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The first weeks of September always come with a pang of nostalgia as the school buses roll by, window displays change and weather gets a little crisper. While most adults would agree that one stint in high school was more than enough, those awkward formative years can now be remembered as a series of little things that started to shape our tastes, and would go on to stay with us years after ditching the book bags.
And, since sound (and music) is one of the most evocative sensory experiences, we asked seven great Canadian acts to tell us what albums spun in their Discmans back when they strutted their high school halls—hoping a shoulder bump wouldn’t cause that perfect song to skip.
“I’m the youngest of the group and I know for sure that the rest of the band would have drastically different answers to this question,” says drummer Phil Maloney. “I wore out Deftones’ White Pony during those years and had a big Incubus phase, too. A few of the other guys were into Pearl Jam in a big way.”
“I think the album I listened to most was probably Is This It by The Strokes,” says lead singer Jasmyn Burke. “I hadn’t heard anything like their music in a contemporary sense. It changed my life because they seemed to re-conceptualize what it meant to be a band. We were coming out of the late ’90s where pop and rock had been really watered down and cheesy and they seemed to offer real emotions. It was catchy and to the point and just felt really honest.”
“Lots of ’90s hip hop defined my high school experience, but a big one that comes to mind is WuTang Clan’s Enter the WuTang (36 Chambers),” says bassist Darryl James. “The 1993 release of that album brought a lot excitement within my group of friends, because many of us were predominately listening to West Coast hip hop at that time, WuTang Clan introduced us to a new East Coast style. Tracks like ‘Protect Ya Neck’ and ‘C.R.E.A.M’ instantly caught my attention, and also introduced me to a whole new group of artists like Method Man, The RZA, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.”
“Can I be lame and say I listened to the Garden State soundtrack the most?,” says Lowell. “That’s how I got to know The Shins, Iron & Wine, Nick Drake and all the other panty-melter stuff in there.”
“I wasn’t really listening to albums in high school… it was the age of mini discs. I had a pretty eclectic taste in music—everything from Buck 65 to Bright Eyes,” says lead singer Reuben Bullock. “Actually, a good friend gave me an extra copy of J Mascis + The Fog—the album was More Light I think. The tune ‘Ammaring’ from that record definitely was the soundtrack to a good year of my life. There’s so much, though.”
“Back when I was in high school, the Internet didn’t have any streaming services or torrent sites. To discover new music, I had to rely on publications like Exclaim! and got completely hooked on Canadian indie rock–so much so that I ended up hosting a radio show at CHUO called Canadian Independence,” says lead singer Matthew Vlahovich. “Without a doubt, the albums that defined my high school experience were Sloan’s Twice Removed, The Super Friendz’s Mock Up, Scale Down and Thrush Hermit’s Sweet Homewrecker.”
“Long Distance by Onra and Impression (Samurai Champloo OST) by Nujabes, Fat Jon and Force of Nature,” says Harrison. “Impression made autumn feel like a year.”