The 614ortyPlatter – Kitchen Island Discs (Laura Lee, Ajumama)

Tower Records, one of my favorite haunts as a teenager
(Photo from The

I’m finding as I’ve continued this playlist theme, I’m learning a lot of history along the way.  Take this week’s playlist, which was based on a concept I first encountered as a teen but I found has a much older origin story.

As a teen, the local Tower Records, which was founded in 1960 by Russell Solomon and existed in brick & mortar form in the United States until 2006 (a new online version of the store was opened up November of last year), proved to be one of my favorite haunts as a teen and young adult. One of my favorite past times was to grab the latest Pulse! Magazine and read through reader’s submissions of “Desert Island Discs”, music they’d take with them to play were they stranded on a desert island. 

Little did I know until I did some research that the BBC in the UK has run a radio-based “Desert Island Discs” segment since 1942, with each guest imagining themselves as castaways and choosing 8 recordings to keep themselves company.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to a new segment on my themed playlists which I’ve called “Kitchen Island Discs.”  My concept is simple – what groovy songs or albums keep the people involved in Columbus’s food scene motivated while they’re cooking up a storm in their restaurant, food truck, or kitchens?

Laura Lee (here paired up with Columbus-based baker Aaron
Clouse on “Guy’s Grocery Games”) has made an impression on
TV as well as her Korean-meets-Midwest dishes for Ajumama

I couldn’t think of a better person to start this off than Laura Lee, long time owner of the Ajumama Food Truck.  Regular readers of this blog know we are big fans of her Korean-meets-Midwest menu items such as her Bulgogi Cheezesteaks, Dduk ‘n Cheese, and Kimchi Bratwurst. The world of food television has also noticed Lee’s talents as well, as she has made appearances on Comfort Food Tour, Guy’s Grocery Games, The Grill Iron, and Eat St.

The pandemic has seen her Ajumama Food Truck pivot to social-distanced family style menus (get on their weekly e-mail list, if you haven’t already), making Laura’s culinary talents across a number of cuisines evident, from some food truck specialty favorites like Filipino and Hawaiian Plate Lunch dishes (with the help of her fellow partner Sean Cristales) to Thai, Latino and New Orleans favorites, as well as more traditional Korean eats.

And last but most definitely foremost, Laura is a super nice person who I am very happy to have gotten to know during my years here in Columbus.

So what favorite music does Laura bring to her Kitchen Island?  We asked for 8-12 albums or songs, and Laura contributed a dozen albums that show her taste in music is as diverse as the dishes she cooks for the public (playlist embedded at the end of the post.)

1) Various Artists, “Soundtrack to The Big Easy” – Released in 1986, the crime thriller “The Big Easy” was a case of a somewhat light plot being raised by the on-screen chemistry of co-stars Ellen Barkin and Dennis Quaid, not to mention the musical enhancement of some New Orleans-area musical classics.  The soundtrack itself is out of print even on Spotify; however, several users have put together their own playlists mirroring the album, which includes “Tell It Like It Is”, a song originally released in 1966 from the incomparable Aaron Neville.

2) 2NE1, “Crush” – 2NE1 in some ways was swamped in visibility by the monster that was fellow countryman’s Psy and the “Gangnam Style” phenomenon.  Still, the all woman 2NE1 made a mark with their three albums and numerous singles released during their time as a group from 2009 to 2016. 2014’s “Crush” held the mark at that time for highest selling and charting K-pop album in the Billboard 200, and we get a dose of 2NE1’s undeniable flair here with the album\’s title track.

3) Van Halen, “1984” – While people may argue whether this was Van Halen’s best album, it certainly was their most popular, spawning several top ten hits and putting the band (with the help of catchy videos on the still relatively novel MTV) into the public spotlight.  Sadly for many, namesake member/co-founder/general guitar god Eddie Van Halen passed away in October last year – he naturally puts on a trademark blistering guitar solo on “Panama”, a song which fits in with the 1980s top hits theme of songs that mix hot cars and hot women.

