Charlie Hall (The War on Drugs): 5ish Albums That Changed My Life

Charlie Hall (The War on Drugs): 5ish Albums That Changed My Life

If you were to drop by my hometown record store Mystic Disc on any given day, you might catch Charlie Hall from the War on Drugs hunkered down among the racks, cleaning records.

Hall lives in nearby Philly, but since his wife is from Connecticut, he makes it a point to visit the store (where I bought by first XTC record) whenever he’s in town. In fact, he started dropping by so much that owner Dan Curland put him to work.

“They have this really cool huge mechanical sort of record cleaning machine,” Hall tells me. “I know that sounds dreadfully boring, but they cost thousands of dollars and I’ve always wanted one in my house so I can properly clean records. I’ll bring some of my own records to clean and then I’ll clean whatever he’s got.” (Fun fact: Mystic Disc cleans every used record before sale.)

Given Hall’s affinity for vinyl, we asked him to share with us some of his favorite albums before the War on Drugs drop their own highly anticipated new LP, A Deeper Understanding, out today.

U2, The Unforgettable Fire

I must have been probably 10 when it came out; that was 1984 and I was born in 1974. I heard The Unforgettable Fire and it had this ambient glow and sounded like something I had never heard before. There’s so much beautiful atmosphere. That record really got me excited about how music could be something from another world.

Pink Floyd, Animals

Around that same time was when I discovered Animals. I was in fourth grade and I was into The Dark Side of the Moon and I had a friend whose older brother was in high school and he made me a tape. It had Animals on one side and The Final Cut on the other side. Animals was everything I loved about The Dark Side of the Moon and more. It just sort of transported me to another world.

I think one of the things that strikes me again and again about this is how thoughtful all the nuances are: the synths, all [David] Gilmour’s melodic leads, subtle rhythmic shifts, they all serve a purpose. That is: serving the songs themselves.

Joni Mitchell, Hejira

I love all eras of Joni Mitchell — some of them are a little more difficult than others, but I basically love all of Joni Mitchell. This one is my favorite. I just think that there’s something about all that space on it and the drumming is very sort of free. It all comes together for me on Hejira in a way that’s perfect. No question that is my favorite record of hers. She is one of my favorite songwriters.

The Clientele, Suburban Light

I bought this record when I was on tour in 2003, kind of on a whim. It was on the recommendation from a friend; he said, ‘You’re gonna love this.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I’m in.’ It’s been a constant companion since.

Some of the elements that make the Clientele’s [music] so beautiful are that [their music is] drenched in reverb and things are crystal-like and will pop through, but there’s also so much shade. I always think that record sounds like what Super 8 film looks like. Super grainy, but there’s sunshine in there too. 

Bill Frisell, Gone, Just Like a Train

A trio record with the one and only Jim Keltner on drums and Viktor Krauss on bass. Such a deep, deep pocket on this one and just an all-around laid-back and super playful feel. Such an inventive group making truly uncategorizable music. I feel so lucky to have seen this group play in San Francisco when it came out. I’m not sure how much they’ve ever played together, these three. Like with Joni’s Hejira and the Clientele’s Suburban Light, this trio creates so much space and atmosphere, with everyone playing melodically and hyper aware of their surroundings.

(Photo credit: Charlie Hall)

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