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.
Ottawa’s Kathleen Edwards is one of Canada's great breakout stars, whose music has been acclaimed the world over. Her latest album, Voyageur, is on the short list for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize, the second time Edwards has been so honoured.
On July 27, Edwards and her amazing band play the Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ont., and she has more dates across Canada and beyond to the end of 2012. For Edwards, looking back on some key records in her collection bolsters her sense that they affected her life in profoundly deep ways.
“Nineteen-ninety-eight to 2002 was a huge time in my life as a music fan,” she explains. “I discovered music that shaped my whole existence, and in hindsight it shaped me into the artist I am now. There were so few ways as a suburban teenager to find out about new music that wasn't mainstream or popular.
“Summer camp is the only way I even found out about Sarah McLachlan and Ani DiFranco. But starting in ’97, I suddenly was exposed to music that I'd never heard of before. The Dirty Three, Afro Celt Sound System, Aimee Mann, East River Pipe, Josh Rouse, Yo La Tengo, Wilco, Beth Orton, Sparklehorse, the Flaming Lips. It was like winning a prize for discovering and realizing that there was so much more out there to be heard. So, no thanks to commercial radio or the internet (shocking! I know!), here is a list of some albums that I hold dear.”
Strangers Almanac by Whiskeytown (1997)
This record changed my life. It was the first time in my life where I really couldn't stop listening to an entire album. I was working at Starbucks on Elgin Street in Ottawa – my first post-high school job – back when Starbucks was the cool "neighbourhood" spot. Remember when the machines were real espresso machines? Ya, then.
One lucky person had a job at Starbucks whose job it was to make mixed tapes for all their in-store music, and one day a new "Americana"-themed one showed up. One song that came on over and over during my eight-hour shifts was a song I initially thought was a Wilco song. I finally took the time to sneak to the back office and scan the playlist. It was "Turn Around" by Whiskeytown. The album symbolizes a very nostalgic time in my life where I was waking up to songs, songwriters, country-tinged music, alt-country, whatever you want to call it. I went to bed with "Dancing With the Women at the Bar" playing in my bedroom every night for easily six months. I never got to see Whiskeytown in concert (thank God!), but I definitely wanted to be Ryan Adams.
Since by Richard Buckner (1998)
If I wanted to be Ryan Adams, I definitely wanted to f--k Richard Buckner. It's a tough choice for me to choose between Devotion and Doubt, Since, and Impasse, but if I'm forced to pick one, it would probably be Since, based on how much i actually listened to it and how much it influenced me (although I think Impasse is a better record).
I could barely contain my fan-ship when he'd come and play at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Que. He is the kind of artist who will never be famous, but is spoken of in hushed tones as the person whose work far outshines most contemporary songwriters. He certainly has influenced most of them.
Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk (1988)
Hearing Talk Talk for the first time was a revelation. It allowed me to finally hear how my classical music background fit into my popular music approach. It's the saddest and happiest album I've ever known and, frankly, it sonically achieved what bands are still trying to replicate: trying to be lush and sparse at the same time, beauty and fragility, ambitious and quiet.
Z by My Morning Jacket (2005)
It satisfies all my criteria for a classic pop/rock album. Great songs, great hooks, tons of guitar solos, tons of feel-good sing-a-long arena choruses, but never too shiny. And what a rhythm section to boot. I toured with MMJ as their opener during this album in 2005; it remains my favourite tour to date, mostly because I got to hear every song after I played my set.
Curse Your Branches by David Bazan (2009)
I first heard the first track from this album, "Hard To Be" in Seattle in the winter of 2009 when I was at a very major crossroads in my creative and personal life. The story behind this record is very moving and powerful, and [David Bazan] tackles some huge questions about life and love and faith, and it became the soundtrack to a time in my life I'll never forget. There is strength in the experience of change when you know you're not alone.
Catch Kathleen Edwards at the Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ont., this weekend and beyond.
5 for 20: Bahamas
5 for 20: Damian Abraham of F--ked Up
5 for 20: Dave Clark of the Woodshed Orchestra
5 for 20: Jayme Stone
5 for 20: PS I Love You
5 for 20: Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies
5 for 20: Bry Webb
5 for 20: Cold Specks
5 for 20: Dan Griffin of Arkells
5 for 20: Parlovr
5 for 20: The Dudes
5 for 20: Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces
5 for 20: Baby Eagle
5 for 20: Tamara Lindeman of the Weather Station
5 for 20: Dave Ullrich of the Inbreds
5 for 20: Patrick Pentland of Sloan
[CMW] 5 for 20: Mike O’Neill
5 for 20: John K. Samson of the Weakerthans
5 for 20: the Barr Brothers
5 for 20: Warren Ellis of the Dirty Three
5 for 20: Edgar Breau of Simply Saucer
5 for 20: Plants and Animals
5 for 20: Lynn Perko Truell of Imperial Teen
on Jul 27, 2012