From: Matt Kasznel
To: EHC Staff
My brother and I go back and forth on a hypothetical question every few months: if you were stranded on a desert island with only a music playback device of your choosing and five albums, which five would you take with you to listen to for all your remaining days?
The only rule: no “Greatest Hits” albums, but movie soundtracks and “live” CDs are OK. So you can’t pick the “The Best of Peter Frampton,” but “Frampton Comes Alive” is fair game.
You could do this with just about any form of media – movies, books, comics, etc. I like doing music because, like books, you can only be engaged through one of the five senses for the most part. Also, my five movies would suck and everyone would hate me for listing them. (“Who’s ready to watch ‘Thumbtanic’ again?”)
For most people, this will be a challenge to limit an eternity of music to just five CDs, so variety is paramount, unless you make the only reasonable choice – all five Creed CDs. What’s that? No one? Didn’t even know they’d put out five? Hm. Well, your loss.
Anyway, I’ll start with mine…
- 1. “Boys and Girls in America” by The Hold Steady
Simply put, if Bruce Springsteen, George Thorogood and Jack Kerouac made a CD together, it would sound an awful lot like this one. Also, knowing a guy who is frequently mistaken for an accountant can front a bar rock band gives me hope for my own future endeavors.
- 2. “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Vol. 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness” by Coheed and Cambria
A few of you may already know the awe-inspiring power of the intro to “Welcome Home” (also known as The All Time Greatest Song to Wake Up In the Morning To), but if you’re a fan of creative, versatile bands with serious chops, Coheed and Cambria’s worth your time. This album’s probably the best representation of their work; it’s all over the map musically, but with a few distinct unifying elements – namely, Claudio Sanchez’s ridiculous, just-south-of-Geddy-Lee voice, and the skills of Sanchez and Travis Stever.
- But that album title can go right to hell.
- 3. “City of Evil” by Avenged Sevenfold
I didn’t grow up listening to Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, or even Pantera. I did grow up listening to Avenged Sevenfold, a band whose sole intent is to modernize various styles of classic metal and play it better and faster than any of their predecessors. Every song is so ridiculously over-the-top to the point of parody, but it’s my favorite heavy metal album ever. Just call this one City of Solos – it’s basically 80 minutes of the band saying, “Hey, we’re better at our instruments than pretty much everyone, so here ya go.”
- 4. “Back in Black” by AC/DC
I already went deep on AC/DC a couple weeks ago, so I’ll keep this brief. The most amazing thing about “Back in Black” is how great it sounds even today, 34 years later. Not to mention it’s a great bridge between AC/DC’s sleazy Australian bar days and its future arena tours. One thing always bugged me, though: why no apostrophe in “Hells Bells?”
- 5. “Transatlanticism” by Death Cab for Cutie
For a long time, I put “Plans” here because I’m a sucker for indie music with piano. But about a year ago, Death Cab released the “Transatlanticism” demos to celebrate its 10th anniversary, and it reminded me how perfect the album is for an overcast, mid-40’s autumn day. Not that you’d be getting many of those on a desert island, mind you, but I’d also want something mellow to balance out all the rock.
(side note: 10th anniversary already? Damn it, when’s my AARP membership coming in?)
I have a ton of honorable mentions, but I want no credit for stuff I didn’t put on the list. Instead, I turn the question over to you, my fellow EHC’ers. What are you taking on the island with you?
Great concept, and a good challenge for the musically inclined/incompetent. Though, I think it was Chuck Klosterman who said that he would take five of those Pink Floyd albums that are made of gold (because gold is malleable enough that he could fashion makeshift weapons or tools out of them; very practical on a desert island).
- 1. “The White Album” by The Beatles
If we’re following the generally accepted maxim “more Beatles is better Beatles,” then this is the ideal choice. It’s a double album (you didn’t say that was against the rules, Kaz; technicalities win every times) clocking in at over 90 minutes, which would come in handy when on an island with nothing to do but survive. It’s the return of the more rock-based Beatles, but also the most diverse Beatles album (with lots of ballads, country experimentation, surprisingly hard rock songs and some lingering psychedelia).
