Harmonic mixing and composing have become essential skills for modern DJs and music producers, as they strive to create seamless, engaging, and emotionally resonant mixes and compositions. The Camelot Wheel, a popular tool in the electronic dance music scene, offers a systematic and intuitive approach to harmonic mixing, making it easier for artists to identify compatible musical keys and create harmonious transitions between songs. This essay explores the concept of harmonic mixing, the functionality of the Camelot Wheel, and its practical applications in both mixing and composing.
Harmonic mixing refers to the process of blending two or more musical tracks that are harmonically compatible, meaning they share the same key or a closely related key. This technique allows DJs and producers to create smooth transitions between tracks, enhancing the overall flow and emotional impact of a mix or composition. By paying close attention to the harmonic relationships between songs, artists can build tension, create moments of release, and maintain a consistent musical narrative throughout their sets or compositions.
The Camelot Wheel: A Practical Tool for Harmonic Mixing
The Camelot Wheel, also known as the Circle of Fifths, is a circular diagram that visually represents the relationships between the twelve major and twelve minor keys in Western music. Each key is assigned a unique alphanumeric code, with major keys labeled from 1B to 12B and minor keys labeled from 1A to 12A. Adjacent keys on the wheel share a close harmonic relationship, making them suitable for mixing or composing.
The simplicity of the Camelot Wheel lies in its ability to quickly identify harmonically compatible keys. DJs and producers can easily find the next track by moving one step clockwise, one step counterclockwise, or one step inwards or outwards from their current key. These transitions will result in a mix that maintains its harmonic coherence and enhances the overall listening experience.
Applying the Camelot Wheel to Mixing and Composing
In the context of DJing, the Camelot Wheel can be used to plan and execute harmonically coherent DJ sets. By analyzing the keys of their music library, DJs can build playlists that smoothly transition from one track to another, keeping the energy level and emotional impact of their sets consistent. The Camelot Wheel can also help DJs experiment with creative key changes, allowing them to develop their unique sound and style.
For music producers and composers, the Camelot Wheel serves as a valuable tool for crafting harmonically rich and diverse compositions. By using the wheel as a guide, composers can easily explore different key relationships and modulations, adding depth and complexity to their work. Furthermore, the wheel can help producers identify and arrange the sections of a song in a way that creates a compelling harmonic narrative.
I have created 2 tools based on the camelot system that could help you mix or compose easier:
The Camelot Wheel has revolutionized the way DJs and music producers approach harmonic mixing and composing. By offering an intuitive visual representation of the relationships between musical keys, the wheel enables artists to create seamless transitions, enhance the emotional impact of their work, and develop their unique sound. As harmonic mixing continues to gain popularity across various genres of music, the Camelot Wheel remains an indispensable tool for DJs and producers alike.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you: The Simple Harmonic Mixing Tool, which is designed to help you always mix or compose harmoniously. No matter which recommendation you follow, the result will always fit. All you have to do is decide on the direction you want your mix or composition to go.
They say you are what you like, and if that’s true, then my taste in music speaks volumes about my private and musical personality. These albums have been with me for ages, some newer than others, but all of them share a common thread: they’re all incredibly good.
I’m not trying to sound like an old fogey pining for the good old days, but I do feel sorry for the youngins who missed out on the era when this music was being created. Luckily for them, it still exists and is audible. But buyer beware: just because something’s labeled “remastered” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an improvement. Some remasters are, dare I say it, worse than the original tracks. It’s not ideal, but we can’t control the rights holders who sometimes replace the original tracks with these subpar versions. Fortunately, the listening technology these days is better than ever, so there’s that.
Back in the day, getting noticed as an artist was almost as hard as finding a needle in a haystack because there was no internet. Record managers were the gatekeepers who decided who was worth investing in, and when they did, they invested big. I’m talking piles of cash, enough to set everyone up for life. But hey, that’s what you had to do to get the best musicians, sound engineers, and technology available. Producing an album was a massive undertaking, and failure wasn’t an option.
Sure, that whole process might seem a bit shady, but there were some advantages to it. If you could sing or play your instrument like nobody’s business, you had a chance to become a superstar. If you looked good too, well, let’s just say it didn’t hurt.
These days, anyone can become an “influencer” with a bit of luck and some worthless, meaningless garbage on TikTok. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the old way of doing things.
This list of mine is longer than a CVS receipt, and it’s arranged alphabetically, not ranked by preference. They’re all number one in their own way.
Are you feeling stuck in a musical rut? This ever-growing list is here to provide you with inspiration and joy. We’ve all been there before – scrolling endlessly through Spotify, wondering what else there is to listen to. But fear not, for this list is chock-full of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.
So, whether you’re a seasoned music aficionado or just starting out on your journey, this list is sure to provide you with a few gems to add to your collection. May it inspire you to try something new and help you break free from your musical monotony.
Not featuring an artist here doesn’t necessarily mean their music is bad. However, there’s a difference between crafting good songs and creating good albums. Both require their own unique artistry. A skilled songwriter doesn’t always guarantee a great album.
I may surprise you with my taste in music. While you may have come to expect my electronic beats, I have a deep appreciation for all kinds of music, including some pretty hard-hitting rock. But before you start to question my musical integrity, hear me out. You see, I was raised on what I like to call “real music played with hands.” It wasn’t until I discovered the wonders of synthesizers and sampling through my first drum machine at the ripe age of 18 or 19 that I began to dabble in the world of electronic music. Despite my newfound fascination with electronic beats, my heart still beats to the rhythm of progressive rock. It’s a part of my musical DNA, and I doubt that will ever change. So, let’s put our musical prejudices aside and enjoy the eclectic sounds that this world has to offer.
