On November 1st, Toronto-based Avant-folk artist, Mappe Of – the moniker for Tom Meikle – released a beautiful album titled The Isle of Ailynn via Paper Bag Records. “Recorded at Bathouse Studio, Ontario (operated by the Canadian band, The Tragically Hip) with longtime collaborator Will Crann and engineer Nyles Spencer (Broken Social Scene, Gord Downie), The Isle of Ailynn documents a fantasy world through nine different landscapes that draw parallels between a mythological space and everyday conflicts, troubles and fears within our lives.”
We caught up with Tom and asked him to pick three albums that have influenced him and his music.
Check out The Isle of Ailynn here: https://mappeof.bandcamp.com/album/the-isle-of-ailynn
Genesis – Foxtrot
Genesis has been in my life for a long time. Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins and Genesis (mostly the 80’s three-piece iteration) was playing in the house via my dad as early as I can remember. Later on as I dove head first into the modern prog metal world, I started tracing a lot of the stuff I was into at the time back to bands like Genesis and Yes. That said, I really found my passion for the early Genesis stuff in the past few years. Those dual twelve-string guitars captured this somewhat medieval, historic vibe that set such a gorgeous scene for Peter Gabriel’s strange lyricism. I just love the idea of a band sitting down and committing to writing a 20 minute epic like ‘Supper’s Ready’. Despite all of the criticisms of prog excess, there is some incredible songwriting and composition on this record from every angle, not to mention some of the heaviest stuff going at that time. The use of 12 string guitars on ‘The Isle of Ailynn’ I can almost entirely attribute to early Genesis stuff, this one and ‘Trespass’ in particular (shout out to Anthony Phillips‘ guitar work).
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
I remember hearing ‘Casimir Pulaski Day’ back around when I was first starting to write songs. I was just crushed by how tragic and beautiful Sufjan’s storytelling on that track was, not to mention the gorgeously sparse arrangement. After digging into the record as a whole, it sort of became a revelation for me. The ambitious concept, the balance of stark storytelling like ‘John Wayne Gacy Jr.’ and the orchestration of the denser tracks on the record, it felt like such a complete body of work. It helped inspire me as a songwriter to dive into the realm of writing from other perspectives and pulling from historical events as a way to channel inspiration. This one definitely stays with me as a bar for songwriting, album sequencing and thoughtful orchestration. There’s definitely some nods to this one in the string and horn arrangements on ‘The Isle of Ailynn’ as well.
Opeth – Ghost Reveries
Opeth is a staple for me. I find myself coming back around to their records every couple of years in a big way, and still I uncover new layers and pull new inspiration from it. This is one of the few early Opeth records that I believe doesn’t fall under the category of ‘concept record’, but it’s such a sonically uniform record it feels among the most cohesive. With a handful of tracks over 10 minutes that rarely repeat parts, this one harkens back to the Genesis school of thought in regards to songwriting. In some ways, they took the extremes of the 70’s prog approach and stretched it beyond the boundaries of death metal, black metal and folk music. The dynamic range of their music was something that always inspired me, the way they found ways to seamlessly (and sometimes jarringly in the best way) stitch together classical guitar passages with dissonant, distorted riffs and delicate falsetto vocals with demonic growling. From that standpoint, this one had a big impact on my approach to the dynamics and the structure of ‘The Isle of Ailynn’, as well as my approach to the classical guitar and darker melodic sensibilities.