In fact, a whole generation of readers might find the premise a bit preposterous — a list of 10 albums with which you would want to be stranded on a desert island. You had to suspend belief that you had an infinite electrical supply and a working playback device.
Then music escaped its physical confines, and iPods allowed people to carry entire music collections with them, which today’s subscription services dwarf in terms of supply.
But the desert island disc list still makes for a good thought exercise — in this era of abundance, what would you do in a moment of scarcity? What 10 albums feel as comfortable and reliable as that old jacket or blanket?
I think it’s only in the last decade that my list has finalized.
Duran Duran, Rio
As a teenager, my desert island disc list would have probably included Duran Duran in most slots. While I would hate to leave behind The Wedding Album, Rio is pretty much the go-to album for any Duranie.
Kronos Quartet, Black Angels
The Quartet for Strings No. 8 by Dmitri Shostakovich would be my desert island classical piece — I never tire hearing it. This album introduced me to the piece, and the title work has also become essential repertoire for me.
John Zorn, Naked City
I imagine there will be many frustrating days living on a desert island, and this album would help greatly to cope with those days.
Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball
Growing up in Hawaii meant automatically dismissing country music. Emmylou Harris introduced me to the better stuff.
Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
I was introduced to this album in 2009, right around the time it was starting to get difficult to find something new to move me. So yeah, I was surprised myself.
NUMBER GIRL, SCHOOL GIRL DISTORTIONAL ADDICT
Shiina Ringo, Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana
I feel a bit self-conscious over the fact three Japanese titles show up on this list, but given the number of really good albums that clustered around 1999-2004, it’s was tough keeping SUPERCAR, AJICO and fra-foa off the list, let alone the two Shiina Ringo albums that preceded Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana.
Robin Holcomb, Robin Holcomb
This album reminds me that pop songwriting doesn’t always need to be sweet.
U2, The Joshua Tree
To be honest, this album usually fights for its spot on the list with In Tua Nua’s The Long Acre.
I don’t write about my music projects here on Musicwhore.org because that’s not the intent of the site. It’s all about other people’s music that I admire.
But I have to say I’m really proud of the album I released at the end of March.
It’s titled Travis, and most of the songs were written around the time I was preparing to leave Austin, emotionally if not physically.
I actually finished recording it back in 2016, but I had other things I wanted to release before then. So I’ve had two years to live with the finished product, and it’s so far the best-sounding album I’ve recorded. Upgrading some components of my home studio to use a better class of software helped a lot.
I also stretched my abilities as a self-taught audio engineer, relying slightly less on computers to make up for my faults as a musician.
My introduction to McCoy Tyner’s Song for My Lady was brief but indelible.
My brother and I visited Jelly’s Comics and Music back in the late 1980s, and Song for My Lady was playing on the in-store PA. It was a particularly noisy part of the album, where Tyner sounded as if he was just pounding his fists on the piano.
My brother hated it. I absolutely dug it.
I was still in my infancy when it came to exploring atonal and dissonant music, and I had no clue about jazz history beyond the swing era repertoire offered in school.
I heard a crash of notes akin to what Kronos Quartet had introduced me, and I made sure to note the title and artist of the album playing that day. I vowed to pick it up eventually.
It took 30 years.
Jive Time Records held its anniversary sale, and the store had a used vinyl copy of Song for My Lady in stock. I hadn’t thought about the album in all that time, but I had to sate my curiosity.
Is it as noisy as I remember it to be? Just about.
I’ve had 30 years to be exposed to all manner of noisy music, and Song for My Lady falls a bit more on the tuneful side of John Coltrane’s Interstellar Space. It’s a rambunctious album and a far cry from the only other Tyner album in my collection, The Real McCoy.
I wonder if the engineer who programmed the ring of my apartment intercom listened to this album. There’s a sax trill on the title track which is a timbral and tonal match to that ring. The first time I heard it, I nearly got up to answer the intercom.
I’m still a novice when it comes to thinking critically about jazz, and according to reviews, Song for My Lady is one of Tyner’s best albums. The clerk at Jive Time who rung me up commented that it was one of his most underrated.
I believe it.
Song for My Lady doesn’t seem to come up in very many recommendation lists, which is a shame. This album is wild and energetic, but if my brother’s reaction is any indication, may a bit much so.
I like April Fools Day and Halloween, but I’m never ambitious enough to pull of a prank or a costume.
SUPERCAR, PERMAFROST, April 25
I think I’m covered in terms SUPERCAR best albums, but the special edition of this compilation comes with a Blu Ray edition of the video collection P.V.D. COMPLETE 10th Anniversary Edition. I would have gotten that Blu Ray without the CD.
Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer, April 27
I have to admit I would rather much see Janelle Monáe on screen than in sound. She was terrific in both Hidden Figures and Moonlight, and I would watch the hell out of a Cindy Mayweather movie. But the only album of hers I remotely like is the Metropolis EP.
Courtney Barnett, Tell Me How You Really Feel, May 18
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit was one of many great albums to emerge in 2015, but I’ve not yet cottoned to anything else.
Various Artists, Adam to Eve no Ringo (Shiina Ringo Tribute), May 23
The artists contributing to this Shiina Ringo tribute album don’t seem to be very adventurous. Given the two volumes of Reimport albums, I would have thought Tomosaka Rie or Kuriyama Chiaki would have participated. And did anyone ask Mukai Shuutoku?
U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, April 13
All That You Can’t Leave Behind was the mea culpa album for Pop, which is also being reissued on vinyl at the same time.
This site owes its existence to Russ Solomon, the founder of Tower Records who died on March 11 while watching the Oscars and drinking whiskey, according to reports.
I’ve already mentioned how Pulse magazine shaped my listening habits. The magazine also inspired me to become a music reviewer.
Jackson Griffith wrote columns for the magazine using a series of aliases. His writing style could be inscrutable and long-winded, but it was also humorous and, for avowed non-reader as myself back in high school, endlessly fascinating.
When I started writing reviews for the school paper, I tried — with little success — to emulate Griffith’s style. By the time I reached college, the greater lesson sank in: write like yourself, not that I had a clue who I was. The advent of the Internet allowed me to become my own publisher, and I’ve been subjecting you poor readers to these opinions for some 18 years now.
In college, I would receive promotional albums to review, but I could never get behind them. I could only write about items I bought with my own money, and back then, most of those items were bought at Tower Records. It was a lovely racket — Pulse spurred me to write about music, and Tower provided the product to do so.
I would read stories about how Walmart was the only place in town to buy music, which horrified me. Department store music sections were temples of mediocrity compared to the cornucopia found at Tower. I counted my lucky stars I could take the bus to a store that would stock albums by John Zorn, Joan Tower and In Tua Nua.
And while the Honolulu stores did their darnedest to have breadth and depth, Pulse hinted more was available that would never reach the islands. Early music e-commerce sites CD Now and Music Boulevard would chip away at Tower’s hold on my spending.
After I moved to Austin, my allegiance shifted to Waterloo Records and Amazon. I would later discover Tower didn’t have a monopoly on the idea of far ranging stock. Waterloo, Amoeba, Music Millennium, Silver Platters — the experience of Tower lives on.
So thank you, Russ Solomon, for connecting a precocious teen-ager to a lifetime of music fandom, financial ruin and obscure punditry.