As of February 18, 2023
ABBA – ABBA Gold Call me crazy, but ABBA is the ultimate pop sensation. From their impeccable musical composition to their unparalleled production, the Swedish quartet truly set the standard for what we now know as sophisticated pop. And let’s not forget the fact that they wrote and performed their own music, with only a handful of support musicians. Nowadays, pop acts have more composers and producers than an Italian opera, and the performers themselves are mere puppets on a stage (or a TikTok screen). ABBA was the real deal, and their sound was nothing short of divine. Sure, they may have dabbled in some cheesy moments, but hey, sometimes a little kitsch is just what the doctor ordered. At the end of the day, no pop act comes close to what ABBA achieved — definitely not in the past, and probably not in the future.
Addliss – Wonders While I must disclose that Jakob is a close personal friend of mine and I had the honor of mastering his album, I can assure you that my subjective opinions have not clouded my judgment: the album is truly exceptional.
Airbag – A Day at the Beach Listening to “A Day at the Beach” feels like taking a stroll on the sandy shore, with each track serving as a musical wave crashing over you. The Norwegian trio delivers a unique blend of progressive rock and spacey soundscapes that will transport you to another dimension. The atmospheric guitars, ethereal vocals, and introspective lyrics create a sonic landscape that is both haunting and beautiful. It’s the perfect soundtrack for introspection or a drive along the coast.
Alison Krauss – Essential Alison Krauss Krauss’ angelic voice and masterful fiddle playing, paired with her band Union Station, make for a delightful listening experience. The album showcases Krauss’ ability to blend genres seamlessly, from bluegrass to country to folk, creating a sound that is uniquely hers.
Analog Heart – Storybook This music is like a warm and fuzzy sweater on a chilly day – cozy, comfortable, and perfect for snuggling up in front of a crackling fire. It’s the kind of music that makes you want to curl up with a good book and a hot cup of cocoa or spend a lazy summer evening sipping wine on the porch. In short, it’s the perfect soundtrack for all your hygge moments.
Analog Heart – short stories See above, same musical concept (plus piano). The title of the album is meant seriously, the tracks are all under 2 minutes “long”. One even under 1 minute. 10 Songs, 14 minutes total. But that doesn’t detract from the quality of the music, every song’s a winner. Funny, one of my albums is called “Long Stories“, and the title is meant seriously as well.
Anekdoten – Until All the Ghosts Are Gone This album is filled with dark, brooding tracks that are masterfully crafted, with each instrument and voice perfectly balanced to create a cohesive whole. The band’s musicianship is on full display, with intricate guitar riffs, powerful drumming, and haunting vocals.
Anubis – Different Stories Prepare to be unplugged and blown away by this album — it’s the epitome of complex progressive rock, without all the noisy bells and whistles. In fact, it’s the best unplugged album I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing, and I’ve played it on repeat thousands of times. The beauty is in the sequence — you simply have to listen from start to finish to experience the musical wizardry that ensues. It’s pure magic. It’s just funny that I haven’t been able to get into the band’s other albums, they just don’t capture the same level of authenticity and rawness as this masterpiece.
Arch Echo – You Won’t Believe What Happens Next! Arch Echo are like a musical meteor shower, showcasing jaw-dropping talent and virtuosity. Their sound is reminiscent of Toto, but without the vocals and with a heavier edge. The sheer number of notes that they weave into their music is dizzying, leaving your head spinning with delight. The music is not only impressive, but also inspiring, with a grandeur that is hard to ignore.
Arnór Dan (with Ólafur Arnalds) – For Now I Am Winter While Ólafur Arnalds’ “For Now I Am Winter” album is undoubtedly a masterpiece, it’s important to give credit where credit is due. Arnór Dan’s hauntingly beautiful vocals play a pivotal role in making this album the transcendent work of art that it is. In fact, his contribution is so significant that he deserves equal billing with Arnalds himself. And if you’re a fan of Dan’s incredible talent, be sure to explore his other works, even if they’re not in album form. You won’t be disappointed!
Au4 – On: Audio Here we have a sonic journey that transports listeners to a world of intricate soundscapes and hauntingly beautiful melodies. From the pulsating rhythms of “So Just Hang On, Beautiful One” to the dreamy atmospherics of “The Empty Room,” the album showcases the brothers’ ability to weave together electronic and organic elements in a seamless and captivating way. The vocals are at once ethereal and grounded, adding an emotional depth to the music that lingers long after the album has ended. “On: Audio” is a mesmerizing work of art.
Austin Fray – Origins His poignant lyrics and soulful vocals are backed by a variety of musical styles, ranging from stripped-down acoustic arrangements to more fully orchestrated tracks. Fray’s ability to blend folk, indie, and pop influences into a cohesive sound is impressive, and his earnest approach to songwriting is both refreshing and relatable. “Origins” may not break new ground, but it’s a solid showcase of Fray’s talent and potential as a musician.
Barclay James Harvest – Berlin (A Concert For The People) This is a powerhouse of a live album that packs a punch from start to finish. The band’s infectious energy and masterful musicianship are on full display, taking the listener on a journey through their biggest hits and fan favorites.
Barclay James Harvest – Turn of the Tide I grew up with Barclay James Harvest; my brother would play their music from dawn till dusk. As it turns out, he had great taste. “Turn of the Tide,” released in 1981, showcased their versatility and musical prowess.
Barclay James Harvest – Welcome to the Show This final album with the still-living Mel Pritchard on drums was not only a poignant moment in the band’s history but also marked the end of their peak creative output. Sadly, it was all downhill from there. While the band continued to produce music, nothing quite captured the magic of their earlier work.
Barock Project – Skyline Barock Project are an incredible group of musicians. As a lover of musicians who truly know their craft, I’m consistently blown away by the impressive talent these Italians possess. With an unwavering dedication to their musical expertise, it’s no surprise that Barock Project consistently deliver stunning performances.
