Natalie Judge, General Manager of Matador in the UK, has proven herself as one of the British independent sector’s most exciting A&R talents.

Her signings at the Beggars-affiliated label tend to be small in number, but mighty in quality.

She knows what she likes, and it ain’t easy to find.

Two recent examples epitomise these high standards: acclaimed post-punk foursome Savages, touring the US over the coming weeks, and Belle & Sebastian – a band Judge has adored for the majority of their 20-year career.

No huge shock, then, that Stuart Murdoch’s Scottish indie-popsters appear amongst the 15 songs Natalie’s picked for her life’s playlist, which you can listen to at the bottom of this post.

These are the songs that have meant the most to our subject – not only throughout her music career, but also her early life and adolescence.

The rules are simple: no shaming of your younger self, no erasing essential music from your personal history, no picking tracks that don’t mean everything to you.

While you listen to Natalie’s playlist, why not read her thoughts on five extra special recordings…

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 11.15.06George Gershwin – Rhapsody In Blue

One of my earliest memories is being in the car with my Dad whilst he played this. We would drive around and around the block until the full 15 minutes had played out – it felt wrong to cut it short. I remember being fascinated by how many parts formed the piece.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 11.17.44Melanie – Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) (1970)

I don’t really have much to say about this song, except I wish I’d been alive to go to Woodstock. I’m not a religious person, but if Melanie was in my local church, I’d be there every week.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 11.23.58Belle & Sebastian – The Boy With The Arab Strap (1998)

Everyone has a ‘John Peel introduced me to…’ story, and this song is mine – late night listening to the radio through my school years, it was the light relief at the end of the day.

He was responsible for introducing me to Belle & Sebastian and starting my cheesy life long dream – to work with my Scottish heroes, which of course came true. It’s funny how this song just immediately makes people happy. Unashamedly my favourite song ever…

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 11.25.18Spiritualized – Come Together (1997)

Aside from the beautiful village my parents lived in, Rugby was a pretty grim town to spend a childhood in. Spiritualized are probably the best thing to have come out of it, even taking into account William Webb Ellis and Flashman.

Jason Pierce was an enigmatic figure that occasionally lurked the streets outside my school. I was a teenager when Ladies & Gentlemen was released, and the string arrangements were a revelation. Still such an important record for me.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 11.26.15Cat Power – Metal Heart (version from Jukebox)(2008)

I chose the Jukebox version as it was the first Cat Power record I worked on and I love what she did with the song.

When you compare the original to this, you realise how much her voice has changed over the years. It’s matured into something even more beautiful and velvety.

She’s always on the cusp of breaking, in many ways, but the rawness here against the band is really something. She is Matador’s Queen.

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