Bam Bam, Death Cab For Cutie, Feel It All Around, Hello It's Me, I'll Be Around, James Brown, Lonely Avenue, Ray Charles, Sister Nancy, The Payback, The Spinners, Todd Rundgeren, Transatlanticism, Washed Out
I was going over the playlist for this entry, and it occurred to me that a few of my picks for the Desert Island Disc would make me the object of ridicule. I got that revelation after Tom specifically told me he would be mercilessly ridiculing some of my selections from Part 2.
Nevertheless, we soldier onward.
“Bam Bam” – Sister Nancy
There’s no way I’m spending time on a desert island without a bit of reggae, and this one has been a dancehall staple since the moment of it’s release. Some of you might recognize this one from the numerous times it’s been sampled, and perhaps two of you know it from the part in Belly where they ripped off Scarface.
While she only released one album in her heyday, Sister Nancy was a pioneer in the genre – one that is none too kind to its female members – and left a lasting legacy for the subsequent dancehall queens that came after her.
“I’ll Be Around” – The Spinners
The Spinners have been summer barbecue favorites since “I’ll Be Around” came out in 1971. Personally, if I don’t hear this song at an outdoor function, I think the police have arrived to shut the party down.
It also serves a dual function as a PSA for dating someone new: Behind every prospect who just got out of a relationship, there’s some dude out there, lurking in the bushes, waiting for you to mess up.
“Hello It’s Me” – Todd Rundgeren
Another song that might earn some ridicule, but is still a damn good tune, “Hello It’s Me” is a song that I hear pretty often, but I always stop to listen to. It’s not particularly well structured, but it has a warm, relaxed vibe that I feel would keep a person from going batshit insane from isolation.
The lyrics are pretty slight, but they are emblematic of a theme that started to emerge in popular music: The sexual revolution made it OK to just want to fool around with someone without a serious commitment, but you still couldn’t say that straight out in a song – you had to finesse that shit.
Thus, the breezy “no pressure” style of songwriting was born, and few songs of that era did it better than this one.
“Feel It All Around” – Washed Out
In recent years, Chillwave managed to capture a great deal of my attention, and “Feel it All Around” is an example of the genre at its best. Washed Out never quite recaptured the magic he found on Life of Leisure, but this song has never made its way out of my playlist since the day I heard it.
Boasting a slowed down Gary Low loop as its base and Washed Out’s ethereal vocal at its center, the song creates a dreamlike atmosphere that’s completely immersive: You really can feel it all around you.
“Lonely Avenue” – Ray Charles
Ray Charles is a perfect example of an Impossible Choice artist, an artist who has so many classics to choose from, no matter which way you go the choice will be both right and wrong. “I Got A Woman” and “What I’d Say” seemed too obvious, and “Leave My Woman Alone” would drive you insane on a desert island, constantly wondering whether or not your girlfriend has slept with someone yet.
I ultimately chose “Lonely Avenue” because it fit the situation the best: It’s gonna get pretty lonely out there. Besides, I’d be wondering if my girlfriend slept with someone no matter which song I chose.
“Transatlanticism” – Death Cab For Cutie
Despite having three albums and two EPs of reasonably solid songs, Death Cab for Cutie did not hit their stride musically until Transatlanticism, a concept album centered around a long distance relationship. The album boasts an impressive collection of cuts, but the title track is one of my favorite songs.
I’m not going to say too much about this one, except: A)that I chose it because the concept seemed to fit perfectly with the desert island theme, and B) just listen to it:
Ben Gibbard does an amazing job allegorizing the impact of being away from the one he loves, and there’s no doubt that, on a desert island, you’d get to know that feel pretty quickly.
I already spoke about how you can slowly go insane just wondering whether your significant other has slept with anyone in your absence on the island, but after a while, you will have to accept the fact that she has. If you ever make it back, there’s no reason to think the world was encased in amber since you left. Life goes on, and people go on living it.
But when I get back….
That’s where the next song comes in to play…..
“The Payback” – James Brown
I chose this song because of it’s theme, belted out in the guttural timbre only James could pull off: Revenge. Emotion can be a powerful motivator for survival, and nothing can keep a person going quite like the thought of getting back at the people who left you to die on some godforsaken spit of land with only one disc worth of choices.
Remember the Impossible Choice Artist I talked about? James Brown is another one of those artists. I anguished while trying to choose between the multitude of amazing cuts in James Brown’s repertoire. You really can’t go wrong no matter which one you pick, but you’ll always wonder if you made the right decision.
The Godfather of Soul likes to take you on an incredible ride with all his songs, but the destination is usually only one way. I like this one specifically because it has quite a few twists to it, while still taking you on a ride the corner of Pay and Back.