Stevie Wonder, “Love's in Need of Love Today”
This song was our inspiration to begin our album a capella. I have always favored slow-burning introductions, as opposed to immediately starting off with guns ablaze. “Love's in Need of Love Today” from Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life, begins with a warm, encouraging multi-tracked coo that slowly lulls you into the world that Songs so deftly creates. It's an intimate and poignant way to introduce yourself, one that takes a high level of confidence and prescience as a songwriter in order to really pull off.
The Replacements, “Sixteen Blue”
Let it Be is one of my favorite albums of all time, and its signature blend of sharp, melodic guitar phrases and endlessly hooky (at times goofy) vocals was the core inspiration behind our album's first single, “The Kids Were Wrong”. My studio notes for “Kids” amounted to “The Replacements x BOOGIE-WOOGIE”.
Billie Holiday, “God Bless the Child”
This is one of my favorite ballads, and I'm not ashamed to admit that the first singer that I heard tackle this classic was Lisa Simpson (from 1991's The Simpsons Sing the Blues)(or was it Simpson's Christmas Boogie?). I wanted to have an R&B song on the record, but I knew that it had to amount to something more than the umpteenth song featuring the “Be My Baby” drumbeat, so I looked to this track for inspiration. The result, “All Our Wonder”, became one of my favorite tracks on our album; I love the way Denise commits to the vocals at the end of the song, it's as soulful as a Memoryhouse song can get.
The Constantines, “St. You”
These guys were THE local band growing up in Guelph, Ontario, and I can't help but think of how lucky Denise and I were to have a band as awesome as The Constantines in our lives. I think we've seen them a combined 500 times (at least!), and they were one of the first bands that we both really bonded over. They'll end up having a street named after them in Guelph, and probably Toronto as well, mark my words.
Fleetwood Mac, “Tusk”
Those drums! Rumours and Tusk have some of my favorite drum sounds, so really played around with that type of sound in the studio. i think this is best evidenced in our song “Heirloom”, which has that super-compressed roomy snare sound that Fleetwoord Mac has made their signature.
Ennio Morricone, “Un Amico (Synth Version)”
Everyone probably favors the version with real woodwinds, but I really like synth sounds Morricone achieves on this version. Though we favored real strings on tracks like “Little Expressionless Animals” and “Pale Blue”, I explicitly wanted our song “Bonfire” to have synth-created woodwinds and cello sounds, in order to get closer to the feel of this track by Ennio Morricone. These sounds carry a certain nostalgic weight to them (think of the mellotron in “Strawberry Fields”, for example) which can end up communicating something the “real” thing cannot.
Portishead, “Nylon Smile”
Third by Portishead is brilliant, you don't need me telling you that. I really love the production, especially the drums and those prickly acoustic guitars (I really can't think of another album with acoustic guitars that prickly). When we were recording “Pale Blue” in the studio I remember giving Daniel, our drummer, some particularly abstract, seemingly useless advice; something along the lines of “Make the beat the more trip-hoppy, but not like Dummy trip hoppy, more along the lines of Portishead performing songs from Dummy with the arrangements on Third.” How he managed to get exactly what I was looking for in just one take is one of life's mysteries.
Black Tamborine, “Dream Baby Dream”
I like this because the ambience doesn't interfere with the hooks. It's a very natural, and convincing synthesis of two seemingly oppositional ideas. It's all about balance.
Bruce Springsteen, “The River”
My mother is a life-long Bruce Springsteen fan. I remember her office being completely covered in Bruce Springsteen posters when i was younger. I think that it's only natural for kids to not want to listen to the same music their parents do, so I waited a bit too long to give Springsteen's catalog a deep listen, but I came around, as everyone always does. There isn't much else I can add, “The River” is my favorite album of his.
I'm not a U2 apologist, I know they have made some exceedingly terrible records. However, it's a fool's game to dismiss their entire discography because you hate Bono, or you think “Vertigo” sucks. Their music has their place, and though “The Unforgettable Fire” isn't a flawless record, it is an exceptionally beautiful one. “The Unforgettable Fire” was a very big influence on our first EP, though it's influence still resonates with us to this day.