- 2. “Led Zeppelin II” by Led Zeppelin
I considered putting Van Halen’s first album here (which is more readily enjoyable), but it is too short (10 minutes shorter than LZ2) for island use. More importantly, LZ2 is way more archetypal (history is important if your trapped with no society). The RIFFS here are the sole foundation of a thousand inferior bands from the 70s and 80s. Definitely essential (even though it is out rocked by its brother, Deep Purple In Rock, and out heavied by its other brother, Black Sabbath “Paranoid”).
- 3. “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash” by The Pogues
Diversity. The basis for all of those “Irish” punk bands (well, those two Irish punk bands). The attitude is there, but it’s done all with acoustic instruments, which adds to the rough folk appeal. Definitely a better choice than the lame posturing of the Dropkick Murphys (though I like it about the same as Flogging Molly).
- 4. “Bringing it All Back Home” by Bob Dylan
Maybe not the best Dylan album, but it’s pretty boss overall. The perfect dividing line between total folk and rock. Plus, you might just experience “Subterranean Homesick Blues” on a desert island, and realize that “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” On the plus side, you won’t have to work on Maggie’s Farm no more.
- 5. “Toxicity” by System of a Down
I wanted to put something here that would give me real metal cred (likely Celtic Frost “Morbid Tales” or Slayer “Hell Awaits”), but this album is just way too fun. It is eminently repeatable, fast and has some off-kilter melodies strewn about. This group separated themselves from the nu metal pile, and it was to its benefit. The politically aware (well, sort of aware) lyrics will give island dwellers a connection to the mainland as it was in 2001. Plus, this album was #1 on the charts when the 9/11 attacks took place. There’s that history, again.
Okay, so here are mine. I agree that five albums….errrrrr…..CDs are hard to choose, But I’m going to give it a go.
I love all genres of music except country music. And I get bored listening to one genre. Yet, if I had to pick, I’d probably shoot for legends, and that’s going to be rock, for me. I’m going to do this off the top of my head. With some reflection, it might change.
- 1. “Electric Ladyland” by Jimi Hendrix
If you know me, you know Hendrix, to me, is God. This is difficult because Hendrix’s 3 studio albums released in his lifetime are all great, all with different feels. And his one live album – Band of Gypsys – is great in that it has some real heaviness to it. (The guitar solo in Machine Gun….unbelievable) But the work he did in the studio had a lot of different feels, so while it seems very difficult to leave Gypsys off of the list, I think I have to because I only get five choices. Electric Ladyland was Hendrix unleashed in the studio. It has a lot of different sounds. And it’s a double album. Bonus!
- 2. “Physical Graffiti” by Led Zeppelin
Another double album! This to me is one of the greatest rock albums of all time. Again, a nice mix of sounds with blues like In My Time of Dying, rock (Custard Pie is one of my favorite songs of their. Also the Wanton Song….two words: John Bonham), and ballads. (Ten Years Gone) They had also really mastered the studio at this point.
- 3. “Jar of Flies” by Led Zeppelin
I was having a hard time choosing between this album and another band that had Layne Staley, Mad Season. Jar of Flies wins out because the first 4 songs (there are only 6, which makes up for my two double albums) are all powerful to me. Rotten Apple (that opening riff!), Nutshell, I Stay Away, No Excuses….it’s almost an AIC Greatest Hits for me. Dark. Heavy. Great lyrics, great feel. And Whale and Wasp, an instrumental, is moving in its own way.
- 4. “Riot Act” by Pearl Jam
A very unpopular PJ album, it’s been my favorite for a couple of years, which is funny because I didn’t like it when it came out in like 2002. It took me about TEN years to get it. Check out the songs You Are and All or None. Another dark album. (Maybe I need to find a counselor to talk to! But what the hell? I’m stranded on an island!) I love PJ lyrics, which seem to have a touch of isolation and disillusion to them, which may fit how I’d feel there. (Am I reading too much into the deserted island part of this? Probably.)