Be Svendsen – Between a Smile and a Tear Be Svendsen’s debut album is a breath of fresh air in a world full of generic beats and predictable melodies. With his cool, innovative, and groovy style, Be Svendsen stands out as an artist who’s not afraid to push boundaries and create something truly unique. From start to finish, this album takes you on a journey through a world of eclectic rhythms and infectious hooks that will have you moving and grooving in no time. If you’re looking for something different and exciting, Be Svendsen’s debut album is the perfect place to start.
Biffy Clyro – Opposites Biffy Clyro have truly carved out a unique space in the music world, crafting their own genre and language that sets them apart. Their ability to create infectious guitar riffs seemingly from thin air is unparalleled.
Big Big Train – The Underfall Yard Big Big Train is an exceptional band that continues to thrive even after the tragic loss of their lead singer and front man. The British prog-rock outfit has managed to maintain their signature sound and continue to push boundaries. And let’s not forget about Nick D’Virgilio, who is undoubtedly one of the most talented drummers on the planet. His rhythmic prowess is on full display throughout the band’s discography, adding an extra layer of complexity and excitement to their already impressive compositions.
Big Country – The Seer Big Country is a band with a bittersweet history. Their exceptional lead singer Stuart Adamson tragically committed suicide in a hotel room in 2001, leaving behind a legacy of powerful music. I could recommend all of their albums, but let’s not get carried away. Suffice it to say that if you haven’t heard their best work, you’re missing out. And let’s not forget about the unsung hero of the band, drummer Mark Brzezicki. He’s a true master of his craft, even if he’s not a household name. If you’re looking for some excellent reading material, there’s a well-written book about Stuart that’s definitely worth checking out. Also, this has to be the greatest artist bio of all times, by Bruce Watson (guitarist).
Big Country – Peace in Our Time Ah, the late 80s, a time of hairspray and Cold War tensions. That’s when I first discovered Big Country’s “The Seer”, an album that takes me right back to that era with its powerful sound and timeless appeal. It’s hard to believe that it was released so many years ago, as it still sounds just as fresh and relevant today. Listening to it now, I can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for those golden days of big hair and even bigger dreams.
Big Country – No Place Like Home Stuart’s final masterpiece, with everything after being either subpar or downright atrocious. The album’s “Leap of Faith” is an incredibly well written and played song! One of my all-time favorite songs.
Big Country – Without the Aid of a Safety Net (Live) The band is (still today) kind of national pride in Scotland. This was particularly noticeable at live shows in the band’s home country. This recording starts out as an acoustic concert and then later gets more serious (track 11: “All Go Together”). A great recording, well mixed, and the mood has been captured well. Big Country really shined live, and this is another great live recording, in my hometown.
Bjørn Riis – Lullabies in a Car Crash Bjørn Riis, the Norwegian musician, is a true heir to the musical legacy of the legendary David Gilmour. With his skillful guitar playing, Riis channels the same ethos as Gilmour, emphasizing quality over quantity in his playing style. It’s as if he’s creating the kind of music that even Pink Floyd themselves might have missed the chance to make.
Bjørn Riis – Forever Comes to an End Bjørn Riis is a master of his craft, delivering equally impressive solo works as he does with his band, Airbag. In addition to his guitar skills, he’s also a talented photographer, and often incorporates his own photos into his album artwork.
Bluetech – The 4 Horsemen of the Electrocalypse Bluetech’s electrifying compositions always leave me in awe, and this particular album takes the Electro genre to another stratosphere. Evan’s productivity is truly remarkable — he seems to release 3 or 4 albums every year!
Boy is Fiction – A Single Beam of Light Boy is Fiction is an under-the-radar gem that I hold near and dear. But since we’re here, let’s let the cat out of the bag and share this discovery with the world. Give his music a listen, take my word for it.
Bryan Adams – MTV Unplugged This “Unplugged” performance is truly unparalleled in its excellence. Each song surpasses its studio counterpart in every way. Despite attempts to recreate the magic with the 2010 acoustic live album “Bare Bones,” lightning simply couldn’t strike twice. It’s one of those rare instances where everything aligned perfectly, and it can never be replicated.
Bryan Adams – Waking Up the Neighbours Confession time: I know it’s cheesy, but I can’t help myself — this album has got me hooked. Maybe it’s the nostalgia factor, or maybe it’s just the catchy pop-rock tunes with a hint of flair. Regardless, I can’t help but love it.
BT – ESCM I have a love-hate relationship with BT. He has the ability to write absolutely incredible music and produce it on a technical level like no other. He can even sing and play a bit of guitar. However, he’s also capable of churning out absolutely cheap commercial garbage that’s barely tolerable. That’s why I follow him with caution and am careful about what I subject my ears to. “ESCM” is an early masterpiece of his, from a time before he was commercially contaminated. BT’s real name is Brian Transeau, and he’s known for his innovative use of technology in music production, including creating the world’s first “stutter edit” plugin, which I use in my music on a regular basis.
BT – Movement in Still Life “Movement in Still Life” is a classic case of what I just said: jewels mixed with junk. However, the jewels on the album are too good not to recommend the whole thing. Despite its flaws, this album is another testament to BT’s prodigious talent and his ability to produce genre-defying music that transcends boundaries.
BT – This Binary Universe And now, hold on tight: his only, I mean only album, that is simply amazing and contains no garbage whatsoever, namely “This Binary Universe”, is not available on Spotify. Only on Apple Music, for whatever fucking reason. Probably just to fuck with us. This album is impressive on every level imaginable. You really have to listen to it to grasp what I’m talking about.
BT – These Hopeful Machines “These Hopeful Machines” is undoubtedly one of BT’s finer albums, showcasing his musical genius and technical prowess. “Every Other Way” and “The Ghost in You” are two of the most exceptional songs that have ever graced my ears. However, in true BT fashion, he still manages to sneak in some less-than-stellar tracks. It’s a wonder how he does it. But fear not, dear music lovers, there is one album in his repertoire where every track is a gem. Stay tuned.
