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Alan says : "For me desert island discs are not necessarily favourite albums (though they can be) but rather albums that seem to offer endless replay without me ever tiring of them, or albums that I have never figured out, and perhaps never will. People often ridicule the 'desert island disc' scenario because it requires too great a suspension of disbelief, so maybe I'll refer to this list as my "going to prison for life" list - a prison into which I've smuggled an ipod & earphone jacks. These for the most part are awfully 'down' albums, but so far down that the only thing they can really do is hold you aloof of the gloom, in a floaty pleasant dreamspace."
1. A Love Supreme by John Coltrane.
I throw this in there because years ago when Simon Sweetman first began his Stuff blog he wrote a desert island disc selection which included this and I had just bought it at the time and had to agree with him. As beautiful as this album is, it is also very strange, and always remains elusive, just out of reach, reaching for that higher place that the listener can't quite grasp. For this reason, it remains timeless offering the listener a mirror ball's worth of reflections and things to think about.
2. Disintegration by The Cure.
There may be better Cure albums than this from their earlier years, but to me Disintegration is one album I have been listening to for 23 years and have never grown tired of. It's as much a part of my DNA now as my fingernails. It's like a warm blanket to throw over myself at night. It ebbs and flows as it laments the passing of time - an appropriate topic for someone stuck in prison for life, or yes, even on a desert island. It maintains a steady pace within a certain soundfield, sans alarms and surprises.
3. Bright Red by Laurie Anderson.
This is that album I keep shouting about to the world, but the world mostly won't listen. People get turned off by this after one listen. If only they'd give it that extra spin or two, exercise a modicum of curiosity about what it is she's saying (or doing) they might find themselves in the same boat / prison cell / desert island as me - in perpetually captivated wonder. I feel like an insect plucked and embedded in a thick amber fluid when listening to this. In fact desert islands even feature on the album. "You're alone on an island now / Tuning in / Did you think this was the way your world would end?" sings Anderson. This falls into that category, "never quite figure out or make sense of". Poetic and very very sad and very very beautiful.
4. Horse Stories by the Dirty Three.
- a whole album of instrumental violin alternative rock with highs and lows, louds and quiets, peaks and troughs and all in the extremely ambiguous language of music sans lyrics. What better way to live out those prison years inventing and perfecting the narratives that might lie behind this emotionally powerful music?
5. Superwolf - Matt Sweeney & Bonnie Prince Billy.
I could just about choose any BPB album for my prison cell ipod mini, and here's why - something about Will Oldham's music has this unusual quality whereby I listen, listen, listen, very slowly developing a sweet spot, fall in love with it, put it away for awhile, pull it out again and feel like I've never heard it before. His melodies seem to die away when they've been unheard for a while, an out-of-earshot-is-out-of-mind kind of thing - and I find I have to work hard to rediscover them all over again, and thus you've got these recyclable albums. Superwolf is a particular favourite though, poetic, subtle and amorphous enough to never quite settle into something solid enough to pin down, as are most of his albums.
6. Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See
- another album impossible for me to tire of. Can't explain why. Just love its woozy sleepy ambience punctuated by moments of slow brooding intensity. Perhaps Among My Swan might have been the better pick though, because it's more subtle, more understated, an album that seems forever on the other side of the road, with melodies always just out of my memorable grasp, and lyrics that would take a thousand more listens before I could really understand what Hope Sandoval is trying to say. Yes, it's a self-denying cruel-to-be-kind thing, but I'll opt for Among My Swan instead of So Tonight.
7. Smog - Red Apple Falls.
Another album about biding one's time through the loneliness, perfect for an isolation chamber - sounds like it was recorded by a man inside one himself. Simple melodies, so simple and understated in fact that they forever remain innocent of pop savvy and hence of any need for attention. That's the kind of album you want for a desert island, trust me.
8. Astral Weeks by Van Morrison.
Love Revolver, Highway 61, and Pet Sounds, but for a desert island they wouldn't cut it. Astral Weeks is that perennial greatest album of all time list high flyer that I believe has the staying power to last a lifetime. It floats and meanders and excites and calms, but it never settles down even after a gazumpteen listens. The dedicated desert islander needs this to last the distance.
9. Voodoo by D'Angelo.
Something with a beat but a slowbeat to count out the slow hours in that cell, but again, like Astral Weeks, something that shifts about, a shape-shifter album, an album that never sounds the same twice. A voice that taunts, refuses to sing the melodies you half-hear in between the words with enough jazzy instrumentation to sound cool and enough hip hop attitude to sound hot.
10. High Violet by The National.
More moribund morbidity which eventually becomes the soundtrack in your own head once you've heard it enough times. Does it sound like I'm not going to have much fun on my desert island? Wrong. I've chosen this plus most of the others because they send me into an idle trance, leave the real world behind. Which to me sounds like about the best way to spend the next 40 years if I'm to be alone for all that time...
Are you interested in submitting an entry to our Desert Island Discs? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You don't have to be an expert on anything - you've just got to know what you like.
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