Your Favorite Musicians’ Unexpected Favorite Records

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You may have read recently that Mitt Romney Paul Ryan is the world’s most unlikely Rage Against the Machine fan, and the spectacular WTF-ness of his inexplicable declaration of fondness for left-wing agitrock will endure as one of the stranger moments of the 2012 campaign trail. The whole strange business also got us thinking: well, there are plenty of features around wherein artists have been asked to choose a selection of their favorite albums or songs. Surely there are some wacky choices in there? We got reading, and yep, there are some real winners to be found… so here’s a selection of such choices that we found particularly interesting — either selections we’d never heard of, or selections we just wouldn’t have expected. Who’d have thought that Bradford Cox was the only person in the world to like the second MGMT album, or that Frank Black was into weird faux-Greek music, or that both Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull were experts on reggae? Read on for more…

Tom Waits likes…

Kaizer’s Orchestra — Ompa Til du Dør

“Norwegian storm-trooping tarantellas with savage rhythms and innovative textures. Thinking man’s circus music. Way out.”

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Frank Black likes…

Musique De La Grèce Antique — >Atrium Musicae De Madrid Gregorio Paniagua

“I stumbled onto this… [It’s] incredibly trippy. It feels like a play. You don’t know where the down beat is for most of the songs. I have never figured out what about it is actually Greek. It was recorded by Spaniards in the ’70s. Whether it’s real or impressionistic, I don’t care. I just really like it.”

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Patti Smith likes…

Richard Wagner — Parsifal

“I love opera. It’s very hard to choose my favorite operas, but probably my most favorite is Parsifal. It’s one of the most spiritually beautiful of all operas. Wagner has given us poetry, mythology, aspects of Christianity, some of the most beautiful melodic themes in his overture, symbolic content, and redemption. In opera there is so much tragedy, so much sorrow, but in Parsifal we have redemption.”

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Bradford Cox likes…

MGMT — Congratulations

“Everyone hated this album before they even heard it but anybody that wasn’t into this album just doesn’t like pop music. I think it was a press invention, that this album was difficult. It’s not even avant-garde or anything. I don’t understand what the fuck there is not to be into.”

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Mark Lanegan likes…

The Flesh Eaters — A Moment To Pray, A Second To Die

“This is probably my favorite record of all time. It’s a perfect record, in my opinion, from start to finish. It doesn’t sound like anything else because of [singer] Chris D’s unhinged way of singing as well as the massive amount of lyrics that he fits into a small space. But also that combination of marimba and sax with powerful guitar riffs. That also appears on their other records but it’s wonderfully distilled on this record. It’s also a very short record, maybe just over a half hour long but it’s fantastic. Chris D is one of the all-time greats.”

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Nas likes…

Bob James — One

“That’s certainly up there as one of my all-time favorites. It takes you someplace new every time you listen to it, that’s the craziest part about it. If a record can take me somewhere, like really take me somewhere effortlessly, that record there is no joke.”

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Panda Bear likes…

Robert Lester Folsom — Music and Dreams

In response to his favorite album of 2010: “Robert Lester Folsom — Music and Dreams. That’s probably my most listened to record.”

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Kyp Malone likes…

The Dead C — Trapdoor Fucking Exit

“This is a band from New Zealand that started in the 1980s. I’m not sure I understood it when I first heard it — my ears were attuned to, say Sonic Youth or late Coltrane, that was about as noisy as I could understand when they were first introduced to me. They seemed so broken and messy to me when I first heard them. But then early on when I was experimenting with psychedelics, one of their records was on heavy rotation at the apartment I was in… and I remember listening to it and having my mind really blown. When people talk about psychedelic music, they often talk about music from the 1960s, but for me, psychedelic music is The Dead C and Unwound and Sonic Youth and things like that. This expanded what was music to me, and what was possible with music.”

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Jarvis Cocker likes…

Sunn 0))), generally

“I really like that group Sunn 0))) – it doesn’t come across on record, but in performance, their music is working on an almost physical level. You get bits of your body vibrating. It’s working in a different way. I find that interesting.”

Mick Jagger likes…

Burning Spear — “Marcus Garvey”

“It’s about the continued connection of Jamaica and Africa, which is all part of reggae history: a connection that’s at once mystical and very real. I was just talking about Marcus Garvey with someone the other day: the Back to Africa movement, all these people on ships from New York to Liberia. It was a very strange time.”

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Marianne Faithfull likes…

Bob Marley — “Small Axe”

“There was a lot of things I loved in the ’70s… but I realized in the end that the bit of the ’70s that I really hold with me, and has meant more to me than anything, has been Jamaican music. Reggae. It’s a great spiritual charge, this music, and from that bit of my life I [choose] ‘Small Axe’ by Bob Marley.”

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Jens Lekman likes…

Bill Wells and Maher Shalal Hash Baz — “On the Beach Boys’ Bus”

“It’s one of the few classic melodies that hasn’t been taken yet. I feel like I’ve mentioned this song in so many interviews now. But it doesn’t seem like Bill’s records sell much more because of that. I guess there’s not really a market for that sort of minimalistic jazzy melody played by a Japanese school orchestra.”

