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 Patrick Joseph, whose debut album, Antiques, is available as a free download this month. Check it out — after reading his Desert Island picks, of course!
The correct response to this concept of the “desert island disc” in 2011 would be that I’d cram my entire music collection into five MP3-DVDs. But in the spirit of playing fair, it’s a fun and extremely difficult process of painful indecision that I’m more than happy to partake in.
Radiohead, OK Computer
At the crossroads of organic sounds, abstract songwriting and the cold comfort of dizzying electro-nonsense, this album stands at the pinnacle of modern rock. My friends would argue me about the matter, but this is Radiohead’s best album, a transformation caught in real-time between a somewhat conventional guitar band and a band that had no regard or respect for patterns or popular judgment. This album wasn’t thinking outside the box, it was moving outside it — and building a new one. And it worked. Sure, there were more obscure bands at the time doing similar things that inspired them, but Radiohead was the first to put it all together like this. It’s a trip into outer space, yet organic enough to be the soundtrack to the darker side of your day. I was twelve years old when it was released and didn’t quite understand why it was so good at the time, but it changed my life.
Bob Dylan, Another Side of Bob Dylan
I was a little late aboard the Bob Dylan train – Forgivably so, I suppose, considering how far removed he is from the reaches of a child growing up in the ’90s into the 2000s. I was well aware of the Bob Dylan mythology and the more popular songs of his catalogue, but I wanted to discover him on my own time and absorb his work for myself as if it were released last week. So several years ago I started from the top and worked my way through the decades.
There are many sides to Bob Dylan, but this particular angle into his mind, however brief or small of a peephole it may be in the vast expanse of his career, is to me by far the pinnacle of his songwriting genius. It’s another crossroads album; here is a man who was the champion of a protest movement and who was typecast as a topical folkie, but he had so much more in him than what people came to expect. And so without regard to what others thought, instead of writing what people hoped he would write he just wrote what he felt was right, and kissed his old persona goodbye with the beautiful closing tune, “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” Poetic in so many ways, the album is just the breaking of a shell and the emergence of a lyrical monster. To this day I haven’t heard better lyrics than what’s spinning around on this record, and it’ll always be with me.
The Beatles, Abbey Road
I just surprised myself by putting the Beatles third on this list. They’re my favorite all-time band for an immeasurable amount of reasons and it’s incredibly difficult for me right now to fight the urge to throw away what I’ve written thus far in this list and just name my five favorite Beatles albums. You can’t just name one Beatles album; it’s simply unfair. But in the spirit of this list, I’m going to name the one that I feel was the sweet conclusion to their short yet nuclear existence as a band, and that one album is Abbey Road.
Let It Be always kind of bummed me out, it’s essentially the sound of the band all pissed off at each other and breaking up. Abbey Road was the solution: let’s throw away the amazing stuff we were doing before and just have fun making something else that’s amazing. And they did, and it was phenomenal. Everyone got to show their strength, from Ringo’s “Octopus’ Garden,” to George’s “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun,” to John & Paul’s “She’s So Heavy” and “You Never Give Me Your Money.” Abbey Road is my favorite simply because it was my first in-depth exploration of the Beatles as a young teenager, and top to bottom the album is just solid as a rock.
Arthur Rubinstein, Chopin 19 Nocturnes
Sure, it’s kind of strange to place classical music amidst a list of modern pop recordings, but we’re being honest here, right? And sure, I risk the chance of coming across as a bit pretentious, but let me explain. Classical music was with me long before any kind of pop, rock or folk music came into the picture. My first instrument was the piano when I was six years old and to this day, my little happy place is sitting at the piano and noodling about what’s left in store of my classical memory banks out onto the keys.
I mainly judge things from an area of pure feeling, so I can’t claim that Chopin was the most brilliant composer who ever lived, because that wouldn’t be the truth. But the truth is that to me, there isn’t a more beautiful collection of music ever written than Chopin’s piano nocturnes. I can’t go very long without hearing or playing them. Every note tugs at the heart strings; every piece is thought out brilliantly and felt with divine melody laid on top of aching tension and soothing brilliance. Chopin’s writing structure often either starts as a minor piece into a major, or a major piece into a minor, but always returning back to the A section of the piece from whence you came. It’s this reality that reminds you that you can never have an honest day without a little gloom, but reversely and more importantly, you will never have a gloomy day without some sun. These Rubinstein recordings, to me, are the definitive recordings of these pieces, and I can guarantee you that while I’m vomiting up my futile attempts at cooking crab meat before I perish from my lack of survival skills on a desert island, I’m going to need me some Chopin to get me through. It’s instant peace.
Tom Waits, Orphans: Bawlers
Tom Waits is one of the rare artists who doesn’t slow down or get stale with age. In fact, I’d wager that he just gets better. I picked Orphans because it speaks to a very specific era of my life and is very close to my heart. It’s a three-disc album and the one that I’m referring to here is the Bawlers disc. I almost don’t have the words to describe the feeling and emotion that’s put into these recordings — it just about fills me to my capacity, to the point where there’s no room for anything else but the feeling that there is indeed a God and that he’s a big music fan. Everything that can go right in the air vibrations that constitute the existence of what we call ‘music’ is going right on these recordings, from the timbre of the vocals to the beautiful orchestration of every track, straight down to the rustic manner in which this disc was recorded. It’ll build you up and fill you with paralyzing nostalgia, and I challenge you to listen to “You Can Never Hold Back Spring” and not walk away weepingly optimistic.