Laura Lee of Khruangbin’s listening diary: ‘An Israeli artist singing a bolero in Spanish is an unexpected twist’

9 September

10am I was feeling lazy. I’d only been home three days from tour and already had to leave in two days’ time. It hit me that I needed to do things like go to the DPS office and get a teeth cleaning, and today was the only opportunity. Ofra Haza has this anthemic, rejoiceful way about her that pumps me up and feels like I’m staring into my own biopic, ready to take on the world. I started to listen to her record Bo Nedaber, but then shamelessly just listened to the first track, Tfila, on repeat, which kept me upbeat and ready to plow through the small, necessary tasks of my life. On the way back home, I listened to another one of my favourite tracks by her, Al Ahavot Shelanu from her 1980 record of the same name.

12.30pm Cleaned out my studio garage. My post-tour messes had piled up, and I was finally going to clear it all out, organise the new items I’ve collected, and gawk at my beautiful renewed studio digs. I put on a couple records that I picked up in a record store on a day off in Winchester, VA that were uncovered in my clean: Zagora by Loose Ends and Black Uhuru / D-Roy Band. Perfect.

2pm A semi-break from cleaning. Listened to a stack of 45s that Marko from Khruangbin sent me for my birthday last year, which also sadly got lost in the tornado that was my studio. I still cleaned, but 45s are quite demanding of my time and I enjoyed the procrastination. They included Mistero by Gigliola Cinquettei, Tu Peux Bien, Il Se Fait Tard, Je T’aime by Françoise Hardy, You’re Welcome / Heroes and Villains by the Beach Boys, You Only Live Twice / Jackson by Nancy Sinatra, Je T’aime … Moi Non Plus / Jane B by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. And Mol Kamach plus a few Thai 45s with no English translation. Quite a haul.

Related: The rise of psych-rockers Khruangbin

5pm One last push to put a bow on the studio. Popped on a 12in by the Rebels that I received in Toronto from a lovely woman I met, Christina Gina, who did a segment on Khruangbin for Discogs. I honestly couldn’t believe that she had it and that she gave it to me. The Rebels were a Persian rock band with members including two of my favourite singers from Iran, Ebi and Shahram Shabpareh. It’s now one of my most treasured records. The self-titled record, which I can’t find on Discogs, featured a cover of the Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There.

10 September

12pm I hung at home and packed for my upcoming trip. I do my best to listen to records, start to finish, if I’m at home – vinyl only. Since I do most of my listening these days on the road, on walks in different cities, I try to take advantage of a collection that goes a bit lonely at the moment. Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio’s Soul Slabs Vol 2 and Vol 3 make perfect music for the home, put out by the good people over at Colemine Records. Then I took it to a funkier place with Silk Road: Journey of the Armenian Diaspora, compiled by Brother Dan out of Miami on his label Terrestrial Funk. We made friends over the pandemic when I was in Miami, even though we never actually hung out due to world circumstances. And lastly, Dam Dam by Aris Sam. I binge this record constantly – especially the song Espera. An Israeli artist singing a bolero in Spanish is a twist I wasn’t expecting, and it pulls at my heartstrings every time.

4pm I got ready for a wedding and took the energy up a notch. Popped on Hot Chocolate’s Every 1’s a Winner and the Wonderland Band’s Wonderwoman theme, both also scored off my new bud Christina Gina. I flipped that last one until I was ready.

Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate pictured circa 1975.
Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate pictured circa 1975. Photograph: Sydney O’Meara/Hulton Archive

8pm Wedding bells. My friend, Mae Ryan was getting hitched in the woods around a lake in the Hudson Valley. It was beautiful and the event finished with a dance party in a barn, with DJs Yoav and Schnay, who played a mix of global jams and dance edits. I felt pretty at home. I didn’t dance with a pen and paper in hand, but I do remember the following songs being played and singing along to them: I Love You by Karriem, a Toribio remix of Vale La Pena, Where Is My Man by Eartha Kitt, Reckless with Your Love by Azari & III and an Oliver and Thee Mike B remix of Blondie’s Heart of Glass.

11 September

11am I made brunch for my friend-family. I have playlists that I started over the pandemic for every day of the week. Any time I’m listening to a song that fits into the category I’ve designated for a particular day, I add it to the list. Sunday’s list is “Lazy Sunday”. It’s over a few hours but includes the following: Lee Hazlewood’s She’s Funny That Way, DjeuhDjoah and Lieutenant Nicolson’s Poussent les Ailes, Velly Joonas’s Käes On Aeg, Shintaro Sakamoto’s Let’s Dance Raw, the Olympians’ Apollo’s Mood, the Chi-Lites’s Go Away Dream, HNNY’s Cheer Up, My Brother, John Martyn’s The Man in the Station, Dirty Art Club’s Girls in June, Orchestra Baobab’s Ledi Ndieme M’Bodj and Dojo Cuts’ Rome.

3.30pm Last-minute packing before New York fashion week tomorrow. Kelly Doyle’s recent release, Okay Okie, falls somewhere in between easy listening and epic. This musical virtuoso never fails to awe me. It’s amazing music to listen to in the background but then when you put your headphones on it can get pretty heady.

6.30pm Car ride to the city. I went through my Discover Weekly on Spotify and found a few gems: Dizzy K’s Sweet Music. In Your Eyes by BadBadNotGood featuring Charlotte Day Wilson; a song off Jaako Eino Kalevi’s 2015 record, and Klara Kristin’s Lullaby & Drum Machine.

7.45pm I had a Nick Hakim binge – went backwards through his catalog until I hit QADIR (extended version) and then just played that on repeat until I arrived in New York. Not the first time this has happened.

14 September

7.45am I got ready for the Batsheva fashion show to a playlist by my very fabulous stylist friend, Cary Tauben, filled with songs fit for getting ready, dancing in the bathroom using a brush as a microphone and feeling amazing. Songs included: Live for Loving You by Gloria Estefan, I Want to Thank You by Alicia Meyers, Darling Come Back Home by Barbara Mason and Shopping Cart by Parallel Dance Ensemble.

9.45am After leaving the event and heading across the bridge to Brooklyn, inspired by the raw energy of the show – with models walking down the aisles of a Jewish deli, and attendees picking at the plates of latkes, coffee and orange juice in front of them – I put on a rip of a recent compilation I picked up in the UK, Strange Passion: Explorations in Irish Post-Punk DIY and Electronic Music, 1980-1983.

11am Prepared for a long interview, feeling nervous and wanting to calm myself, I listened to one of my favourite records of all time: Rhapsody in White by the Love Unlimited Orchestra. It takes me on a journey of all of my emotions, but always landing on hope, in this epic, cinematic masterpiece by one of my almost home town heroes, Barry White. I wouldn’t be listening to any music of my own choosing for the next 10 hours and I really needed this.

11.30pm A walk to get a late night slice of Joe’s Pizza – a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine anytime I’m staying in Manhattan proper. After a stunning yet gruelling day, I decided to prance down the streets like no one was watching and listen to Ethel Merman’s There’s No Business Like Show Business off her Disco Album. No doubt it probably doesn’t fit most modern atmospheres in 2022, but it was definitely the right one for my night, and it is most certainly a banger. A love letter to show business, it makes me feel like celebrating and crying all at once – a feeling I rather enjoy. It’s epic, it’s Broadway, and it makes me feel proud and sad and happy about being a performer.

  • Khruangbin and Vieux Farka Touré’s Ali is available now on Dead Oceans