We’re going straight to the top, fellow Waitsmas celebrants! Or, at least, y’all are—Max is deathly ill and coughing all over this track. But we aren’t going to let a little thing like death get in the way of talking about one of the weirdest and most wonderful live films we’ve seen: Tom Waits’ Big Time. As the ersatz “t’s a Wonderful Life of the season, Big Time is an odd one, since its nearly impossible to find rather than everywhere always, but Waitsmas is all about making life a lot harder than it needs to be, right?
Filmed hot off the heels of his Franks Wild Years tour, dubbed by many to be his greatest ever, Big Time bucks the cinéma vérité style of films like Stop Making Sense for a more surreal, imagistic pastiche, blending live footage with odd, go-nowhere vignettes and singular fever dreams. It’s more “visual companion” than “concert film”, while still delivering some truly bone shakin’ performances from a band packed with all-time greats like Marc Ribot and Ralph Carney that tear through the material—all plucked from his post-Swordfishtrombones output—like a pack of drunken robot dogs. You heard me. Drunken robot dogs. Oh lord, I think the Mucinex is kicking in~~~~. Also: the heartbreak of modern dating apps, an extensive interlude on World of Tomorrow 2, and perhaps the only time anyone has ever compared Tom Waits to Madonna.
Merry Waitsmas drunks and drunkettes! Yes, tis the season when all islanders forsake God and turn their eyes to the gutter in worship of the one true king: Tom Waits. This week we’re flying guestless so we can get down and dirty with the first half of his career, watching as a Brill Building jazzbo blooms into some sort of horrifying junkyard scarecrow preacher man. If you’ve ever wondered what it sounds like when an iconoclast is still trying to find their voice, the line of albums from Closing Time to Rain Dogs is a good place to start. But it’s also filled with some of the most genuinely beautiful work of his career, packed with bawling ballads and jazzy improv that would fall to the wayside later in his career. So join us as we inaugurate the actual most wonderful time of the year, and maybe—just maybe—learn a little bit about ourselves. Also: Andrew seeks help for his Much Music fever dream, the Melvoin Alert returns, and we all hear the story of how baby Max met the reason for the season.
Can’t wait for Waitsmas? Neither can we, so we’re opening one of our presents early, only to discover that Grandma screwed up again and got us the wrong thing—a Tom Waits cover album, courtesy of Scarlett Johansson and Dave Sitek. Back in 2008, they came together to give us “Anywhere I Lay My Head,” the most baffling crossover vanity project of that innocent time before an evil land developer from an 80’s movie literally took the white house. But while “Actress Scarlett Johansson and TV on the Radio Member Dave Sitek Make an Album of Tom Waits Covers with Special Guest David Bowie” seems like a particularly hipster mad-lib from the outside, the result is actually surprisingly pleasant, and even—dare we say—a little dull.
Rather than taking the obvious route of Downtown Trains and Uptown Buses, “Anywhere I Lay My Head” is a collection of some real latter day deep cuts, the kind of playlist that belies a genuine fandom. And Sitek’s production is definitely a fresh take, turning each track into a sort of technicolor Julee Cruise dreamscape. But is that enough to make this a project worth revisiting? Also: The Beach vs. The Island, Subway gift card dilemmas, and several burps that Andrew really should’ve edited out.
Need a big loan from the girl zone? Well this desert island has you covered, thanks to longtime castaway enthusiast (first-time castaway) Caroline Pendleton! With her anime-fueled determination, Max’s lifetime devotion, and Andrew’s generally pleasant demeanor, we have everything we need to cover the first half of the discography of songwriter/piano-bench humper Tori Amos. That’s right, we’re all Toriphiles now.
Tori Amos is sort of an anomaly in the music scene. She’s a classically-trained pianist who made her name writing lyrically and melodically dense albums, but she’s also a die-hard pop fan who was kicked out of music school for refusing to read sheet music. She’s boasts a dry wit and a fanciful streak a mile wide whose biggest hit was a dance remix of a harpsichord song that heavily features the line “starfucker/just like my daddy”. But for her diehard fanbase (of whom Caroline and Max count themselves a part), Tori Amos is quite simply one of the greatest songwriters of her era, and her discography is filled with wild experimentation, impeccable songcraft, and a bizarre penchant for soft-rock excess.
This week, we’re covering the first half of her extensive oeuvre, from her stark, piano-focused debut to the post-9/11 adult contemporary concept album Scarlet’s Walk. The albums she released in this period were some of her most creatively vibrant, establishing her as a force to be reckoned with even as she dipped in and out of the charts. And, of course, we tackle it with all the grace and aplomb you’ve come to expect from us—which is to say, none. Also: the place of Goth in our schools, the debut of the CureBerries, and a song for the Greg inside us all.
