Keri Latimer (in blue) with her band Leaf Rapids

Keri and husband Devin Latimer front the Manitoba four-piece Leaf Rapids with Joanna Miller and Chris Dunn. The band has a new album, Velvet Paintings, out April 19 and will play their only Saskatchewan show — for now, anyway — at Regina’s Artesian on April 24.

Keri took this My Music column on a trip down memory lane — with one important qualifier, she says. “I’ll start in high school and skip all the music I obsessed over at home, which were mostly my parents’ records: Queen, Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly. We definitely won’t talk about the first record I bought, Shadow Dancing by Andy Gibb, and how I kissed his poster in my room, where he reclined provocatively in his unbuttoned, hairy-chested glory.” /Gregory Beatty

“Here Comes the Rain Again”
Eurythmics, Touch (1983)

I grew up in Lethbridge and was a bit sheltered musically. Local radio pounded Billy Ocean and Lionel Ritchie into you continuously. I was a bit of a freak, but not enough to be ‘in’ with the freak clique who were for sure tuned into way cooler music. Then one glorious day — I can still feel the jolt of electricity — Annie Lennox grabbed me by my acid-wash jean-jacket lapels and said, ‘you have people out there who truly understand you. Go and find them.’

I chopped off my mullet and bought a synthesizer.

“Here Comes the Rain Again” taught me music can make you feel seen.

“When Doves Cry”
Prince, Purple Rain (1984)

This song fuelled my hormone-driven teenage angst and taught me what hips are for. It will forever take me to summer beaches of young love and yearning for freedom. My cousin and I probably set a Guinness world record for most plays of this song as we listened, rewound, listened, rewound, so many times on the beach at night in Shuswap, BC. With her fancy ghetto blaster and a shitload of C batteries, we watched the cool boys from afar and pretended we were too artsy and aloof for them, taking the sting out of the attention we weren’t getting.

Eventually, we got sand in the blaster and it wouldn’t rewind anymore, so we had to rewind the cassette with a pencil, until the blaster ate the tape for good.

“When Doves Cry” taught me that music has the power to transport you.

“Last Day of Our Acquaintance”
Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990)

There’s probably a generation of women who shaved their heads and took up guitar because of Sinéad, and I was one of them. I took Annie Lennox’s advice and left Lethbridge after being accepted into Alberta College of Art where I definitely found my people. The school was open all night, so we’d stay up late finishing projects, smoking in the halls (which was encouraged back then), and listening to music. I was just learning guitar, and this song spoke to my rebellious nature and awakening to injustice in the world. With buzzing guitar strings but heartfelt gusto, I attempted it at a Pub Night talent show, where to my surprise I ended up winning an airbrush. One of my instructors told me I should be a musician instead of a visual artist, which I found insulting at the time, but he was right.

“Last Day of Our Acquaintance” taught me that fierceness and vulnerability is a powerful combination.

“Where Were You”
Vic Chesnutt, West of Rome (1991)

When my friend introduced me to the music of Vic Chesnutt, I was deeply afflicted by the songwriting bug. I was drawn to the simplicity and rawness of his melodies and lyrics, and didn’t know for the longest time that his mobility was severely limited from an accident as a young adult. This affected his guitar style, making it difficult to play chords, and probably out of necessity he learned to convey only the essential notes of a melody. He was writing some of the most heartbreaking, brilliant, beautiful and hilarious lyrics I’d ever heard. Sometimes they’re painfully and uncomfortably honest — almost revelling in pathos — and take a bit of work to sit with.

Vic’s lyrics taught me that shining a light on our weaknesses can also illuminate our strength and beauty.

“Shaved Head”
Rheostatics, Whale Music (1992)

The first time I saw the Rheostatics was when they opened for the Barenaked Ladies in 1992.  I instantly became obsessed and bought the Whale Music cassette, which is probably still in my old Ford Escort that I sold for scraps. I saw them at the Town Pump in Vancouver, where a woman in a neon fun-fur top hat got up on stage and gyrated wildly, lunging so far that her skirt rode up past her waist. I loved that the band and venue didn’t kick her off and she became part of the show, escalating the energy. ‘This is living!’ I thought while flailing my emboldened limbs around.

I think the Rheostatics are one of Canada’s best bands ever, and Martin Tielli’s vocal delivery still sends chills down my spine and contracts my arrector pili muscles. To this day, I’m still not sure what this song is about. Its meaning changes as I change, which I love.

“Shaved Head” taught me that a song doesn’t have to mean the same thing to everybody. Sometimes you offer something up that unlocks different things for different people.

“Look at Miss Ohio”
Gillian Welch, Soul Journey (2003)

The first verse’s brilliance still makes my jaw drop. “Oh me oh my oh look at Miss Ohio/ She’s a-running around with her ragtop down/ She says ‘I wanna do right, but not right now.” It sums up so much about the human spirit in a whimsical yet melancholy and poignant way.

Gillian can capture a snippet of life — sometimes a really painful part — but deliver it in a healing, buttery voice that lets us know, ‘It’s ok, you’re not alone, it’s all part of the imperfect human experience, and life keeps going so enjoy the ride.’

I think this is what songwriting is all about, really.