Music Feeds’ Love Letter to a Record series asks artists to reflect on their relationship with the music they love and share stories about how it has influenced their lives. Here, Ella Hooper raises a glass to Aquatic Flowers, the fourth album from Nashville songwriter Tristen (2021).
Ella Hooper has been making music for nearly three decades. She began her career as the lead vocalist for ARIA-winning pop rock band Killing Heidi before branching off to form The Verses with her brother and fellow Killing Heidi member Jesse Hooper. Ella launched a solo career in the early 2010s, releasing her debut album, In Tongues, in 2014. Hooper’s second solo LP, Small Town Temple, is out now and features the singles ‘Grow Wild’ and ‘Old News’.
Ella Hooper’s Love Letter to Tristen’s Aquatic Flowers
Ella Hooper: Dear Aquatic Flowers,
I fell head over heels for you. You made me revisit teen-like behaviour of almost-certifiable repeat listening, the sort of thing I did with Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and PJ Harvey’s Rid Of Me. You showed me I could still need a record, like medicine, surpassing mere want or fancy.
I spun you several times a day in a surreal phase of my life last year. Although there are others creeping in now to take your place – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, how you doing? – I feel like you, with your deceptive power pop, barbed lyrical quips and unusual emotional descriptors, deserve this note, for you impact on me alone.
Your creator, Tristen, had already cemented herself as a freaky genius in my eyes. I’m not alone in thinking that. Her song craft – melody and words intertwined so effectively and effortlessly – places her high on many “musician’s musician” lists. So, I was primed for your release, dear Aquatic Flowers.
Maybe there was something in the timing of when Tristen made you or what she’d been up to since her last record. Some of her time was spent making an actual human baby, as opposed to a musical one, inspiring some of my favourite tracks on you, ‘Julian’ and ‘Say Goodnight’.
Tristen’s music wrestles with the tangles of life; with fulfilment, ambition, self awareness versus self criticism, love, hate, and now motherhood. I, like Tristen, am never able to just be with what is. Songs like ‘Complex’ make me feel very seen. This internal friction is relayed so well.
Tristen – ‘Complex’
When Tristen calls herself “a drag to be around,” it’s so funny, sad and honest. I think that’s what cool is: self awareness and acceptance of one’s own imperfections. In songwriting, we share our innermost thoughts and fears in an attempt to work through them, relieving us of some of that internal weight. But it helps others to witness someone working through the same things they’re feeling.
You’re not pretending things are perfect. You’re tired and resigned and hopeful. A combination I find beautiful. So human. With buoyant chords and subtly brilliant arrangements housing clever lyrics about the sacred and the mundane, picking at the glue between the two, you’re a bit of a Trojan horse. I hear in you Liz Phair, Leonard Cohen, Greg Cartwright: the great, poetic, uncomfortable truth bearers.
Being enthralled by a record right when I was losing some lifelong comforts and structures gave me a world to slip into. You felt like good, real-talking company in a world gone mad. You stoked my desire to keep pushing life and its shit bits through a creative sieve. Because that’s all we can do. You reminded me that the questions and thresholds never end, but they are tools to an artist.
- Till the next spin (not too far away),
- Xx Ella
Ella Hooper – ‘Old News’