Alex Henry Foster is gearing up to release a new triple-LP / double-CD & DVD live album, 'Standing Under Bright Lights,' on April 16 via Hopeful Tragedy Records, but meanwhile he put together this playlist for us, entitled "The Music That Made Me." Commentary on each track and intro by Alex, along with the Spotify playlist, below...
Having the privilege to see one of my playlists be shared by my friends at BrooklynVegan, I decided to look into the music, community, and social stance that have influenced the person I am now and that had an undeniable influence not only on what I give life to artistically, but also why I craft it the way I do. I hope you enjoy discovering (or rediscovering) some of those songs and bands!
My playlist will be updated every three weeks along with a brief story/explanation associated with every one of those songs.
The Cure - A Forest
I grew up being fascinated by Robert Smith’s ability to constantly reinvent The Cure’s musical palette and have always been greatly inspired by just how fearless he seemed to be as an artist. He didn’t seem to wonder if it was “ok” to juxtapose what looks like a perfectly happy pop song with the darkest goth masterpiece there was. There are so many songs I could have picked, but since I now live in the Virginia Highlands, "A Forest” seems the perfect pick. Standing on a Beach remains one of my all-time favorite albums.
Bruce Peninsula - Crabapples
That’s the type of project that I have always been particularly fond of… Emotional, explorative, and surprising, where gospel-like uplift blends in with all sorts of sonic noises and textures. It felt incredibly refreshing for me the first time I heard them. I’ve been a fan ever since, and it’s not because they are fellow Canadians.
Swans - The Seer
For as far as I can remember, I have always liked Michael Gira’s capacity to let Swans evolves in their own singular motion and love the whole journey that makes the “end” so emotionally gratifying, in a way. I think that “The Seer” encapsulates that spiritual and musical unique voyage of sorts.
Suicide - Dream Baby Dream
I discovered Suicide in a period where I was continually listening to The Clash and Clash-like bands of all kinds. One of my friends, who hated The Clash, introduced me to Vega and Rev’s work. I don’t know how to explain it, but there was something authentically brilliant and highly emotional in what may be seen as minimalist and primitive for some. But since I have always liked the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed, maybe I found a connection in Suicide’s craft… I can’t say for sure.
Can - Mother Sky
Every Can song is a journey in itself. I have always been very admirative of their creativity, but even more so by the way they offer a musical stream to whatever you want to experience while listening to them. They’re another one of my father’s favorite bands, and they connected us in a very meaningful way. That band also found its way in my desire to emancipate myself creatively forevermore…
Sachiko Kanenobu - Watashino Jean to Yobasete
I’ve been introduced to the beautiful yet torturous creations of Miss Sachiko Kanenobu when I visited Japan in 2007. I was really eager to discover the culture from within, and a friend of mine got me into that fascinating journey.
Bauhaus - Nerves
There are artists that I find just mesmerizing in the way they capture my imagination, whatever I might be doing when some of their songs are randomly played, and Bauhaus is one of those bands. Except that when it does, I need to listen to In the Flat Field for a whole week after… Go figure!
Sonic Youth - Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style
If freedom had a sound, Sonic Youth would be entangled in it somewhere. The first time I heard them, I knew I wouldn't be able to listen to any of the other bands I was into at the time the same way I did before. There’s such a vivid sense of urgency in their music that it seems almost passionate whereas the reality is that there’s an emergency that transcends it all. Their cohesive incarnation of “now” leaves you wondering “What just happened here?” I’m still discovering new sounds every time I listen to them… Their creative freedom has had an undeniable impact on me.
LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum
I jumped on the LCD Soundsystem train the second I heard them at a party. Beyond the infectious groove, it’s the lyrics that turned me into a fan. There were several songs for me to choose from, but this one spoke to me… I’m probably the only French Canadian who has ever got yelled at “Go back to your f*** country, American f****!!!” 2 blocks from where I grew up - in Montreal. Maybe it’s the bumper sticker Virginia is for Lovers that misguided that wonderful incarnation of openness and tolerance. Oh, well… Not all Canadians are nice. There, you have it: I just destroyed another myth. Ouch, that one must hurt!
The Cramps - Garbageman
One of my all-time favorite bands. You ain’t no punk, you punk. What else is there to say? I could have made that playlist a Cramps-only one and would have gone to bed a happy soul.
Talking Heads - Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
Talking Heads are the band that opened my mind to everything not punk or hardcore, from world music to old gospel, Afro-beats to jazz, and experimental music. All my friends hated Talking Heads. Well, their exact words were: “We hate what Talking Heads is turning you in.” And since they had a profound despise for the album "Remain in Light”, which I particularly liked and obsessively played, I wanted to dedicate that song to them all. You all know who you are…!
Beastie Boys - Sure Shot
I have always been a fan of the Beastie Boys’ music, but when Adam Yauch started opening up about social issues and human rights awareness, I paid deeper attention to what they were doing. "I want to say a little something that’s long overdue / The disrespect to women has to got to be through / To all the mothers and sisters and the wives and friends / I want to offer my love and respect till the end” 1994… It does seem long overdue, indeed.