- 5. “Superunknown” by Soundgarden
I really love these guys. They have those heavy slow-churning rhythms like Black Sabbath and the lyrics are superb. I really could go with any of their past three albums, but this one is my favorite of theirs. I don’t like every song on it – there aren’t many, if any, albums where I do love every song – but a ton of my favorites. Again, their next album Down On The Upside is a real close second, but I’m going with this.
Again, I am making this list without a lot of forethought, but these are my five. Hard to believe I left off The Beatles Abbey Road. Also, no Pink Floyd, but they are really overplayed (“And Led Zeppelin is NOT???”) so Dark Side and Wish You Were Here are easy to pass on for that reason (not THAT easy). Originally, I did have Animals on the list, but it’s a 5-song album and I only like 2 of those songs. But I like them a LOT. Very cynical. And they are long songs, which kind of helps.
Also, no rap (which I love a very little of), no classical, and no jazz, which might be cool on a deserted island. But I’m thinking of music to play over and over. I’d miss the other stuff, but these are my choices.
- 1. “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys
The Beatles are obviously the greatest musical product to come out of the 1960s (or any era) but I don’t think they put out any one album that’s quite on the level of perfection displayed here. Brian Wilson is just a staggering musical genius and there are songs here, like “God Only Knows” or “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times,” that are just stunning in how incredibly intricate and beautiful they are.
- 2. “Abbey Road” by the Beatles
Probably any Beatles album would suit me fine on a desert island, but my favorite and the one I find myself listening to again and again is Abbey Road, which was their second-to-last album released but the final one they recorded together. The first half is structured like any other album, with standouts like “Come Together,” “Something” and Because,” but the second half is a 16-minute medley that plays like a farewell encore the band is offering up to the world. It’s all capped off with the “The End,” which features Ringo’s only drum solo as well as three identifiably separate guitar solos from John, Paul and George.
- 3. “The Blue Album” by Weezer”
This just feels like a perfect album without a single bad song on it. In recent years, Rivers Cuomo seems to have become more concerned in recent years with songs that are pop-friendly, but also easily disposable. Every song here is catchy as hell, but there is also weight to them and you can tell on monster hits like “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So” he’s offering up a narrative deeply rooted in his own life. Plus it’s so evocative of its era to me, I feel like I’m back in middle school whenever I hear it.
- 4. “Californication” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
If The Blue Album takes me back to middle school, Californication brings me back to high school. Beyond my own personal experience with it, this feels like an album where the band begins to further evolve from a bunch of manic lunatics jumping around on stage with socks over their dicks. Anthony Kiedis’ rap-rock vocals are still here, but the key is probably the return of guitarist John Frusciante, whose insane talent is apparent on pretty much every song. This one also has one of the most subtly cool album covers ever.
- 5. “Room on Fire” by The Strokes
Most people seem to point to The Strokes’ debut, Is This It, as their greatest effort, but their follow up is my favorite. The Strokes are in a way a throwback to 70s era rock bands like The Velvet Underground while also having a distinctive sound where you can immediately tell it’s them when you hear a song. I feel like I have no idea what the hell Julian Casablancas is singing about 95 percent of the time, but this is an album (and a band) where the lyrics are secondary to how everything sounds musically.
Honorable Mentions: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs; Rilo Kiley, Under the Blacklight; Jackson Browne, Late for the Sky; Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, The Rising; Kings of Leon, Only By the Night
Alright, these aren’t my favorite albums (well, not always my favorite), but they are certainly the ones that I come back to the most. I love the other choices here, and would love to hear some of you on the college side of things, but here’s my list, for what it’s worth.
- 1. “Fair Warning” by Van Halen
This is the one album that would always be on my list, and it’s far and away the best Van Halen album of all time. This is Van Halen’s dark album, and while it was it’s the band’s least radio-worthy album, it is the album that really shows their chops as the best Rock Band of their era. You can tell that Ed’s pissed during this record, probably for their insane lifestyles at the time. “Mean Street” kicks this album off, and has some of Eddie Van Halen’s best work, and really smacks you in the face. Dirty Movies, is the conflict between a prom queen and a porn star. The names of the songs are memorable (“Push Comes to Shove,” “So This is Love?,” and ends with the dark and brooding musical piece “SundayAfternoon in the Dark,” and ends with “One Foot Out the Door,” which is a blistering finish. While “Mean Street” is my favorite song, perhaps the best Van Halen song of all time is “Unchained,” complete with Eddie Van Halen’s brownest sound meeting David Lee Roth’s raunchiest lyrics. I couldn’t go anywhere without this album.
