Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Jason Schwartzman

Illustration for article titled Jason Schwartzman

The shuffler: Actor Jason Schwartzman, who made his film debut as Max Fischer in Wes Anderson's breakout film, Rushmore. Life as an actor has come as a surprise to Schwartzman, who figured he'd end up as a musician. Still, he toured considerably with his old band, Phantom Planet (a.k.a. The Band That Did The O.C. Song), until moviemaking became too demanding. He rejoined Anderson for The Darjeeling Limited, and he's started a solo side project, as Coconut Records.


Built To Spill, "Out Of Site"

Jason Schwartzman: Every band, and I am not reinventing the wheel with this answer, has different effects on you, depending on where you are in your life. So my introduction to Built To Spill was that I got There's Nothing Wrong With Love for my 15th or 16th birthday, and it was just a watershed moment in my life. I had never heard anything like that record—the lyrics, the way Doug Martsch sang—and I specifically looked at the guitars. My life was different from then on. I had never heard people say, like what he just sang, "I want to see movies of my dreams." To a 15-, 16-year-old kid, that's just like, "I hear it."

The A.V. Club: He's a pretty amazing guitarist. He's a shredder, but not in a metal way.

JS: What I love about watching him play is he tries to, or it seems like he tries to, do most of his lines using only one string. He does a lot of it on one string, and I can't sit here and figure out why he does this stuff, but each of his records are amazing to me. Perfect From Now On, I love. I love "I Would Hurt A Fly." I love his voice. And I love his solo album. I remember seeing them at The Roxy in L.A., and he broke a string. The whole band left the stage, and he sat down Indian-style and restrung his guitar with no music or anything else. People were yelling "You can do it!" I was like, "Wow."

Randy Newman, "Living Without You"

JS: This might be one of the most beautiful songs ever written. There's a Harry Nilsson version of this song on a record called Nilsson Sings Newman, and that was actually my introduction to this song—the double-tracked, beautiful Harry Nilsson voice. My experience with music is that you hear something you like, and then you read about that person, and then they reference people, and then you investigate those references, and then it just keeps going—an Alice In Wonderland, wild-goose-chase type thing. Obviously, I knew Randy Newman and his music, but when someone like Harry Nilsson says "This is the guy," I was like "I am going to immerse myself in this. I'm going to understand what I can about it." So I bought all his records, though I already owned Sail Away. I loved Sail Away, but I got really into this one, the first one.


The Randy Newman album I've been listening to a lot recently is Little Criminals. There's a song on it called "Baltimore" that I really love. But what I like about Randy Newman is that, while a lot of people sing their own point of view about something, he sings like a writer, like "We're reeeed-necks." And he's a great composer. He's really smart. I love reading interviews with him.

Paul McCartney, "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"

JS: Ram is one of my three favorite Paul McCartney records. I think my favorite is his first solo one, McCartney, because he did it all at home and he's playing all the instruments. As a person, I seem to gravitate toward things that seem a little more homemade. You can tell when something is homemade—it's a little more fun and more relaxed. My second favorite one is McCartney II, which was also homemade, but recorded a decade later. Clearly he had bought himself a crazy synthesizer. You remember "Temporary Secretary"? Crazy. There are a lot of instrumental tracks on it. I like listening to those two records together. Then Ram, I love because it has so many great melodies on it—like the song "Ram On"—"Ram on, give your heart to somebody soon, right away." It's hard to talk about music; that's something I've noticed. But there it is, it's out there, how can you explain this thing? Am I doing an all-right job with this?


AVC: Yes.

JS: I'm trying not to sound like a cocksucker.

Elliott Smith, "Division Day (Live)"

JS: That's a bootleg called Steamboat. I feel guilty about having a bootleg, like I just got caught red-handed. What else can you say? It's Elliott Smith. Next.


The Strokes, "On The Other Side"

JS: I love The Strokes. Julian Casablancas and the entire Strokes unit, I admire them. And I admire their songs. Beautiful songs. I think he's one of the most talented artists in general, in every aspect, working today. I admire his pursuit of trying to get better and better and better. I just think his songs are beautiful. I think they're totally, lovingly crafted. If you played them on a piano, just looked at the chords, they're still great.


Dr. Dog, "Weekend"

JS: I like this We All Belong record. I like Easy Beat, the one before it. They really just write great songs. I will gravitate toward the melodies and harmonies. They just do a great job; they write really flowing melodies. It sounds like they're really going for something. From what I read, too, they have a code about it, that things sound a certain way. I respect any artist who has a real commitment to the pursuit of their vision, for lack of a better word, coming to fruition.


The Shins, "So Says I"

JS: I think The Shins are the best band. Maybe you can't say "the best band." But every record of theirs is the record I buy that becomes the only thing I listen to for the entire year. The latest one is fucking amazing. This guy, James Mercer? He and Julian Casablancas have a thing that's like their thing. He just has a thing—I can't describe it—a way he writes his songs that you can hear throughout each record. He's grown, but there are themes, trains of thought, that are always a part of him. I love it. The songs? I can't figure them out. Maybe I just haven't spent enough time. But when I listen to them, I think, "This band is the fucking best."


Chet Baker, "Everything Happens To Me"

JS: Chet Baker, I think, is one of my favorite male singers. He sings like a trumpet. I just love his voice. When I listen to a Chet Baker record, I feel immediately better.


Survivor, "Eye Of The Tiger"

JS: The Rocky IV soundtrack. It's just really good for stretching, not just physically. It really gets you loose and lubed right up.


Barry Manilow, "Mandy"

JS: It's one of the greatest songs ever written. The chorus is my ringtone.