Author Archives: Jeff Giles

About Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Popdose and Dadnabbit, as well as an entertainment writer whose work can be seen at Rotten Tomatoes, Paste Magazine, and a number of other sites.

Desert Island Discs with Randy Kaplan

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 Randy Kaplan, whose latest LP, Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie, is out now.

You’re not kidding me, this IS hard. I am cyclically obsessed with many different types of music, from blues to opera to Broadway to folk to jazz to classical to calypso to microtonal to ’80s pop… you name it. And I can easily pick at least ten essential recordings in each of those categories! But I’ll acquiesce and stick to five discs for my desert island sabbatical. Alas, I’ll have to live without some of my favorite music. Can I at least bring my guitar?

Blind Boy Fuller – Complete Recorded Works (6 Volumes)

Is this cheating? Kind of like asking a genie if my first wish could be for ten more wishes? In any event, these are all the recordings Blind Boy Fuller ever made. They span the years 1935-1940. Fuller was a master of Piedmont blues. That’s a finger-pickin’ style I love and work in. Fuller is one of my favorite singers, lyricists, musicians, and performers. I based several songs on my new CD (Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie) on Blind Boy Fuller’s songs. It’s hard to pass up Blind Blake (the King of Ragtime Guitar) and Robert Johnson (the King of the Delta Blues) but since I’m limiting myself to one blues recording I’m gonna go with this one… well, these six!

Anthology of American Folk Music

This mystical collection (six CDs) was originally compiled by Harry Smith from his collection of rare 78s. If you’re a fan of the folk revivalists of the 1960s (Bob Dylan in particular) you will be amazed by many of these songs. This here is the earliest source material recorded for most of the folk songs we know! In addition to the ballads, blues, country, and folk songs there are Cajun and gospel numbers along with some very strange instrumentals. Some of the performers are blues masters (Furry Lewis, Charlie Patton, Mississippi John Hurt) and some are country giants (The Carter Family, Clarence Ashley, Charlie Poole) but the vast majority of them are quite obscure. The haunting collection comes with an extensive booklet of amazing liner notes along with a reproduction of Harry Smith’s own original liner notes booklet which is more of a postmodern work of art and stockpile of arcane esoterica. These discs are more than an anthology. They’re a mythology.


I’ll have to insist on the original cast album from 1943. I can listen to this recording of the first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II non-stop (I once did on a drive from Lawrence, Kansas to Los Angeles). Stephen Sondheim is my overall favorite Broadway composer/lyricist but he was mentored by Mr. Hammerstein and this is Oscar’s greatest achievement. I like the film version too, even though they changed some of the lyrics, judging them to be too edgy for mass consumption. Can you imagine that?! Alfred Drake, Joan Roberts, Lee Dixon, Howard da Silva, and the hilarious Celeste Holm are all part of this perfect cast. But, you say, why not listen to a later recording, one of much higher technical quality? Ha! I answer. Don’t you know by now that I prefer lo-fi and relatively ancient relics? Perhaps if any subsequent recording were half as good as this one… but none are. The original film cast comes closest.

Trojan Calypso Box Set

Another genie situation, this collection contains 50 songs on three CDs. Lord Kitchener is my absolute favorite calypsonian and a few of his gems are on offer here. Also making appearances are these great masters of the genre: Count Lasher, Lord Creator, Mighty Sparrow, Lord Invader, Ben Bowers, Baldhead Growler (can’t find this guy anywhere else), Mighty Dougla (or him for that matter), and many more. Talk about edgy lyrics; man, keep this with your push-down-and-turn medicine bottles. I hate to leave early masters like Lord Executor, Growling Tiger, and Lord Pretender at home but, overall, this box set will serve me well while I’m sequestered on that beach of sand. Most of the songs here are from my favorite calypso period, that kind of middle phase when that joyous sound evolved from the early more New Orleans jazzlike style and before the Soca trend made the lyrically intensive calypsos sound more like dance music. Man, this stuff is good.