We’ve taken down our Brand New episode because we no longer wish to have a document out there supporting the music of an abuser. This clip is a more in-depth explanation of our thoughts on the matter. We do not mean to erase our mistakes and pretend as if they never happened—we simply want to prevent those mistakes from hurting anymore people.
Here are some better written, more articulate pieces written about what happened, the toxic culture that supported it, and the people left in its wake:
Are you ready to Free Fiona? Well, too bad—she’s already free, and has been for, like, 12 years. But that’s not gonna stop us from examining one of the strangest and, oddly, most controversial albums of her career: Extraordinary Machine. Both of them. Since the first, Jon Brion-produced version was held in limbo by Sony for so long, Fiona ended up re-recording the whole album from the ground up with part-time Dr. Dre collaborator Mike Elizondo for its official release. So with two significantly different versions of it in existence, Extraordinary Machine has long been a strange and divisive beast, which is why it was especially fun for us to dive in and dissect the successes and failures of these two disparate machines. Will we discover which producer is best? Or will we come to our senses and finally focus on the impeccable songcraft at the core of the album? Why not both? Also: Weird Al’s hot new single, the year of male consequence, and the shocking return of “Meet Me in Con-Talk.”
Feeling wistful in this winsome winter weather? Well so are we, faithful listener, which is why we’re dedicating our first full episode of November to one of our all-time favorite songwriters: Joanna Newsom. And thankfully, this harpists’ siren song was enough to drag three-time castaway and possible cave-dweller Andrew McAlpine back to the island, to give his own skewed perspective on her brief but incredibly deep discography.
As one of the only survivors of the short-lived and abominably-titled “freak folk” movement of the early-oughts, Joanna Newsom made a name for herself by taking what first seemed like a gimmick—her status as a classically-trained pedal-harp player—and turning it into a career packed with dense lyrical brambles, impeccably constructed song-craft, and her own divisive, inimitable chicken-fried-Björk singing voice. She’s a sentimental favorite of everyone on this episode, leading to a surprisingly contentious but heartfelt discussion of the four albums she’s written to date. It’s an episode packed with heartbreak and unlikely alliances, capped off with our very first letters section! Also: Max reveals the origin of her vendetta against Van Dyke Parks, Andy shills for the pleasures of suburban Western Mass, and Ryan Shea gets just super roasted for, like, no reason. He’s not even on the episode. Sorry Ryan.
We have no calendars or seasons or sense of the progression of time here on the island, but that’s not gonna stop us from celebrating what we’re told is Halloween. And for us, that means celebrating one of the spookiest soundtracks for one of the spookiest movies by one of the spookiest bands we could find: the Suspiria soundtrack by Goblin! A creepy combination of cacophonous ambience and straight up prog rock, this soundtrack is one of the most interesting—and listenable—horror movie soundtracks out there. And of course, we also delve into an in-depth discussion of Dario Argento’s surreal, visually stunning nightmare, which also just so happens to be Max’s favorite horror movie of all time. Also: occult psychology, the importance of razor wire rooms, and a celebration of national treasure Jessica Harper.
It’s time for Angstoberfest to bid a teary, mascara-stained farewell, but not before taking an extra melodramatic bow. So now, one week after covering the best (early-oughts) emo band of all time, we’re traveling to the flipside of the much derided sadness coin with the world’s best nü-metal band: Deftones. That’s right, this episode is all about how Max’s favorite no-longer-guilty-pleasure band slowly transformed from a bunch of So-Cal Korn fans into one of the foremost experimenters in a notoriously conservative genre. But are they really the Radiohead of metal? Or is that a stupid, lazy comparison made by a legion of hacks who don’t know how to talk about anything without referencing Radiohead and have probably never listened to any metal past Metallica’s black album? Sorry, I have a chip on my shoulder about this. Anyway, enjoy! In a sad way! Also: the death of compact discs, Grindr is magic, and the Tom Waits Advent Calendar.
The skies are dark across the heartland of the island, as we grieve the sudden death of Tom Petty. It’s a strange thing, when a musician whose work you take for granted as a constant source of joy and barroom camaraderie is suddenly taken—it forces you to reflect on just how much you came to love them. So its in that spirit that Max and Andrew have come together to celebrate America’s most jangly and least litigious musical genius, Tom Petty (& his ever loyal Heartbreakers). It’s our first and perhaps only episode examining a greatest hits compilation, but we think it’s worth it here, both as a means of approaching the breadth of his work and as a showcase for the incredible pop craftsmanship he showed throughout his career. So please join us on this genuine and enthusiastic celebration of Tom Petty, the one musician who it is literally impossible to hate, don’t even try. Also: a brief preview of our Deftones episode, Desert Island Discourse’s official stance on serial killers, and the new global standard for measuring Joy.
