My Life In Mu­sic

The Cana­dian star’s per­sonal picks, from bird sounds to al­ter­na­tive takes on Con­gotron­ics: “Deer­hoof are the fuck­ing shit!”

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Mélissa Laveaux

AALIYAH OS MUTANTES OS MUTANTES POLY­DOR, 1968

This in­spired me to pick up gui­tar. For some rea­son I got into Os Mutantes on Nap­ster, and par­tic­u­larly the song “Pa­nis Et Circenses” – ‘Bread And Cir­cuses’. I thought it was so odd. Un­til then I’d been lis­ten­ing to Top 40 songs, like Mariah Carey and Ce­line Dion, and all of a sud­den you had songs with bird sounds and in­stru­ments I’d never heard. All the time sig­na­tures were dif­fer­ent. I don’t take drugs, but I wanted to make my friends who take drugs lis­ten to this record: “What does it sound like to you? What is your ex­pe­ri­ence?”

WILDBIRDS & PEACEDRUMS RIVERS THE LEAF LA­BEL, 2010

This re­ally gave me in­ter­est­ing takes on rhythm. See­ing them live I freaked out – it’s just vo­cals and drums, but it’s ex­cel­lent drums and ex­cel­lent vo­cals and they both meld to­gether per­fectly. I started out play­ing alone, then I played with a per­cus­sion­ist, then I had a band, then in be­tween al­bums when there’s less bud­get I had to play alone, and bands like Wildbirds & Peacedrums would re­mind me of the power of hav­ing very bare sounds that sound very full at the same time.

VAR­I­OUS ARTISTS TRADI-MODS VS ROCK­ERS: AL­TER­NA­TIVE TAKES ON CON­GOTRON­ICS CRAMMED DISCS, 2010

Crammed asked a bunch of indie-rock peo­ple to play songs by West African bands like Ka­sai All­stars and Konono Nº1. It’s a great mix of Western mu­sic and con­tem­po­rary African mu­sic. I’d never re­ally paid at­ten­tion to Deer­hoof un­til this record, and from then on I was like, “Deer­hoof are the fuck­ing shit!” Konono and Ka­sai All­stars are from the Congo, and as much as I’d lis­ten to a lot of mu­sic from Sene­gal and Mali, I’d never re­ally lis­tened to mu­sic from the Congo.

ELVIS COSTELLO AGE AIN’T NOTH­ING BUT A NUM­BER BLACKGROUND/JIVE/BMG, 1994

This is the first al­bum I bought, I think I was 12. I didn’t know the whole thing about her be­ing 15 and mar­ry­ing R Kelly, but I was a re­ally big fan. Un­til I got this I had only been mak­ing tapes from the ra­dio, and this was the first time I lis­tened to a whole record – Side A and Side B – and I re­alised, “Some songs are bet­ter than oth­ers! Like, the songs that play on the ra­dio are way bet­ter than the songs that don’t play on the ra­dio…” So it was fun for me.

I WANT YOU DE­MON/COLUMBIA, 1986

When I first heard this I think I was al­ready liv­ing in France but I was back at my par­ents’ house vis­it­ing for Christ­mas, maybe eight or nine years ago? I just love the idea of a song be­ing like 10 min­utes long, and start­ing in one place and then end­ing some­where com­pletely dif­fer­ent. I think it’s gor­geous. This is a song I wish I could have writ­ten, but I don’t know if I could have writ­ten those lyrics. They’re just bril­liant.

CARL DOU­GLAS KUNG FU FIGHT­ING PYE, 1974

This is a sta­ple from my child­hood! I was do­ing karate at the time and I re­mem­ber be­ing re­ally ex­cited to do the karate moves in the song. It’s such a happy feel­good song, [but] I’m sure it’s com­pletely cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pria­tive… We had a record player and my dad had it on vinyl – the only records of his that I re­ally went through were a load of Haitian records, which were my favourite, and Carl Dou­glas [laughs]. So this one has to go in here.

ST VIN­CENT AC­TOR 4AD, 2009

She’s one of my favourite gui­tarists. When I went to high school and started play­ing gui­tar, the boys said, “She can’t play ‘Stair­way To Heaven’, she’s not re­ally a gui­tarist…” It was very an­noy­ing. But St Vin­cent doesn’t play gui­tar like ev­ery­one else, and Joni Mitchell doesn’t ei­ther, and I ap­pre­ci­ate that. She is much bet­ter on the gui­tar than I am, but her abil­ity to write com­pli­cated gui­tar pat­terns and re­ally good melodies is some­thing that I’m very much in­ter­ested in. She doesn’t make easy-lis­ten­ing mu­sic even though it’s very much pop – it’s com­pli­cated pop, it’s smart.

ALICE COLTRANE JOUR­NEY IN SATCHIDANANDA IM­PULSE!, 1971

This is a record that I came to late – I lis­ten to a lot of playlists, but this is an al­bum that I can ac­tu­ally lis­ten to all the way through. I’m not a trained mu­si­cian, so I can’t re­ally get all the com­plex­ity of what Alice Coltrane does, but it’s how it makes me feel that mat­ters: it makes me tingly, it calms me down and set­tles my nerves. It makes me want to get my gui­tar out and play some ran­dom things and ex­plore.

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