BT – If the Stars Are Eternal So Are You and I And then there’s “If the Stars Are Eternal So Are You and I,” which he may have tried to use to placate us. It’s a bit of a return to “This Binary Universe,” but inconsistent because, once again, not every track is great. However, a few are absolutely golden. It’s worth checking out. “13 Angels on My Broken Windowsill” is absolutely sick.
BT – Electronic Opus “Electronic Opus” is yet another example of an artist taking some of his best works and performing them with an orchestra. However, this one was executed pretty well. The orchestral versions of his best tracks are quite fascinating, adding a new dimension to his music. It’s an impressive effort that deserves a listen. BT worked with conductor Eímear Noone and the 90-piece orchestra from the Prague Philharmonic for the recording of “Electronic Opus”.
BT – _+ “_+” is once again a mixed bag of goodies where you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. There are moments of brilliance, but also some tracks that make you wonder why they exist. Despite this, I still consider it to be one of the best albums I’ve ever heard, thanks to those moments of sheer genius.
Carbon Based Lifeforms – Interloper This is a must-have for any ambient music lover’s collection. With a discography spanning over two decades, the Swedish duo has established themselves as a leading force in the genre. Their use of organic sounds and analog synths creates a truly unique and immersive experience. Trust me, once you add Carbon Based Lifeforms to your collection, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.
centrozoon – Never Trust The Way You Are I’m not saying I’m biased or anything, but the guys from centrozoon (Markus Reuter and Bernhard Wöstheinrich) are personal friends of mine, and they’ve definitely got some serious musical chops. However, of all their work, the one that really hits the spot for me is the album they collaborated with the prog legend Tim Bowness on. It’s pure magic. I had the honor of remixing “Bigger Space” and “Pop Killer“.
Chicane – Behind the Sun It was with the club mix of “Offshore” that I first fell for Chicane, but it was their second album that truly swept me off my feet. To this day, the track “Don’t Give Up” featuring Bryan Adams stirs up an unexplainable sense of longing and mysticism within me. Perhaps it’s due to the unforgettable memories I associate with this album, such as my wild adventures in Ibiza.
Climie Fisher – Everything Climie Fisher were a rare phenomenon. Essentially, they were cheesy pop music, but executed on an extremely sophisticated level. Simon Climie and Rob Fisher originally met as session musicians for other artists before joining forces and releasing their debut album “Everything” in 1987.
Comedy of Errors – House of the Mind This Prog album is a real gem, with songwriting that will make your heart sing. It’s definitely one of my favorites!
Craven Faults – Erratics & Unconformities Hypnotic, electronic music to wipe your head clean. Long tracks that slowly turn like screws in your brain. Fantastic, listenable minimalism.
Crowded House – Woodface “Woodface” marks a significant milestone for the band as it is their third album, yet the first where I find myself able to enjoy every single track without feeling the urge to skip. The album’s tracks seamlessly flow into each other, creating a unique and captivating listening experience that is best enjoyed from start to finish. And while the entire album is a work of art, the final two tracks, “She Goes On” and “How Will You Go…”, are like a cherry on top, elevating the album to another level with their heavenly sound that stands out from the rest.
Crowded House – Together Alone With ‘Together Alone,’ Crowded House ascend to the throne of meaningful and deep pop-rock, joining the ranks of music royalty. The album is an emotional tour-de-force, surpassing even the beloved ‘Woodface’ in intensity and impact.
Darlingside – Birds Say Darlingside are simply the best at polyphonic singing.
delving – Hirschbrunnen Let’s summarize briefly: An American living in Berlin, who has 2 German-language titles on this album, one of which is also the album title, which describes a place in the German Allgäu. Nick DiSalvo aka delving is also the frontman of the excellent prog rock band Elder. His solo material sounds a little different though. I especially like the raw, rough in the recordings. Very concise in the drums.
Devin Townsend – Empath The Canadian powerhouse has been a prominent figure in the metal scene for over three decades and is known for his exceptional musicianship, unique songwriting style, and unparalleled vocal abilities. Whether he’s screaming his lungs out or hitting high notes with ease, Townsend’s vocals are a force to be reckoned with.
Dire Straits – Dire Straits Dire Straits were my first true favorite band, and I’m still a diehard fan to this day. Mark Knopfler’s genius guitar playing and songwriting skills put the band in a league of their own. Unfortunately, the group disbanded in the early 90s, and while Knopfler’s solo work has had its moments, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of his former band’s legendary output.
Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms I still remember the moment when “Money for Nothing” blew me away. That iconic rock riff is quite possibly the coolest one ever written. Did you know that the song’s unforgettable guitar riff was actually created by accident? Mark Knopfler was testing his new guitar and inadvertently played a sequence of notes that he liked. The rest, as they say, is history.
Dirty Loops – Phoenix Although the content of this funky, flashy, and fast music doesn’t particularly resonate with me, I can’t help but be amazed by the technical mastery displayed by the musicians. Their virtuosic playing and singing span various genres, from jazz and jazz fusion to gospel, funk, electronica, pop, and disco. It’s as if the band members have slept with their feet in a power outlet, and kudos to the producer, mixing engineer, and mastering technician for making the sound crisp enough to slice through concrete like a laser through butter.
Dirty Loops – Turbo (with Cory Wong on guitars) The title says it all. Here the boys switched on the turbo again. One has to worry … is that even healthy?
Disperse – Living Mirrors “Living Mirrors” by Disperse is like a kaleidoscope of musical brilliance, with every twist and turn revealing new colors and textures. This prog masterpiece takes you on a journey through intricate melodies and complex rhythms, all while maintaining an ethereal atmosphere that will leave you breathless. The musicianship on this album is simply stunning, with each instrument weaving in and out of each other in perfect harmony. From the soaring vocals to the intricate guitar riffs, “Living Mirrors” is a true work of art that will leave you transfixed from start to finish.
