High Rotation

Nick Allbrook

For this issue's installment of HIGH ROTATION, we asked keen trail runner and Pond frontman Nick Allbrook to imagine his house was on fire and that he only had time to save five records from the imaginary blaze. 'Forget your cat and kiss the cash under your mattress goodbye,' we said, 'It's too late, Nick. Just grab five records and run for your life.' Moments later, as they were loading him into a make-believe ambulance for observation, he pulled down his invisible CPR mask, pretended to wheeze, and said, 'Hey. Here are the records I chose. It's not a perfect list because it can't be. There's nothing recent, and there's no Barter 6 or Screamadelica or the Boss or the Divinyls or Funkadelic or so many other great artists, but here are five albums I really—cough—like.'

Photography: Jamie Terry

Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom 


Pretty hard not to choose Nothing Can Stop Us because it's got 'Shipbuilding' and 'At Last I Am Free'—and its patent pinko-ness and red optimism are just mmmm-mm… delicious. But no, it's gotta burn with the rest of my life while watching its older brother Rock Bottom escape the inferno. This album introduced me to Robert Wyatt, and I've never heard such deep, heart-wrenching, and fucking complex emotions. It's despair, mania, anger, nihilism, profound gratitude, and wonder at life, nature, water, and all that. The tracks are long, rambling jazz explorations that are SOOOO weird but have little perfect songs nesting in the middle, which sounds like it could be shit, but it really isn't.

Outkast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below


I'm still shamefully unfamiliar with Big Boi's side of this record, but goddam, I'm fluent in Andre's. It'd be a perfect desert island disk because it's long and covers heaps of different (excellent) territories, and it slaps and is loveable and can be dissected and burrowed into as deep as you're willing to go. Skits, turbo-bop, freestyles, space-funk, and some of the biggest pop songs of the 2000s. And 'Pink and Blue' is just one of the most beautiful songs ever, which makes it the best song about hooking up with an octogenarian by a fucking lightyear. Andre is really funny and thought-provoking in the same extremely swagg-y breath.

ESG - Step Off


There is soooooo much stuff from that NYC no-wave era that I adore, like Liquid Liquid, Larry Levan and Fab 5 Freddy, and Talking Heads, but I guess, in a way, ESG comes closest to mashing all of it together? Maybe? Ah, well, no time to think—house burning! We're still doing the house burning thing, right? The Scroggins sisters know how to make me dance my arse off with fuck-all instrumentation, and 'Six Pack' is just hilarious and badass. Maybe I'll gaffer tape the self-titled one to the back, and the narcs at POSSESSED won't notice.

Arthur Russell - World of Echo


Probably one of the best things ever made. So unique, so moving, so tender. It's kinda ambient, but not because it deigns to challenge you with its sparsity, vulnerability, and brokenness. It's the sound of someone dying and feebly reaching for heaven, which in this case is a cello and a strained falsetto absolutely drenched in echo and distortion. Heaps of it is sort of zen in its 'meaninglessness'… I guess it reaches for something bigger and more spontaneous than refinement or rewriting ever could. All the scrapes of the bow and hums, pops, wows, and flutters are just as moving as any other more deliberate noise, and I love it. 

Midnight Oil - Head Injuries 


On a run once, along the canal near the Hackney Marshes, just past the Princess of Wales, I burst into tears listening to Midnight Oil. I don't mean I got a wet eye or a brief vertiginous swelling of the cheeks. I mean ugly face, slumped on a stump, crying. Must've been some heady cocktail of whatever pinga-esque (MDMA-esque) gear that gets pumped into my veins mid-run combined with the thought that for all their decades of kicking against the pricks and viciously, persistently, soberly fighting for climate justice and Indigenous Australian rights, the members of Midnight Oil might never see the battle won. I was listening to 'Forgotten Years', which isn't on this album, but this is my favorite Oils album. I think they were a bit more wide-eyed and with some prog and punk (oxymoronic, yes) left in them before the whole rototom-power-and-the-passion move happened (and we all thank god it did). The transition from 'No Reaction' to 'Stand in Line' gets me ferociously aroused every time. Sorry.