4) Matthew Sweet, “Girlfriend” – The remnants of decaying relationships have proven fertile ground for some of the best music around, and Matthew Sweet’s 1990 release “Girlfriend”, released shortly after his divorce, most certainly qualifies.  It certainly didn’t hurt that Sweet’s love of Japanese Anime was featured in the videos for the biggest hits off the album, including the title track (from the movie “Space Adventure Cobra”) and the song we selected, “I’ve Been Waiting”, which features Lum Invader from “Urusei Yatsura.”

5) Material Issue, “Destination Universe” – Pure power pop will always have its appeal, and the Chicago-based trio Material Issue certainly came out swinging with its full length album releases through the bulk of the early 1990s.  Sadly, the band never found the audience it probably deserved, as their lead singer Jim Ellison committed suicide shortly after the band was dropped from its label in 1996; let our selection “Girl From Out Of This World” from their second album be our tribute to him.

6) Lady Gaga, “The Fame Monster” – Stefani Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga, has been compared to similarly mercurial singing superstar Madonna. However, Gaga has carved out her own distinct path, adding in her own significant theatrical talents (she enrolled at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in her younger days) to reach her own heights such as a recorded album with legendary Tony Bennett and an Oscar-nominated role in the 2018 remake of “A Star Is Born.”  The 2009-released “The Fame Monster” continued the momentum of the previous year’s release “The Fame”, with her duet with Beyonce “Telephone” being one of several hits from the new material.

7) Various Artists, “Soundtrack to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” – Released in a usually dead month for movies (February) and an almost exclusively U.S.-only distribution, this relatively low-budget film ($6.5 million total) proved to be a modest hit, grossing over $40 million dollars despite only two names of note at the time (comedian George Carlin as Rufus and Columbus East High School graduate Bernie Casey as Principal Ryan – Keanu Reeves was still a relative unknown at the time.) The soundtrack in many ways mirrors that lineup, with one notable name (Extreme, best known for their monster ballad “More Than Words”) among relatively unknowns. We decided to choose “I Can’t Break Away” from Big Pig, a band who charted regularly in Australia and New Zealand in the late 1980s and whose lead singer, Sherine Abeyratne, sports Sri Lankan heritage and has sung backup for a number of notable bands (U2, INXS, and The Models.)
8) Taylor Swift, “1989” – Swift proved she wasn’t just meant for the country music world when she released her 2012 smash hit “Red”, which announced her first dabbling with modern pop sounds. This move has only accentuated Swift’s popularity and she hasn’t stopped since, keeping her groove with songs such the one we chose here, “Blank Space”, from her fifth studio-based album “1989”.

9) The Flaming Lips, “At War With The Mystics” – Oklahoma City’s The Flaming Lips have performed a notable feat of sorts, keeping true to their unique and very individual blend of psychedelia and eclectic rock sounds into a long-lasting career and well-received body of works. Their creativity shows no signs of diminishing, judging from their pandemic-inspired bit of novelty with two Bubble Concerts in January, 2021. Their 2014 “At War With The Mystics”, released four years after their influential “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots”, was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of critical reception, but did sport its gems such as the track we selected in “The W.A.N.D.”

10) The Lemonheads, “It’s a Shame About Ray” – One of the few albums that most people will say is perhaps a little too short in length, Evan Dando and his bandmates nevertheless pack a seriously catchy pop-punk punch in less than a half hour in this 1992 release for Atlantic Records. The title track and their cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” are the most well known of the tracks here, but any of tunes included here make for good listening, including the track we chose in “Hannah & Gabi.”

11) Chris Isaak, “Baja Sessions” – Isaak’s good looks, velvety voice, and focus on a retro 1950\’s and 1960’s sound has carved himself out a solid music career, starting with his 1985 debut “Silvertone” (side note: early editions of the album were recorded on CD+G format and included some Minecraft-stylized graphics videos of several album tracks) and continuing well into the 2010s.  1996’s “Baja Sessions” includes covers and Isaak re-recordings and originals, including our selection “Waiting For My Lucky Day.”

12) Ludwig von Beethoven/The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, “Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 I. Allegro Con Brio” – really, who can argue with the classics?  Known by most as “Beethoven’s 5th”, this composition, which took four years to complete, has perhaps the most well-known four-note beginning in all the world.  And when it comes to the classics, they translate around the world, as we see here with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra recording of this standard.

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