The Usual Suspects — Boring Desert Island Discs I Still Love:
- AC/DC – Back in Black
- The Clash – London Calling
- Fugazi – 13 Songs
- Green Day – Dookie
- Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
- Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
- My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
- Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory
- Radiohead – The Bends
- Radiohead – OK Computer
- The Replacements – Tim
- Soundgarden – Superunknown
- Stone Roses – Stone Roses
- U2 – The Joshua Tree
- U2 – War
Colton: Is it contentious among fans to pick OK Computer over Kid A? I feel like the rest of these (and below) strike me clearly as bands’ high watermarks.
Grant: Is it? I thought everyone still considered OKC their peak. Maybe the hardcore fans see it differently, of course.
Dan: My impression has always been that people claim to like Kid A more than they actually like it. I definitely see OK Computer cited more often.
Colton: Oh good, those answers make me feel better.
The Real Desert Island List — Albums I Listen to More Than the Previous List:
- All-American Rejects – Move Along
- Bright Eyes – Fevers and Mirrors
- Bright Eyes – LIFTED
- The Cure – Disintegration
- Cursive – Domestica
- Fugazi – Red Medicine
- Fugazi – In on the Kill Taker
- Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown
- Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
- The Raveonettes – Lust, Lust, Lust
- Red House Painters – Red House Painters I
- Slowdive – Just for a Day
- Suede – Dog Man Star
- U2 – Achtung Baby
- U2 – The Unforgettable Fire
Colton: Different strokes for different folks, but seeing what is on this list, I’m a little surprised The Appleseed Cast (one of my favorites) isn’t—they started off emo and evolved to shoegaze with consistent brilliance.
Grant: I’ll have to give them a listen.
Greatest Single Ever Made:
U2 – One
“One” almost single-handedly got the band through its near-collapse in the early 90s, and a few years later, it almost single-handedly got me through high school. It’s depressive, hopeful, and devastating all at once, with a synergistic power rarely found in songs. The production is perfect and the Edge’s guitar coda sublime, but it is what it is because Bono lays everything on the line, delivering what are unquestionably his greatest lyrics. “You ask me to enter / But then you make me crawl / And I can’t be holding on to what you got / When all you got is hurt.”
Dan: Agree x1000. Masterpiece. One thing about this song that I enjoy pointing out: I love the play of “two” with “one” in the “too late / tonight / to drag…” section. “Is it getting better?” is in my pantheon of great opening lines.
Grant: Dan, spitting the truth sauce.
Joy Division – Atmosphere
It’s nearly impossible to isolate my favorite component of this elegiac yet sepulchral stunner. For many, it’s those glittering keyboard sparkles you never forget first hearing; for others, it’s the way JD’s spectacular producer Martin Hannett always made it sound as though there were miles and miles of space in between each musical component. But “Atmosphere” hits the next level thanks to Ian Curtis’s out-of-this-world voice, as he broods “Don’t walk away in silence” as though he’s peered into your mind and doesn’t like what he sees.
Other Desert Island Singles:
(Note: I know very little about singles, so this undoubtedly incomplete list merely highlights some prominent ones that I love. Unlike Dan, I’m only selecting songs that I’m at least pretty sure were actual singles, otherwise this would disintegrate into an ‘all-time favorite songs’ list, and I’m not going there.)
- AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
- All-American Rejects – Dirty Little Secret
- Arctic Monkeys – Cornerstone
- Blink-182 – First Date
- The Cure – A Letter to Elise
- Doves – The Cedar Room
- Green Day – Jesus of Suburbia
- Jay-Z/Kanye West – Ni**as in Paris
- Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
- Muse – Time is Running Out
- New Order – Ceremony
- Offspring – Want You Bad
- Offspring – Self-Esteem
- Radiohead – Creep
- Radiohead – Fake Plastic Trees
- Ride – Vapour Trail
- Stone Roses – She Bangs the Drums
- Suede – Trash
- U2 – The Fly
- U2 – Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
Colton: Love Doves, and love that they eschew “The”. Jeff Buckley is a classic choice. Too bad a lot of people have only heard him sing this cover.
Grant: With the exception of The Cure and The Clash, I always drop the ‘the.’ It’s cleaner.
Dan: Relevant on a few levels (see “Favorite Teen Idol” below, too).
Dan: Too many great tracks here. Thanks for just now introducing me to Want You Bad — how had I not heard this song? I also LOVE the live version of Creep you sent me. Totally transforms the song. I didn’t know you were such a big Ni**as in Paris fan. It’s definitely badass but grates on me a bit (too much “that shit cray”). Never comes together as great for me quite like Jay-Z and Kanye’s best for me.
