Nobody talks about desert island discs any more.
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.
Tags: cocco, duran duran, emmylou harris, favorite edition, john zorn, kronos quartet, naked city, neutral milk hotel, number girl, robin holcomb, shiina ringo, u2
I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.
- Matt Alber, How High the Moon
- BBMak, Into Your Head
- Queens of the Stone Age, Rated R
- The B-52’s, Whammy!
- Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas
- Soundtrack, Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid
- Walter Carlos, Switched-On Bach
- Frank Ocean, nostalgia, ULTRA
- Leo Imai, Film Scum
- Frank Ocean, Endless (Ordered Nov. 24, 2017)
- U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind
Tags: bbmak, frank ocean, leo imai, matt alber, purchase log, queens of the stone age, soundtrack, the b-52's, u2, vince guaraldi trio, wendy carlos
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.
Tags: courtney barnett, janelle monae, looking ahead, shiina ringo, supercar, u2, various artists
A lot of big releases have been announced for fall, but few of them have much interest for me. I like you, Taylor Swift, but I accept I’m not your target market.
Various Artists, PAUSE ~STRAIGHTENER Tribute Album~, Oct. 18
I haven’t listened to STRAIGHTENER in years, but I can get behind a tribute album that includes ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, THE BACK HORN, 9mm Parabellum Bullet and the pillows.
The Smiths, The Queen is Dead (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 20
I’ll settle for the 2-disc edition with the demos and b-sides. I’m not enough of a fan for the super deluxe edition with a concert recording and a DVD.
Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All, Nov. 3
Please, please be the album In the Lonely Hour could have been.
Björk, Utopia, Nov. 24
I love Björk, but her albums aren’t ones you play for casual listening.
Cindy Wilson, Changes, Dec. 1
Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson have released solo albums, and Cindy Wilson completes the triumvirate. Honestly? I’m kind of curious what a Keith Strickland solo album would sound like.
U2, Songs of Experience, Dec. 1
I’m a U2 fan, but even I thought pushing Songs of Innocence into my iTunes library was intrusive. I ended up liking the album, but it ranks alongside How to Build an Atomic Bomb and All That You Can Leave Behind in the middle tier of U2’s output. I will listen to this new album regardless. I may even purchase it.
Missy Elliott, Under Construction, Nov. 10
I already grabbed an original pressing of this album a while back, but I’m glad to see it getting a reissue.
SUPERCAR, Three Out Change, Oct. 25
SUPERCAR, JUMP UP, Dec. 20
SUPERCAR, Futurama, Dec. 20
Vinyl reissues for the band’s 20th anniversary. 20 years? Really? I’ve already placed an order for Futurama.
Tags: bjork, cindy wilson, looking ahead, missy elliott, sam smith, straightener, the b-52's, the smiths, u2
It seems all the bands in which I’m interested all decided to release their albums in May and June. To date, I have a total of four 2017 releases since the start of the year. Putting together the Favorite Edition Half Year is going to be tricky.
At the Drive-In, in*ter al*li*a, May 5
I can’t figure out why I’m looking forward this late-coming follow-up to Relationship of Command, an album I like but can’t listen to very often. And I wasn’t enough of a fan to follow either Mars Volta or Sparta.
Café Tacvba, Jei Beibi, May 5
I find it interesting that Café Tacvba is releasing this album through CD Baby. That means they’ve gone completely independent.
Midnight Oil, Full Tank, May 7
Midnight Oil, Overflow Tank, May 7
Tempting as these complete boxed sets may be, my current Midnight Oil collection occupies quite a bit of shelf space. Also, the import markup makes these sets fiscally untenable. Hey Sony, fans outside of Australia might be interested in some of these releases.
Juanes, Mis Planes Son Amarte, May 12
It’s a visual album about a man going into outer space to find the woman of his dreams. I would be interested to see how Café Tacvba would tackle the same plot.
PWR BTTM, Pageant, May 12
Anyone who has Grindr or Scruff installed on his phone would probably check out a band called PWR BTTM.
Art of Noise, In Visible Silence (Deluxe Edition), May 19
The weirdest album I acquired in 1986. The b-sides are terrific.
Kishida Shigeru, Symphony No. 1, May 24
If the orchestral work Kishida released last year as a digital single is any indication, don’t expect a musical metamorphosis on the level of C. Kip Winger.
Sam Amidon, The Following Mountain, May 26
His first album of original music.
Cody Chesnutt, My Love Divine Degree, June 2
It’s been a while. I had wondered if another 10 years would pass before another Cody Chesnutt album would arrive.
U2, The Joshua Tree (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), June 2
I already have the 20th Anniversary edition, so really, I just want the white cover with the color photo.
Kronos Quartet, Folk Songs, June 9
For a while there, I thought Kronos had moved on from Nonesuch, given the number of albums the ensemble has released on other labels. This collaborative album with Sam Amidon, Natalie Merchant, Rhiannon Giddens and Olivia Chaney is the first Kronos has released on Nonesuch since 2012, not counting various anthologies.
Dan Messe, Amelie: A New Musical, June 9
I’m not sure what draws me to this cast recording — the fact it’s based on Amelie or the fact it was written by a member of Hem.
Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, James McAlister, Planetarium, June 9
Well, somebody had to update Gustav Mahler’s The Planets …
The Drums, Abysmal Thoughts, June 16
Jonny Pierce goes full Roland Orzabal ca. 1993, becoming the sole member of his band The Drums.
Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound, June 16
I would be OK with Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson releasing albums on alternating years.
