The Desert-Island Album List, Vol. 1


I've been talking music a lot lately with family & friends; I think partly because I just started stepping back into vinyl recently, and also because I find I always fall into my music more when life sometimes gets a little more stressful, as it helps keep the balance. As such, for my own amusement, I've decided to come up with my own "top 10 records I'd want if stranded on a desert island" list.

Here's the catch: I'm only allowing myself one album from any individual artist/band. Otherwise it'd be too easy to fill up 70% of my list with three bands and not really think about all the varied musical artists that have had an impact on me over the years. I want to force myself to stretch and step outside the albums I play the most.

Given this limitation, it's going to take me some time to develop the full list; thus why this post was labeled "volume 1." So I'm starting with the three albums you see pictured above, in no particular order: 

  1. Sleater-Kinney's "The Woods"
  2. Tom Petty's "Wildflowers" 
  3. R.E.M.'s "Life's Rich Pageant"

Now, those who know me well might be shocked that I didn't also post Beatles, Stone's, Bowie, and Pearl Jam albums right away. Yes, those are also among my very favorite bands, and that's why they're so tricky: choosing just one album isn't easy! So some deliberation is required...

Now, back to the albums that are already chosen for today... Why these?  


The Woods, Sleater-Kinney

If you're a Sleater-Kinney fan, you get it. Released in 2005, this was presumably their last album, as they essentially broke up after this album. And man, did they go out with a bang! They went darker, deeper, and more powerful in every way on this one. They employed a new producer on this one, and he really brought out the best in them here. Corin's vocals are more powerful than ever on this album, and that's really saying something. Her voice just grabs you and shakes you this one - it's captivating and awesome. I feel like Carrie Brownstein was also finally let loose on this album, showing us what she can really do with that guitar. Her work on this album is epic.  Janet Weiss, their drummer, is just awesome as always. I feel like she's one of the few drummers in rock that you really notice - you'd definitely notice if they tried replacing her with anyone else.

Lyrically, the album is easily their best, IMO. They put some work in on this one, and it shows. This is an album that makes you think, makes you feel. When they reunited and released their new album, "No Cities to Love", in 2015, it rocked, of course, but couldnt quite live up the level of "The Woods".

If I allowed myself a second pick from this band, it'd be their 1997 release, "Dig Me Out". That album is such a perfect marriage of punk and pop, light-hearted and yet rocking and lyrically strong at the same time. You hear influences of old-school punk, modern alt-rock, and the Go-Go's all at the same time.


Wildflowers, Tom Petty

Overall, I won't be ranking albums on this list - with the exception of this one. This album I have no problem calling my favorite album by anyone, ever. Released in 1994, I picked this up when I was a junior in college, and it immediately spoke to me more than any previous album of his had, and I was already a HUGE Tom Petty fan. As I've gotten older, it's only spoken to me even more, as I think Tom's storytelling style tends to hit on a lot of themes that speak to us as we get more into mid-life; and this one does that in spades.

Also, I think the last three tracks of this album provide the best multi-track closing to any album ever. Any one of those three songs is beautiful and strong on their own, but played in succession, they're pure magic.  The last track, "Wake Up Time", is my favorite song in his catalog, and still tugs at the heartstrings every time.


Life's Rich Pageant, R.E.M.

It's hard for me to articulate why this album speaks to me the way it does, but it just does. R.E.M. has been one of my favorite bands ever since I became old enough to start developing my own taste in music; I started with "Document", which was the popular album at the time (and the one that finally really broke them into the mainstream), and kept moving on with them from there. 

As I got more into adulthood, I found this was the album I kept coming back to when I just wanted to feel "free", if that makes sense. As such, this has become one of my favorite road trip albums over the years. In fact, my kids now just expect they're going to hear this one a couple times when we go on long road trips. :) 

So there's my initial three for the list. Stay tuned for more to come...