When you’re an influential musician, people tend to ask you what you’ve been listening to lately. Here at 5 for 20, we’re just as keen to find out what records loom large in our favourite artists’ memory banks. So, we’re asking folks for their top five records of the last 20 years.
This week we caught up with Dan Griffin, a member of Toronto's Arkells but also a gifted solo artist in his own right. Griffin's latest solo album is Leave Your Love, which was released as a free digital download last fall and may be best described as ambient folk music. Griffin's on tour this week with shows in London (May 24), Ottawa (May 25), Kingston (May 26) and Waterloo (May 29). Like many before him, 5 for 20 put him in a reflective mood.
"Twenty years ago I was taking my first steps into discovering music on my own," he says. "Like all children of the '90s I've been through some pretty drastic changes in the music industry, so my memories are captured in the form of cassettes, mix CDs, MP3s and eventually even back to records. I've tried to pick the albums that track both the evolution of my musical influences and the formats changing around them."
Unplugged by Eric Clapton (1992)
I was 7 years old when this album came out. My dad bought it and always had it playing in his fancy new trunk-installed, six-CD cartridge changer in his car. I loved it. I think it's one of the first records that turned me onto the acoustic guitar and the blues. Whenever I hear it today, it takes me right back to Saturday morning trips to hockey practice at 6 a.m. Damn, that must have been tough; thanks pops.
No Need to Argue by the Cranberries (1994)
This was one of the first cassettes my parents bought for me. I remember playing it every night on my alarm clock/tape machine/radio beside my bed and in my blue Sony Walkman. I loved that song "Zombie." It was heavy and I couldn't believe it was the angry voice of a pretty lady sitting in front of a nice red couch. That same year, the Beastie Boys released the album Ill Communication, but because there was no way my parents were going to buy that album, I remember I got a friend to make a copy of it and add some of my favourite jams like "I Saw the Sign" by Ace of Base and "Loser" by Beck, ripped right off the radio. My first real "mix tape."
OK Computer by Radiohead (1997)
This was one of the first albums that I actually went and bought myself. This pick might seem obvious because of how influential it was – and it did have a huge impact on me eventually – but the truth is, it scared the shit out of me at first. I listened to it, had no idea what was going on, then traded it to a friend at school for a $20 HMV certificate (remember when CDs were like, $25? What the hell was that about?). Anyway, I ended up buying it again a year later and, after a really good listen, it totally changed the way I thought about pop music. I guess, like a lot of Radiohead fans, I was just too hung up on The Bends to give it a fair chance at first.
Now More than Ever by Jim Guthrie (2003)
In 2006, I had a girlfriend who used to burn mix CDs for me, which was great cuz she worked at a record shop and was way cooler than me. The track "Time is a Force" was on one of the mixes she made. I fell in love with it and asked her to burn the whole album for me (sorry Jim!). At the time, I was still learning how to record and write on my own. This record, along with Paul Westerberg's Stereo, inspired me to try for something more raw and personal. Sounds like a home recording, but has more dimensions. Killer string arrangements by Owen Pallett too, never hurts.
Skyscraper National Park by Hayden (2001)
In 2008, unsatisfied with crappy downloaded MP3s and cases full of scratched CDs, I decided it was time to check out what all this vinyl fuss was about. I was lucky, having commandeered crates full of vinyl records from my parents' old dusty collection. I went out and bought a new needle for the player and just ploughed through the classics. Everything from original copies of the Beatles' White Album, to Neil Young's Harvest, the Band's Music from Big Pink, Paul Simon's Graceland and Crosby Stills, Nash & Young's So Far. It made more sense to hear these old records in the original format.
So I went out to Cheapies Record Shop in Hamilton to buy one of my own favourites on vinyl: Hayden's Skyscraper National Park. It's a warm, nostalgic album and even better with the pops and crackle of vinyl. As a songwriter, Hayden is one of the best at capturing a feeling without giving too much away. Howie Beck and I recorded some of my new album at his home studio as well.
The Chronic 2001 by Dr. Dre (1999)
In 1999, on the precipice of Y2K apocalypse, the world went insane and pretty much you were into Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, Britney Spears or, for those who didn't care about what people thought of them, there was 98 Degrees. But, for the rest of us, it was pretty slim-pickins (pun-intended) other than a well timed comeback album by Dr. Dre featuring the real Slim Shady himself. At this time, I was beginning my foray into hip-hop music and there was arguably no better album to get behind since Wu-Tang's 36 Chambers. This was right around when people were downloading everything on Napster ... but, the Good Doctor made sure to design the cover of the album so that every rebellious young teen wanted to own a physical copy.
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