Did you hear? Twin Peaks is back! Or it was. It’s gone now. But dammit if Desert Island Discourse isn’t dedicated to stretching out nostalgia way past the bounds of what is good and reasonable. To that end, this week we’re branching out a bit, examining the Julee Cruise album Floating Into the Night and, by extension, the TV show that made such great use of its music—Twin Peaks. One of us has been obsessed with both for years, and the other was only exposed to either in the past few months, but somehow we find common ground in the love we share for this pristine slice of strange, reverb-laden dream pop, and its equally strange televised cousin. Also: the possible origin of fuckboys, Andrew’s irrational hatred of tote bags, and the remarkably well-casted content of Deputy Andy’s Balls.
Everybody loves the Beatles, right? Well not on this island—we’re as contrarian as ever here, mostly considering the legendary rock band with a meh and a hand wave. So in our typical iconoclastic style, we are jumping right over any discussion of the Beatles as a band to talk about the far more weird and ranging solo albums that the members released in its wake. From the homespun pop of McCartney’s solo debut to the schizophrenic art-pop of Lennon’s last album, the genre-diversity at the core of the Beatles was completely indulged in, for better and for worse. But which of the lovable lads from Liverpool will steal our 60’s hating hearts? Hint: it’s not Ringo. Also: cheese factors, the uncanny valley of repetition, and all our thoughts on God.
I have a confession to make, Deserteers, on this, the eve of our Beatles solo album episode: I have never listened to a John Lennon album. Due to a combination of apathy, youthful iconoclasm, and a deep-seated hatred of blue-eyed soul, I have managed to avoid his storied solo career for nearly three decades now. But that all changes today (well, technically a month ago, but play with me here), as, with the steady guidance of eccentric musicologist extraordinaire James Eidson, I venture to listen to his legendary album Plastic Ono Band for the first time. And what better way to first encounter a record than by drinking PBR and talking over it? Over the course of one full album play, we discuss John Lennon’s checkered past and the strange critical reputation of Plastic Ono Band in our classic aüdio vérité style, so you can hear every off-handed comment and argument about beer consumption. Also: terrible portraits of James Schuyler, the similarities between Dara Wier and Yoko Ono, and how Harry Nilsson is actually amazing, jeez James, come on.
Can you believe we’ve been trapped on this island nearly half a year, and never once discussed the beach or its titular boys? Well it’s about damn time we rectified that. So, with the help of return castaway/bearded bundle of joy Andy McAlpine, we’re going to take on one of the most legendary discographies we’ve yet encountered—The Beach Boys. The weird and wild world of the Wilson brothers is full of classics and clunkers, and on this episode we’re running the gamut of both, with a selection of albums ranging from the pure pop pleasures of The Beach Boys Today! to the lo-fi depths of Smiley Smile. In the process, we learn a lot about the glossed over depths of this band, the joys of life before and after Pet Sounds, and, of course, the epic heights of “Bull Session with ‘Big Daddy'”. Also: the world’s greatest box set, food party gender dynamics, and the perks of eating John Stamos.
In preparation for the sunny onslaught of our upcoming Beach Boys episode, we take a moment to discuss the troubled, oft-ignored beach brother — Dennis Wilson. Responsible for the surf vibes that permeated their early albums, the hard living beach bum of the family released the first solo album of the group, Pacific Ocean Blue, and was working on another (Bambu) when he tragically died in 1983. We’re talking about both today, as we examine these flawed yet fascinating tracks, shot through with a darkness and pathos that the Beach Boys only hinted at. It’s a brief episode about one man’s personal dissolution, although we somehow still find time to take jabs at the second best drummer in Foo Fighters. Also: suffocating prospectors, Andrew’s empty tummy, and the puzzling state of the Depeche Mode fandom.
Welcome back, punks and punkettes! We’ve received yet another castaway on the island, drummer and punk rock dad extraordinaire Chris Pagnani, and we’re welcoming him the only way we know how—with spiky hair and outdated weed references. That’s right, we’re covering those west coast bad boys made good, Green Day! From their earnest and humble beginnings through multiple cries of “sellout!” and all the way to their millennial political makeover, we cover the career of one of music’s most enduring punk institutions and, in the process, learn a little about ourselves. But in a cool, hardcore way. Also: sock hops, Fuck Time, and the Vegas odds on Max’s capricious heart.
