Architects and their Deserted Island Music

September 30, 2013 — 39 Comments

There is a game I like to play, it usually involves someone being stranded on a deserted island … and they have to pick their favorite [fill in the blank]. Maybe this is a juvenile game but that’s okay because I’m juvenile at heart.

One version of this game is the “magic box of food” but that’s not what we’re doing here today. Since architects – dating way back to the long hours spent in the architecture studio in college – listen to music while they work, today we are going to answer the question:

What are the 5 albums you would take with you on this deserted island?

It doesn’t matter if their vinyl or CD’s – I don’t even care how you think these are going to get played – it isn’t the point of the question. If nothing else, maybe it will give you some ideas on some new music to check out.

I asked this question to everyone in my office and these were the albums they selected … I think it’s somewhat amusing that you can almost arrange these people from oldest to youngest purely based on their selections.



Ezra Loh Deserted Island Music

Ezra Loh:

When Bob originally mentioned the topic for this new post, he said:  “number one deserted island album of all time”, then after quick discussion it was changed  to “top five deserted album” picks. I thought that seemed WAAY more reasonable..

So I thought. Turns out, much harder than the original idea because now there’s options on the table. Options for different artists. Options for different genres or types depending on your listening mood. Nostalgic albums vs. some – new – ones – you’ve- been – listening – to – nonstop – and – can’t – stop – listening – to. Then, there’s the classic albums and the guilty pleasure ones, ones that you might jam with no regret if you were the only person stranded on a deserted island. And last but definitely not least, there’s your “Go” mode albums, ideal when you’re pushing towards a deadline or late-nights spent in the studio which several albums have taken soundtrack to over the years.

SpiritualizedLadies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

Neil YoungDecade

RadioheadKid A

Clint Mansell / Kronos QuartetThe Fountain OST

Boards of CanadaMusic Has the Right to Children


Ryan Thomason Deserted Island Music

Ryan Thomason:

“…it fades into the background.” The selection allows me to keep what I have deemed important in the foreground. No more distractions. No more remembering that great day in my past. No more persuasion of the glorious future waiting for me just around the corner. No, what I’m left with is the here and now…with all the good and ill that may come along with it. The selection sits in the background and does what a good background should do, reinforce the foreground. Deepens the despair, amplifies the anxiety, and joins in the jubilation. And after 5,600 hours of magnifying my own strengths and weaknesses to the tipping point, I can be a little more confident in my survival on this island.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor F♯ A♯ ∞

Godspeed You! Black EmperorLift Your Skinny Fist Like Antennas to Heaven

Explosions in the SkyThose Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever

Explosions in the SkyThe Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place

Zombie WesternThe Great Migration


Peter Joe Deserted Island MusicPeter Joe:

ACDCBack in Black

My first memory seemed to be “Back in Black” by ACDC it was summer and I remember hanging out with some friends from middle school riding my bike all over town and feeling like a tough guy when I heard the riff at the beginning of the song.

Sammy Hagar – VOA

Later in summer of 1984 going to work at Handy Dan got my first ticket driving my first car,  a hot rod that I had built, listening to “I can’t drive 55” by Sammy Hagar and having to explain to my parents why the song got me in trouble.  Being Asian parents they just couldn’t comprehend.

Pet Shop BoysActually

Later in college, summer seems to be a theme for me, I learned through a friend of mine that the “architect” of their sound Chris Lowe originally wanted to be an Architect, After hearing the album “Actually” in 1987 I was very intrigued by their use of a sub text of structure among the sounds and form of the music they produced after that I was hooked and spent many late nights in Studio listening to their albums.

ErasureThe Innocents

Another album I remember getting me through Grad School was Erasure “The innocents” Grad school by night, car audio consultant and system designer by day to put myself through school.  It was the first time I heard any of my favorite albums such as those mentioned on a quality system and I could never go back to stock car audio again after that.

