Estonian five-piece Holy Motors—which includes guitarists Lauri Raus, Hendrik Tammjärv, and Gert Gutmann, vocalist Eliann Tulve, and drummer Kaspar Kiinvald—excel at creating immersive ambience through twangy, reverbed guitar. Their music sounds like cowboy dream-pop with a dark side, like lost B-sides from the Paris, Texas soundtrack. Their latest single, “I Will Try,” which we’re premiering below, perfectly embodies their cinematic milieu. Layers of guitar develop into a wall of sound tinged with echoes of noir and Western psychedelia.
“The first time we played this song to anyone was in a movie theater at a Jarmusch screening,” said the band in a statement. “Can it be that this song is addressed to movie-goers more than concert-goers? It easily can.” The band’s relationship with cinema makes sense—their alias comes from Leos Carax’s astonishing 2012 film of the same name. Considering their talent for building worlds, it’s a legacy they can live up to.
Slow Sundown, Holy Motors’ debut album, comes out on February 9th on Wharf Cat records. In celebration, the band made us a playlist of songs they’d play at their funeral, which demonstrate how their aesthetic draws on everything from Elvis Presely to Tom Waits.
“Dreams,” The Cranberries
KASPER KIINVALD: There are strong similarities between the coming of death and going to sleep. The sole distinction between death and sleep is one of degree. Precisely as in death, the consciousness during sleep becomes, following upon a brief period of complete unconsciousness, the seat or active focus of forms of inner mental activity which we call dreams. So I could consider death to be a dream and why not let this song be the initiator for the everlasting dream.
“Ashes To Ashes,” David Bowie
KIINVALD: The two main forms of funeral rites adopted by most are either cremation or burial. I haven’t really decided which way to go, but if I were to be cremated, Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes” seems to carry a suitable theme for the occasion.
“Veere, Veere Päevakene,” Maarja Nuut
GERT GUTMANN: Having been to a couple of funerals I’ve seen a two-step dynamic that I would like to adapt to my own passing. The eye-wateringly sad burial bit followed by the drunken feast, filled with jolly and embarrassing stories, smiling mouths and tearful eyes. The following songs would be the first and last songs during this event. The first time I heard Maarja Nuut perform “Veere, Veere Päevakene,” my immediate thought was that this is the song I want played at my funeral. Following this stunning river of looped harmonies, it fills you with the longing for going back, as you let go and drift to somewhere primeval.
“Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis,” Tom Waits
GUTMANN: Although it’s my every year Christmas favorite, “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” is perfect company, as you sum up the evening, take the last shot of vodka and start heading home. The ideal soundtrack to forgetting and letting go.
“My Boat Is Sinking,” The Black Angels
LAURI RAUS: The question is harder than it seems, but also a lot more trivial. Perhaps this song would make complicated feelings a little easier to swallow. There’s this line that goes, “I’ll be there on your birthday, honey,” and that image of reaching back to life makes sense to me. But I get that this song isn’t imposing some great final gesture that would transcend the moment to towering highs, or anything like that. So if it doesn’t work, well then that’s just life.
“Return To Sender,“ Elvis Presley
RAUS: I enjoy a bit of religious music like any normal person, but I like Elvis Presley too. I think “Return To Sender is a great song with a title that relates to ideas about death, but still sounds indefinite enough for there to be one hundred thousand fantasies the name could entrap. Anyway, there should be a song that can break the ice on the decorum of death. Perhaps that’s an Elvis song. When I was little I had a stuffed Elvis bear.
“The One and Only,” Chesney Hawkes
HENDRIK TAMMJÄRV: Instead of the coffin going into the ground, I want my body to rise from the ground in a “Jesus on the cross” type of pose, smoke machines blowing, lasers twirling, pyrotechnics going off, and this song blasting from stadium sized speakers.
“Il Grande Silenzio,” Ennio Morricone
TAMMJÄRV: … and as the smoke settles, they start to lower my body in the cremation chamber, Ennio Morricone’s “Il Grande Silenzio” will be heard, during which everybody will be handed out revolvers in a ritualistic manner, and as the song reaches its conclusion, everybody will shoot their revolvers in the air and that’ll be that.
“An Angel Gets His Wings Clipped,” Croatian Amor
ELIANN TULVE: Croatian Amor’s tunes take me to infinity. That’s where I imagine myself to be, and while this song plays, there’s a chance we’ll be united again for the moment.
“Бути,” Ihor Tsymbrovsky
“Бути” means to be present in Ukrainian. Well, in this case I won’t be anymore, but I want to give the chance for everyone to enjoy this magnificent, soulful, dark folk piece.
SLOW SUNDOWN (WHARF CAT RECORDS) IS RELEASED ON FEBRUARY 2, 2018.