In an ongoing effort to better understand the musical influences behind new music, we’re asking artists to tell us about their be-all-end-all essential albums of all time ever forever. This week we spoke with Zachary Gray from Vancouver’s piano prog-pop outfit The Zolas, whose new album, Ancient Mars, is out now on Light Organ Records.
James Blake – James Blake (2011)
When this album came out I remember reading that he’d wanted to make an electronic Bon Iver record– a goal I think he leapfrogged completely. He makes the ballsiest, most dynamic choices at every turn but somehow keeps it tasteful. It’s especially good because when it came out most people put it on expecting a dubstep record, giving it this genre-exploding quality. It’s one of the most influential albums of the last 2-3 years, I think.
Death Grips – The Money Store (2012)
James Blake was the album of the last 3 years, this one is the album of the next. Death Grips will probably never become mainstream hit makers, but there are innovations in this album that you’re going to hear bit on in the next Kanye and Jay-Z albums. It was hard to get into initially, but it resurrected my love for abrasive music that had been dormant since high school.
Nirvana – In Utero (1993)
One day when I was a kid my dad picked me up from baseball and as we were walking home he was noticeably quiet. At some point he said “Sad day today, son” and I asked why and he said “you probably haven’t heard of him but there’s a really great musician who killed himself today. I think he could have been the next John Lennon.” And when we got home he sat me down in his home office, still in baseball clothes, and made me listen to all of In Utero.
Listen: In Utero (full album)
Radiohead – Hail to the Thief (2003)
I visited a girl in Norway and we took a road trip around the fjords, sleeping in her car wherever we ended up. At night we drove with no map, listening to this album. We found a cave and walked in a bit and I sang “We Suck Young Blood” and she got so scared she cried.
Listen: Hail To The Thief (full album)
D’Angelo – Voodoo (2000)
You know how condom boxes say they’re 99% effective? The other 1% is when you’re listening to D’Angelo.
Listen/watch: “Untitled [How Does It Feel]“