Disperse – Foreword “Foreword”, the debut album by Disperse, is a fantastic voyage through the progressive metal landscape. With intricate guitar riffs, complex rhythms, and soaring vocals, this album takes you on a musical journey that is both awe-inspiring and captivating. Each track is a masterful blend of melody and technicality, showcasing the band’s incredible musicianship and songwriting skills.
Earthside – A Dream in Static Imagine what can happen when four seasoned musicians of academic background join forces, gather a bunch of top-notch vocalists, and enlist the help of the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra. The result? An auditory experience that rivals the grandeur and spectacle of a cinematic masterpiece.
Elder – Innate Passage Elder’s “Innate Passage” is like a sonic journey through the cosmos, with riffs that hit you harder than a meteor shower. It’s as if the band channeled the spirit of Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd, but with a cosmic twist that’s uniquely their own. The album takes you on a rollercoaster ride of progressive rock and metal, with intricate guitar solos that leave you in a trance-like state.
Enigma – MCMXC a.D. Enigma’s debut album marked a milestone in music history. Not only did producer Michael Cretu pioneer the technique of weaving Gregorian chants into chillout beats, but he did so with a level of sound quality that remains unmatched to this day. The album sounds absolutely grandiose. Inadvertently, Enigma turned into a pop music sensation, living up to its namesake: an encryption machine from World War II. For a while, the project’s mysterious identity had everyone guessing, with “MC Curly” turning out to be Cretu’s nickname, derived from his initials and curly hair.
Enigma – The Cross of Changes Michael Cretu’s follow-up to his successful first album was a natural evolution, moving away from Gregorian chants (which would make a later return) and the theme of “sin and religion” towards a more Balearic chillout sound. It was just as commercially successful as its predecessor, and deservedly so.
Entheogenic – Spontaneous Illumination Full on Psybient! A great sounding album that was stylistically ahead of its time.
Eva Cassidy – Eva By Heart Eva Cassidy possessed a remarkable voice and exceptional talent, yet her career struggled to gain traction during her lifetime. Tragically, she passed away at a young age from melanoma in 1996. Today, she is rightfully recognized as one of the most extraordinary singers of her generation.
Extreme – Extreme II – Pornograffitti This masterpiece is a perfect blend of metal and funk, with enough energy to light up a stadium. With Gary Cherone’s powerhouse vocals, Nuno Bettencourt’s mind-blowing guitar skills, and the tight rhythm section of Pat Badger and Paul Geary, Extreme truly delivered.
Extreme – III Sides To Every Story Extreme’s “III Sides to Every Story” album is like a triple-decker burger of musical goodness, with layers of metal, funk, and classic (!) stacked high. It’s the kind of album that’ll have you headbanging one minute and feeling all the feels the next.
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours Ah, “Rumours”, the album that defined the 70s and beyond. It’s like a musical soap opera filled with drama, heartbreak, and undeniable talent. From the soaring harmonies of “Dreams” to the sultry grooves of “You Make Loving Fun”, Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” is a musical masterpiece that will have you singing along and swaying to the beat in no time. And let’s not forget the unforgettable guitar riffs of “The Chain” or the emotional depth of “Gold Dust Woman”. With all the juicy behind-the-scenes stories and incredible musicianship, it’s no wonder this album is a timeless classic.
Fleetwood Mac – Tango in the Night Fleetwood Mac’s album “Tango in the Night” is like a wild and sultry dance with your emotions. It’s a seductive mix of catchy pop tunes and haunting ballads that will leave you feeling both energized and emotionally drained.
Friedemann – Indian Summer Friedemann’s “Indian Summer” is a musical masterpiece that features Friedemann’s virtuoso guitar skills, accompanied by a variety of instruments, including saxophone, harmonica, and percussion.
Frost* – Falling Satellites Frost masterfully combines elements of progressive rock, metal, and electronic music to create a sonic experience that is out of this world. With soaring vocals, intricate guitar work, and dynamic drumming, the album is a testament to the band’s musical prowess. From the epic opener “First Day” to the hauntingly beautiful “Heartstrings”, every track is a masterpiece in its own right.
George Michael – Faith This is not just a mere album, it’s a cultural icon that transcends time and space. It’s the perfect blend of pop and soul, with a dash of rock and roll thrown in for good measure. This album was the birthplace of timeless classics. “Faith” is a true masterpiece that deserves a permanent spot in every music lover’s collection.
George Michael – Listen Without Prejudice A perfect musical embodiment of the phrase “less is more”. A sleek, sophisticated affair that sees George ditch the flashy pop sheen of his earlier work in favor of a more understated sound. With stripped-back arrangements and a focus on heartfelt lyrics, it’s an album that rewards those willing to lean in and really listen. From the lush orchestral sweep of “Praying for Time” to the finger-snapping groove of “Freedom! ’90”, this is George Michael at his most introspective and vulnerable.
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin This album is a sonic journey that showcases the otherworldly talent of a pianist who seems to operate on a different plane of existence. His fingers fly over the keys with a grace and ease that suggests he’s simultaneously writing a thesis on music theory. The compositions are exceptional, but what really sets this record apart is the virtuosic playing, supported by an all-star cast of guest musicians including Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), and Steve Hogarth (Marillion). By the way, Gleb is half of Iamthemorning.
Global Communication – 76:14 The album is the brainchild of Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard, who originally released it in 1994 under the name “Global Communication”. It quickly became a cult classic in the electronic music world and continues to inspire and influence musicians to this day. “76:14” is a sonic journey that rewards repeated listens, revealing new layers and details with each spin. With its shimmering synths, intricate rhythms, and dreamy textures, this album is a testament to the power of electronic music to transport and transform.
Grandbrothers – All the Unknown A masterful blend of electronic and acoustic elements, creating a unique sonic landscape that is both soothing and entrancing. The piano takes center stage, with intricate melodies and chord progressions that are delicately interwoven with synthesized textures and beats.
