Private Playlist: Mary Lattimore is communing with musical kindred spirits

Mary Lattimore Photo by Mary Lattimore

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments. 

Harpist Mary Lattimore has performed and recorded with artists including Sigur Ros, Thurston Moore, Jarvis Cocker, Kurt Vile, and Sharon Van Etten, among many others. Her newest release, “Silver Ladders,” follows a string of earlier acclaimed solo albums on Ghostly International and Thrill Jockey. “Silver Ladders” was recorded with Neil Halstead (Slowdive/Mojave 3) at his home studio in Cornwall, England. The album was released in October 2020 alongside a special “visual score” by photographer/director Rachael Pony Cassells.

For this edition of Private Playlist, Lattimore offers her favorite quarantine listening by kindred spirits.


Having a record come out in the middle of a pandemic with no touring and stuff is very strange, but I've gotten a lot of people writing — way more than ever — to say that the music is really helping them out and comforting them. So I'm wondering if people are using music as a tool for connecting with people more, because it's harder to connect with each other in person. 

While I'm in quarantine, I'm not buying as much new stuff; I'm digging into my existing record collection and paying attention to things that have sat on the shelf for awhile. I'm definitely listening to a lot more music than I am making it, so hopefully it's like an incubation, where I'm absorbing things that I can subconsciously use to fuel me when it comes time to make something new.


A big record for my quarantine time that I've been listening to a lot is by my very close friend, Julianna Barwick. Her new record called "Healing is a Miracle." I love all of her music, but I like seeing the differences between different records, knowing her personality and knowing what it took to put this one together. And that gives me such a cool feeling to listen to her work. "Inspirit" is the first song that she played for me when she was coming up with songs for the record. And when that really heavy bass synth comes-in three-quarters of the way through the song, as this kind of surprising element, I think it's really deluxe and beautiful. And one of the things that I love most about her music is the way she layers her vocals and synths. It's almost like she's psychic when she's making these layers, as if she's envisioning what's to come and how they're going to sound together before it actually happens. I think it's really amazing.


Nailah Hunter is a recent discovery of mine, and she's based here in Los Angeles too. I've been listening to her cassette "Spells" a lot during this quarantine time, and I've found her to be such a kindred spirit. I think we're sonically connected too, in the way she treats the harp through effects and processing. She also has a beautiful voice. The vibe is kind of a new age style, and she goes to places that I don't naturally gravitate to, but I love to listen to it. It's just this whole little world that she's creating in her songs.


My very, very close friend, Meg Baird, is a beautiful musician. She's in a band called Espers, but for her solo stuff, she plays acoustic guitar and piano, and her voice is one in a million. It's just this gorgeous, gorgeous ribbon of beautiful sound.


One other thing I've been listening to a lot is a birthday present from my manager and friend Brian. He gave me The Cure's "Pictures of You" single from "Disintegration," which is my favorite record of all time. It has an extended version of "Pictures of You," but it also has these live versions of some songs from that record, including the title track. I've found that listening to live recordings right now fill a space and scratch an itch. Hearing the excitement from the band and the crowd, you could feel the electricity of the show.


I've been freshly digging into Harmonia, particularly the box set that has all their records. I've been thinking about their idea of communal living in forests, and how they made music together and lived together as a band. I think that the idea of living communally out in a small town or something seems like a beautiful world, all making music together with no virus. It seems like a little dream, so I've enjoyed sinking into that dream world.

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