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Desert Island Discs with Alyssa Graham

Alyssa Graham

photo credit: Paul Maffi

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Alyssa Graham, whose latest EP, Lock, Stock & Soul, is out now. Visit Alyssa’s official site for samples of her music — after reading her Desert Island picks, of course!

First off… I would bring vinyl, not CDs. I mean, if we’re playing this game, it’s just as likely I would have a record player on the island as a CD player or a charger for my MP3 player.

Neil Young, On the Beach – Neil’s 1974 classic that was once described as “the most despairing album of the decade.” My favorite album of all time. Neil constantly reminds me of humanity and the connection we all share. “Motion Pictures” breaks my heart every time I hear it and the title track has me wishing I were there with Neil to pick up the pictures and put them back on his wall. That’s the thing about Neil — you feel his pain and he brings you there with him to explore all the emotions. I figure I would have ample time on this island to explore my emotions. Maybe to get the real On the Beach experience I would have a few “Honey Slides” to add to the mellow solitude.

Francoise Hardy, La Question – When talking about French pop music, of course we think of Serge Gainsbourg (whom I adore), but one of the best offerings is Francoise Hardy’s 1971 La Question. A sensual and lush album that begs for a glass of wine, a fireplace and a shag rug. None of which I would have on this desert island, but by listening, I could imagine. La Question is beautifully spare and dreamlike. “Viens” and “Mer” lull you into a deep peaceful meditation, the subtle string arrangements are timeless and romantic, and the whisper and hum of Francoise’s vocals whisk you away to a languid state. I think I would want/need this illusion if I was stranded.

Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left - This 1969 recording, by the British folk legend, was his first of only three albums recorded before his mysterious and tragic death. I’m pretty sure if I were stranded on a desert island I would need Nick Drake. Similar to Billie Holiday, I can always listen to Nick Drake and know that someone is more down and out than I am. “The Thoughts of Mary Jane,” “Cello Song,” “Time Has Told Me,” and “River Man” are songs that I couldn’t live without. Nick is so expressive and so melancholy at such a young age; there is an authenticity that I don’t find all that often. His lyrics and instrumental arrangements are chilling and often filled with despair, but his melodies are filled with hope and promise. He constantly reminds me that life and beauty are sacred and fleeting.

The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - Since I don’t want to kill myself on this desert island, I have to go with this cliché’ but quintessential 1967 album which basically is the ultimate — and possibly the most important — rock & roll record ever made. The fuzz guitars, the orgasmic orchestra, and the lilting piano are a reminder of what rock & roll should sound and feel like. Though I may gravitate towards other albums on a daily basis, John, Paul, Ringo and George capture the ultimate magic of sonic beauty in this album (and in plenty of their others). I think I would need this album to survive, to dream, to love and just to remember the best of everything.

João Gilberto, João Gilberto – I can’t imagine being on an island surrounded by water without having the ultimate bossa nova album. João’s hypnotic 1973 masterpiece is simple, peaceful and heavenly. His voice and guitar are all I would need to stay calm and grounded and appreciate my surroundings. João changed my perspective on music, on being a musician and specifically on being a vocalist. Though I learned a lot about phrasing from the great Frank Sinatra, João Gilberto is my hero. He says so much more than most with his soft, lilting, almost inaudible vocals and his effortless guitar playing. His passion and sense of intimacy would make me feel like I wasn’t alone on this deserted island.

Now that you’re suitably intrigued by Alyssa’s picks, watch her live-in-the-bedroom video for the Lock, Stock & Soul track “‘Til My Heart Quakes.”




  • Anonymous

    It is a tough question, but I like Graham’s choices. A blend of sounds that grow on you (not on your nerves). Cool article.

  • Harv29

    My picks would be Guy Lombardo, Sammy Kaye and Mitch Miller!!!   However, I also thought the Titanic was unsinkable .

    Alyssa brings a whoe new level of enjoyment to an artist.  Not only does she have a wonderful voice and a beautiful presentation, you can see from her reasons and explanations  for her above picks that Alyssa is an intelligent person.  What a breath of fresh air!!!