Ladies, Gentlemen, Genderqueers: it is going down. Ever since they heard our lukewarm treatment of King of Limbs back in the Radiohead episode, the Walnut Desk boys have been itchin’ for a fight with your Desert Island pals to defend its honor. And on Saturday the weird fishes finally came home to roost, in a raucous hour of…well, actually rather civil conversation. Andrew even warmed up to the album a little. But will three good-natured bearded men be enough to convince Max that King of Limbs isn’t actually Radiohead’s worst album? Stay tuned for the thrilling answer! Also: DrummersTM, the pathos of Korn scatting, and Phil?!
Well we’ve made it folks—Desert Island Discourse has hit episode 25. And now that the island is officially old enough to rent a car, we figured the best way to celebrate is with our favorite bunch of screaming, pseudonymic songsmiths: Animal Collective. As one of the first bands that opened up Max and Andrew’s baby brains to the wonders of weird music, Animal Collective has long held a sweet, unique place in our hearts. So of course our attempt to trace their lineage from weird pop solo project to, uh, weird pop group project (with a lot of strangeness in between, we promise) resulted in a full two hours of gushing, tangents, and terrible, terrible puns, as well as the most insufferable installment of “Pitchfork Said it Worst” yet. Also: Max learns the difference between Blues Traveller and Collective Soul, Andrew throws foil at a cat, and we learn Avey Tare’s secret recipe for almond butter.
Welcome to the first B-Side of our brand new schedule! You’re gonna be seeing a lot more of these from us now, so it’s fitting that we start with one of the best albums we’d never be able to cover otherwise: the Neutral Milk Hotel classic In The Aeroplane, Over The Sea. In the process, we examine its legacy and give a platform to Andrew’s Anne Frank-less interpretation of an album that’s so entrenched with lore and history that it’s hard to remember how great the songs themselves are. It’s a rambling conversation full of surprises, for an album that deserves nothing less! Also: horrible singing, jerky old friends, and the humble origins of Desert Island Discourse.
It’s been a long, angsty few weeks here at the island. In the midst of myriad work stresses, life changes, bad albums (from the former occupant of this slot), and, of course, the sad loss of Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington. When it came time to record this episode, your good good music pals were in pretty rough shape indeed.
But then, what better condition to be in to celebrate the music of Linkin Park? The band that was there for us when hormones and the dark conditions of mental health and middle school put us in a bad way, and who over the years managed to transform that rap-rock angst into anthemic power ballads, experimental electronica, and, most recently, EDM influence pop music, all while remaining at the top of the charts for nearly two decades. We start the episode one step closer to the edge, and it nearly breaks us. But with the help of Linkin Park, we’re breaking the habit and…well, I’m all out of useable titles, but the episode is good!
And speaking of breaking the habit, there are gonna be some changes on the island in the near future. As I mentioned, life changes have been taking their toll, and weekly episodes just aren’t as feasible as they were back when we were both unemployed/semi-employed. So, we’re moving the standard episodes, the A-Sides, to a bi-weekly (Semi-weekly? It’ll be every two weeks) schedule, and we’ll be releasing B-Sides on the off weeks. So you’ll still be getting weekly episodes from us, they just won’t all be discography focused. This schedule goes into effect as of now, so look forward to a cool new B-Side next Monday, and come back in two weeks for our highly-anticipated Animal Collective episode!
Wellp, it happened again—due to a combination of audacity and human error, our Aphex Twin episode has been lost to time. But that’s ok—every podcast worth their salt needs a lost episode, and now we have on to take the place of our old lost episode, which has recently been salvaged from the bleached coral depths of our fateful island! That’s right, our original Sleater-Kinney episode, recorded way back in the fateful Month of Love and Hate, is finally seeing the light of day. Now you can hear me fangirl out over Carrie Brownstein’s guitar playing/hair all over again! Andrew has many nice things to say about Janet Weiss and Corin Tucker too.
It’s not quite like our typical episodes—while I’ve edited out the long silences and managed to put in music (almost all of which is different from the music in our official episode—yes, Sleater-Kinney is just that good!), all the tangents and digressions we usually edit out for the sake of focus have been left in. In addition, my audio is kinda of weird and glitchy throughout, although it’s still (mostly) understandable. So it’s a longer, messier episode, but frankly I think that just adds to its charm. I’ve always been really proud of what we did in this episode, and was super bummed that we weren’t able to release it. So I’m glad we could finally post up this lo-fi rarity for your listening pleasure. Enjoy! Also: Led Zeppelin shirts, Fraggle Rock covers, and one of the most elaborate Sesame Street jokes ever laid to tape.
