I have always been fascinated by what musicians listen to when they aren’t creating their own music. What music inspires them, what albums do they return to again and again—their “desert island” discs. With this in mind I decided to ask some of my favorite New Jersey musicians to name their top 10 favorite albums of all time. Not the albums that they think are “important,” or that have influenced many other artists or ones of technical merit. I wanted to know their very favorite albums that they love just because the records mean the most to them.
How does one describe the music of Wetbrain? Good question. On their Facebook page they list their genre as “Why split hairs?” and we couldn’t agree more. Their outstanding recent record Things You Think You Thought You Knew mixes so many genres seamlessly it is a testament to the cohesiveness of the band. Wetbrain is Rudy Meier on vocals and guitar, Nick Kaelblein on guitar, Ryan Grebel on bass and vocals and Nick Aufiero on drums and the way they blend indie, 90s alternative, pop and shoegaze is impressive. I might have heard some progressive rock touches in there as well.
With so many musical genres at work I just had to reach out to Meier to find out who influences him.
1. Radiohead, Hail to the Thief
Shocking, I know. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a total Radiohead fanboy dweeb since I was 13 years old, when this album came out. In fact, this entire list could just be Radiohead albums if you really want the truth! An older family member of mine introduced the record (and band) to me by saying, “Yeah this just came out and I have to listen to it, but there’s a good chance you won’t like them – maybe you will”. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Immediately hooked from the opening of “2+2=5”. I think what vibes for me the most about this record is how well they managed to blend the sounds and styles of all their records that preceded it, as well as the obvious anti-authority/anti-war lyrical content. Fun fact: About 2 months later I saw them on the tour for this record – it was my very first concert and it inspired me to learn to play any and every instrument I could get my hands on. Shortly after seeing them I bought all of their other records.
Favorite Track: “There, There (The Boney King of Nowhere)”
2. Modest Mouse, Good News For People Who Love Bad News
Yeah, yeah “Their old stuff is just so much better” – and for the most part, I agree – but much like Radiohead, Modest Mouse has always been a go to band for me, and I’m a huge fan of all of their albums – This one was the first of theirs that I had heard. I was only 14 at the time, and it really hit me. I think what really has always stood out about this record and this band in general are Isaac’s lyrics, which are always well crafted and full of clever wordplay. Anyone who knows me knows that lyrics make or break a song for me…Anyway, fun fact: I thought this was their first album at the time that it came out, and shortly after discovered their back catalogue, much to my delight.
Favorite Track: “The View”
3. Soul Coughing, El Oso
Soul Coughing was the very first band I ever discovered on my own when I was a kid, via a music video series they did for Cartoon Network. I remember hearing “Circles” and “Rolling” very late when I had woken up in the middle of the night and grabbing a piece of paper to write down credits when they popped up at the end of the video. Begged my parents for a CD player and a copy of El Oso for Christmas that year. Got it, and it was all I listened to until I discovered Limp Bizkit a year later (embarrassing). Both of those bands were what made me want to be in a band in the first place. Big fan of Mike Doughty’s beatnik style lyrics/delivery, but my favorite part about this record is how dark it gets thematically against the backdrop of music that is, at times, very catoony.
Favorite Track: “Maybe I’ll Come Down”
4. Beck, Sea Change
Have you ever unexpectedly bought an album and then it subsequently mirrors exactly what you’re going through in your life at that very moment? That was Sea Change for me. I bought this record immediately after my first girlfriend ever dumped me freshman year of high school. I had been into Beck before this – I had most of his other albums and he was about to put out Guero (which is another super important record for me), but I had no idea what to expect with this one. Then I cried…like, a lot. Beck was, is now, and always will be one of my favorite song writers. I love his willingness to experiment, his crooning, and just his overall style. Feels like the guy can write a good song about anything.