Rascal FlattsMe and my Gang

Finally, during an integral part of my relationship with my wife, she helped me understand why she listened to music for the lyrics and she wrote the lyrics down for me from the song “my wish” by Rascal Flats.   She did this to help me understand the feeling the lyrics can convey as well as the music behind them.  From that point on I realized there are so many ways to hear music and the music or lyrics can mean so many things to different people.  I am thankful to all of my favorite albums for getting me through difficult and happy times in my life.  Life is so much more enjoyed with a soundtrack to live it by.


Michael Malone Deserted Island Music

Michael Malone:

All of these albums were important to me during events that were key in my life.  I can hear songs, or even a few notes from them, and they rocket me back to that time and what I was doing.


In college I discovered Sibelius after learning about Alvar Aalto and the back story of Finnish Nationalism that made him so important to his country and people.  The music of Sibelius was also identified with that movement. As was the architecture of Eliel Saarinen, the paintings of Akseli Gallen-Kallela, the political leadership of Marshall Mannerheim and perhaps most important the compiling of the Kalevala, the epic oral saga of Finland by  Elias Lönnrot, published in 1849.  The music of Sibelius is a reminder that architecture is created within a cultural context, past of a larger world, not a unique object.

Tears for FearsSongs From the Big Chair

My first project where I was the lead project manager was a condominium in Tampa , Florida.  Part of my job was traveling back and forth to the site for meetings and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was a huge hit then.  It seemed like every time I got in a rent car and turned on the radio that song was on.  That project was the first opportunity I had to exist on my own as a professional, it gave me the confidence and understanding I could do this for myself and set me on a path to starting my own firm.

Dar WilliamsEnd of the Summer

I discovered Dar Williams about the time I started my firm.  I bought a Saab and the salesman tuned the radio to NPR, stating it was necessary for the owner of a vehicle like this to listen to public radio.  The dial has never moved since (though the cars have changed).  Our local Dallas station played music in those days and Dar Williams music were selections that I enjoyed, bought for myself and continue to listen to.  In the early 90’s when I first started my firm, much of my work was out of Dallas and required long road trips to attend meetings and site visits.  Dar’s music was a marvelous companion on those trips.

Bare Naked LadiesGordon

When I married my wife Amy, “our song” at the wedding was “If I Had a Million Dollars”.  When I met her I was the only person in the world with less money than her.  Getting out of that place, finding love, getting a second chance at love, fatherhood and peace will always be associated with the Bare Naked Ladies.

Tina TurnerAll the Best

Tina Turner has made spectacular music all her life. The sheer depth and breadth of her achievement is remarkable,  but even more so because it is so personal, so compelling as individual pieces that add up to a very rich and thoughtful whole.  As I get older I look back across my 32 years in this profession and see how one project of one moment, good or bad adds up to the whole of my career.  Not all of it is good and many of the moments are pretty scary, but for the most part I am very proud.


Paul Pascarelli Deserted Island Music

Paul Pascarelli:

Chicago IXGreatest Hits

Played trombone in H.S band and got into the brass arrangements

The Beach BoysEndless Summer

What a summer that was!

Pink FloydDark Side of the Moon

College escapism

Billy JoelThe Stranger

Wore that album out, had to buy another one

Bruce SpringsteenBorn to Run

Grew up in NJ and my high school was on ‘highway 9’


Audrey Maxwell Deserted Island MusicAudrey Maxwell:

Michael JacksonThriller

I would want this album around because it reminds me of my childhood, the amazing 80’s and all of those sleepover dance parties. I’ll need to maintain my sanity, so this album will also afford a perfect opportunity to practice the Thriller dance moves…over and over and over.

AerosmithGet a Grip

For when I feel like rocking out, my first “grown-up album” will get me crooning. While I don’t think my parents were fans of their pre-teen carrying around a tape with pierced cow udder cover art, it was a band we both liked and owning it made me feel pretty cool.

Blue OctoberConsent to Treatment

For the dark moments when I’m convinced I’ll never be rescued, this will be my go-to. This band from Houston (my hometown) left a lasting impression on me after I saw them live for the first time. If I was the Groupie type, I’d be one for this band.

AirMoon Safari

For clear nights when I want to lay on the beach and stargaze, I’ll let Air sweep me away just as it did in college. One snippet of “Talisman” takes me back to our summer European tour, watching the scenery out a train window with this album playing in the background.