Grant: To paraphrase Rolling Stone…Blink-182 would have sold crack to nuns to write ‘Want You Bad.’
Grant: I’m love/hate with most rap, but ‘Paris’ is just perfect. Great rhythm, plus killer lines one after the other.
Favorite Box Sets:
Heart and Soul – Joy Division
First Record Bought:
Setting aside my earliest, most embarrassing musical forays that I halfheartedly listened to in elementary and middle school, my first true record was U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
In my aforementioned embarrassing years, I saw Chicago live. Multiple times. Be nice.
Colton: Chicago is badass! I spin their greatest hits from time to time. (Which, I assume, resembles their recent setlists.) They’ve got a spicy combination of songwriting chops with real musicianship across the board.
Dan: Love me some Make Me Smile.
Grant: I enjoyed reading these comments. Also, I like #spicysongwritingchops
I’ve seen U2 ten times, and if you think I haven’t ranked those shows 1-10, you don’t know me very well. The award goes to Charlottesville, 10/1/09, when my favorite band came to my college and provided me an incredible night.
Runner-up: A tie between two Green Day shows. One came on August 11th, 2010, a loud, stadium-sized show that blew away all my stupid preconceived notions about the band; at the second—August 11th, 2011, exactly one year later—I stood six feet away from the band in a dive bar in southern California as they introduced a couple hundred of us to un-released new tracks. Two completely different but unforgettable experiences.
Concert You Wish You’d Seen:
Here’s what Allmusic says about the concerts of Rites of Spring, the mind-blowingly electrifying emo-hardcore band whose songwriters fired off one album and then moved on to Fugazi: “Owing in part to the draining intensity of their shows, ROS didn’t play live very often, but when they did, their gigs were full-fledged events, inspiring fierce devotion among fans and usually ending with the stage covered in flowers and smashed instruments.” Um, yeah.
A quick search reveals that ROS played a gig at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. in 1985, a gig that included their ferocious gems “Remainder,” “For Want Of,” “Deeper Than Inside,” and “Nudes.” That would have changed my life.
Runner-up: U2’s first concert in New York after 9/11. Witnesses still speak of it as a non-replicable, religious experience.
Colton: Seconded on ROS. And what has DC given us since then?
Favorite Music Movies:
- For sentimental reasons that I don’t expect anyone else (save one or two people) to understand, I pick Garden State.
- Friday Night Lights, for introducing me to Explosions in the Sky.
Colton: EITS is a gateway drug to post-rock, or should be; I can’t stand people who hear them, and maybe Sigur Ros, and then stop digging.
Grant: /cowers in the corner
I’m a post-rock dilettante.
Colton: It’s cool; my experience with the golden years of shoegaze is shallow enough that the line between that and post-rock is blurry, where you might find it sharp. Keep that in mind vis-a-vis my description of The Appleseed Cast…
Dan: Great use of the word dilettante, Grant
Best Use of Music in a TV Series:
Dan: Do do do do do. Doo do do do do. Do do do do doo do do. California here we come…
Dan: But yeah, so much great music in that series. I’ve only seen the first season. Is the rest of the series worth watching?
Grant: Of course.
Favorite Music Books:
- Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo, by Andy Greenwald. Great look into the development of the ‘emo’ genre and the intense meaning the music has for many of its young fans. Not every band profiled is my cup of tea, but an enlightening read.
- Rolling Stone’s Album Guide. Always a great place to go when first exploring a band. Rarely, if ever, bothers me in the ways the magazine itself tends to.
- U2 by U2. A massive coffee-table book that features all four members of the band candidly discussing their career from start to finish—the songs they don’t love, the tours they do, the regrets they have, and the times Bono pissed them off. Mainly for diehards, but you can’t do better.
Conor Oberst. See ‘Artist You Will Always Believe In.’
Favorite Record Label:
Dischord Records. (Fugazi, Minor Threat, Rites of Spring, Embrace, Jawbox, etc.)
Favorite Album Covers:
- Cursive – Domestica
- Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
- Ride – Nowhere
Least Favorite Album Cover:
Ride – Going Blank Again
Dan: Actually laughed out loud when I looked this up.
Grant: And their debut album’s cover was so good! What happened? Too many drugs?
Favorite Music DVDs:
U2 – Elevation 2001, Live in Boston
Artist You Will Always Believe In:
In recent years, the brainchild behind Bright Eyes has veered into bizarre directions. Oberst took a break from Bright Eyes to record a couple of unremarkable albums with the Mystic Valley Band, ceding power to other songwriters who shouldn’t stand on the same stage as him, metaphorically or literally. He then joined up with Monsters of Folk, whose sole great song (Ahead of the Curve) is essentially an old-fashioned Bright Eyes song. Then Oberst, supposedly, capped off the BE era with 2011’s merely-decent album The People’s Key.
