Common Holly’s new record, When I Say to you Black Lightning, is out this week through the wonderful – and ever reliable – Dalliance Records.
Prior to its release, we caught up with the Canadian songwriter to find out what makes her tick in the world of film, music and literature. These are her Sound & Vision picks:
1. Plantasia – Mort Garson
A friend played this record for me a few years ago, and I instantly connected with it. It was recorded in the 70s and is subtitled Music for Plants— and it really earnestly succeeds in that manifesto. Mort Garson is a Canadian (!!) and he composed the whole album as this beautiful synth symphony that you can’t help but want to hear on loop throughout your day. It used to be much more difficult to locate and listen to Plantasia, but then Sacred Bones re-released it this past year and now you can listen to it anywhere, which is good because it’s accessible to all… but I guess I don’t really get to have that deep cut street cred anymore! Oh well.
2. Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle – Bill Callahan
This record is very active on the tour van playlist for sure, and it tends to be a unanimous win regardless of who is along for the ride. Bill Callahan has this unbelievable gift for songwriting—there’s a serenity and playfulness and personality to everything he writes that really just makes you feel good! Not to mention that the instrumentation and performances on this album have such a strong sensibility that it quite literally feeeeeels soooo good. I wish I could meet Bill Callahan; he’s definitely a hero of mine. Top tracks for me (in order) are: Too Many Birds, Jim Cain, and Faith/Void.
3. How I Got Over – The Roots
This one made its way into my top albums list years ago. I used to put it on in the background at the bar I was working at because everyone loves a good QuestLove beat in the bar. But then I got pulled in by the emotional quality and just beautiful messaging that come through the record. I love the way The Roots take classic hip hop and give it this very sweet and earnest quality, which makes for a really meaningful listening experience. Favourites are definitely The Fire, Now or Never and Dear God 2.0.
David Lynch – The Big Dream
Tender Buttons – Broadcast
DAMN – Kendrick Lamar
Pleasure – Feist
Early Tapes – The Microphones
Loveless – My Bloody Valentine
Magnolia Electric Co. – Songs Ohia
Elliott Smith – Elliott Smith
Black Messiah – D’Angelo
Designer – Aldous Harding
Useless Creatures – Andrew Bird
The Party – Andy Shauf
One favourite book:
Cosmicomics – Italo Calvino
This little book is a surreal series of chapters full of Calvino’s own invented versions of the creation of the universe. It was originally gifted to me by my oldest friend Marisa, who read the first chapter out loud to me in a cafe one winter afternoon. It’s a buzzing little novel, lovely and also quite profound. One of my favourite chapters, called The Distance of the Moon, is a beautiful love story about a captain and his silvery wife, and how the creation of the universe necessitates their tragic separation. Where creation stories have historically been a source of tension, especially in the Western world, I love the freedom that Calvino creates by just throwing his own version of our origin story into the mix.
One favourite film:
I’m not sure if this still holds up, but it was definitely my favourite movie for most of my young life, and I have probably seen it over 13 times. Before there were Netflix algorithms, I think I organically discovered my passion for “Strong Female Leads” with this movie. It’s a magical, creepy, beautifully political fairytale about good, and evil, and childhood imagination. It wavers between two narratives— one that is bleak, masculine, and “adult”, and one that actually contains the real power—a child’s beautiful view of the world.
A Song that’s Important To Me:
Terminal Paradise – Big Thief
I literally have no idea what to do with myself when I hear this song. It’s like it bulldozes me equally with each listen. From that first ascending plucked line of opening guitar notes… I can’t understand it at all. How do you describe a perfect song? Do you even want to? I don’t think I want to. This one feels like tragedy and lightness all in one place, and I am grateful for its existence.
Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush
Clinically Dead – Chad Van Gaalen
Bastard – Little Kid
Farewell Transmission – Songs Ohia
Martha Sways – Andy Shauf