NellyCountry Grammar

Delirious from hunger and dehydration, I’ll be able to work out the craziness by dancing (white girl style) to Nelly. This is the album I most associate with my college experience in St. Louis. No party would have been complete without a bunch of boozy college kids screaming: “I’m from the loop and I’m proud!”


Morgan Newman Deserted Island Music

Morgan Newman:

Music is such a huge part of my life. It is amazing how hearing the first few notes of a song can bring me right back to the moment in time I first heard it. The choices above reflect times in my life when I was introspective because of one reason or another, whether it was from a breakup or during the long late hours in studio.  These albums truly made an impact on my life.

DidoNo Angel

WilcoYankee Hotel Foxtrot

IncubusMake Yourself


Buena Vista Social ClubBuena Vista Social Club


Dallas Architect Bob Borson Deserted Island Music

Bob Borson

The Woody Herman Big BandWorld Class

Not a lot of people know that at one time in my life I could effectively play about 4 different instruments … that’s right – I was a band nerd. I didn’t particularly care for it but I got my mother’s musical talents. My mother was a music teacher for most of her life and when she was in college, she briefly sang in a group called “The Chordettes” when one of the members had to step out for a while. During this time, the group recorded such classics as “Mr. Sandman”, and “Lollipop.” I grew up listening to the music my mother favored, which was jazz and as a result, I am a huge Big Band fan.

StingBring on the Night

Recorded in 1986 (the year I graduated from High School) this is the live album version of the “Dream of the Blue Turtles” album. This band was made up of one superstar (Sting) who surrounded himself with one of the most talented group of musicians ever collected in popular music. They were all extremely gifted jazz musicians who could al play their instrument better than Sting could.

Bob MarleyLegend

What is there to say? Nothing. If you don’t have this album, you should get it.

Arctic MonkeysFavourite Worst Nightmare

Probably my most favorite group on this list – certainly so since their debut album dropped in 2006. Listen to this album (or any by the Arctic Monkeys) and check out the drummer in this group – Matt Helders. For those of you who think the drums are there to keep the beat and add a flourish at the end of every 16 bars, listen to what happens when the drums are played like a real instrument. Complicated and sophisticated rhythms make him one of my very favorite musicians to listen to – he’s that good.

Queens of the Stone AgeQueens of the Stone Age

I thought my list of 5 albums needed something a little heavier – you know, for when I’m all pumped up because I just successfully made a fire or something. Smooth and heavy at the same time … heavy guitar, strong bass line, and driving rhythm – and no screechy singing.


So there you have it. Feel free to list your own Deserted Island Albums in the comments below – I’m always looking for something new.

Cheers – and happy listening!

Bob Borson signature


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even better stuff from Life of an Architect

  • Aindriú Ó Murchú

    Takk – Sigur Rós
    Felt Mountain – Goldfrapp
    Ágætis byrjun – Sigur Rós
    A Different Kind of Fix – Bombay Bicycle Club
    ( ) – Sigur Rós

  • Mark Mc Swain

    So, how long until we get to the “Five Books” version of this question?

  • Vinnie

    I’m really liking the new Deerhunter album Monomania, really liking The Drums at the minute. and apart from that just been listening to this new Deep House everyone is on about, Disclosure and Duke Dumont.

  • Vinnie

    Bob – you’re a Texan. I was expecting to see some Lynrd Skynrd or Cadillac Ranch. Maybe even a some Journey? Don’t they teach you guys to 2 step in school?

  • taulant salihaj

    I don`t give my music selection 🙂

  • Kevin Keller

    I’m a little all over the place but I’d say I’d be perfectly happy with these 5:
    1. Cradle of Filth: Damnation and a Day – From Genesis to Nemesis
    2. Swedish House Mafia: Until Now
    3. Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 25, 33, 40 “Great” & 41 “Jupiter”
    4. Nimmo & the Gauntletts: young light
    5. Rammstein: Sehnsucht

  • Carly Cintron

    This list is soley based on the idea that if i was stranded TODAY, this is the music i must have with me.

