35. Great Lake Swimmers – Lost Channels. Admittedly, there are very few Canadian records on this list, but the GLS’ 2009 release, Lost Channels is one Canadian record that definitely deserves a place here. This is a band that with age, has become more melodic and accessible without losing their earlier rough lo-fi edges. This album is like the sound of pouring wine; it is smooth and lovely and has melodies like rustic aromas. There’s also something indescribably Canadian about the record as well; like great Canadian works of literature, this album reflects a uniquely Canadian experience in terms of production and instrumentation and though not always overtly, in terms of lyrics as well. I can recall and relate to driving rain songs like Palmistry and quirky pop/rock love songs like She Comes to Me in Dreams. frontman Tony Dekker is reminiscent of Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek and makes records that are just as rural, sweet, and simplistic.
34. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You. It’s a real testament to a record’s greatness when it’s only been out for about two months, give or take, and it’s already an instant classic. The Avett Brothers are a new band in my life; though they’ve been around for a while in all their bluegrass glory, I ‘discovered’ them through I and Love and You, which is already one of my favourite records of 2009, and definitely one of my favourites of the decade. The meaning behind the title of the record is frankly and beautifully stated in a short personal essay in the album’s jacket (and is definitely worth a read) but what the record means to me is maturation, accepting help, realizing the state of the world and carrying on regardless, while still wishing on shooting stars and loving someone a lot, in this case a woman, because “she knows which birds are singing and names of the trees where they’re performing in the morning”. I cried real tears listening to this record, and the first time I heard the title track and Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise I got chills. This record makes you want to stop what you’re doing and listen, and listen good. It’s a win for the Avetts, a win for Rick Ruben, and I can’t stop raving about it anyone who will listen. Good LORD, it’s a great record.
33. Patty Griffin – 1,000 Kisses. I’m pretty sure Ms. Patty Griffin is incapable of making a bad record. And while I still think her best record is 1996’s purely acoustic, production-free Living With Ghosts, 1,000 Kisses is a very close second. Griffin has nothing but soul and stories in her voice alone, but she also writes very pretty alt-country/folk tunes that tell dynamic stories about down-and-out people, from a young sad gay boy (Tony, from her album Flaming Red) to an elderly spinster on Making Pies. And though she tells stories from the perspective of characters, there is something so honest about the delivey and the songs themselves, it’s like she’s lived many lives. And with the heartbreak in her voice at times, maybe even too many lives. Long Ride Home is one of Griffin’s all-time greatest songs; the melody is totally captivating, while the lyrics describe a whole life of regret in just a few minutes. Rain is another gorgeous song; Griffin is so, so filled with conviction when she sings, “I’m not looking for the rest of your life, I just want another chance to live” that it’s impossible not to love her and her message and her hard-hearted weather-beaten delivery.
32. David Gray – Life in Slow Motion. David Gray is one of my all-time favourite artists, but I think most of his best work was completed in the 1990s. However, when Life in Slow Motion was released in 2005, it came along just when I needed it. I was a misfit at that time, after a year of belonging somewhere just a few months prior. Nothing felt right and nothing felt complete, and then I heard the lyrics of Lately — “That the sky would lift /That I’d find my place /That I’d see your face in the door /And the sun would glint /On a time well spent /On a time that ain’t no more” — and I wilted, yet, felt vindicated. Hospital Music might be one of Gray’s best-ever uptempo songs. And Ain’t No Love taught me what it means to be alive. One of my favourite lyrics of all time is from that song: “Tomorrow girl I’ll buy you chips /A lollipop to stain your lips /And it’ll all be right as rain”. Thinking of that song even, just makes me want to break down and cry. Listening to this album and looking out my Kelsey Hall window at people enjoying each other’s company outside, made me lonely; but Life in Slow Motion was my company… and at that time, the only company I needed.
31. Norah Jones – Come Away With Me. Funny story: shortly after this album was released, Norah Jones embarked on a North American tour; I was between grade 11 and 12, and still living Jasper at this time and working in housekeeping at Maligne Lodge. A chipper French girl I worked with, Stephanie and I were talking about music one day and I was going on and on about this record, and she then made the suggestion that she and I go to Vancouver to see Norah Jones in concert that summer; unfortunately for Stephanie, who was working her way across the country and in her twenties, I was just a kid and therefore, couldn’t go on her proposed road trip. And now, when I think of Come Away With Me, I think of her. I also think of another friend of mine, Erin, who told me that the gorgeous and simplistic Seven Years reminded me of a friend of hers from high school because “she’s all alone”, something that for some reason, I’ve never forgotten. This album then, has become sort of a prism that refracts faces and memories of my past lives, as a housekeeper, and a first year Lister Hall resident living in the city and on my own for the first time, and the lusts and fears and hungers associated with those changes in my life, those hardships, those yearnings to be free. Since this record, Norah Jones has released a lot of fantastic material, but none impacted the world or Jones herself perhaps, as her debut. It is an absolutely stunning, perfect, beautiful record full of jazz/alternative originals and gentle, rolling cover tunes from classic country greats… the hype was well-deserved, but I never cared about the hype, despite remembering well, Jones’ literal armful of Grammy awards. I care about Stephanie and Erin, and listening to Painter Song while dreaming about all of the boys I’ve loved before.