Toronto alt-folk group Fort York are having a busy month. With an Indiegogo campaign in full flight to help fund the recording of a new album and shows planned all over the city, I asked the guys to take over mixtape duties for me and tell me what they’re listening to as they write new songs for their upcoming EP. The result is a mix so eclectic that I can only assume their new album will strive to be all things to all people. From J Dilla to Dirty Projectors, and Bob Lind to King Tubby, I was excited to see some of my personal favourites and discover some new songs that have been on heavy rotation since. Below you’ll find Conor and Rory Lavelle, Nick Kewin and Kyle Fulton’s choices with some brief thoughts on what they like about each of their picks. When asked to contribute anything further, drummer Dan Lefebvre simply said “I think y’all got it covered” – I’d have to agree.

Frank Ocean – Swim Good

Frank Ocean is getting some much deserved hype over his debut LP Channel Orange. However, this older track of his still takes the cake for me. It’s my favourite track of his, both lyrically and musically. — Conor Lavelle

J Dilla – Workinonit

I’ve been enjoying a few choice instrumentals from J Dilla’s catalogue. It’s the middle of the summer, the weather is unreal and the evenings are long. J Dilla’s beats are just the natural accompaniment. — Conor Lavelle

Nick Cave – Babe, You Turn Me On

Nick cave has an ability to deftly meld tenderness and vulgarity. The results are strangely comforting. — Nick Kewin

Attack in Black – Messenger Bird

I’ll likely take some flak for this, but I’m firmly of the opinion that Daniel Romano and Ian Kehoe are Canada’s finest songwriting partnership of the last decade, and while ‘Messenger Birds’ likely isn’t their best song, it’s certainly the one that I’ve listened to the most since they came onto my radar a few years back. Romano’s voice, strained and often close to breaking, floats over the beautifully sparse arrangement while Kehoe’s lyrics, adolescent and hopeful, give the song tremendous weight and honesty. A real gem from the Welland quartet. — Kyle Fulton

Bob Lind – The Swan

From The Elusive Bob Lind. The haunting tale of a man who accidentally murders his beloved because “she’d her apron wrapped about her and he took her for a swan.” Impeccable vocal phrasing. This one’s surprisingly difficult to track down. — Rory Lavelle

Jim Sullivan – So Natural

Probably the world’s best – and, perhaps only – pro-cremation anthem. From a long out-of-print album, recently re-issued, vastly over-hyphenated. Sullivan disappeared mysteriously in the desert shortly after the album’s release. Alternate track from the same album: ‘Highways’. Psych-folk at its best. — Conor Lavelle

Tom Waits – Anywhere I Lay My Head

That voice is captivating and terrifying at the same time. Waits should be a genre. — Nick Kewin

Bruce Springsteen – Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

Rousing and anthemic. There’s a reason he’s called The Boss. — Nick Kewin

Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman

It has occurred to me once or twice that this may well be the Greatest Song of All Time (GSOAT). And yes, I’ve spent many years in thrall to the Beach Boys’ immortal ‘God Only Knows’ (GOK) – to say nothing of ‘The Warmth of the Sun’ (TWOTS). — Rory Lavelle

Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

A surprisingly direct lyrical and melodic turn from a band normally known for its convoluted song structures. — Rory Lavelle

Tame Impala – Apocalypse Dreams

Brilliant songwriting, incredible arrangement, beautiful recording. I haven’t been this excited about a new album based on the promise of its first single since Radiohead first started paving the way for OK Computer –  the single was ‘Paranoid Android’; I first heard it over the tinny ceiling speakers in a 24-hour convenience store, standing motionless before a rack of Doritos, utterly transfixed. — Rory Lavelle

Panda Bear – Bros

I’ve never been one for epically long songs, ever the advocate of The Heartbreakers’ longstanding motto “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus”, but I’ll make an exception for ‘Bros’, the standout track off 2007’s near perfect Person Pitch. Full, bright and soaring, Noah Lennox melds sunny samples which are perfectly complimented by his reverb soaked, Mike Love-ish vocals. But I suppose the main reason I love this song so much is that Lennox basically sings the catchiest shit ever, over and over again – for 12 and a half minutes. — Kyle Fulton

Modest Mouse – Grey Ice Water

I think one of the reasons that I love Modest Mouse so much is that I find their lyrics are often attuned to my inner monologue. A few years ago I went tree planting in northern British Columbia, and during that period I probably listened to ‘Grey Ice Water’ about ten times a day. “You got a job up in Alaska. It’s easy to save what the cannery pays, cause there aint no way to spend it,” mumbles Isaac Brock over sparse percussion and wavy guitar bends. An appropriate soundtrack to a crappy existence. — Kyle Fulton

King Tubby – Hijack the Barber

King Tubby couldn’t play an instrument, but he understood music in a strange and awesome way. — Nick Kewin

Fela Kuti – Zombie

Anger you can dance to. A dizzying mélange of musical styles. — Nick Kewin

Sigur Ros – Valtari

I had a chance to go see Sigur Ros recently. The are probably one of the most unique acts I’ve ever seen, and undoubtedly one of the most talented group of musicians touring these days. We’re fortunate to be around during their reign. See them live if you ever have the chance. — Conor Lavelle

Guided by Voices – My Valuable Hunting Knife

It’s hard to pick a favourite off 1995’s low-fi masterpiece Alien Lanes, but ‘Hunting Knife’ is likely the finest representation of GBV during their heyday. Once you get past the tape hiss, tinny drums and out of tune guitars, it quickly becomes apparent that Robert Pollard just might be one of his generation’s finest songwriters. Listening to this song always makes me want to get really drunk and high-kick the shit out a shelf, or something. — Kyle Fulton

Megafaun – The Longest Day

I’ve lived in Toronto for the majority of my life, and for the most part, I’m glad that I live in a city. However, whenever I listen to Megafaun, I’m suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to sell off my possessions, burn my SIN card, and set out towards the great white north, never to return. Megafaun, and this song in particular, seem like they’re meant to be listened to while in nature. Brothers Brad and Phil Cook weave gorgeous folk arrangements, combining rich harmonies and sombre lyrics, with one of the catchiest banjo riffs you’ll ever hear. — Kyle Fulton

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— , August 24, 2012    No Comments