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5 Albums I Can't Live Without

5 Albums I Can’t Live Without: Charlie Hall of The War on Drugs

(Credit: Quinn Luke Lamont)

Name  Charlie Hall

Best known for  Playing drums in The War On Drugs. Saving Christmas with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Current city  Philadelphia, PA

Really want to be in  Deer Isle, Maine, on the porch overlooking Crockett’s Cove, surrounded by moss-covered rocks and trees, with my family, breathing in the crispiest air anywhere, watching the occasional lobster boat pass by, then cooking a giant meal and laughing ourselves silly into the wee small hours until our bellies hurt.

Excited about  Having just released my first solo LP, Invisible Ink, which is something I never thought I would do. Also excited to play lots of shows around the world with the Drugs in places both familiar and new.

And additionally excited about the idea that perhaps we, as humankind, might find a way forward with more compassion and respect for one another and change the direction of this polarized society we live in.

My current music collection has a lot of  ECM LPs (1973-1979, in particular), Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, classic rock, 4AD (Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance), private press choral groups, ‘70s soft rock, ambient and New Age.

And a little bit of  Indian classical.

Preferred format  All of the above. Just depends on where I am. Vinyl and cassettes at home, CDs in the car, streaming on the go. I love it all.



5 Albums I Can’t Live Without:

Hejira, Joni Mitchell


Joni so perfectly put into words and music the feeling of wanderlust and the search for truth. And freedom. I think it has to do with the combination of her tunings and modes not being tethered to the major/minor scale we’re so accustomed to. Everyone is just absolutely shredding, rhythmically, too. As much as Joni has completely written the book on open tunings and harmonic complexity, she is also one of the great rhythm guitar players. People don’t talk about that enough. This is my favorite Jaco Pastorius playing on record, too. It’s Joni’s travelogue masterpiece. Throw a dart at a lyric sheet and you’ll hit something genius. “People will tell you where they’ve gone, they’ll tell you where to go. But ‘til you get there yourself, you’ll never really know.” There will never be another record like this ever.

Suburban Light, The Clientele


I love that this record sounds like it could have been made at any point in the past 50 years, in the present, or deep into the future. There is both an intimate closeness and a distant otherness, owing to the deeply reflective nature of the melodies and lyrics, as well as the 4-track sonic palette. Every note is played with such supreme sensitivity. It’s delicate, but it’s rugged. It’s gentle, but it’s tough. It’s not afraid of a little rain. It’s full of love, but it’s heartbroken. It’s hazy, but light shines through. The textures and the melodies are gorgeous. Put this one in the pantheon of singles collections that work perfectly as a whole. (See also: James Taylor’s Greatest Hits(minus “Steamroller”), Squeeze Singles: 45s and Under, and Sly & the Family Stone Greatest Hits.) Not before or since has there been a record that more perfectly greased the proverbial lens.

Olé, John Coltrane


The addition of Eric Dolphy to the classic Coltrane quartet punctuates my favorite era of Coltrane’s canon: ‘61-’62. It was during this time that Coltrane was increasingly exploring the modal language and experimenting with new instrumentation. I think this is probably the first album I ever owned that had two bass players playing at the same time. Art Davis’ bass ostinato (or is it Reggie Workman?) on side A, which consists of the title track and the title track alone, sets the whole thing up. Then the band joins and it’s an epic 18-minute journey that is definitely more of the sky than of Earth. While this was released on Atlantic Records at the end of his deal there, it has as much to do with his Impulse Records output, foreshadowing the devotional and ecstatic music of A Love Supreme. And, not for nothing, Elvin Jones is just absolutely dealing heat the entire time.

Ventriloquism, Meshell Ndegeocello


This record of reimagined tunes — both classics and deep-cuts — weaves a mystical fabric of warmth and pulses with joy, heartbreak, and hope. Songs like “Don’t Disturb This Groove” and “I Wonder If I Take You Home” and “Private Dancer” all reveal new emotional depths in Meshell’s hands. My wife and I saw this band (Abe, Chris, and Jebin) at the Blue Note and it was the best show I’ve ever been to in my life. When they started playing “Nite and Day”, tears were streaming down my face. I can’t even describe the emotion, exactly…I think I was just awed by the beauty of the moment. The spaciousness of the grooves and the delicacy of the playing and the emotional transference of the sonic landscapes Meshell creates have inspired me both musically and spiritually. It’s pretty wild to hear an artist you thought you knew, playing songs you thought you knew…but it turns out that there’s another whole dimension in each. In attempting to illuminate these songs, Meshell actually illuminates herself. She is one of the true masters of our time.

Donny Hathaway Live, Donny Hathaway


If you think about it, there are very few records that you could put on at any time, on any day, with anybody, no matter what. This is one of those records. It’s a party record. It’s a Sunday morning record. It’s an all-of-the-above record, and it’s never not right. I remember hearing the Faces’ cover of “Jealous Guy”, thinking that was such a genius take on it, then I learned that they were actually just covering Donny’s version. Donny was one of the master interpreters of others songs, along with Nilsson and Aretha, to name a couple. I love what an important presence the crowd is on this record. So many times you can hear folks reacting ecstatically in the moment and singing along – just pure joy and togetherness. Also, if I had a time machine, I might just dial up August 25,1970 and head to the Troubadour for Elton’s set and remain a fly on the wall for a year until Donny’s shows the following August, which comprise much of this LP.