Music Feeds’ Love Letter To A Record series asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share stories about how the music they love has influenced their lives. Here, Phoebe Baker, aka Sappho, confesses her love for Devendra Banhart’s Cripple Crow (2005).
As co-lead vocalist for Melbourne indie-pop group Alpine, Phoebe Baker toured the world multiple times and released two acclaimed albums via Ivy League Records. Baker has recently turned her focus to Sappho, a solo project that sees the experienced front person producing a more creatively liberated strain of pop music than ever before. Sappho’s self-titled debut EP is out now via Ivy League.
Sappho’s Love Letter to Devendra Banhart’s ‘Cripple Crow’
I discovered this record in a strange way. I was in the car with my mum driving around Melbourne. I had just picked up a Beat magazine and was leafing through it. I was probably having a good look at the pages where they used to have those photos from club nights at Click Click, where you might spot yourself looking dazzled and tipsy under the glare of a flash.
Anyway, I came across an interview with Devendra Banhart talking about life and music and his new album, Cripple Crow. I had never done anything like this before, and have not since, but just from reading that interview I decided that I’d love his music, and without having heard the album, I went and bought it.
Some magic must have been in the air that day because I fell deeply in love with that album, all its eccentricities, its freedom, its playfulness, its dissonance, its gentleness. Devendra’s music spoke to me. I felt like I just “got” what he was saying; his poetry made complete sense.
It was inspiring to me as a musician – the freedom and unpredictability I found in his music reflected my own desire to make music that wasn’t bound by typical musical rules. When I make music, I’m often searching for the sweet spot of something that has elements of familiarity but also takes unexpected paths. Cripple Crow had this in spades.
It also seemed to have my favourite blend of earnestness and not taking itself too seriously. I felt liberated listening to it, like I didn’t have to be one thing and that the world is full of oysters to explore. It was just a total joy to listen to this album.
Devendra Banhart – ‘Santa Maria De Feira’
From that day on, Devendra became one of my favourite musicians, releasing more albums that spoke to my heart and soothed the soul. Cripple Crow is now not my favourite album of his, but it holds a very special place in the musical history of my life, and sometimes I go back to it like visiting a dear old friend.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is ‘Hey Mama Wolf’. Sonically it just seems to carry a deep lovingness, and I think ultimately that’s what Devendra does; he channels and spreads a whole lot of love.
I met Devendra many years later. We were both playing at Splendour in the Grass. I don’t get nervous meeting famous people but for him, I was shaking like a leaf. His music felt so personal that it kind of overwhelmed me to actually meet him in person. Needless to say, he was as lovely as his music is.
So thanks Dev, for the music and the freedom. Life is better with your music in it.