Well, I haven’t chosen any concert music yet… or opera. Not to mention jazz or… the list goes on and on. I’m gonna have to go with something classy here, if not classical. What will it be? The symphonies of Brahms? The string quartets of Dvorak? Maybe an opera is in order. Yes. An opera. But what’ll it be? Don Giovanni? Don Carlos? La Fanciulla Del West? Ya know, I think I’ll leave Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini at home this time ’round and take The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini. Yes, this opera buffa will serve me well while suntanning against my will; cracking open coconuts and chomping on tropical leaves will surely be easier to take with this record in tow. I’ll risk the ire of purists and choose the English National Opera version. I’ll just have to have faith that I’ll eventually get off the island and be reunited with all the musicianers I’ve had to forsake.

My First Record with Molly Ledford of Lunch Money: ‘Meet the Beatles!’

One night, when I was seven years old, my father blasted Meet the Beatles! from his stereo. I think it was some kind of mistake. Maybe he thought he had his fancy, chunky headphones plugged in. We were in bed and it was LOUD. And irresistible. “I want to hold your ha-a-a-a-and!” I ran to the living room, unknowingly joining that classic mob. Yet another girl completely, almost tearfully, enthralled by the early Beatles.

My father did woodworking as a hobby and had built himself a little corner of shelves to house his stereo equipment and records. Receivers glowed with backlit needles dancing in VU meters, and the whole thing looked downright scientific. I knew that records were to be handled reverently by the edges, and, furthermore, that the little, lesser, player in my room was deemed not fit for my parents’ collection. How was I going to get my hands on this record and play it to my heart’s content?

One Saturday morning a few months later, my neighbors had a garage sale and I wandered curiously over with a little change in my pocket. There, in a box of records inexplicably separated from their jackets (who were these barbarians living next door?), I found their copy of Meet the Beatles! Twenty-five cents later, it was mine.

I took that record home and, in the privacy of my room, I could play it over and over. It was terribly scratched, but I could deal with that. To this day, I expect those songs to skip the way I listened to them hundreds of times. “All My Loving.” “Hold Me Tight.” “It Won’t Be Long.” It was the Beatles as America first knew them — all pop perfection, yet raw and rollicking too. It was adult love but fun and vague, and I spent many hours staring at their faces on my parents’ copy, reading the liner notes and listening along to my own scratchy record.

My parents’ Beatles selection bookended the band: they had Meet the Beatles! and Abbey Road. The summer I turned ten, having started guitar lessons, I bought myself a book of Beatles songs with easy chords. I became a one-girl Beatles cover band (again, in the privacy of my room), picking out the melodies of so many unfamiliar-to-me Beatles songs and doing my best to sing them. There I was, guessing at French for “Michelle” or puzzling through the delivery of the verses on “Give Peace a Chance.” A little bittersweet? As the years went by, I would be fascinated each time I finally heard the real recording of one of these songs and got to see how close or far off I had been. Still, that book got me started on something that would become a core part of my identity. I was someone who liked to sing and play.

My parents’ copy of Meet The Beatles! now hangs in a record frame on my own living room wall. It was never really theirs to begin with. My aunt’s name is written in careful cursive in the top left corner. A few years ago at a rare family reunion, I mentioned the record to the original owner, thinking she might like to hear how much it had meant to me. Her face lit up and she looked over at my other aunt. Suddenly they were telling me about how they had watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. How they had taken pictures of the television screen with their camera in excitement. And how they had snuck out of the house that night and walked to the record store to buy that album. It’s kind of a magical record that way.

Lunch Money‘s marvelous new album, Spicy Kidis out now — sample some tunes at the band’s website!

Desert Island Discs with Rolie Polie Guacamole

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 Rolie Polie Guacamole, whose latest LP, Houses of the Moly, is out now. You can preview a video from the album below — after reading their Desert Island picks, of course!

