and I think that’s not often spoken about, considering how much pain it brought the world. Also, in art and music we don’t really paint or sing much about it but it’s important that people talk about it, because it’s something we carry on our shoulders and we did it to each other as a species.

“I think about it a lot, but it’s good to distance ourselves from the memory too. I have a few songs about the matter, though some are more obvious than others.”

“Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap

“This is a really sad song for me. I listened to it in a sad stage of my life, I could have gotten through without it, but it encouraged self-pity and staying in the sorrow, and I think that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes you can stay for a while on things and cry and move on a bit later. I never listen to this song anymore because it reminds me of a sad time, but it’s still an important song to me.

“I like Imogen Heap as a producer. I like the vocoder on this, even though I think she’s using a different machine than the standard vocoder; I don’t really like the way a vocoder makes double voices sound so thin. If it sounds like I’m using a vocoder then I have always made it myself, but it’s a good balance here with this song. It works. I think vocoders are an ugly thing, but the way it’s executing its mission in this song is good.

“This song opens up my memories, but it will live on forever for me I think. Some dude used this sample in a song which I hated, and it got more famous than her song, so now I put it on all the lists I can really. I know people know about her, but I just wish more people had heard this song.”

A Different Kind Of Human - Step 2 is released 7 June via Decca
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