But, although Conor’s recent work has rarely hit his old peaks, I know the talent is still there. You don’t write “If Winter Ends” at age eighteen and lose it all by 30. Listening to his early output with Bright Eyes was to listen to a master at work, to experience a writer who chose his words in such coldly effective, brutally manipulative ways that they seemed to know you better than you knew yourself. He may need to find a new vehicle, or find his ‘voice’ again, but I have no doubt that he will.
Colton: I’ve listened to (more or less) the first five youtube hits for BE many times, and it always turns me off. I think, for next time I try, you need to give me more directed recommendations into this man’s work, before I decide at last that Conor Oberst simply isn’t for me.
Grant: By my check, 4 of those first 5 are off the same album, and none of the 5 really should be so prominently featured. Come on, Youtube.
Artist You Will Always Defend:
The general critical yawn towards the Offspring baffles me—especially the narrative that they only write sophomoric, juvenile anthems. Here’s a list of topics explored on some of their most prominent songs: the death of a friend, child sex abuse, youthful promise ruined by immaturity, the point of view of a serial killer, gang warfare, deadbeat fathers, and paralyzing self-doubt. Naturally, they have their fun (“Want You Bad” is basically the Platonic ideal of its kind of song), and they always tie everything together with an undeniably heavy crunch, pure style, melodicism, and more intelligent (and funny) lyrics than you’d expect. Plus, their lead singer has a master’s degree from USC, which is just all kinds of awesome.
Albums That You Will Always Defend:
- Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
- Avril Lavigne – The Best Damn Thing
- Bloc Party – A Weekend in the City
- The Cure – Pornography
- Depeche Mode – Black Celebration
- Offspring – Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace
- Sum 41 – All Killer No Filler
Colton: Good choice on The Best Damn Thing: because Let Go doesn’t need defending, everyone with ears loves that album. I guess several of these are broadly thought of as “bad albums by good artists”, hmm?
Grant: Yeah, my goal was sort of to pick albums that I’m tired of having to defend all the time.
Grant: Also, BDT is far superior to Let Go.
Colton: I’m gonna spin BDT today to determine whether or not them’s fightin’ words.
Colton: Yep, I’m sticking to it. Both are fine albums, and BDT finishes stronger, but there’s too much quality on LG for it to finish second. Dan might need to cast a tiebreaker vote here, or just arbitrate while we write a point-counterpoint on Avril.
Grant: I’m always down to discuss my first real musical crush.
Dan: This was playing in my head as I read these comments. Also, I will happily referee a Point-Counterpoint on Avril Lavigne. I’m abstaining on Best Damn Thing vs. Let Go for now.
Album You Own That No One Else Does:
Slowdive – Pygmalion
Singers Who Make Your Skin Crawl:
- In the realm of bands I still kind of like, the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, who damn near ruins “Tonight, Tonight.”
- Miley Cyrus; “Party in the USA” actually might not suck if sung by someone competent. Miley’s voice is so unpleasant, it makes me hate that song’s “Yeeeaaaaahhh”s, and I always love ‘Yeeeaaaaahhh’s. And that shriek of “And the Jay-Z song was oooooonnnn”…say what you want about Avril Lavigne, but she never subjected us to anything that horrifying.
Singers Who Make You Swoon:
- Rachel Goswell, a lead singer of Mojave 3 and former member of peerless shoegaze band Slowdive. Swoon is the only appropriate word for the reaction this causes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyg6FgwArTc
- Brian Molko, Placebo. At times, his voice can be a little much, but on the right song (see ‘Space Monkey,’ ‘Without You I’m Nothing’), it perfectly matches his band: dirty and pretty, smooth and coarse, but always glamorous in its own unique way.
Colton: Molko certainly has a distinctive voice. I think it took time to develop, though: on their first album he doesn’t have as mature and controlled of a sound.
Artists You’re Supposed to Like but Don’t:
- The Beatles
- The Ramones
Song You Can’t Stand by an Artist You Like:
- The Clash – Train in Vain
- Fugazi – Pink Frosty
- Neon Trees – Trust
- Oasis – She’s Electric
- Smashing Pumpkins – Silverf**k
- U2 – The Sweetest Thing
Dan: Noel Gallagher took “Digsy’s Dinner,” already a stupid song (but at least funny) and decided to make an especially idiotic rewrite of it.
