Some days – some years – retreating to a deserted island sounds like a mighty fine proposition.
Of course, it would have to be a tropical island. Being one of those people who is always cold, spending a year on an island in the Arctic – or worse, the Antarctic – would create a whole new set of problems.
I’ve been snow camping before during my great outdoorsy days, but never in -34°C (-29°F).
As well, although deserted, this island would need to have once supported human life, or more precisely, the remnants of past human habitation: old building materials and other junk that I could scavenge and put to use.
I’m as crafty and resourceful as the next gal and have taken a wildcrafting course or two in my time, but why make things harder on myself in a world literally overflowing with human trash?
Most important of all, though, this island needs to have some sort of power source at least a portion of the time. How else would listen to any of my five deserted island albums I’d brought along to keep me entertained during my year of self-imposed exile?
Ah, the perennial get-to-know-a-person question: “If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only take five albums with you, what would they be?”
In our modern day of MP3s, ubiquitous digital devices, and cheap storage space, the notion of only five albums does seem rather quaint.
The question itself, though, has endured through all the music formats I’ve seen in my life (records, cassette tapes, CDs, and digital audio), and likely preceded even these.
By design, the question is difficult to answer, and the answers are meant to tell something about the taste and style of the responder.
I can tell you right off the bat that I’m in no way a tastemaker or otherwise fashionable sort of person.
I haven’t chosen the hippest, most acclaimed albums to showcase how cool and sophisticated I am. Rather, I chose ones that I genuinely love – a good diversity of music to keep me both amused and emotionally balanced during my hypothetical separation from the rest of society.
Hotel Paper – Michelle Branch
I was a huge fan of Michelle Branch when I was in my 20s and I can’t imagine passing a year without this album.
She was one of a number of young pop stars that were popular at the time, however her music always struck me as more sincere. Despite her songs being about the customary make-ups and breakups of young adulthood, they nonetheless contained more maturity and less sexualization than the rest of her ilk.
Some of her best known hits are from her debut album (The Spirit Room), which I also like. But I particularly love her follow-up album, which is a bit more indie-sounding, even more mature, and, according to Branch herself, more honest and true to her own life experiences.
Favourite track: It’s a tough choice as I enjoy so many of them, but I’m going to go with Breathe for its interesting opening guitar riff and the fact it to this day remains the song I use to brace myself up when feeling nervous or stressed.
If I just breathe/Air will fill the space between/I’ll know everything is all right
Blown Away – Carrie Underwood
I am nothing even close to a country music fan. I don’t do twang. Nor do even recall being a Carrie Underwood fan when I watched her years ago on American Idol.
However when I started listening to Google Play earlier this year, I heard so many of her songs (on pop stations no less), I came to like her music quite a bit.
I’ve been a Carrie fan for less than a year and already one of her albums has made my deserted island list.
What I love most about Blown Away, aside from the diverse range of subjects it tackles (e.g. child abuse, loving yourself, saying goodbye to loved ones, returning to one’s hometowns) is that each song is like a perfect little short story, beginning in medias res and ending a moment after the climax, thereby leaving the listener to fill in the resolution for him-/herself.
And the woman can definitely sing.
Favourite track: It is legitimately difficult to choose just one for I love almost all of them. I’ll go with the title track – a revenge anthem about an abused child who receives salvation in the form of a tornado.
Shatter every window till it’s all blown away/Every brick, every board, every slamming door blown away
Seal II – Seal
I was first introduced to Seal and his intoxicating fusion of pop, jazz, and R&B through his 1994 hit song Kiss From a Rose, which is one of the most atmospheric and romantic songs I’ve ever heard. It’s almost gothic with its imagery – a lonely, wintry castle, a brooding hero, and the woman who shines a light upon his grey and jaded soul – all of which is conveyed through Seal’s soothing voice like warm maple syrup.
I was convinced, after hearing this wonderfulness, that the song must be a one-off – a lucky strike. There was no way anyone could write an entire album of such haunting poetry.
Boy was I wrong.
Seal’s second album remains an all-time favourite, full of mellow songs that are romantic, sad, uplifting, or sometimes all three at the same time.
Favourite track: Not counting Kiss From a Rose, which is perhaps the greatest Seal song ever, I’d say Prayer for the Dying. This is one of those songs that contains a number of mingled emotions as pertains to the subject of death.
Crossing that bridge with lessons I’ve learned/Playing with fire and not getting burned/I may not know what you’re going through/But time is the space between me and you/Life carries on
18 – Moby
I first heard this intriguing gospel electronica album in 2007 during a difficult time in my life: I was unemployed; I hated the city I lived in; I was in love with someone who didn’t love me back; I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
It was an instant perfect fit, for this album is quite possibly the saddest one I’ve ever heard.
It starts off sounding rather upbeat until you actually listen to Moby’s lyrics and those of the numerous gospel samples he employs. From there, the album does actually brighten for a few songs in the middle, but eventually, it just gets sadder and more wistful and makes no pretensions about being otherwise.
Infused as it is with the artist’s emotions following the events of 9-11 – at times making specific reference to that tragedy – 18 is the perfect album for when you’re feeling down and really want to wallow in it for a while.
Favourite track: One of these mornings, a sombre piano-based track with a single line of gospel sample that warns of impending separation for reasons undisclosed. This not know why just makes the song that much sadder.
One of these mornings/Won’t be very long/You will look for me/And I’ll be gone
Two Horizons – Moya Brennan
With this final choice, I astound even myself, failing to include a single album by Enya, whose music I’ve loved since childhood, yet not hesitating to add one from her older sister.
However, this New Age/Celtic album is truly something special, as I’ve written before – a concept disc and suite of recurrent musical themes that tells the evocative story of the search for the lost harp of Tara.
It’s a journey through the ages and from the Old World to the new as the harp repeatedly changes hands while travelling to far-off lands inhabited by people living mythic lives.
Favourite track: Hands down, that would be Falling – a song of romance across the ages as the singer, standing in an old castle, stares at an old portrait of a striking Irish nobleman pictured with the missing harp. This song inspired on the creation of one of the characters in my WIP.
Still standing in your world/Still playing farewell in vain/ Calling out to my hero/Calling out just to hear your name
Do you also want to escape 2016? What album(s) would you take on your deserted island? Let me know in the comments.