In our second ever B-Side, Andrew and Max get together and struggle with the existential dread of Laurie Anderson’s masterful track, “O Superman (For Massenet)”, and get really, really dark in the process.
“O Superman (For Massenet)” is a weird track for a lot of reasons. It’s an excerpt from a 6 hour long conceptual opera that hit number 2 on the charts. It’s a masterful piece of music written by someone best known for her performance art. It’s an 8 minute long track with no chorus or verse made with just a vocoder and a synth. It literally laughs at you. But most of all, it’s a work of art capable of evoking emotions I rarely associate with music—fear, fatalism, that heavy, sinking feeling.
It’s a lot to take in, frankly, which is why we had to dedicate a whole B-Side to just discussing its weight. In the process, we delve into the fears in our own lives, be it our personal rock bottom, the fallout of 9/11, or the simple question of how to respond to an uncaring universe. But we also talk about mocking young conservatives and a mythical world where Tarkovsky directs Napoleon Dynamite, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
We’ll do an episode dedicated to Laurie Anderson’s wide and fascinating body of work some day, but for the time being, I hope you enjoy this weird, brief, personal discussion on O Superman.
We’ve had a good time with Bob Pollard over these last three weeks, but alas, every Julyded by Voices month must one day come to an end. Fret not though, for we’re celebrating the holiday’s end with Guided by Voices new beginning, exploring the 8 (!) albums they’ve released since reforming back in 2012. Yep, Bob brought the classic boys back together again, and we’re here to guide you through their awkward first steps, their power pop triumphs, and eventual re-dissolution. And the story doesn’t even end there, as we continue through a mysterious “solo” album and a massive double album monument from a reformed hi-fi lineup. How do these myriad forms of Guided by Voices stand up to their past selves? Well, it’s messy, but it’s also marvelous, much like this episode, which left quite a few PBR tall boys in its wake. Also: winking poets, parental beer snobs, silver badgers, and the debut of Desert Island Dinner tips!
The chaotic weather patterns of Julyded by Voices month have shipwrecked another guest on the island—fortunately, that guest is poet, actor, and Guided by Voices superfan Andrew McAlpine! That’s right, we have double the bearded Andrews on board to guide us through GBV’s wild and wooly hi-fi era. Spanning multiple lineups and a bevy of labels, this era is commonly seen as the moment when Bob Pollard lost his way, ditching the lo-fi charm of their classic albums for a more commercial sheen. Yet it also sees the band experimenting with their sound like never before, and the end result is an eccentric collection of highs and lows that produced some of the most interesting (and highest charting) albums of their career. With the help of Andy’s jovial, moderating presence, we take on a divisive set of albums, and find far more jewels than we expected. Also: Controversial Opinions, Doug Gillard’s Extraneous Solos, and plenty of new stickers to help those albums fly off the shelves!
Bet you didn’t think you’d be seeing us again so soon eh? Well this time we’re trying out something new here at the island. Don’t worry: the main series is going to continue being the same sprawling, discography devouring experience you all know and love. But albums are so much more than just an entry in a longer line: they’re independent experiences, a web of relationships, fandom, and artistry that’s worth exploring in its own right. So for our new series, which we’re calling “B-Sides”, we’ll be bringing in a guest to talk about one specific album—not just as its own work, but as a piece of art in their lives. What do these songs inspire in an individual? What does this album mean in your specific life? Music is always a personal thing, and this is our chance to really explore what that means.
For our first B-Side, we’re talking about Same Place the Fly Got Smashed(from our Guided by Voices Lo-Fi episode) with poet, musician, and raconteur James Eidson. In the process, we discuss our shared country origins, shifting perceptions of middle age, and, of course, fleshlights. It’s like My Dinner with Andre, only excessively drunk. Enjoy!
It’s that time again, when we join together with family and friends to celebrate our proud heritage, shared love, and spirit of independence. That’s right, it’s Julyded by Voices month! For our latest poorly named and hurriedly invented holiday, we’re dedicating the next three weeks to national Tascam heroes Guided by Voices. This week we focus on the lo-fi era, when Bob Pollard and his Band of Merry Men emerged from the alcohol soaked basements of Ohio and into the hearts and minds of indie-loving Americans everywhere. Also: Brain Shortages, Max Tape Tips, and an extended stinger about fleshlights.