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Wayne Coyne likes…

Joe Cocker — “You Are So Beautiful”

“This is basically a piano vamp with Cocker singing the same line, ‘You are so beautiful to me,’ over and over, with hardly any other words. The chord changes go around in an endless cycle. It sounds so simple, but it’s devastatingly effective; it’s moving as hell.”

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Flea likes…

Nick Cave, generally

“[A review of Stadium Arcadium] mentioned that Nick Cave really thought we were a shitty band and printed a quote that Nick Cave had said in that regard. For a second that hurt my feelings because I love Nick Cave. I have all of his records. I don’t care if Nick Cave hates my band because his music means everything to me and he is one of my favorite songwriters and singers and musicians of all time. I love all the incarnations of the Bad Seeds. But it only hurt my feelings for a second because my love for his music is bigger than all that shit and if he thinks my band is lame then that’s OK.”

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John Maus likes…

Arnold Schoenberg — “Verklärte Nacht, Op. 4.”

“I’ve always returned to [this piece], [al]though the redemptive ending is very hard to swallow. One way around that is listening to Schoenberg as one piece, where the first 23 opuses would be one trajectory. You could do the same thing with any musician, but it works especially well with him and Beethoven.”

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Cee-Lo Green likes…

Iggy and the Stooges — Raw Power

“Iggy reminds me a lot of me. And it’s all in that name; it’s all in the title of that album. It’s raw power, you know? I like the funk that David Bowie was able to get behind Iggy. Believe it or not, I first saw an image of Iggy Pop at church, and they were talking about secret messages and backward masking — and they had [a picture of] Iggy Pop looking crazy. I didn’t get into it until later, but I think how I was introduced to it was ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog.’ And what I like about Iggy is it’s just genuine raunch.”

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Dan Deacon likes…

Raymond Scott — Manhattan Research, Inc.

“[I discovered this through] a friend who had the Manhattan Research, Inc. double-CD set… We’d [go to a local record shop] and buy the records that looked the most weird, and someone bought the double-CD set, and it’s some of the most beautiful, but also some of the most foreign-sounding, music… [Scott] used all the money that he made from his licensing to build these synths — at the time a lot of them didn’t exist, and I believe he was one of the first people to employ Bob Moog… He was largely ignored in the jazz world and electronic music world, because although his music was weird, it wasn’t esoteric — he didn’t fit into the personality mould of what it meant to be avant-garde [during the 1950s].”

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John Darnielle likes…

The Stockholm Monsters — Alma Mater

“Best album ever. BEST ALBUM EVER. BEST ALBUM EVER.

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Kurt Cobain liked…

Half Japanese — We Are They Who Ache With Amorous Love

“I like to listen to Jad Fair and Half Japanese with headphones on, walking around shopping malls — in the heart of the American culture. I just think that, if people could hear this music right now, they’d melt, they wouldn’t know what to do, they’d start bouncing off the walls and hyperventilating. So I turn up the music really loud and pretend it’s blasting through the speakers in the mall.”

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Jeff Buckley liked…

Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, generally

“Part Buddha, part demon, part mad angel…his voice is velvet fire, simply incomparable. Nusrat’s blending of classical improvisations to the art of Qawwali, combined with his out and out daredevil style and his sensitivity, outs him in a category all his own, above all others in his field.”

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Henry Rollins likes…

Farflung — “Endless Drifting Wreck”

“It sounds like a bunch of guys that grew up on [Hawkwind’s] In Search of Space. They have their own thing, but it’s all echoed out. Right up my alley.”

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Brian Eno likes…

Dorothy Love Coates — “Lord Don’t Forget About Me”

In a 1991 interview on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs program: “Gospel is, I suppose, the music I’ve listened to more than any other for the last few years. I particularly love the gospel style of singing, the way that the voice is liberated. This is a song by probably the most liberated of all gospel singers.”

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Todd Rundgren likes…

Melt-Banana — Charlie

“Now, this is not for the faint of heart. This is something to behold, you know, sonically…Sometimes it sounds like a cement mixer full of cats, sometimes it sounds like you stuck your head in a jet engine. There are often moments when you can’t quite comprehend what’s going on…You have to have a very high tolerance to get into it. And it’s not the kind of thing you’d just sit down with every day. But to me it’s like an experience, you know, to see how far in the other direction music can go. And I’m impressed with them, with what they’re able to create.”

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Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen like…

Holy Sons — “A Chapter Must Be Closed”

“One of my most favorite songs ever. You have to see the video too. The drums are really expressive.” (Armisen)

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Björk likes…

All sorts of wacky stuff

And finally, New Yorker critic Alex Ross asked Björk to select her favorite records for his blog last November. Alongside relatively well-known artists like Pan Sonic, Aphex Twin and Nico, her selections included such obscure delights as Alim Qasimov’s Azerbaijan: The Art of the Mugham and a compilation of Thai pop music called Siamese Soul, Volume 2. You can check out the full selection at Ross’s site by clicking right here.