Favorite Track: “Guess I’m Doing Fine”
5. Boards of Canada, Music Has the Right to Children
I discovered Boards of Canada in my 2D art class junior year of high school (We were allowed to bring in music to play on the stereo while we worked). My friend Roxy was a total hippie raver chick, and she brought in a burned copy of this album in after she heard it “candyflipping at a warehouse party”. This record hit me because around that time I was looking for stuff that was reminiscent of Kid A or Nine Inch Nails without vocals, and Boards of Canada hit that spot. I was the only other person in the class who was into it. One day, I saw the cd in its case and decided to borrow it to rip to my iTunes. I forgot to bring it back and never saw Roxy after that year. Sorry Roxy, but thanks!
Favorite Track: “Turquoise Hexagon Sun”
6. Built to Spill, You In Reverse
Admittedly, I got into Built to Spill WAY later than I should have by context (2015). I always had made it a point to check them out, but just never did for no particular reason other than procrastination and laziness. When I did, I chose this album based solely on its title and the cover art, both of which immediately drew me in. The first few bars into “Goin’ Against Your Mind” I realized how foolish I had been not to check out this band. I also realized how blatantly obvious it was that Ben Gibbard owes 90% of Death Cab’s catalogue (ESPECIALLY the early stuff) to Doug Martsch and crew. Anyway, Built to Spill has been one of my favorite bands ever since, especially for how they approached being a band with 3 guitars.
Favorite Track: “Goin’ Against Your Mind”
7. Minus the Bear, Planet of Ice
The first time I heard this record, my jaw hit the floor – mostly because of the way that “Ice Monster” segues into “Knights”. I didn’t know guitars could sound like that, or that loops could be used so creatively. I don’t have much else to say about this one other than “dang”. This record and band in general are both highly influential to the way that Nick Kaelblein and I approach writing guitar parts for Wetbrain, especially now that we’ve started writing again.
Favorite Track: “Knights”
8. Miles Davis, Bitches Brew
When I was taking guitar lessons, I almost exclusively studied jazz – so by default, I mostly listen to jazz (even in the rock bands I like, I’m often drawn to those with jazz elements). I realize this is the first jazz album I’ve included in my list, but it felt like rock-oriented stuff would be more easily relatable – that said, to me it makes sense that Bitches Brew was included here, as it’s arguably the first widely known jazz fusion album. The jams on this record are absolutely mind-blowing, lots of peaks and valleys, and the story behind its creation and production is awe-inspiring and I urge you to read up on it. Anyway, here’s “Wonder Wall.”
Favorite track: “Pharaoh’s Dance”
9. Pixies, Surfer Rosa
A friend of mine was adamant about me listening to this record so much so that he bought a copy for me and said “Listen to it”. I put it off for a while, then one day, I went for a walk and listened to it. From then on, I loved the Pixies. I’ve seen them live a few times, and I saw Frank Black play solo at the Wonder Bar in 2013. It changed the way I viewed songwriting forever.
Favorite track: “Cactus”
10. Flying Lotus, Cosmogramma
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I’m a huge fan of Adult Swim, and have always wanted to make music for their bumps. I found out about Flying Lotus because of this, as his music was the most used in the bumps, and he instantly became one of my favorite electronic artists and remains a huge influence when I work on beats to this day. This album paints the world around me when I hear it and really takes me back to certain points in my life where it was in perpetual heavy rotation. Huge fan of the textures he creates and very clever use of melodies hidden within to keep things moving. And obviously can’t go wrong when Thundercat is playing bass…I saw him live on the rail in 2014 with his 3D setup. Intense!
Favorite Track: “Mmmhmm/Do The Astral Plane”
The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
The Mars Volta, De-Loused In the Comatorium
At the Drive-In, Relationship of Command
PJ Harvey, To Bring You My Love
The White Stripes, White Blood Cells
Bloc Party, Silent Alarm
Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
King Crimson, Discipline
Sunny Day Real Estate, How It Feels to Be Something On
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