Hiromi – Alive Hiromi is a Japanese pianist and composer who has gained global recognition for her virtuosic and genre-defying style. Here she has collaborated with legendary drummer Simon Phillips. Together, they create an electrifying and unforgettable musical experience that will leave you breathless. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on the magic that happens when these two musical powerhouses come together.
H.U.V.A. Network – Distances Atmospheric soundscapes and intricate rhythms create a mesmerizing and immersive experience that keeps you engaged from start to finish. The use of field recordings and subtle textures adds an organic element to the electronic sound, making it feel both futuristic and grounded. “Distances” is a brilliant work of ambient music that showcases the duo’s impressive skills in sound design and composition.
Henryk Górecki – Symphony No. 3 This is a masterpiece that never fails to move me. The hauntingly beautiful choral work combined with the simple yet powerful orchestration creates an emotional depth that is both breathtaking and unforgettable. Gorecki’s ability to convey the sorrow and suffering of the human experience is truly remarkable. This is a must-listen for anyone who appreciates classical music at its finest.
Iamthemorning – Lighthouse The first time I listened to “Lighthouse” by iamthemorning, I felt like I was swept away to another world entirely. The ethereal vocals of Marjana Semkina and the haunting piano melodies of Gleb Kolyadin create a dreamlike atmosphere that is both beautiful and haunting. Each track on the album is like a story, with its own unique characters, moods, and emotions.
Ingo Vogelmann – Deep Understanding This album marks my official debut album, which was created under challenging circumstances. During a period of deep depression and personal instability, I found solace in music. While I struggled to verbalize my emotions, I found that creating music served as a cathartic release. At the time, I was adept at concealing my struggles behind a façade.
Ingo Vogelmann – Sheep I have a strong affinity for the piano theme I developed on this album. It was created on the spot, with no prior planning, and served as the foundation for the entire work.
Ingo Vogelmann – GOD This project represents a significant milestone in my artistic career, as it required an intensive two-year effort that had a profound impact on my personal and creative life. It is with immense pride that I reflect upon the completion of this work, which stands out as my most significant achievement to date.
Ingo Vogelmann – The Great Escape That was just of one week fiddling around with new technical ideas and experiments, which ended up as an album when I realized that it’s “not bad” material. Turned out to be my most successful release ever, that’s been praised by many fellow producers.
Jennifer Warnes – Famous Blue Raincoat Jennifer Warnes is undoubtedly one of the finest vocalists of our time, and her recordings serve as the gold standard for testing the most high-end hi-fi systems. She has won three Grammy Awards for this album, by the way.
Kari Bremnes – Det vi har This album exemplifies the signature Norwegian style: stripped down to the bare essentials yet executed with the utmost quality. The production and sound quality are impeccable, leaving me curious as to which microphones were employed in the process.
Karnivool – Themata Karnivool’s music is a sonic masterpiece of expertly crafted progressive rock with top-notch production quality.
Kino – Picture What do you get when some of the best musicians in progressive rock come together to record an album? Kino, that’s what. And their album “Picture” is a masterpiece that surpasses anything each member has achieved individually. Kino delivers an epic sound.
London Grammar – If You Wait London Grammar’s music is a breath of fresh air in the music industry, with hauntingly beautiful melodies that are perfectly complemented by the ethereal voice of their lead singer, Hannah Reid.
Long Distance Calling – Avoid the Light Behold the prog rock giants from Germany! These Teutonic musicians bring you some of the most sophisticated and uncompromising progressive music this side of the galaxy, hailing from none other than the venerable academic hub of Münster.
Long Distance Calling – Long Distance Calling The German band has been active since 2006 and has released several critically acclaimed albums, each showcasing their ability to blend intricate melodies, heavy riffs, and atmospheric soundscapes seamlessly. Long Distance Calling’s music is both complex and accessible, making them a must-listen for any fan of the genre.
Lunatic Soul – Walking on a Flashlight Beam Lunatic Soul is a stunning solo project of Mariusz Duda, the lead vocalist and bassist of the Polish progressive rock band Riverside. His solo work showcases a more introspective and atmospheric sound compared to Riverside’s heavier style, making it a must-listen for fans of ambient and progressive music. It’s safe to say that Lunatic Soul proves that sometimes, going solo is the best decision one can make.
Lusine – A Certain Distance Lusine’s music is like a sonic kaleidoscope, constantly shifting and rearranging its vibrant colors to create an electronic wonderland. It’s like taking a journey through a digital jungle, with glitchy beats and dreamy melodies leading the way. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a futuristic road trip, where the destination is wherever the music takes you.
Lydian Collective – Adventure Instrumental Fusion in perfection.
Madonna – Ray of Light While Madonna may have been the face here, it was the outstanding production work of William Orbit that truly brought the album to life. Madonna may not have realized just how groundbreaking and brilliant it truly was. “Ray of Light” won four Grammy Awards and is considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of all time.
Marillion – Script for a Jester’s Tear Marillion is without a doubt one of the bands in my life that inspired me heavily. Their ability to express emotions through music that resonates with me is unmatched. Their music takes you to another world and makes you feel like you’re a part of something larger than yourself. From their early days with front man Fish to their current lineup with Steve Hogarth, Marillion has been a force in progressive rock for over four decades. It’s hard to pick a favorite album, but if I had to choose one, it would be “Brave”. Most of their other albums are masterpieces in their own right, showcasing the band’s incredible musicianship, songwriting skills, and ability to create a truly immersive listening experience. If you’re a fan of progressive rock, then Marillion is an absolute must-listen. If you’re already a fan, then you know what I’m talking about. The band continues to tour and release new music, and their fanbase is as loyal as ever. Marillion isn’t just a band, they’re a way of life.