    1.Fitz and the Tantrums – More Than Just A Dream

    2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

    3. Capital Cities – A Tidal Wave Of Mystery

    4. Marina and the Diamonds – Electra Heart

    5. NOW Thats What I Call Must 5. In my opinion, the best NOW cd that came into existence.

  • Joe Martz

    1. Yield – Pearl Jam
    2. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood – Neko Case
    3. Liquid Skin – Gomez
    4. Songs In the Attic – Billy Joel
    5. A never-ending loop of Ravel’s Bolero (if you can call that an album)

  • Iain Nicol

    oh the irony of being stranded on a deserted island listening to ‘The Beach Boys – Endless Summer’…

  • Paul Scharnett

    A huge fan of so many of these! Blue October used to be one of my favorites!

    I think now I would go with:
    Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
    Led Zeppelin – a best-of compilation from I-IV
    Radiohead – In Rainbows
    Jimmy Eat World – Futures
    Sigur Ros – Takk…

    There are like 10 more I would choose…anywhere from Phoenix to Alt-J…so many great albums!

  • Laura

    What, no Beatles? And I would have thought the younger people in the office would not have entire albums/cd’s to list as so much music these days is downloaded one song at a time. Fun to read the lists. Thanks for the topic.

  • nathan

    No one has mentioned You Forgot it in People by Broken Social Scene. One might be able to get by with only that and Kid A (oh, and Amnesiac of course).

  • Pedro Escobar

    the album leaf – in a safe place
    portico quartet – isla
    led zeppelin – mothership
    oasis – whats the story morning glory
    foo fighters – skin and bones

  • John P.

    My musical inspiration generally falls on the heavier side of the world, so here goes:

    1) Defeater – All 3 albums in a row,
    — being each one tells a story and each album builds off the last.
    2) Deftones – White Pony –
    — Because why not?
    3) At The Drive-In – Relationship of Command –
    –Just one of my top all time favorite albums. Energy never seems to stop!
    3) Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication –
    –The way each song rolls from one to another reaalllyy helps those long hours in the office go by!
    4) Fenix TX – Self Title –
    –Who doesn’t love some early 2000’s pop punk to boost a good mood?
    5) Incubus – Morning View –
    –Just a straight forward amazing album.

  • Brandon Tyler Carr

    I’m still in Architecture School, so this post will pretty much broaden my arena for studio. 🙂 my personal list, from the get-go ending with the rushed wrap-up, is as follows:

    Jack Ingram-Acoustic Motel

    The Cranberries-Everybody Else is Doing it, So Why Can’t We?

    Mogwai-Come On Die Young

    Scorpians- Face The Heat

    Whitesnake-Greatest Hits (Compilation)

    • you’re still in school and this is your playlist?!? You my friend are a throwback to an earlier time. I didn’t think anyone younger than 40 would ever have Scorpions or Whitesnake on their list.

      • Brandon Tyler Carr

        haha! My stepdad has shown me them both, as well as Jack Ingram. ever since, I just couldn’t go on without loving that era of rock. It way better than the random ear-bleed crap now adays, in my opinion.

      • Brandon Tyler Carr

        the best part is, that i prefer hand-drafting than CAD or Revit drafting. i can do all three, but there is nothing more peaceful or fulfilling than drawing a building and all of her views and diagrams in pencil or ink. i find instrumental music the best to concentrate on hand drafting. 🙂

  • Michael Frisina

    Not necessarily my favorite albums of all time, but music that I immediately turn to in certain moods. Great post.
    Counting Crows – August and Everything After
    Led Zepplin – II
    Elliott Smith – Figure 8
    Minus the Bear – Planet of Ice
    Zero 7 – Simple Things

  • lardavis1951

    I’d need a bigger island – but the music that finds a special spot in my brain/heart is from Fleetwood Mac, Zero 7, Nickle Creek/AKUS, Miles Davis, Vivaldi/Heinz Holliger

    • wow – back to back Zero 7 …

      nice list

  • Michael Huff AIA

    Pearl Jam – “Ten”
    First album bought in college.

    Michael Jackson – “Thriller”
    Maybe the best album ever made.