Welcome back to the island! Have you ever heard of a band called Pygmy Lush? Well I hadn’t, so they were new to me! That’s right, “If I Haven’t Heard it it’s New to Me Fortnight” (a.k.a IIHHIINTMF, or “Eehintimef” for short) is coming to close with a brief but dense discussion of these hardcore-veterans-turned-ambient-folkies. With only three and a half albums to their name, they managed to surprise this jaded, unfeeling woman, and we think you’ll get a kick out of em too. Also: James Buchanan Fun Facts, the Only Good Nirvana Cover, and some very frank talk about hormonally induced boobs.
It’s summer here on the island, so we’re reviving ABC’s old justification for reruns to justify our own experimental indulgence and telling each other, “If I haven’t heard it, it’s new to me!” This week is kicking off a two week special where Andrew and Max each bring in an artist the other hasn’t heard of, and Max is starting us off with one of the most unpredictable bands in post-punk, Japan’s own P-Model! Modern day composer Susumu Hirasawa’s post-punk passion project went through a lot of changes over its 20 year existence, and we’re covering perhaps it’s most tumultuous period, from 1979’s Devo-biting debut In a Model Room to the baroque synth-pop of 1986’s One Pattern. In-between, we’ll journey through goofy atonality, reverb heavy no-wave, gorgeous Cure style ballads, and Art of Noise-esque sound collages. But will this island import tickle Andrew’s fancy? Probably! I mean, they’re a real good band. Also: music hipster dick measuring contests, the varied works of Satoshi Kon, and just so, so much poorly pronounced/translated Japanese.
It’s been a tumultuous week in Great Britain, and we’re reaching out to our fellow island dwellers the only way we know how: by talking about a bunch of albums for, like, 90 minutes. Specifically, we’re covering possibly the strangest, cleverest, and Englishest band to come out of the British Invasion: The Kinks! Long beloved by Andrew, occasionally confused for the Monkees by Max, the long running project of the Brothers Davies took us on quite a journey as we explored their first 11 albums. But will the snarky charms of Sir Raymond and Double Dave be enough to win out over a bad-blues-cover laden start and one of the worst concept albums ever recorded? Also: the dangers of nostalgia, uncomfortable Frank Zappa confessions, and the most anyone has ever talked about classic Tony Danza film She’s Out of Control
-It’s been a pretty emotional week here on the island, as Max revisits one of her favorite bands (and the creators of her go-to breakup album)—Slowdive. Her diehard shoegaze fandom meets Andrew’s general shoegaze apathy as they tackle the brief yet fascinating discography of the only band Richey Edwards ever dubbed “worst than Hitler,” and find some surprising common ground in the lush pop anthems therein. Will this be the band that finally convinces Andrew of the glories of pedalboards? Will Max ever get over her totally real Canadian ex-girlfriend? And what does any of this have to do with ReBoot?
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a visitor to these distant desert shores, but we couldn’t ask for a better co-castaway than poet, cover artist, and general raconteur Haley Rene Thompson, who’s joining us to talk about one of the world’s most underrated supergroups: The Breeders. Over four albums and 28 years (!), Kim and Kelley Deal’s eccentric and electric indie-pop-punk-whatever group has released a body of music that defies expectation and explanation, but that’s not gonna stop us from trying to analyze the shit out of these fantastic tracks. Join us on this rough and wild journey through the deepest realms of songcraft, twin-speak, and staying up way past out bedtimes. Also: Andrew becomes the perfect parent, Haley compares Kim to a Japanese modernist, and Max gets kicked off her own dang podcast.
Rising from the ashes of catastrophic technical issues comes this, our first ever re-done episode. After our first attempt in the Month of Love and Hate was devoured by Audacity’s hideous maw, we had to let the fields lay fallow for a bit, but we’re coming back stronger and more in love than ever, to finally cover America’s Greatest Rock Band™—Sleater-Kinney. For the second time in our lives but the first in yours, we’re celebrating the storied discography of Carrie Brownstein, Corrin Tucker, Janet Weiss, and occasionally Laura MacFarlane, one of the very few we’ve encountered with nary a bummer disc in the bunch. So join Andrew and Max as they dish on the great hair and even greater chops of one of our favorite bands that we’ve ever discussed. Again. Also: Van Zandt Bandannas, the New Flesh, and another installment of Concert Report!