- 2. “The Doors” by The Doors
I started listening to this album the same time as “Ten,” and while it’s different in so many ways, I felt the same way about it. I found this album in the middle of my rock and roll run in the 80’s, and come back to it all the time as an album that settles me. While my favorite Doors’ song isn’t on this album (“Peace Frog”), it’s clearly their best work. As Morrison’s mess of a life to the band all over the place, this was the one album that felt like there was a true meshing of the poetic-ness of Morrison, with the classical training of the other three.
- 3. “Ten” by Pearl Jam
Look, my life wasn’t full of angst by any stretch, but you know, you’re 20, can’t drink legally, and are ready for war. This was my album. Most people would take Nirvana, but for me, it’s all about Pearl Jam. The grunge movement ended Guns and Roses run at the top of the Rock charts, and Pearl Jam was a nice mix between angst and melody. The hits are big, with “Jeremy,” “Alive,” and “Evenflow,” but the glue of this album are the fringe songs, such as “Black,” “Porch,” “Once” and “Release.” It’s an amazing album, and was the beginning of an amazing career for a band that made it through their reckless youth, and somehow made it to middle age.
- 4. “The White Album” by The Beatles
I took Bojar’s out here, and while I could pick any Beatles album from any era, I’ll go with bulk, and simply because this album seems to have a bit of all the members of the band in it, minus Ringo. He left the group for a bit during this time, but the creative process of the other three was nothing short of special. The best is that they seemed to put it all in, either fearful of pissing the others off, or because they would have it no other way. I love this album as much for the backstory, as for the songs. This really was the Beatles at their best, because they were ready to kill each other through the whole thing. They were renting out studios left and right, because they could barely stand to be in the same place, at the same time. What you had here were three guys in Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison who were all going in different directions. It’s an eclectic album, from the pop-ish “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” to the raucous “Revolution,” to the poignant “When My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Seriously, this is the album you listen to when you need to hear it all.
- 5. “Appetite for Destruction” by Guns N Roses
Guns and Roses has turned into a damn Axl Rose joke, but thankfully Slash is out there fighting the good fight, and their first album was something more than special. There isn’t a song on this album that I don’t love, and that isn’t still relevant in some form or fashion. This album came out in the mix of hair bands of the 80’s, and kicked the teeth out of them all. The dual guitars of Izzy Stradlin playing off of Slash, combined with the original sound of Axl Rose. What makes this album so special is that it was a true collaboration between each band member, combined with Rose’s insane desire for perfection. This album was rock. This album was blues. This album was punk. When it all came together, this album transformed rock in the 1980’s, and cemented Guns as one of the greatest rock groups of all time…at least that version.
Matt Kasznel (again)
So…The Beatles, Zeppelin, Van Halen (NOT Van Hagar), Pearl Jam, and a wild card appears to be our winning combo. However, as the originator of the post, I’m making an amendment to my list. Why? Not a single hip hop CD through the whole damn thing.
So I’m gonna sadly swap out my Death Cab option for…
5. “good kid m.A.A.d city” by Kendrick Lamar
I wanted DCFC on my list because it was a fantastic, emotional, yet mellow CD. Which, incidentally, is a big reason why I loved Kendrick’s CD. There are plenty of high-energy tracks (see “Backseat Freestyle” and K.Dot’s interesting take on the Eiffel Tower), but the best tracks – “Art of Peer Pressure,” Swimming Pools,” and “B**** Don’t Kill My Vibe” – are laid back and soulful, the soundtrack to a lazy weekend indoors, or out on the porch. A combination of ace production, fantastic rhymes, and solid guest spots make it a perfect modern rap album.