We 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 we have asked 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. We wanted to know their very favorite albums that they love just because the records mean the most to them.
Sometimes the best things happen from the convenience of having someone else around and, at the very least, thirty dollars between all of the involved individuals. This, at least, seems to be the case for brothers Kane and James, who after spending the aforementioned dollar amount on a multi-track cassette recorder from Craigslist, christened themselves as Kane & James.
Having grown up in the woods of central New Jersey, the sound of nature, seasons, and the atmosphere have long since their early days been a constant source of inspiration. With their seasonal feeling established, the duo lean into this vibe with a sound that feels like equal parts jangle-pop and folk, blended with a measure of ’60s / ’70s soft-rock that sounds every bit like the hazy end of summer.
Released last December, their self-titled debut album Kane & James is a breath of bedroom rock fresh air. From the very first song the music starts putting you in a great mood. The bright and airy tone of “Forever” will put a smile on your face with the gentle guitar interplay. It’s a exquisitely thoughtful piece on finding love where you least expect it. “Tomorrow” slows things down a bit and is just a gorgeous meditation on love with those sweet 70s soft rock touches. The band shows off its groovy side with highlight track “Fallin'” which injects the album with an uptempo beat. Very easy to sing along to. Laid back closer “Legends Never Die” tells us to live for each moment. The album, out now on Good Eye Records, is an exceptionally listenable piece of music. Put it on and soak up the positive moments on each track.
Kane & James listed 5 albums each and their picks are below.
Kane’s Top 5:
Suburban Lawns – Suburban Lawns
This album came into my life out of nowhere a few summers ago. I remember listening to it all the way through for the first time and feeling so refreshed.. It’s definitely a great driving album. Lots of organized chaos. The drums are my absolute favorite. Top tracks: “Not Allowed”, “Protection”
Boy – U2
I know U2 gets a lot of flack. Not sure if it’s because of that South Park episode about Bono, or the fact that they forced a copy of one of their albums on everyone’s phone that one year, but their debut album is definitely worth a listen. Just trust me. It’s ahead of its time and you’ll know that after giving it a full listen. Really love The Edge’s crunchy guitar licks here as well as the call and response vocals. Total jam. Top tracks: “Twilight”, “Into the Heart”
Zinc Alloy And The Hidden Riders of Tomorrow – T. Rex
I love the majority of Bolan’s work, but this album is such an underrated gem! It needs more attention immediately and I hope it’ll get some after you read this. This is a fun one for sure. I stumbled upon it when I was just a little Fat Possum records fanboy around 2010. Think I was about 16. There are some ~fiery~ guitar tones in here, and the drums really smack. There’s a cast of characters (that includes Bolan’s girlfriend and mother of his only child) that sings background on the record and they’re credited as “The Cosmic Choir”. A true classic. Top tracks: “Explosive Mouth”, “Liquid Gang”
Aneka – Aneka
I always wanted to do a “Top Albums” post just to mention this one. People slept on this in ‘81 but I think it’s time this gets the attention it deserves. Most people will know “Japanese Boy” from GTA Vice City. It might have even been in a few movies. But there are other tracks on here that a truly worth listening to. Fun fact: You’ll hear a signature, driving drum/bass progression in some of her songs that was actually the inspiration behind the same sound in our song “Fallin’”. Top tracks: “Tu-Whit Tu-Whoo”, “It’ll Be Alright”
Yuck – Yuck
I guess you can say I’m a sucker for debut albums. I jumped on the Yuck train pretty late. I had listened to the album back when it came out, but I was also listening to a ton of other stuff at the same time, so I don’t think this album got a fair chance. Just last summer I had heard the track “Sunday” for the first time in a long time and was hooked. I love how effortless everything sounds- and the chords and progressions really aren’t all that hard to grasp. It’s a very simple but powerful album that everyone should hear at least once after a long and shitty work week. Top tracks: “Suck”, “Sunday”
James’ Top 5:
Mr. Natural – Bee Gees
A pivotal moment in their career, this is where the Bee Gees were slowly transitioning into an entirely new sound. Maybe their last album before their disco/pop era. This particular album has a unique country guitar sound unlike any other, as well as some of my all time favorite songs like “Throw A Penny”, “Voices”, and “Dogs”.
Congratulations – MGMT
A combination of 60s psychedelic and surf rock. This album acts as a photograph, a glimpse into what a remarkable summer it was when this album was released. The lyrics, vocals, and instrumentation constantly outdo one another throughout the album, creating an incredible listening experience.
Louder than Bombs – The Smiths
Although a compilation, this particular album reminds the listener just how there is no other band like The Smiths. An internal battle to figure out what you like the most. No guitarist can compare to Marrs’ unique use of melody, tone, and technique.
Tunnel of Love – Bruce Springsteen
Truly one of Bruce’s more intricate albums. The use of synths/piano drives through, intertwining so well with the vocal melodies at play. Pretty much a perfect track listing. “One Step Up” and “Walk Like A Man” are masterpieces in the sense that, every time they’re played, I experience how I felt the first time I heard them.
Wild Honey – The Beach Boys
Unlike their other albums, this has such a bedroomesque sound. Simple yet effective writing. Driven pianos coupled with hot vocal melodies teach you that lyrics are essentially the most important part of any good song. Such heavy influence is drawn from this album. I always strive to recreate that hot and nostalgic “tape” sound.
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