Public Enemy - Don’t Believe The Hype
"It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” is probably one of the best no-matter-the-genre albums ever made. It has that raw feel, yet the more I keep on listening to it and the more sonic textures I find, the more depth I find. And just like Beastie Boys' "Sure Shot", it’s quite unbelievable and shameful to admit that Public Enemy are not only relevant, they’re necessary.
Roedelius - In Liebe dein
Just like for Can and a lot of other experimental and Krautrock artists, I owe my admiration for Hans-Joachim Roedelius’ work to my father’s vinyl collection, especially the years he was into all sorts of esoteric movements. I never found any comfort in rocks rubbing, but I’m grateful for the soundtrack of transcendental sessions and cosmic voyage.
Sex Pistols - Holidays in the Sun
That album has been so significant in my life that I still remember the very first time I heard it. We had managed to steal the key to my friend’s brother’s room. My friend was looking for money to borrow, but when I saw his music collection, I started flipping through all the CDs. I don’t know if it was the name of the band or the artwork — it was probably the name of the band — but we played it. The music was so amazing! We listened to the whole CD, to my friend’s great fear of his brother coming back and catching us. But as we were respectful kids, we left. I still have this very copy of the album. I’m sorry… but the music made me do it! Anarchy in the CD!
X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage! Up Yours!
If there’s someone’s heritage that needs to be recognized, it is the incredible influence that Marianne Joan Elliott-Said had on the early punk scene. If Bikini Kill were instrumental in bringing a well-needed voice to a new generation of women who were ostracized by the usual boys club, Marianne was the original voice of inclusive feminism within the punk scene — and beyond — at the time. Her daughter Celeste just put out a fantastic homage to her mother titled I Am a Cliché, which I believe everyone should watch.
To know more about that fabulous person and artist: https://www.polystyrenefilm.net/
Minor Threat - Minor Threat
That is the very first song I played in the context of a high school band. I have to say context because we didn’t know much about tuning, rhythm, or tone. In a way, this paved the way for the rest of my musical adventures. Except that contrary to my songs, Minor Threat’s songs rarely went past 90 seconds. At the time, it allowed us to “play" that song about 10 times before the cops came and stopped the blossoming greatness of our new avant-garde collective… Oh, well…!
Bad Brains - Attitude
Positive mental attitude… Enough said!
Fugazi - Full Disclosure
I can’t share about Minor Threat without featuring Fugazi. If there is a band that had a real ascendence on me in terms of finding my own way to contribute, not only find something to say but to voice it in a way that personally matters to me rather than try and find a cool disposition to relevantly pretend that I care when I don’t, it is Fugazi. I’ve learned a lot about the communal spirit of music through their footsteps and I’ll be forever grateful for that gift.
Dead Kennedys - The Man With the Dogs
Another one of my favorite bands. I’ve developed a strange habit over the years, that when I feel gloomy and down, I play Dead Kennedys on repeat all day. I’m just happy that I have never been a fan of something like Fall Out Boy… No offense!
Jozef van Wissem - Propempticon
If somebody would have told me I would become a lute devote when only punk and hardcore mattered at some point, I would have ripped my Exploited t-shirt apart before that terrible blasphemy. But thanks to Jozef van Wissem, I don’t have to walk around with a Punk’s Not Dead t-shirt I would buy at Urban Outfitters (along with a Minor Threat one). Jozef’s contrition to SQURL's music is quite phenomenal, and he’s got a very significant influence on the way I use any instruments with strings.
Glenn Branca - The Blood
Glenn’s body of work is for me in the likes of that of all the masters that music history has counted. I believe that like every genius before him, he will sadly be recognized way past his life span. No matter what, Branca’s creations will never die, while most of the “music" fast-food we are fed with nowadays will. And that’s not even justice, it’s grace and mercy!
Iggy Pop - The Passenger
I hope we’ll realize the amazing opportunity we had to have Iggy with us for that long. I mean, God prevail, he’s already an eternal figure of modern culture, but I don’t think we ever gave him the credit he deserves nor ever gave him the love he should have received. He might always be seen as the Stooges figure, but it’s quite phenomenal was he contributed as a solo artist as well.
Lou Reed - Perfect Day
I always found some comfort in Lou Reed’s bleak creative universe and found beauty in his dark poetry. I think he will never be appreciated for what he brought into the light, with Bowie’s presence overshadowing Lou’s singular make of art. Years after his death, his music still polarizing, which for me means that he followed his own muse without wondering what others may think… In other words, he is an example of what I call integrity.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - The Dead Flag Blues
I just can’t share a playlist without mentioning the brilliance of fellow Montreal-natives "Godspeed You! Black Emperor”, knowing that what they gave birth to locally goes extremely beyond their reputation and all the stories that surround them. Without them, their music, but also their profound involvement in the community, there wouldn’t be much left of a free and communal “scene”, however you want to look at it. Everyone that came after them as a fiber of their DNA one way or the other… period!
Alex Henry Foster - The Son of Hannah
Alex Henry Foster - Winter is Coming In