Canadian Musicians Share the Hidden Gems of Their Record Collections

Hua Li 化力, Hey Ocean!, Fake Shark and more introduce us to rarely-heard classics

Photo courtesy of the artist

BY Alex HudsonPublished Feb 27, 2024

Every record collector has at least a couple of hidden gems in their collection — little-known albums that may not be widely celebrated, but ones that the proud owner is keen to spread the word about to anyone who will listen. (That's pretty much the reason we started Exclaim!)

We asked some Canadian acts to share the hidden gems of their own record collections — and the artists delivered with rare favourites ranging from '60s artifacts to recent albums by contemporary touring buddies, and even the score from a Netflix show.

Check out their picks below in the latest edition of Exclaim!'s Show & Tell.

Rishi Dhir of Elephant Stone
Lightships by Lightships (2012)


Elephant Stone leader Rishi Dhir cites Teenage Fanclub’s 1992 SNL appearance as a life-shifting moment in his journey as a music lover. That band is typically fronted by Norman Blake — but Dhir gradually grew to favour the work of bassist Gerard Love. "His tunes had a subtle, lingering charm, often reflective and filled with yearning," Dhir tells Exclaim! "Gerry Love's solo album as Lightships, in my opinion, is an overlooked masterpiece: it's beautifully crafted, lush, soothing, and simply brilliant." Love’s knack for lush compositions is reflected in Elephant Stone’s latest psych concoction, the newly released Back into the Dream.

Kevvy of Fake Shark
Black Mirror: Smithereens by Ryuichi Sakamoto (2019)


A big departure from the brash, pop-friendly Y2K alt-rock of new album Afterglow, Fake Shark leader Kevvy recommends a spooky electronic soundtrack from Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who scored the Black Mirror episode "Smithereens." Says Kevvy, "Black Mirror is my favourite TV show, because I love classic Twilight Zone episodes, and also punch-in-the-soul movies like Funny Games and Irreversible. Black Mirror fits right in the middle of these two, and if the music was missing the mark, the stories wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective."

Eve Parker Finley
First Circle by Pat Metheny Group (1984)


"Picture this," begins Montreal multidisciplinary artist Eve Parker Finley. "The year is 2009. I'm a teenager going to high school three mornings a week for 7 a.m. jazz band rehearsal. At one of these rehearsals, the musical director introduced the class to Pat Metheny Band's First Circle. "The way I become truly obsessed with this song [title track 'The First Circle'] should be studied — perhaps by my therapist." Metheny's work was ultimately too difficult for the class to play, but it left Finley forever changed. She calls it "a true gem that set this former high school jazz band kid on a path on a lifelong mission to create ethereal bangers." Said ethereal bangers can be heard on recently released sophomore album In the End.

Juliana Carlevaris of Hot Garbage
Pretty Groovy by Faux Ferocious (2019)


From one psych rock powerhouse to another, Juliana Carlevaris is a big fan of Nashville combo Faux Ferocious. "We met these guys a few years ago on the road. I picked up this record after seeing them for the first time at Milwaukee Psych Fest. It's a front-to-backer with a lot of quintessential post-punk grooves with some krauty/psych moments," says Carlevaris. "This album has made its way into heavy rotation for all of us." We can only assume Hot Garbage's scorching new album Precious Dream is similarly on high rotation among the members of Faux Ferocious.

Hua Li 化力
Live at the Belfry by Louise Rose


"I think the lazy girl's cardinal rule of record collecting is to befriend the real diggers of your hometown," says Peggy Hogan, explaining that her friend Richie Digs found Louise Rose's Live at the Belfry and gifted to her. She continues, "The crazy part is that he didn't know that Louise was one of my first and formative jazz mentors as a teen. She taught me so much at a young age about the importance of communicating a lyric and being sure to always find the 'play' in playing music. Her teachings always remind me to find joy and gratitude in getting to discover more about music everyday." That journey of discovery has now taken Hua Li 化力 into electronic music, as heard on the forthcoming ripe fruit falls but not in your mouth (out March 27).

Kaia Kater
Mary Lou Williams by Mary Lou Williams


Kaia Kater hails Mary Lou Williams as "part of the exceedingly small group of 20th century Black women composers," calling her 1964 self-titled album "one of my top five desert island records." She goes on to point out that Williams arranged 47 songs from Duke Ellington, and that Williams converted to Catholicism in 1954 — evidence of Kater's scholarly music mind that can also be heard on recent single "Fédon," which tells the story of an 18th century Grenadian revolutionary. It comes from upcoming LP Strange Medicine, out May 17.

Cedric Noel
The Shadow of Your Smile by Astrud Gilberto (1965)


When Miontreal's Cedric Noel needs to relax, he puts on bossa nova artist Astrud Gilberto's album The Shadow of Your Smile. "For me, this is an album for all seasons — light, elegant and even dance-y," he says. "The way her voice and phrasing [are] able to glide over the complex chord progressions and sometimes rhythms is masterful. With no song even getting close to hitting the three-minute mark, it's perfect for a casual listen or for laying down and getting lost in headphones land." Speaking of getting immersed in relaxing headphone listening, Noel's recent single "Sessions" layers gentle woodwinds and tinkling chimes atop tender balladry.

David Vertesi of Hey Ocean!
Mother by Mother (2005)


Before there was Mother Mother, the Vancouver band were simply known as Mother — and Hey Ocean!'s David Vertesi treasures that band's 2005 self-titled album (which was later re-released in 2007 as Mother Mother's Touch Up, featuring an altered tracklist). "Those were the early days of both our bands," Vertesi recalls. "We spent some formative time playing open mics around the city together and hanging out in my parents' living room, drinking wine and playing songs. Hard to believe that was almost 20 years ago now." A lot has changed since then: Mother Mother have become TikTok stars, and Vertesi has launched a solo career, with the album Fictionalized arriving today.

Latest Coverage