Boards of Canada, Music Has the Right to Children

In high school we discovered this album and it really changed our understanding of what music could be. After years of rocking out to the likes of Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Alice In Chains, it shifted our taste and allowed us to welcome more electronic music like STS9, M?m, Björk, & Röyksopp. The warmth of their synth triggers euphoric childlike emotions, almost like an intense meditation session. Our music has been growing increasingly electronic as we mature, with synths on “Swim Like the Dolphin,” “Prospect Park” & “Açai” on our second album Time for Hummus, and thick layering and pulsating arpeggios throughout Houses of the Moly. Music Has the Right to Children was one of the first albums with no words that we could listen to from start to finish and continues to delight when we’re on the road and chilling in Brooklyn.

Radiohead, Kid A

In high school we bonded listening to The Bends driving around in Frank’s 1992 Toyota Celica. Although The Bends and OK Computer introduced us to the band, Kid A and Amnesiac’s unique mix of rock and electronica put them on a whole different plane. It was a hard choice as every Radiohead album is great for its own reason. The reason we picked Kid A over Amnesiac (which has Frank’s favorite song, “I Might Be Wrong”) is its pure hit power. Songs like: “Everything in Its Right Place,” “Kid A,” “The National Anthem,” “Optimistic,” “Idoteque” & “Morning Bell” illustrate why Radiohead is considered the greatest living rock band. As far as British rock goes we see the progression from the Beatles – Pink Floyd – Radiohead, all of whom recorded at Abbey Road. Thom Yorke’s vocals had a huge effect on the band’s overall style and range. Johnny Greenwood’s layering and sound effects inspired our band to push the boundaries of what kindie music can be.

Primus, Frizzle Fry

Les Claypool has had a huge influence on Rolie Polie Guacamole. Not only is he an amazing bass player, but his song writing is so unique and energetic. The humor in his songwriting really keeps the songs fun for all ages on different levels. “Frizzle Fry,” although it contains Les’ sloppiest bass playing, has the best songwriting. Every track is a hit, from “Frizzle Fry” & “Too Many Puppies” to “John the Fisherman” & “Pudding Time.” The song writing and bass playing is so stellar that often Larry LaLonde’s avant garde guitar playing and Tim Alexander’s flawless syncopated drumming go unnoticed. We have a special appreciation for trios, as Rolie Polie Guacamole usually plays as one.

Joni Mitchell, Blue

No desert island collection would be complete without the queen of songwriting: Joni Mitchell. Much in the way Michael Jackson was influenced by Diana Ross, Frank’s vocals have matured thanks to the raw beauty of Joni’s. As a tribute to Joni we put her song “Circle Game” on Houses of the Moly. Her personal lyrics paint a vivid canvas in your mind. Every time “California” is played it makes you want to drop what you’re doing and head for the coast. It’s Joni’s masterpiece, and will be adored by music buffs as long as people listen to music.

Ween, The Mollusk

The best album to listen to when in a beach setting is Ween’s The Mollusk. Since we first listened to it Ween has become one of our band’s biggest influences. In fact we love this album so much that we’ve been known on rare occasion to cover “The Mollusk,” “Ocean Man,” “It’s Gonna Be Alright” and “Cold Blows the Wind.” The thing that is so great about Ween is their versatility. They don’t take themselves too seriously, which allows them to play music from almost any genre. An example of this is the contrast between “Cold Blows the Wind” and “Pink Eye on My Leg.” If you listen to the two tracks back to back you’d think it was two different bands. Their creativity and constant push to outdo themselves reminds us of the reason we started writing songs in the first place.

This list was very difficult to compile but a lot of fun! We tried to take a little from each genre and tried to pick the ones we’d best agree on as a band. So we’d like to give out some honorable mention ribbons for those who didn’t quite make the cut:

The Beatles – Abbey Road,
Nirvana – In Utero,
Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis Bold As Love,
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon,
CSNY – So Far,
Weezer – Pinkerton