Though he’s probably most identifiable as Frodo Baggins, Elijah Wood had a remarkably eclectic 2011: He played a troubled young man who talked to his dog on the FX series Wilfred, lent his voice to a tiny penguin in Happy Feet Two, and morphed into a time-traveling Beastie Boy for the awesome Fight For Your Right Revisited film.
Wood is a huge music fan — the man did start his own record label — and as you can tell from his selections below:
The Beach Boys, The Smile Sessions
“For years and years it was heavily bootlegged, because there were multiple sessions and Brian Wilson recorded everything in parts and pieces. Fans would try to compile what they thought the album was supposed to be. And then a few years ago Brian Wilson re-created the album, but this is the first time the album and all the sessions have been made available to the public. It’s so amazing. It’s such a painfully beautiful album at times. It’s sort of a triumph, and kind of unheard of that an album that has that legendary status actually sees the light of day and not only that but also all of it, parts and pieces spread out over multiple discs can be analyzed and listened to, and it’s an absolute joy.
There are piano demos of ‘Surf’s Up’ where it’s just piano, and then you hear sessions for ‘Surf’s Up’ when you hear all the individual pieces that flesh the song out. In regards to the narrative, there is a bit of a loose narrative of traveling west. Wilson includes a lot of elements of classic Americana. There’s doo-wop, there’s almost a bluegrass element in ‘Cabin Essence’ with a banjo, there are jazz elements. It’s sort of an all-encompassing American music landscape, and then lyrically this idea of moving west to the shores of California. I haven’t even fully digested it. There are five discs, and I think I’ve gone through two. What’s really fascinating too is that it feels like you’re in the booth with Brian, and you’re hearing him direct the musicians and you’re hearing a song take shape over the course of a recording session. It’s fascinating to hear his process first hand, whereas we’ve only ever read about it. It’s an incredible document.”
The Beach Boys, Holland
I just recently discovered the Beach Boys’ Holland album. It came out in the mid ’70s. It’s not a very popular record of theirs, but it just blows my mind. There’s only one Brian Wilson contribution, because at the time he wasn’t really contributing to the band as much. The song ‘Sail on Sailor’ is just a triumph of a song. The first time I heard it I had to repeat it three or four times. It’s just so good.
The album has this amazing suite of songs called the California Saga. They famously recorded the album in Amsterdam, and they wrote this saga about California because they were missing home. It’s this amazing thing that takes you through the history of California and the various landscapes. It describes the California that they’ve been missing — there’s this great piece about Big Sur. The thing that’s interesting about California Saga is that they’re older at this point. They’re not writing about surfer girls and deuce coupes and surfing, they’re writing about something that’s far more profound and wistful and grown-up.”
ESG, Come Away With ESG
“There’s a certain era of post-punk that was happening in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with bands like ESG, from New York, and A Certain Ratio, who are from England. It was this great music that was coming out that was touching upon funk and dance music, but it was clearly coming out of the post-punk era. ESG is an amazing band, this all-female band from New York. They have an album called Come Away With ESG that’s incredibly danceable, sort of on the ridge of post-punk, but decidedly punky and groove-based, and also a little bit dark. I love that record, and I love that band. It’s not really raw, not as raw as punk is. I mean, Gang of Four is post-punk too, but they’ve got rhythms that aren’t that raw. They’re just kind of tight.”
A Certain Ratio, “Shack Up”
“I’ve also been digging into A Certain Ratio’s catalog. Some of the songs are instrumentals and some have vocals, and the vocals sound to me like if Joy Division made an ‘80s funk album. The vocals really remind me of Ian Curtis, so it’s this very monotone droney vocal, very dark sounding, against this very clean, taught rhythm section and cleanly recorded drums and bass and horn sounds –this very weird dark ‘80s post-punk-funk. It’s so good. Their instrumentals are really amazing. The first song I ever heard of theirs was a cover, a classic old soul funk song called ‘Shack Up.’ The drums are so tight. Old soul funk songs have a looseness to it, there’s a warmth, but this is a lot colder and cleaner and precise. It’s such an awesome cover.”
Luke Abbott, Holkham Drones
“This is one of the newer things I’ve really been getting into. It’s a total bedroom electronic record. It’s super warm, it’s got a real analog electronic sound. It’s a great headphone album. It’s one of my recent discoveries in regards to electronic music. I wouldn’t throw it on to dance or start a party — it’s more of a bedroom electronic album. Instrumental, but beautiful.”
Talk Talk, Spirit of Eden
“This album blew my mind. They made popular hit songs up until that point, then went into the studio to make this atmospheric, experimental, often devoid of lyrics piece of music that is clearly influential to post-rock Radiohead. When you hear it, you hear echoes of what we now hear in Radiohead. To hear this coming from the band who made ‘It’s My Life,’ it’s like, ‘Where is this coming from?’ But it’s such a beautiful album. It’s great to hear a band totally divert from their sound. It doesn’t always work, but it always yields exciting results.”
The Lijadu Sisters, Double Trouble
“There’s a great record store in New York that I love called Tropicalia in Furs. It’s a small little store on 5th Street. The owner is Brazilian, so he has a lot of rare Brazilian music, but also every other genre you can imagine, and an incredible 45 collection. Every time I go in there that guy plays me records, and I walk out knowing something I’ve never heard before. I walk out with records that I’ve never heard and that I love.
It’s always an education going in there, and it’s just a total musical journey. Don’t go unless you have two hours, because he’ll blow your mind with records. I think I first heard Lijadu Sisters there, on a compilation called Nigeria 70. They were these two Nigerian sisters who recorded music in the ‘70s and ‘80s. They had a mixture of songs in their native language and also in English. It’s sort of an African funk soul album and it’s just wonderful. It’s probably echoing what they heard of Western music in Nigeria. It’s super hooky. The song ‘Orere Eljigbo’ is totally funky, but some of the rhythms are more akin to Africa. But that was coming out of an era when Afrobeat and Fela Kuti was happening, and that was all a hybrid of soul and funk with their rhythms as well.”