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.
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.
Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Neil Young – Decade
Radiohead – Kid A
Clint Mansell / Kronos Quartet – The Fountain OST
Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children
“…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 Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fist Like Antennas to Heaven
Explosions in the Sky – Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever
Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place
Zombie Western – The Great Migration
ACDC – Back 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 Boys – Actually
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.
Erasure – The 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 Flatts – Me 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.
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.
Sibelius – Finlandia
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 Fears – Songs 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 Williams – End 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 Ladies – Gordon
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 Turner – All 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.
Chicago IX – Greatest Hits
Played trombone in H.S band and got into the brass arrangements
The Beach Boys – Endless Summer
What a summer that was!
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
Billy Joel – The Stranger
Wore that album out, had to buy another one
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
Grew up in NJ and my high school was on ‘highway 9’
Michael Jackson – Thriller
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.
Aerosmith – Get 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 October – Consent 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.
Air – Moon 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.
Nelly – Country 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!”
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.
Dido – No Angel
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Incubus – Make Yourself
Coldplay – Parachutes
Buena Vista Social Club – Buena Vista Social Club
The Woody Herman Big Band – World 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.
Sting – Bring 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 Marley – Legend
What is there to say? Nothing. If you don’t have this album, you should get it.
Arctic Monkeys – Favourite 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 Age – Queens 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!