Category Archives: Desert Island Discs

Recess Monkey

Desert Island Discs with Recess Monkey

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 Recess Monkey, whose latest LP, In Tents!, is out now. You can preview a video from the album below — after reading their Desert Island picks, of course!

Drew:

Jellyfish, Spilt Milk

Just two records from this amazing Bay Area band. I feel robbed. This collection encapsulates so many different influences and emotions. Like many records, this one is the soundtrack for a certain point in my life. There are layers upon layers, melodically and lyrically. I could listen to “Russian Hill” on repeat forever. Never thought I’d fall so hard for a harmonica solo.

XTC, Skylarking

I was first introduced to XTC by a cassette tape my brother got from a friend. It was a copy of Skylarking. This friend had even reproduced the album art on loose leaf binder paper and cut it to size to fit in the plastic tray. From the opening notes of “Summer’s Cauldron” I was hooked. I wish I could crawl inside this record and live there.

And I might just sneak Pet Sounds and Kid A in my pack back while no one is looking. And I could probably fit Summerteeth in my toiletries bag — can I bring one of those?

Daron:

Pixies, Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim

This is one of my favorite albums from one of my favorite bands — a UK release of the Pixies’ first LP and EP combined. You feel like you’re in the studio with the band…full of energy and saucy banter.

Sigur Ros, Ágætis Byrjun

When I first got this album I listened to it for about a week straight. It is so full of textures and layers that I’m still discovering nuances. Sigur Ros continues to create amazing soundscapes, but I’ll never forget the first time I heard them.

Jack:

Elliott Smith, Figure 8

It’s really a toss-up between Figure 8 and xo, but Eliott Smith is definitely at the top of my desert island list. Where to begin? I think he had an exceptional ear for harmony, and I love how he reinforced melodies with several instruments playing in unison. The guy was a downright prodigy — he played nearly all of the instruments on his albums — and manages to channel the Beatles without simply emulating them. He even recorded a lot of his later work at Abbey Road! He had some real problems in his non-musical life, but musically speaking he’s the musician I most wish I were.

John Vanderslice, Pixel Revolt

It’s no secret to Recess Monkey devotees that we¹re die-hard John Vanderslice fans. He manages to keep cranking out amazing albums that represent real growth each time — what an inspiration to see another artist who never stops growing! Pixel Revolt isn’t his newest album, but it’s the one that sticks with me the most — such a unique blend of acoustic guitar, synth pop and manufactured beats. To top it off, he’s a really nice guy AND runs a great all-analog studio in SF. We keep talking about how we can figure out a way to record there.

A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory

Jazz rap. Such a great album — this is one of the ones that instantly transports me back in time, but it is still remarkably fresh to my ears. I remember seeing the video for “Scenario” on MTV for the first time thinking “what IS this!?” It totally changed hip hop for me. Q-Tip is such a powerful MC! This is my favorite hip hop album of all time.

Steely Dan, Gaucho

This is another real toss-up. I LOVE Steely Dan, and each of their records has a special place in my brain. One would definitely be on the list, and this minute it’d be Gaucho. The utter smoothness of “Babylon Sisters” is what’s ringing in my ears as I type this… But if I think about it too long, I’ll probably change my mind to Can’t Buy a Thrill, and then Aja… It never ends. Such an impressive body of work!

Desert Island Discs with Sugar Free Allstars

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 Sugar Free Allstars, whose latest LP, All on a Saturday Afternoon, arrives June 12. You can preview the first video from the album below — after reading their Desert Island picks, of course!

Dr. Rock’s Picks:

Brian Wilson Presents Smile

I love this nearly lost classic album. It’s three sides on vinyl of playful, intense, and amazing songwriting. I find it very engaging and love the complex harmonies and rhythms that tell a great story all the way through. Sounds like the best Beach Boys you ever heard.

Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy

It’s Zeppelin — what can I say? I could probably pick any of their albums as I find them all equally good, but for a serious hi-fi rock out, this is the one for me. These are the albums we all learned from, and the musicianship is out of this world all the way around. It always feels to me this record was made at a peak of songwriting and recording technique for the band. Doesn’t disappoint to this day.

Devo, New Traditionalist

It’s no secret how huge of a Devo fan I am, and this is one of many of their albums I could pick. This was the first of their highly synthesized albums which continue to this day. The songs are flat out anthems to me and I will keep singing them long after the record is over. Super catchy if not maybe a bit dark without realizing it. And really the only other thing I have to say is: synthesizer explosions.