Midnight Oil, The Vinyl Collection, May 7
I would like to get Redneck Wonderland, Breathe and Head Injuries on vinyl. I could do without Capricornia, Earth and Sun and Moon and Place Without a Postcard. Maybe separate releases down the line? Outside Australia, even??
Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers, At the Ryman, May 12
Harris’ shows at the Ryman gave the venue new life, and she returns for the venue’s 125th anniversary. So of course a reissue (on vinyl!) is in order.
En Vogue, Funky Divas, June 9
I’m disappointed rock bands haven’t turned “Free Your Mind” into a crossover classic.
Enya, A Day Without Rain, June 16
Enya, Amaratine, July 14
A Day Without Rain is Enya’s weakest album, and Amaratine went a long way to rectify it. That won’t stop me from getting both of them.
Tags: at the drive-in, bryce dessner, cafe tacuba, cody chesnutt, emmylou harris, en vogue, enya, hem, james mcalister, jason isbell, juanes, kronos quartet, looking ahead, midnight oil, nico muhly, pwr bttm, quruli, sam amidon, sufjan stevens, the art of noise, the drums, u2
In 1987, I turned 15 years old, an age when music discovery exerted its strongest pull. The same Spotify analysis that charted music tastes over time claims most teen-agers highly identify with popular titles. Had the same study been done when I was a teen, I probably would have been an outlier point.
Kronos Quartet, Black Angels
The first Kronos Quartet album I purchased was Winter Was Hard, and it was something of a Reader’s Digest for modern classical music. Then Black Angels followed, and it exploded my perception of what music could be.
John Zorn, Naked City
I was a pissed-off teen for a lot of reasons, most of them mundane. But it gave me drive to find music that would alienate everyone around me, and the howls of Yamantaka Eye and John Zorn fit the bill nicely.
In Tua Nua, The Long Acre
This album introduced me to the idea that popularity is not the same thing as merit. I couldn’t find a filler track anywhere on this album, and the confrontational “The Innocent and the Honest Ones” mirrored my own dissatisfaction with being raised in a monotheistic culture. It should have been a hit, but mostly, you’ll find it in the 99 cent bins.
U2, The Joshua Tree
U2 had to score a number one album in order for radio stations in Hawaii to pay attention. I knew about the band beforehand but hadn’t taken the plunge till I saw the video for “With or Without You.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Phantom of the Opera
Andrew Lloyd Webber gets a lot of flack for his signature hit tunes, but for a young burgeoning composer, his scores are incredibly instructional. I’ve yet to encounter another pop writer who can make a hook out of an atonal melody.
The Art of Noise, In Visible Silence
Before I learned about Kronos Quartet, John Zorn or Andrew Lloyd Webber, I encountered the Art of Noise. I would later learn (Who’s Afraid Of …?) The Art of Noise! had some bonafide songcraft, but its follow-up, In Visible Silence, essentially jettisoned all that.
Arcadia, So Red the Rose
Of the two Duran Duran splinter projects from 1985, Arcadia hews closest to the parent band and engenders the most sentiment from long-time fans.
Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George
Sunday in the Park with George arrived at time in my life when I was just starting to learn about modern classical music. I looked to Lloyd Webber to bridge my interests in classical and pop musics, and I turned to Sondheim to go further into modernism.
Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
I loved Eurythmics singles, but their albums tended to have quite a bit of filler. Sweet Dreams is the deserved obvious choice, but Savage and In the Garden deserve some props.
Duran Duran, Rio
This tops my Desert Island Disc list, so of course, it’s going to be here.
Wendy Carlos, TRON Original Soundtrack
I listened to this soundtrack to death because I loved the computer graphics of the movie. It wasn’t till much later that I discovered how rich Carlos’ harmonic language was. This soundtrack pretty much planted the seed that would be nourished by the Art of Nosie, Kronos Quartet, John Zorn and classical music after 1900.
Tags: andrew lloyd webber, arcadia, duran duran, eurythmics, in tua nua, john zorn, kronos quartet, music discovery, stephen sondheim, the art of noise, u2, wendy carlos
I forgot to include a few titles from the last round-up.
U2, Songs of Innocence, Oct. 14
Yeah, I’m old enough to have actually downloaded this album from the iTunes, and yes, I know exactly who U2 is. Giving away an album for free can really backfire if the album in question doesn’t spur a fan to buy a physical copy. I may drop the cash because Songs of Innocence is better than No Line on the Horizon. Unfortunately, it’s as forgettable as anything the band has produced since the end of the last century.
MONO, The Last Dawn, Oct. 28
MONO, Rays of Darkness, Oct. 28
I’m rather glad MONO has finally realized that their orchestral sound can only go so far, and I look forward to hearing the reportedly rawer sound. But two albums?
… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, IX, Nov. 4
What can I say? I’m a sucker for the grandeur.
Fugazi, First Demo, Nov. 11
As a latecomer to Fugazi, the news of a release of music I’ve so far not yet encountered is pretty much equivalent to saying it’s a new album.
And these releases just hit retail:
John Luther Adams, Become Ocean
Part of me was really tempted to catch the premiere of this work by the Seattle Symphony, but I’m not as familiar with John Luther as I am with John Coolidge. NPR First Listen previewed the album, and skeptic though I may be of accolades — including a Pulitzer — this one was well deserved.
yMusic, Balance Problems
I think my fascination with New Amsterdam Records has cooled off a bit, but the label still grabs my attention from time to time. This collection includes pieces by Nico Muhly, Timo Andres and Sufjan Stevens. What? No Bryce Dessner or Richard Reed Parry?
Tags: and you will know us by the trail of dead, fugazi, john luther adams, looking ahead, mono, u2, ymusic