Mark Knopfler – Local Hero Mark Knopfler is undoubtedly a guitar god, and one of the best songwriters in existence, but his solo career after Dire Straits sometimes makes me wonder if he’s trying to go country or join a barn dance. As much as I respect his personal favorites, sometimes I want to grab my cowboy hat and join a hoedown when listening to his music. But don’t get me wrong, Knopfler is still a talented songwriter and one of the best guitarists to ever pick up a six-string (or 12). Despite my reservations about his solo career, I do find some of his albums to be real gems. This one, his first, is actually film music, and it’s divine. Check the main theme and tell me this is not directly sent from heaven.
Max Richter – Recomposed: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons Max Richter’s work on Vivaldi is truly impressive. In his re-composition of “The Four Seasons”, Richter manages to breathe new life into one of classical music’s most recognizable pieces. He seamlessly blends electronic and orchestral elements, creating a fresh and unique sound.
Menkee – The Aftermath Meet Menkee, aka Walter, a friend of mine, and one of the most talented progressive house producers I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. His style is spot on, and this album is an absolute masterpiece that I had the honor of mastering. As if that wasn’t enough, I also contributed a remix for his track “Electro Smoka.” Suffice it to say, Menkee/Walter is a true talent.
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells Mike Oldfield’s musical legacy is unparalleled, and as a fellow musician, he has been one of my biggest inspirations. With a career spanning over five decades, he has produced an incredible body of work, including the iconic album “Tubular Bells.” While there’s a lot to say about his life and career, at the end of the day, it’s the music that truly speaks for itself.
Minilogue – Animals Sweden seems to have a monopoly on excellence. From ABBA’s tunes to Volvo’s cars, and even IKEA’s furniture, this Scandinavian nation never disappoints. And let’s not forget about the musical talents, such as Pain of Salvation and Minilogue, who further prove that Sweden is a true powerhouse of creativity.
Minilogue – Blomma I only know one crazy person who makes 20-minute-long dance tracks… I wonder who that could be? Well, Minilogue has even created one that’s 45 minutes long – for a single song! It’s on that album. Looks like they’ve beaten my record.
NU – NO WAKE I discovered NU through my close friend Thomas. I would call this “Latino Slow Rave”. As far as I know there’s only this one album but numerous singles and remixes etc… Very inspiring and hypnotic music to chill out. NU is as crazy as I am because he produces tracks that are over 20 minutes long.
Oceanlab – Sirens Of The Sea Above & Beyond are usually a bit too poppy for my trance tastes, but their one-of-a-kind project “Oceanlab” with Justine Suissa is a diamond in the rough of electronic music. The great compositions and Justine’s angelic voice come together to make something truly special. It’s like they bottled the essence of the ocean and turned it into music.
Ólafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter Ólafur Arnalds, my Viking brother (I too have Scandinavian ancestry, BTW), has definitely infused some fresh air into the Neo-Classical genre. While he may not have reinvented the wheel, his innovative take on the genre is nothing short of brilliant. And this album in particular is one of my all-time favorites, thanks in no small part to the heavenly vocals of Arnór Dan, who sings like a Norse god(ess).
Ólafur Arnalds – re:member And behold, the second masterpiece from his hand. This time, no vocals, but instead piano structures that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s as if he’s creating a whole new musical language, and we’re all just lucky enough to be listening in.
Ott – Blumenkraft Ott, the master of Psybient, Psy Dub, and soundscapes that take you to other worlds. “Blumenkraft” was his first foray into the scene, and many masterpieces would follow.
Ott – Skylon Sonic wizardry extraordinaire. “Skylon” took his artistry to even greater heights, proving once again what he’s all about. And let’s be real, “The Queen of All Everything” is one of the most beautiful love songs ever crafted (check this live version!). Ott’s ability to blend ethereal sounds with earthy beats is simply sublime.
Ott – Mir “Mir” showcases Ott’s evolution as an artist, with even more impressive soundscapes and intricate production.
Ott – Fairchildren In the wise words of Ott, “Baby Robot go beep boop.” “Fairchildren” does fully reach the heights of Ott’s earlier works, and it’s still a collection of finely crafted material that shows off his unique style and musical range. From the dreamy soundscapes of “16mm Summer Day” to the funky grooves of “One Day I Wish to Have This Kind of Time,” Ott demonstrates his mastery of blending organic and electronic elements to create truly captivating music.
Pain of Salvation – Panther If I were gay, I’d probably have a crush on Daniel Gildenlöw (lead vocalist and 2nd guitarist) based on looks alone, but his band’s music is equally captivating. And there’s no denying that “Panther” is a particularly excellent album.
Petar Dundov – Escapements Petar is the reigning world champion of sequences that steadily screw themselves into your brain, which my closest friend Martin and I dubbed “Terrör” back in the early 90s, which is sort of an own invented genre. It’s hard to describe, so I recommend just listening to it and experiencing it for yourself.
Peter Gabriel – So Peter Gabriel’s “So” is undoubtedly one of the greatest albums ever produced. It alone made being a teenager in the 80s worthwhile. Its impact on me continues to this day, and I suspect that “In Your Eyes” will haunt me until the end of my life.
Peter Gabriel – Growing Up Live This is one of those concerts that I deeply regret not having attended. It brings tears to my eyes when I listen to this recording.
Phil Collins – No Jacket Required Phil Collins’ achievements in music are undeniable, but it’s true that he often doesn’t get the credit he deserves. With his impressive skills as a singer, drummer, and songwriter, he has been a driving force in the music industry for decades.
Pink Floyd – The Wall I have to admit that I was never the biggest Pink Floyd aficionado. The band’s early era never really clicked with me, and I find Roger Waters to be a rather unsavory character, both musically and otherwise. For me, everything started to get interesting with “The Wall” — that album is truly a work of genius. David Gilmour is an exceptional guitarist, but I have to say that Nick Mason has always struck me as a rather underwhelming and dull drummer.
Pink Floyd – A Momentary Lapse of Reason Now we’re talking. This is the kind of musical and general artistic direction that strikes a chord with me. Also, one of the best cover artworks EVER. Storm Thorgerson was a genius.