Put on your plain white tees and asymmetrical haircuts boys and girls—it’s time to get emo! That’s right, for our second survey episode we’re covering American Emo from 1995 to 1999—the era when emo went from a weepy offshoot of hardcore to a commercial juggernaut. And as puberty often is, this period is defined by plenty of awkward fumbling and experimentation, from the swirling post-hardcore of Sunny Day Real Estate to the quiet filigrees of American Football. It’s a difficult journey of self-discovery for the Desert Island Duo, but one with some rich rewards waiting for us at the end. Also: good and evil Kinsella brothers, catfished truckers, and the surprising connection between corn on the cob and Animal Collective.
Wellp, the Desert Island duo has really fallen into the old obscurity hole with this one, an examination of the career of a man best known for soundtracking an early Nickelodeon show. That’s right, today we’re covering the one and only Mark Mulcahy, from the early post-punk musings of his first band Miracle Legion through The Adventures of Pete and Pete and well into a solid if inconsistent solo career, all in a quest to turn one of our most beloved songsmiths into the household name he so richly deserves to be. But can their sheer enthusiasm defeat Skype lag, lack of sleep, and widespread public indifference? Don’t worry—rock and roll never dies, Thunderball. Also: exhaustion, heartbreak, and the Guardians of the Galaxy/Cruel Intentions slashfic you’ve always wanted.
Hey y’all! Did you know that Kendrick Lamar is like, really good? He’s so good. So as we emerge from cruelest month, hunched over and blinking in the light, it only makes sense that we do so with one of the most impeccable discographies we’ve ever tackled. Will our Desert Island Duo be able to pick just one of his incredible works to cherish in their exile? Well, I mean, we have to—that’s the whole premise. Also: Failed jokes, lawyer taunts, and spiteful jabs at Geraldo Rivera
We’ve finally reached the end of our turbulent month of Hate and more Hate, and we’re capping it off with perhaps our most contentious episode yet, as Max subjects Andrew to her beloved Lifter Puller and its much more successful sequel, The Hold Steady—both the creations of one Craig Finn. Across this meandering tale of shock, awe, and despair, we work through problematic faves and drink more whisky than ever before in a desperate attempt to bridge the sudden taste gap that has separated Max and Andrew for lo these past two weeks. Will Max ever be able to convince Andrew to give in to the Finn? Judging by the number of sick burns delivered, the prognosis is not good. Also: In-Depth Lore Reviews, American Idiots, and the Many Deaths of Andrew Cothren.
We’re back from our extended, technical difficulty fueled hiatus with just one important question: are you ready to feel the steel? I certainly wasn’t—I found it very unpleasant. But thanks to Andrew, our Month of Love and Hate continues with those smoothest of jazz dads, the one and only Steely Dan. Will these bitter perfectionists be the wedge the splits the island in twain? Or will Max finally see the light and embrace her inner dad? Either way, 12,000 Grammy voters can’t be wrong! Also: angry affirmations, surprising samples, and even more Mountain Goats.
Wow. Just, wow. What started as a joke and soon evolved into a grim death march has finally reach its fruition as the strange artifact you see before you, a frenzied message in a bottle from two lost souls desperate for solace. That’s right: this week, we’re covering the entire discography of the famous San Jose chin beard models, Smash Mouth. And if you think the Smash Mouth legacy begins and ends with “All Star”, oh God, do we have a horrific surprise for you. Join us as we take you on a journey from their ska, rap, and personal harassment-based origins through Christmas albums, Justin Bieber tributes, and an honest to goodness EDM collab. Will we make it through with our souls intact? No. No we won’t. Also: puka shell necklaces, actual and legitimate screaming, and our new film: The Ramones vs. The Mummy’s Curse!
It’s been a heady month for the castaways this March, as we weathered a self-inflicted hurricane of tours and two-parters that (vaguely) threatened to drown us. But the end is in sight, and who better to shepherd us through this all-consuming fury than famed storm-chaser Phil Elverum? Join us as we finish our deep dive into his discography with the wild and wide-ranging works of Mount Eerie. In the process, your hosts will swing from measured singer-songwriter talk to ecstatic joy to utter speechlessness, in what is quite possibly our most epic episode yet. Also: plenty of cowboy talk, Max’s Monologue Moment, and more pained sighs per minute than ever before!
