Review: Desert Island Disc - Recess Monkey


Rather than complaining about Recess Monkey's incredibly high level of productivity and quality as I have multiple times in the past, I thought I'd try to, you know, straight-up review the Seattle band's tenth (!) album for families, the recently-released Desert Island Disc.

Novel, I know.   (Besides, how am I ever going to top this interview?)

As with many Recess Monkey albums, the band's latest album is nominally a concept album, loosely tied around the theme of being stranded on a desert island, the follow-up to their last album, this summer's Deep Sea Diver .  And as with most Recess Monkey albums, following the theme isn't strictly necessary, as the songs stand up well enough without the scaffolding of a theme to prop up interest in their young listeners.

Indeed, if the songs hold together in any particular way, it's more in their sound.  In the orchestrations (from Jherek Bischoff, brother of drummer Korum Bischoff), toned-down retro-rock, and love songs, this is easily their most Beatles-esque album since their little-heard debut Welcome to Monkey Town .  From the shuffle of "Pearls of Wisdom" to the sweeping strings on "Dessert Island" to the gorgeous love song "Long Gone," there are lots of echoes of the Fab Four's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band  (save for the "Getting a Sunburn," for which the band is probably getting lawyered up in anticipation of the inevitable cease-and-desist copyright letter from the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson).  Maybe it's just all the ukulele -- never a bad thing in my book -- but the mellow sound puts more emphasis on Drew Holloway's songwriting.

I don't necessarily hear the band playing many of these calmer songs in concert (notable exception: "Hide and Seek"), but I could see this desert island disk being a popular choice for snowed-in wintry mornings.  And, yes, I said "love songs" -- "Long Gone" and "Smooth Sailing" are sweet songs, as emotional as anything as the band's recorded, packing a wallop.

The 40-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 5 through 9.  As noted above, it's not necessarily as danceable or totally goofy as some of their previously albums, though that's a deliberate choice.  You can stream the whole album here.

One would think that it's difficult for a band to turn out as much great music as Recess Monkey has in the past not-even-a-decade.   I could be stranded on a desert island for that entire period of time and be lucky to write a small fraction of the great songs they've produced over that time.  So let's be thankful that the incredibly productive and focused trio continues to produce wonderful music.  Regardless of Desert Island Disc  actually makes it onto your own family's "desert island disks" collection, it's really good. Highly recommended.

Note: I received a copy of this album for possible review.