Favorite Teen Idol:
He navigated his way from uber-teen idol stature in the 90s to uber-successful solo star (this is why pre-teen girls like him). He was the X-factor of the best movie of the last half-decade (The Social Network) and one-half of the best romantic comedy pairing in at least as long (Friends With Benefits)—this is why your girlfriend likes him. He nabbed prime Britney Spears and is now married to Jessica Biel, tore off Janet Jackson’s top and somehow escaped criticism for it (seriously, how did that happen?), and owns part of the Memphis Grizzles—so guys like him. And he got the biggest rapper, at the top of his game, to tour with him (this is why Kanye West doesn’t like him). Basically, Justin Timberlake can do no wrong.
Artist Who Broke Your Heart:
I’m interpreting this question to mean ‘Artist who was most often the soundtrack to you having a broken heart,’ and from that perspective, the only possible answer is The Cure.
Band That Should Break Up:
Since I hated Suburbs and was generally over them a while ago, I’ll go with the Arcade Fire. As much as high school me hates hearing that. Runner-up: Death Cab for Cutie.
Band That Should Re-form:
Fugazi. That is all.
Colton: What are these guys doing now? Is this a conceivable future event, or only a wish?
Grant: It doesn’t seem like any are doing anything more important, which is what’s so frustrating.
In the right mood, I’m a sucker for the loud guitars, expressive vocals, and general angsty pop/rock-ness that’s tailor-made for high school – think All-American Rejects, Blink-182, Boys Like Girls, Jimmy Eat World, Sum 41. I’ve heard all the criticisms, but when done right, it’s some of the most fun music I know, and it’s been the soundtrack for too many unforgettable memories.
Song You Like By an Artist You Don’t:
Mr. Brightside – The Killers
Genre You Will Always Defend:
Most people assume shoegaze begins and ends with My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless album—where impossibly heavy feedback, layers of distorted guitars, and breathy background vocals re-framed what you thought noise could mean. But other, less-heralded bands—Slowdive, Ride, Adorable, Lush, Catherine Wheel—toned down the guitars a bit, added more melody and strings, gave the vocals more prominence, and varied the construction of their songs more. Not all of them were better than MBV, but some actually were. Ride’s “Vapour Trail” simultaneously uplifts and depresses you in a way I’ve never heard; Adorable’s “A to Fade In” rides off into its guitar-coda sunset, but does so without the girl; and the druggy distortion of Slowdive’s “Alison” envelops that winking line, “Your messed-up life still thrills me.” Don’t stop at MBV.
Colton: Do you feel shoegaze is best coming out of your speakers? The live shoes are beautiful things, but a totally different animal from what people think of when they hear the word “concert”.
Grant: IMO it’s best in good headphones. And I’ve never heard any live recording of a shoegaze song…to me it’s such a ‘studio’ genre so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about live stuff.
Colton: Makes sense. Talented artists with good equipment can reproduce studio-quality sound on stage, and it’s nice to be able to feel the bass in your bones, but it’s eerie to look up and realize that everyone in the room (band members included) is trying to pretend they’re completely alone in that moment.
Grant: Wow, I like that. I’m kind of studio snob, though, except for a few exceptions like AC/DC-types.
Favorite Winter Albums:
- Beach House – Bloom
- The Cure – Faith
- Rachael Yamagata – Elephants
- Ride – Nowhere
- Slowdive – Souvlaki
Favorite Summer Albums:
- Boys Like Girls – Love Drunk
- Oasis – Morning Glory
- Offspring – Americana
- Stone Roses – Stone Roses
- Suede – Suede
Favorite Song Titles:
- A to Fade In – Adorable
- You Probably Couldn’t See For the Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me – Arctic Monkeys
- The Game of Who Needs Who the Worst – Cursive
- How to Disappear Completely – Radiohead
- The Unforgettable Fire – U2
Favorite Album Titles:
- Licensed to Ill – Beastie Boys
- All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone – Explosions in the Sky. (Is it fair that a band without lyrics would produce such a great title?)
- Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division.
- Pretty in Black – The Raveonettes. (Describes a whole lot of what they’re about. Too bad it’s their worst album.)
- The Unforgettable Fire – U2
Dan: Licensed to Ill is indeed a fantastic album title. Kicking myself for not including it on my list.
- “Just for one moment, I thought I’d found my way / Destiny unfolded, I watched it slip away.” – Joy Division
- “Hallelujah, heaven’s white rose / The doors you open, I just can’t close.” – U2
- “The only thing that I could find to wear tonight was you.” – Boys Like Girls
- “If everyone’s a little queer, why can’t she be a little straight?” – Weezer
- “I am the DJ, and you are the record I play / And when I scratch the surface, does it still make you nervous?” – Neon Trees
Dan: Fantastic selections here. Love them all. Also, glad to see you giving even a little bit of love to Pinkerton. Thanks for sharing, Grant! You’ve given lots of bands and albums to go seek out.