Boom’s Picks:

The Beatles, Abbey Road

I have always always always loved the Beatles (did I mention always?). When I was in fifth grade I saved up my money so I could buy the 1962-1966 compilation on cassette and pretty much wore it out, following it up with the 1967-1970 compilation. Then I found Abbey Road on vinyl (in terrible shape) at a garage sale and couldn’t get enough of it. I especially loved (and still love) the way they merged so many song snippets together to form one long song on side two. This album also has one of Ringo’s greatest compositions, “Octopus’ Garden.”

Dr. John, Gumbo

This is the album that really got me into New Orleans music. Before I heard it the main styles of NOLA music I was familiar with were Zydeco, Jazz and Dixieland, but this record really opened me up to the city’s Rhythm and Blues and Second Line Street Parade sounds that have become a huge influence on my writing and our musical style as a band. And on top of that, we’re huge Dr. John fans!

Little Richard’s Greatest Songs

There are several reasons I like this 10 song greatest hits compilation. First of all, it’s Little Richard, one of the true pioneers of rock and roll. He was/is such a great singer and piano player with a personality that is, to put it mildly, over the top. Secondly, I love every song on the album and feel it should be required listening for anyone wanting to be a musician (it has one of my favorite songs ever, a not-quite-as-overplayed tune called “Lucille” that gets me excited no matter how many times I’ve heard it). And finally, it influenced us to only put 10 songs on our albums. I ALWAYS listen to all the songs on this album, and usually will start it over again. “Leave ’em wanting more…”

Okee Dokee Brothers

Desert Island Discs with the Okee Dokee Brothers

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 the Okee Dokee Brothers, whose latest LP, Can You Canoe?, is out now. You can preview a pair of videos from the album below — after reading their Desert Island picks, of course!

Paul Simon, Graceland

We’ve been listening to this album since we were kids. It was an ever-present album on family road trips and continued to be a source of inspiration during our high school and college music explorations. We are still amazed at Paul’s vocal delivery. No matter what he sings, it sounds heavenly. The fact that he’s singing outstanding lyrics just adds to our fanaticism. The way he delved into South African music, culture, and politics while making this record has always been a reminder to us that music is more than notes.

Dawes, North Hills

This record is representative of our more contemporary influences (it falls just above Justin Townes Earle’s Harlem River Blues in that category). We’ve been lucky enough to see Dawes perform multiple times as they’ve risen through the ranks and we’ve even had a chance to spend a day talking about songs with them. Their first record taught us the importance of a classic sound and the value of capturing an authentic performance in the studio with real energy. While we didn’t record Can You Canoe? analog like North Hills, we did try to capture as much live takes as possible. You can hear a bit of the Dawes influence on our tune “Thousand Star Hotel” after the interlude.

Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)

This record is a prime example of collaboration at its finest. David Rawling’s harmonies and lead guitar are the prefect match to Gillian’s voice. They both help write the songs too, so they’re an inspiration to us as a duo. Plus they write such unique melody and harmony lines. On this record they prove that folk music can be dissonant, harmonious, slow, and full of energy all at the same time.

John Prine, John Prine

This guy knows how to write songs with the perfect amount of tragedy and comedy, and that’s what it’s all about. He’s incredibly vulnerable and honest on this album and at the same time, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. This record proves that good music making requires good livin’ (whether that’s hard livin or happy livin’)!

The Band, Music from Big Pink

We love this record because it essentially takes all our favorite folk song parameters and invites them to let go a bit and wail away at a basement rock party. We love what the Band stood for (Dylan’s “brave knights” when he went electric, bringing musician’s together for collaborations like The Last Waltz, adding a contemporary edge to traditional songs, really great lyric writing) and this record highlights their best tunes and attributes. It was an honor to have Garth Hudson (the Band’s organ player, and more) play accordion on a couple tracks on Can You Canoe? and we really looked up to Levon, Danko, and Richard Manuel too. Robbie’s no slouch either!

Overall, if you’re gonna have just five albums to listen to on a desert island, the most important attribute has to be repeated listenability. All of these albums have that essential mixture of easy-to-understand, yet mysterious enough to listen to over and over. That combination is the most important part to making a good album no matter what genre of music you’re making.