WHERE YOU MIGHT STILL HEAR THIS 'ECHO IN THE CANYON'
The name of this documentary is fitting without a doubt. Echo in the Canyon examines how a pool of musicians living in LA’s Laurel Canyon influenced one another to produce some of the most groundbreaking and timeless music in American history. The term ‘echo chamber’ often has a negative connotation—a place in which someone is exclusively exposed to ideas that confirm their preexisting beliefs or values. However, the echo chamber that was present in Laurel Canyon in the 1960s was quite the opposite.
Artists who lived in the area or were visiting from elsewhere (The Beatles and Eric Clapton, for instance) were always exposed to something novel: something that could not be found anywhere else, something that challenged their preexisting notions of music and the directions it could be taken. Perhaps more importantly, artists who spent any amount of time in Laurel Canyon were exposed to songs that were better than their own. An oft-cited example of this sort of give-and-take environment is the fact that it wasn’t until Brian Wilson heard The Beatles’ Rubber Soul that he decided to say goodbye to hedonistic surf songs. What happened next? He wrote Pet Sounds. Then what? The Beatles loved it and responded with Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was simply their attempt at making something as good as Pet Sounds.
What’s more: this echo lived long past its time and can still be heard today. So without further ado, here are my top picks for artists and songs that came long after the 1960s, but were undeniably influenced by the artists who once resided in Laurel Canyon.
The Lemon Twigs
Brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario are the founding members and masterminds behind The Lemon Twigs. Just 22 (Brian) and 20 years old (Michael), their songs are impressively sophisticated and complex. It took The Beatles and The Beach Boys years to move on from their simple-yet-catchy pop songs, so how have The Lemon Twigs made this leap at such a young age? Well, Michael D’Addario admits that their songwriting is heavily influenced by 1960s pop music: “The Beatles and The Beach Boys… well, that was all we listened to.”
It doesn’t take a genius to hear this influence manifest itself in their music. Here are two Lemon Twigs songs that will take you back to the 60s—and more specifically, to Laurel Canyon in the 60s:
Reminiscent of the tight-knit community of Laurel Canyon and the consequently interconnected sound that it produced, Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado actually produced the Lemon Twigs’ debut album. And if you listen to Foxygen, you can see why Rado would have had interest in the Lemon Twigs—both groups have a strong resemblance to the Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys records. While the song is about a city far from LA, the instrumentation and arrangement of Foxygen’s “San Francisco” strongly reflects the echo from Brian Wilson’s time in Laurel Canyon.
Singer-songwriter Haley Heynderickx has a truly unique sound, mixing elements of garage rock, grunge, country, and 60s and 70s folk. The peaceful earthiness of her vocals often bears resemblance to Peter, Paul and Mary or The Mamas & The Papas. Her folk roots are even more evident in her intricate finger-picked guitar—check out “The Bug Collector” and you’ll know what I mean. Heynderickx’s contemplative lyrics may remind you of Laurel Canyon artists as she mixes storytelling and question-asking in songs like “The Park.” Above all, her ability to blend and adapt genres is what puts her in the category of Laurel Canyon-influenced artists. Just as The Byrds took classic folk songs and made them rock, Haley Heynderickx pushes the boundaries of the music she grew up on to create something novel and beautiful.
Tobias Jesso Jr.
Born in North Vancouver, BC, Tobias Jesso Jr. moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter. Whether his move was inspired by Laurel Canyon’s music scene in the 1960s is not clear. What is clear, however, is that Tobias was heavily influenced by the sound of that movement—specifically by Brian Wilson’s complex arrangements and day-dreamy instrumentation. Ironically, this echo from Laurel Canyon is most prominent in Tobias’s “Leaving LA.” If you’re listening to this song and you don’t hear any Brian Wilson influence, just wait until the 38-second mark.
After releasing his first and only album Goon, Tobias Jesso Jr. began writing songs for the likes of Adele and Sia. Another testament to the endless connections between Laurel Canyon in the 1960s and today’s music, Sia covered The Mamas & The Papas’ hit song “California Dreamin’” in 2015. From the same 1966 Mamas & Papas album, “Straight Shooter” features in the trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (opening at The Grand on Friday, July 26).
I know what you’re thinking. How? Well, some of you may be familiar with their album He Got Game, the soundtrack for Spike Lee’s film with the same title. Hands-down the most famous song from this album, “He Got Game,” samples Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” (Sampling is when someone records a part of an already-existing song and uses it in their own project.)
“He Got Game” doesn’t only sample Buffalo Springfield’s hit song but also shares similar sentiments (and concludes with a two-minute refrain of the original lyrics). Both songs examine the roles of fear and common sense in the societal-political realms of their respective times.
“He Got Game” (1998)
More than your eyes can see
And ears can hear
Year by year
All the sense disappears
Prayers laced with fear
“For What It’s Worth” (1966)
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong...
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life, it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away…
Still not convinced that Laurel Canyon’s music scene changed music forever? Come see for yourself! Echo in the Canyon is now playing at The Grand Cinema.