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