Don DiLegoIt’s one of the toughest questions for any music fan: which albums would you take if you knew you were going to be stranded on a desert island? Granted, the ability to load up a huge collection’s worth of albums onto a device that fits in a shirt pocket has made the literal portion of that question irrelevant, but its metaphorical properties remain. Most recently we’ve asked it to singer-songwriter Don DiLego, whose new EP, ‘Western & Atlantic,’  we reviewed last week. For those readers who live in the New York City area, DiLego will hold a free CD release party tonight (Aug. 14) at Rockwood Music Hall at 7:45 PM. 

Also, check below for a special video of DiLego performing “Lonely Couples.” DiLego says that this is “not any kind of official video. It’s simply a one-take performance video when I was walking around Echo Park, CA, artistically filmed by a gracious anonymous person.”

As if this isn’t a nearly impossible task! But of course we always toss this question around at parties and I’ve thought about it often. My thing is, the music of our childhood and “formative years” has such a larger than life hold on us, it’s hard not to go to that era and pick your albums. There are a litany of amazing records out in the last few years that I love, love…but when it comes down to it, and I’m stranded on that lonesome desert island with only these five discs to provide solace and hope, I gotta go with records that have a history for me, the ones that carry that weight of time and have already been road-tested. Otherwise, I ain’t gettin’ nowhere with this!

Willie Nelson, “Red-Headed Stranger”

Willie is a badass. I totally made my first album a concept record mostly because of this record. Willie chose a spare, dusty arrangement (I think he made a movie on it but heard it was atrocious), and it works brilliantly. Oh, and his guitar sound…essentially untouchable. He’s actually become my favorite guitar player — so original and his behind-the-beat solos are genius. Admittedly, this sentence sounds bad, but I have major Willie envy. So there’s that.

Wilco, “Being There”

Oh, such a tough choice! Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is yelling at me right now, and justifiably so. But the fact is, this record has probably influenced me like no other. I have always felt at odds with some of the early bands I was in, whether we were doing rock or pop or grunge or variations on the theme. Deep down, I just kept wanting to sing “Rhinestone Cowboy” or “Ring of Fire.” But I knew I wasn’t really a fan of country music, at least not what was on the radio. Anyway, when I first heard this record, it was one of my biggest “aha!” moments. It just made so many things make sense for me and made me feel like I had an outlet for what I really wanted to play. And I’ve been chasing that record ever since!

Talk Talk, “Spirit of Eden”

There aren’t enough words. This record (along with the thematic follow-up Laughing Stock) was so out-of-step with the times it’s laughable. It’s also a work of art. I can’t really claim to know what Mark Hollis was thinking when he worked this out, but we’re talking about a British new wave pop band doing whatever is a bigger about face than a 180. It’s essentially unrecognizable as the same band, and effectively killed their “commercial” career. It has, however, gained a growing cult worship and deservedly so. Perhaps the boldest record of the 80s, in my opinion. It’s also timeless, so go get it…now (Try for the vinyl!).

Duran Duran, “Duran Duran”

Their first album. I have to say, I want to defend these guys all the time, and usually have to. They get a bad rap because of the video culture they helped to create and dominate, but their first two albums are stellar. I give a slight edge to their first though because in comparison it seems so raw and un-colored and so original. I don’t think this record gets enough props and I also can’t underplay the influence it had on me getting into music. They’re just now starting to get their due a bit, and deservedly so.

Roxy Music, “Avalon”

I dare you to find a sexier non-Prince record. The photo of this record should accompany the dictionary’s definition of “album.” It’s so warm and dense and cohesive I can just as easily focus intently on it and lose myself in it, as to let it drift on in the background. I never ever tire of it. Seriously…never.

Also, somehow I just saw that The Joshua Tree washed up on the reef…wait, how’d that get there?

Watch Don DiLego’s Video For “Lonely Couples”