Definitive Records asks interesting Vancouverites to scour their sonic-led memories to pull out the three albums anchoring their musical tastes.
DONNIE AND JOE EMERSON | “DREAMIN’ WILD”, 1979
“The involvement of a devoted father is inspiring enough in and of itself to choose Donnie and Joe Emerson’s “Dreamin’ Wild” as one of my top three most influential albums. Recorded in 1979, the record wasn’t officially released until 2012, after Ariel Pink covered the iconic song “Baby”. Recorded in a makeshift home studio on the Emerson’s near bankrupt farm in Washington, D and J’s father Don Emerson Sr. took out (what was for them) a large bank loan to fill their converted woodshed with all the equipment it would take for his sons to pursue their love of music. The androgyny of the teenagers’ vocals is delicious. For me though, the underproduction is what does it, and makes the album easily accessible for any newcomer. When I listen to “Dreamin’ Wild” (granted the speakers are decent enough) it feels like I am right there in the room with them. There are parts like in “Feels like the sun”, where the boys are jamming out so hard, they come into their own with improvisational mastery. This kind of musical intuition is something I definitely appreciate. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if the tempo changes were intentional or not. Something I can definitely relate to! There seems to be a naïve or innocent tone to the lyrics, and anyone who is or has been a teenager can dig. For example: “Did you have a good time?” or “Give me a chance” – adorable! I get a lot funky surf rock, psychedelic and soul influences from this album. I appreciate the bright and energetic bass lines and raw percussion elements which sometimes sound like pots and pans. There even seems to be metronomes in the mix. Anyways, for a girl who isn’t BIG into synth, this album gets me going every damn time!”
GRIZZLY BEAR | “SHIELDS”, 2012
“It’s clear to me the guys of Grizzly Bear are total “jazz heads”. From the plucking bass to the chaotic and complex drumming, they created this sort of melancholic mood in their fourth album “Shields”. Visions of medieval dungeons sometimes cross my mind while listening. Other times, the sort of stoic comeback scene that happens near the end of a romantic movie manifests. It is that sort of swimming through peanut butter vibe which we have all probably experienced at least once in our lives. The push pull between lethargy and urgency is what keeps me interested from beginning to end. In my favourite track “Half-Gate”, I hear an eclectic mix of serenading Spanish guitar and rigid marching band; not to mention the flawless harmonies, which has me wondering if these guys were cut from the same cloth. I can hear the camaraderie and tasteful collaboration in the arrangements, which is a sentiment I share. If you can’t tell by now, I love them, and it was tough to pick just one album!”
D’ANGELO | “BROWN SUGAR”, 1995
“Let me tell you why D’Angelo, In my eyes and ears, he has always been the smoothest operator. It was a near crisis when choosing between the records “Black Messiah” and “Brown Sugar” but at the end of the day it’s always been the latter. Having always been a soul, funk, and r&b fan, I would put D’Angelo on the same legendary pedestal as soul pioneers Curtis Mayfield or the Ohio Players. True soul music came before my time (with the exception of a select few like Sade.) During my younger years, if I was going to listen to soul, it would mean sifting through the archives from the Otis Redding and Al Green eras. This all changed when I discovered this man and his neo-soul attitude. Although he definitely experienced success, many people unfortunately only knew him as “that naked guy” from his “Untitled” video (released in 2000). I used to listen to D’Angelo at home, alone on a Friday night, during the dead of winter in Montreal, wishing I was in a sweaty nightclub that played “Brown sugar” exclusively. The toy sounding organ, mellow background shakers, ambient string orchestra, and his extremely sexy voice are only some of the reasons I find this album perfect. There are even jazz tracks like “When we get by”, which transports me to a New York basement bar in the 70s. Featuring a stand up bass and horns section, there is nothing he didn’t consider while compiling this album. Live clapping samples and stomping beats really get me wanting to dance on “Lady”. His vocal range allows him to harmonize on his own lead, and the instrumentation was done mostly by the man himself. For anyone who appreciates gospel style singing, laid back grooves and sultry lyrics, give this masterpiece a spin please!