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 Erik Brandt, whose latest solo release, The Long Winter, is out now. Visit Erik’s site for samples of his music — after reading his Desert Island picks, of course!

Invariably these kinds of exercises make me feel as if I’m back in middle school trying to play the “cool kid” game which is always filled with hidden trapdoors and pitfalls. Is this when I’m supposed to name-check all the bands everyone else seems to always say?

Well…if I’m going to be stuck on a desert island and–somehow against all logic–I have access to a CD player and electricity, I want to listen to music I genuinely enjoy–not the music I’m supposed to like. Here are five pivotal albums that have stood the test of time in my mind:

U2, The Joshua Tree

Rarely has a band made such a soaring, anthemic, glorious near-perfect album. The personal memories alone that I have associated with these tracks would sustain me for years of agonizing bordeom while trapped on an island.

The Jayhawks, Tomorrow the Green Grass

Gary Louris’s screaming electric guitars and his and Mark Olson’s harmonies with the backdrop of Karen Grotberg’s keys never fails to elevate me from wherever I am. This album simply refuses to age for me.

The Waterboys, Fisherman’s Blues

I somehow encountered this album in the public library of my rural southern Wisconsin town. Upon cueing it up on my father’s turntable and having a first listen, I knew I was encountering something special that I had never heard before. Irish folk mixed with rock and poetry. A door opened up in my brain and I went through and I’ve never been able to find my way back home.

Willie Nelson, Teatro

It’s not necesssarily the song selection of this album–it’s the magic of how it was created and the groove Lanois was able to capture. Willie is backed by an all-star cast of players who create this narcotic atmosphere. This is an album I’ll listen to five times in a row.

R.E.M., Murmur

It doesn’t really matter what Stipe was or wasn’t saying on this album–it is clear that they were doing something unique and that they were breaking all the molds here. No one else had what they had or saw music they way they did and they created a classic in this album.

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