Tracing Andrew ‘Holy Hum’ Lee’s Life Narrative via Three Impactful Albums

Definitive Records asks interesting Vancouverites to sift through their memories and pull out the three albums that anchor their musical tastes. Today we hear from musician Andrew Lee.

The former fixture on the Vancouver indie music scene recently relocated to New York, where he continues to make music as Holy Hum. Lee kicks off his North American tour in April, punctuated by a stint at Vancouver’s York Theatre on the 21st as the third of four performers participating in The Cultch’s new ‘Soft Cedar‘ series.

Holy Hum’s most recent release was the deeply personal All Of My Bodies LP (out October 2017). It’s no wonder, then, that all of Lee’s album picks are more than just ear candy; each record is also a meaningful part of his life narrative. Here’s what he had to say about his music listening habits and the task of tackling the Definitive Records concept:

“I’m the type of music lover that will pick up a new album and will listen to it 50 times straight, completely exhausting the space in my head to take in any other information. I become obsessed. If the album is any good I will continue to listen to it throughout my life. If it doesn’t have any lasting power I will most likely never listen to it again.

I listen to the same albums constantly. No one needs to know what those albums are but I listen to certain albums in their entirety at least once every few weeks and will cycle through those records that I hold close to my heart. There are so many important albums in my life that choosing three is pretty difficult. But here we go…”

Nirvana – In Utero | LISTEN

“This album is the culmination of the two sides of Nirvana that I think fully embody their initial aesthetics – which is well written songs set against a backdrop of noisey guitars and very aggressive drums. On Bleach you get a sense of their ability to write catchy songs but they weren’t that catchy nor was the production that great. On Nevermind the production was maybe a bit too slick but the songs were so catchy and they had really mastered the verse chorus verse thing by contrasting volumes of quiet for the verses and then loud choruses. Incesticide was a very messy album. The track listing doesn’t flow that well and some of the songs sound even a bit gross. But this album [In Utero] shows their ability to be abrasive and is probably my second favourite album of theirs. In Utero was Nirvana’s last studio album and in my opinion one of their best. I remember picking it up and it had one of those parental advisory stickers on it that made it even more enticing to bring home and listen on headphones. When the drum beat for the song “Scentless Apprentice” came on, my ten year old mind was blown. And when the chorus kicks in and Kurt Cobain is shrieking at the top of his lungs “Go away!” over and over – you could hear and feel the visceral alienation in his voice. The album has one of the catchiest Nirvana songs like “Heart-Shaped Box” but for me it was the closing track, “All Apologies”, that really tied everything together and spoke to that marriage of songwriting set against a backdrop of noise.

Fun fact: the very first concert I ever performed was in grade six for a city wide talent show where my band Adnauseam played two songs by Nirvana. The first song was “Dive” off of Incesticide and the second was “All Apologies”.”

Ralph Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending | LISTEN

“I was maybe in my early 20’s and I was driving home one night in my brown Oldsmobile station wagon that my friend Ryan had given me. The car only had a radio and the dial was stuck to the CBC station where they only played classical music and really bad Canadiana. I distinctly remember driving south on Granville Street back to the suburbs and this very slow and languid song came on the radio. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. I pulled the car over and turned the volume up – but I couldn’t get the song loud enough. I remember sitting in my car on the side of the road just weeping listening to this beautiful music. I wrote down the time I heard the song on a piece of paper and a description of what it sounded like. I called the radio station the next day and told them about this song I had heard and how it changed my life and how I needed to know what it was called. That song was “The Lark Ascending” by Ralph Vaughan Williams. This was the song I played for my father while he was on his deathbed.”

Talk Talk – Laughing Stock | LISTEN

“A lot of the music that comes into my life is by chance. I don’t read music websites like Pitchfork or NME and really wouldn’t know where I would begin to find new music if I had to look. And so I can’t recall how I came across this album but it has informed how I make music today and I can pinpoint parts of my own songs that I directly drew from it for inspiration. I can remember the time period it entered my life but I can’t recall how – it may have been Steve Watts who played drums in my old band In Medias Res. But then again he may have picked it up from Jon Anderson who recorded all of our albums. And I am pretty sure Jon found out about it from an old Tape Op magazine that described the recording process. If I remember correctly, they recorded the album in complete darkness and moved the microphones closer to the drums if they wanted it to be mixed louder or further away if they wanted them to be quieter. The song “New Grass” from Talk Talk’s album Laughing Stock is a song that I probably have listened to every week for the past 15 years of my life.”

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