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Wire Playlist: Mary Halvorson

March 2018

The avant guitarist selects the songs which inspired her new band Code Girl

Known for her experimental jazz guitar playing as both band leader and accompaniment, Boston born Mary Halvorson recently released her first record including vocals and lyrics. In light of this, as well as her cover feature in the The Wire 410, Halvorson has compiled a playlist of songs which helped lead her to the point of forming her own group, Code Girl. The group released their debut LP via New Haven label Firehouse12 in March 2018.

“Here is a playlist including several key influences for my newest project, Code Girl, which is my first leader project that features a singer” starts Halvorson. “All of the musicians on this list have a totally unique concept and approach to lyrics and song. I’m starting with Robert Wyatt because his influence probably runs deepest. He is a true individual and innovator and I’ve spent years with many of his albums on repeat listen. “Sea Song” was the first of his I ever heard, so it holds a special place for me. In my opinion Elliott Smith is one of the greatest songwriters of all time. The album New Moon was released posthumously and includes many previously unreleased gems including “New Disaster”, one of my favourites. Fiona Apple is remarkable and I particularly love her album The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (best album title as well). “Jonathan” is my favourite track on that record and I recently recorded an instrumental version of it on New American Songbooks, Volume I with Greg Saunier and Ron Miles. Sam Cooke is one of my favourite singers and The Soul Stirrers were just phenomenal. Annette Peacock is extremely powerful and does incredible things through the electronic manipulation of her voice on this track. Deerhoof is another band whose albums I have worn over the years, and Satomi Matsuzaki’s voice is completely unique. I am also a huge Laurie Anderson fan. I first heard the song “From The Air” on an airplane, and once you listen you’ll see why that was intense experience for me. The Melvins are just unlike anyone else and I feel lucky to have gotten a chance to open a tour for them and her them live night after night. Hostile Ambient Takeover is one of my favourite records. “Autumn Sweater” by Yo La Tengo has been stuck in my head for a week. Like the Melvins, they are a perfect example of how great the music can become when a band has been together for decades. Finally, Joni Mitchell. She was one of the first singer songwriters I ever got into, and the power of her music is undeniable. I discovered Clouds in my parent’s record collection and have been listening to it ever since.”

Mary Halvorson was interviewed by Phil Freeman in The Wire 410. Subscribers can access the full article via the online archive.

Full tracklist below:

Robert Wyatt
“Sea Song”
From Rock Bottom

Elliott Smith
“New Disaster”
From New Moon

Fiona Apple
From The Idler Wheel...

Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers
“Any Day Now”
From Jesus Gave Me Water

Annette Peacock
“I’m The One”
From I’m The One

“Running Thoughts”
From The Runners Four

Laurie Anderson
“From The Air”
From Big Science

The Melvins
“The Fool, The Meddling Idiot”
From Hostile Ambient Takeover

Yo La Tengo
“Autumn Sweater”
From I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One

Joni Mitchell
“Roses Blue”
From Clouds


Somebody I know out there has had that same experience with "From the Air" and oddly enough she's also from Brooklyn.

This is one of the most wide-ranging and impressive playlists I've seen, and heard. Wyatt, Anderson, Peacock (not her best song or tyep of song) - all influenced my scene Later Deerhoof and early (not now) Yo La Tengo... the only outlier is Elliott Smith - - to my ears an ordinary singer songwriter - a west coast enigma like the grateful dead - not that good.

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