Juanita Stein‘s third solo album Snapshot is a project born out of the loss of her father. “In early 2019 he became suddenly very, very ill,” recalls the Brighton-based Australian, who first became known as the singer of Howling Bells. “From the moment I received that panicked phone call from my mother in the ambulance, life took on a profoundly surreal hue.”
He was diagnosed with AML (Acute Myeloid Leukaemia). “Nothing felt real, nothing felt right,” she recalls. “At times, I tried not to feel anything at all. Life was littered with symbolism, a toy snake on the ground (he dreamed of snakes the week before), the black crow outside his hospital room, a dream about my grandmother, these were almost certainly all symbols to me. That’s when I started writing the songs which would end up on Snapshot. They came thick and fast. I demoed everything that manifested, I felt a compelling inspiration I’d not felt before.”
Snapshot ties together the initial, rage-filled stages of grief and the urgent need to seize life. She found herself looking back at time shared, at memories made and archived in the cinema in her head. “Five years old, standing on a stack of telephone books in a recording booth in Melbourne, is my earliest musical memory,” she reflects. Marking the release of the new album for her This Music Made Me, Stein mined more of her music memory for the albums that have influenced her most…
John Prine – John Prine
This has secured a great place in my heart in recent years.
With album lists I feel obliged to only discuss the records that impacted me growing up. But that journey doesn’t end when we leave home. I’d always been aware of John Prine, but never took the time. It was years later when I heard ‘Pretty Good’ that he instantly remained a staple in my life. His self titled album hits and bruises and charms you like no other. His savvy lyricism cuts deep and at time makes you laugh out loud. He’s a total journey.
It was Prine that led me onto songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Iris Dement – who brought to life the most perfect duet with him.
Air – The Virgin Suicides
I’ve always loved Air. Like, a lot.
They inhabit an etherial world of perfect pop I feel perfectly comfortable floating around in.
Their songwriting is damn underrated I think, their musicianship is wonderful, their production is immaculate. The fact that they are French lends itself to the fantasy aspect of their music. The Virgin Suicides was that album that created a perfect fantasy for me to escape from reality.
I of course loved Sofia Coppola’s dreamy movie which showcased the soundtrack and so the imagery and soundtrack together were a real moment for me.
The Dandy Warhols – Thirteen Tales Of Urban Bohemia
A huge record for me on the road with Howling Bells. Me and Glenn (drummer) would be up the front of the splitter van for a good year listening to this on repeat. Like Air, I feel a lot of people dismissed them as one hit wonders perhaps, but I think they made incredible pop music.
Courtney Taylor-Taylor had undeniable swagger and a certain ‘ass-hole-ness’ about him which made it all the more intriguing.
I really liked their album Come Down too, but ultimately, Thirteen Tales Of Urban Bohemia is just a super solid, relentless, gut punch of swagger rock ’n’ roll.
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
The Suburbs is pure zeitgeist. They caught the shooting star, crashed the comet.
Like The Strokes’ Is This It, they just hit fucking bullseye with this one. Win Butler’s emotive delivery on every single song wraps itself around your neck. The song writing is superb, the subject matter is poignant and dark and reflective and to this day packs a punch. The collective spirit of the band lends itself to every chorus sung.
They’re like a bunch of street kids that grew up together learning to read each other’s minds musically and spiritually. The other albums never hit me like this one, but they remain one of the few bands that have the most to say.
The Beatles – Abbey Road
I mean, we all gotta have a Beatles album in there somewhere, they invented intelligent pop music – it’s just a question of which one. The Beatles, taught me (and the rest of the world) how to peg a song. My father gave me the HOLY BIBLE of Beatles songwriting in one giant song book and I would sit there night after night teaching myself how to play guitar with those tab notes.
I’ve flip flopped throughout the years on which is my fave record of theirs. Revolver, Sgt Pepper, but I always ALWAYS come back to Abbey Road. For me, it’s peak songwriting, peak melody, peak conceptual art, peak pop culture.
To have tracks Something/Come Together/ I Want You (maybe my fave?) and Because (also maybe my fave?) all on the same album is inconceivable to me! They manifested heaven and earth on this record.
Björk – Debut
I talk about this record a lot. Debut was a complete realisation to me. Björk descended upon the earth sounding like no one else, looking like no one else. She instantly confused me and enthralled me.
When so many other friends were utterly immersed in Tori Amos, I just found my shining light in Björk. She came on like an enraged, entitled, extraordinary punk princess from a far away land. I instantly fell in love. Although it’s not obvious in many ways, I took a lot from her.
It may have taken a few years for me to incorporate some subtle exoticism into my own music, but I carry that fiercely independent spirit with me now more than ever tbh.
Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
At the time of discovering this record, I had no idea of its musical and political significance. What drew me to it was the cover, stashed deep within my father’s vinyl collection in the attic, I was intrigued with the psychedelic artwork.
I was hooked from the opening notes of Too High, Living For The City punched me in the face and Golden Lady is still one of my all time favourite songs. His knack for strange and beautiful melodies forever hooks me in – I could talk about this record forever.
I’m still discovering things about it, and the fact that he plays so many instruments on it stands testament that he’s undoubtedly one of the greatest musicians that ever lived.
Dusty Springfield – Dusty In Memphis
Dusty is one of my favourite female vocalists. She dances between husky nonchalance and total and utter soulful command.
The musical arrangements are stunning on this record, the songs themselves breathtaking. I could never hear Son Of A Preacher Man too many times.
It’s hard to believe it wasn’t received that well at the time, but of course like so many legendary albums, it’s earned its space in the canon of classic soul records.
Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks
Another album I’ve not listed until now, I have a strange and complex relationship with Bob Dylan. As a family, we worshipped at the alter of Dylan. Dad would be upstairs replaying Blood On The Tracks and many other of his records until the drone of his monotone voice would drive to me to subtle insanity.
There was nothing exciting or colourful about this man and his drivel poetry, I swore off Dylan many times throughout my life. I went to see him live back in Sydney years ago and he droned on a stage for 2+ hours reigniting my distaste for our Christ of rock ’n’ roll. So what happened? Well, LIFE happened I suppose. Ups and downs, break ups, make ups, life and death, storms and sun showers, finding and losing my religion, womanhood, giving birth, finding peace, mourning a loved one.
And so… Dylan happened. Now and forever.
Jimi Hendrix – Axis Bold As Love
I grew up close to the ocean in Sydney, Australia. It’s a pretty unique relationship with nature you have growing up in an environment like that. You get to know the Earth as an open, warm and cosmic place where people worship the ebbs and flows of that great body of water.
Hendrix is all of that to me. He takes me directly back to the ocean, there’s something in his voice and guitar playing which is so symbiotic with the water.
His guitar playing sounds like rolling waves to me, like in Castles Made Of Sand and Little Wing. Hendrix takes me home.
Juanita Stein’s album Snapshot is out on 23 October 2020 through Nude. A special full band show from Brighton’s Electric streams on 1 November, with tickets available here. Tour dates and further information can be found at juanitastein.com