    Metallica – “Metallica”
    First Metallica album I ever owned. Still the best.

    Van Halen – “1984”
    Eddie Van Halen is the Jackson Pollock of guitar players.

    Linkin Park – “Meteora”
    Need some energy? Play this one loud.

  • architectrunnerguy

    Abbey Road-The Beatles
    Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band-The Beatles
    Days of Future Passed- The Moody Blues
    Blood on the Tracks-Bob Dylan
    Born in the USA-Bruce Springsteen

  • Chris Harris

    1. Steely Dan – Aja
    2. Bela Fleck and The Flecktones – Three Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    3. Dave Matthews Band – Before These Crowded Streets
    4. John Coltrane – Standard Coltrane
    5. Col. Bruce Hampton and The Aquarium Rescue Unit – Mirrors of Embarrassment

    • interesting list – hard to go wrong with Coltrane – one of the best from the Hard Bop period. Did you ever hear the story that people would sit in the alleys behind the clubs where Coltrane was playing because he would frequently go out in the alley and continue to play while others in the band were performing their solos. What an experience that would have been

  • Kerry Hogue

    Live at the Fillmore East —The Allman Brothers Band
    Bridge of Sighs —Robin Trower
    Chrome Dreams II —Neil Young
    Strong Persuader —Rober Cray
    Soul Sessions II — Joss Stone

    • ‘Strong Persuader’ is a fantastic album! and I’ll be adding ‘Bridge of Sighs’ to my playlist today

  • Mark Mc Swain

    “Songs You Know by Heart” Jimmy Buffett
    “Best (of)” Robert Earl Keen
    “Beethoven’s 9th” Herbery von Karajan cnd. Berliner Philo.
    “Viva Terlingua (I)” jerry Jeff Walker
    “Momentary Lapse of Reason” Pink Floyd.

    • solid list – covers a bunch of different moods and genres, just as any good deserted island playlist should.

      • Mark Mc Swain

        Pretty much all tunes I can “name in three notes” (for a really old cultural reference). As singling along is a participatory activity to help combat isolation and loneliness.
        (Ok, the German takes some practice to belt out, but, oh so worth it.)

  • Rob C.

    1.) Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile, 2.) Ben Folds Five – The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, 3.) Jay-Z – The Black Album, 4.) Tool – Lateralus, 5.) Paul Simon – Graceland.

    • I though ‘Graceland’ was a terrific album, on of my favorites from the mid 80’s (1986, my first year in college). I listened to that album many, many times when I was in studio.

  • If you had the equipment to play music, wouldn’t you fashion a way off the island like MacGyver? I suppose it depends if you were “alone”.

    • Mark Mc Swain

      That very much depends upon things not specified in the present question.
      Such as whether one was willing or unwillingly set upon said island.

      Medium was specifically removed from the contention as well–vinly LP only needs a spinning base, a stylus, and a speaker diaphram.
      That, and given Moore’s Law, it will not be long until digital music could be stored on an applique on one’s fingernail, powered by a combination of body heat and sunshine.

    • yeah … what Mark said.

      In all of my deserted island scenarios, there isn’t a desire (or possibility) to leave the island … it sort of defeats the purpose of the question. So Lee, what are your 5 albums?

      • My list will change daily…or even hourly…

        Amy Grant – Age to Age – She probably should have quit here or at least after Straight Ahead.

        Steven Curtis Chapman – For the Sake of the Call – Anything from SCC is welcomed, but I remember belting these songs out in my car (you probably heard me and snickered)

        Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair – I’m a kid of the 80’s and this one captures the spirit well.

        Eagles – Very Best of – Classic…simply put.

        Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band – Again, anything
        Beatles would work, but this was released a few weeks before I was born, it has a mix of quirky and experimental songs, but is still lively enough to sing along.
        Now I may have to post on my own blog…nice distraction.

  • Sterling

    Audrey just made my day. If I only had one album to take, it’d be Blue October’s Consent to Treatment. I couldn’t be more thrilled to open this article and see that album listed.

    • I’ll be sure to let Audrey know – she is sitting in her final ARE exam today (send her your positive thoughts)