Ravaged by tour strife and the rigors of funemployment, your beleaguered hosts call upon their deepest inner resources (and the magic healing powers of whisky) to steady themselves for another epic two parter—an exploration of the wild and ranging works of Phil Elvrum/Elverum. Luckily, we’re starting small, with the four official studio albums that make up the discography of that late, great early Elvrum project, the Microphones. But beset on all sides by despair, distortion, and the Big Black Death, will even this small task prove too much for Max and Andrew? Judging by the 45 minutes of drunken rambling we cut from the episode, the answer is “probably.” Also: The rise and fall of Incubus, DRUMS DRUMS DRUMS, and a brief discussion of Mac McCaughan’s relative chunkiness
Well, it happened—we posted a late episode. Roughly three days late, which is quite a delay. There wasn’t much that could be done about it (since I was editing it, the file was at the mercy of several unreliable Austin internet connections, none of which were super capable of uploading such a large file). In penance (and maybe as a sort of exorcism), here are the collected notes for both episodes—9235 words over the course of 16 albums. I can’t promise there’s anything enlightening here; again, this more about offering a peek into the process of researching for these episodes. But if you’re curious, this is what happens when an over-caffeinated Mountain Goats fan is given two weeks to ramble. Enjoy?
Your desert island girl is on tour, and you know what that means: late episodes, loose editing, and a whole lot of Mountain Goats flavored discourse! Our exhausted but generally amiable hosts finish up their exploration of the Mountain Goats mammoth discography by covering all 9 albums that make up the hi-fi era so far. From the shaky yet atmospheric Tallahassee to the triumphant wrestle mania (unofficial) of Beat the Champ, we chart the path of these indie folk stalwarts from one man and a boombox to three men, a variety of actual producers, and relative stardom. Also: rare tracks, tales from the road, and 100% fewer dildos!
Get your special shoes on, castaways—it’s time to tackle the epic heights of that most indelible of indie institutions, The Mountain Goats. Faced with a discography of 15 albums and counting (keep an eye out for Goths!), your desert island duo are approaching this task the only way they know how—by dividing, labeling, classifying, and (hopefully) conquering. Thus, we begin our story with the works of John Darnielle and his trusty boombox, covering his pre-Vanderslice works from Zopilote Machine to All Hail West Texas. Will this massive undertaking be the strain that finally tears the island apart? Can a lo-fi girl from Texas win out against a hi-fi city boy? And will there be any peanuts waiting for us at the end? Find out in our latest thrillingly folksy installment of Desert Island Discourse.
Well I’ve been threatening to start publishing our notes on here for awhile now, but have thus far chickened out due to terrible quality. Years of writing workshops have made me wary of releasing work that was made with no intention of being read, but 1. nobody actually checks out the website and 2. I figure y’all are cool enough not to judge me too harshly. So if you’re interested in what kind of work goes into an episode, it’s stuff like this—you’ll notice a lot of it was restated verbatim in the show. Well, y’know, you take so many notes, they find their way into your head, and then from your head to a microphone, after which no amount of diligent Audacity cutting will cleanse them.
This week, the castaways trade in the idyllic island life for cold storage as Max and Andrew tackle their first survey/grab bag episode.
From the wild and ragged sounds of the Slits to the catchy innocence of Stockholm Monsters, we commemorate three episodes of crowd-pleasing hit-makers by diving into a scattered array of the great obscure and semi-obscure arty rockers that made the bleak industrial wastes of northern Britain so very fashionable for decades to come.
It’s a celebration of our favorite difficult-to-define and stunningly imperfect genre, resulting in quite possibly our nerdiest and most gushing episode to date. Also: electric dildos, two different Radio Pragues, The Chameleons Fan Cast, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ shocking post-punk past.
a.k.a. “If you liked it then you should’ve POD a CAST on it”
This week on the island, we’re visited by the incomparable Caroline Rayner to talk about the one true Queen of Pop: Beyoncé.
From the charmingly dated and Sean Paul riddled Dangerously in Love to the impeccable and utterly shafted Lemonade, we chart the course of this musical pioneer with all the stunned awe and hopeless grasping for adjectives you’ve come to expect from us.
Also: more quotes from Max’s therapist, a frank discussion of “punctubation”, some exciting announcements, and a Desert Island Discourse first!
Things have taken a turn for the anxious this week, as your hosts tackle the storied, unpredictable discography of that most unlikely of great bands, Radiohead. From brit-pop trifles to esoteric electronica to some awfully quaint Bush-era paranoia, we cover every croon, wail, and blip from everyone’s favorite prophets of urban despair.
In our very first episode, your desert island duo inadvisably crack open the liquor to explore the 80’s discography of the purplest one of them all: Prince. Will the most Album Album win out over the Sexiest Sex? Will Andrew finally learn what “Head” is? And is the water really, truly warm enough? The answers to all these questions and more lurk behind the iffy sound quality and inordinately long running time of this, the confounding debut of Desert Island Discourse.
Intro and Outro Music: “Canned Laughter” by Pop Martyrs
Interstitial Music: “Too Drunk to Fuck” by Nouvelle Vague