Pink Floyd – The Division Bell Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic album. The only issue I’ve ever had with it is that it seems to be a bit commercial and zeitgeist-y sounding. But make no mistake, it’s still one of my all-time favorites.
Polynation – Igneous This album is a real gem — it features a blend of jazzy house structures, but handmade music with acoustic drums and other instruments, all beautifully complemented by the unmistakable Roland TB-303 Bassline Synthesizer (not in every track, though), giving it an ACID-like vibe. Truly well-crafted, and all in all, a fantastic album.
Poppy Ackroyd – Resolve Poppy Ackroyd’s piano-based music is simply innovative — expertly composed, expertly played, and expertly produced. She’s truly an admirable musician, and her music is nothing short of beautiful.
Porcupine Tree – In Absentia Porcupine Tree, led by Steven Wilson, is undoubtedly one of the greatest progressive rock and metal bands of the past 20 years. According to my Spotify stats, I can’t seem to get enough of their music — and for good reason. I have a soft spot for virtuosic musicians, innovative sounds, and music that’s both serious and progressive, and Porcupine Tree checks all those boxes and more. It’s worth noting that Steven Wilson doesn’t necessarily excel in any one area, except perhaps songwriting. He’s not known for his vocal prowess (in fact, some might argue he’s downright terrible), and his guitar playing is fairly average. However, he truly shines as a producer, songwriter, lyricist, and mixing engineer. That’s where he’s in a league of his own. In terms of drummers, for me, it’s hard to top PT’s Gavin Harrison — he’s simply the best drummer on the planet, closely followed by Simon Phillips.
Porcupine Tree – Deadwing Porcupine Tree are the undisputed kings of modern and contemporary prog, and that’s a fact. With over 30 years of experience, Steven Wilson’s musical project has become a benchmark for innovation, creativity and excellence in the progressive rock and metal scene. From their early psychedelic and experimental sound to their later more polished and refined productions, Porcupine Tree’s music is a journey that never ceases to amaze and captivate me.
Riverside – Wasteland Riverside’s “Wasteland” might just be their magnum opus, and it’s practically a requirement for any progressive rock aficionado. The album was released in 2018, marking their first release since the tragic passing of their founding guitarist, Piotr Grudzinski, in 2016. Despite the immense loss, Riverside persevered and delivered a stunning work that showcases their musical virtuosity and mastery of the genre.
Rodriguez Jr. – Baobab If you’re looking for an electronic artist who actually knows how to craft a cohesive album, Rodriguez Jr. is your guy, and his “Baobab” is a prime example of his talents. His unique blend of house and techno, combined with live instrumentation, make for a truly captivating listening experience. Rodriguez Jr. is actually the alias of French producer and live performer Olivier Mateu, who got his start in the 90s as part of the French electro scene. He’s since become known for his genre-bending productions and dynamic live shows and has released music on labels like Mobilee and Anjunadeep.
Sarah Palu – Ikivirta It’s a sad truth that many artists today can make tens of millions of streams on Spotify with mediocre music, but then there are true gems like Sarah Palu who pour their heart into every note they create. “Ikivirta” is an absolute masterpiece that deserves far more recognition than it gets. Fun fact: Sarah Palu is not just a talented musician, but also a skilled painter and photographer, often combining her artistic talents in multidisciplinary projects.
Sasha – Airdrawndagger Sasha is not only a living legend in the world of electronic music, but also a pioneering producer with a talent for pushing boundaries. He made his name as a DJ in the 1990s, quickly becoming one of the most in-demand performers on the global club circuit. However, he also had a knack for creating innovative and genre-defying tracks, which led him to release his first album, “Airdrawndagger,” in 2002. This album was a game-changer in the world of electronic dance music, pushing the limits of what was possible with the genre and setting the stage for countless imitators. While Sasha’s strength lies in his ideas rather than his technical production skills, he has consistently worked with top-notch producers to bring his vision to life.
Sasha – Scene Delete 14 years later, Sasha released another exceptional album that exceeded all expectations: “Scene Delete”. The album showcases his ability to craft a cohesive and emotive musical journey, demonstrating his continued relevance and influence in the (deleted) scene. His extensive experience as a producer and DJ, coupled with his unrelenting creativity, have solidified his position as a true legend in the industry.
Shpongle – Nothing Lasts… But Nothing Is Lost “Nothing Lasts… But Nothing Is Lost” is a masterpiece that defies categorization, melding elements of psychedelic, world, and electronic music into a cohesive whole. Shpongle, consisting of Simon Posford and a bit of Raja Ram, has been pushing the boundaries of electronic music since their inception in the late 1990s. With a reputation for stunning live performances and a devoted fanbase, Shpongle has become one of the most influential and innovative acts in the genre.
Sleep Token – Sundowning A mysterious band whose identity is shrouded in secrecy, but their music is anything but enigmatic. Their debut album “Sundowning” is a masterpiece of genre-defying soundscapes and hauntingly beautiful melodies. From ethereal vocals to crushing riffs, Sleep Token has it all. Despite the band’s anonymity, their music speaks volumes and one thing is certain: whoever they are, they’re making some of the best music out there.
Slow Meadow – Slow Meadow If this music was a person, it would be the kind of friend who speaks softly but carries a big emotional punch. The album and project title gives a clue to the style, with a focus on slow, deliberate compositions and masterful ambient and neo-classical textures. Fans of introspective and meditative music will find plenty to love in the work of Slow Meadow. The artist behind the project is multi-instrumentalist and composer Matt Kidd, who draws on his experiences in film scoring and his love of nature to create his immersive sonic landscapes. “Slow Meadow,” Kidd has said, “is music for the journey of life.” Yes.
Solar Fields – Blue Moon Station If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that Solar Fields is a musical magician. Everything he conjures up is pure gold. And let’s not forget that “Blue Moon Station”, his second album, marked the beginning of his meteoric rise. Trust me, this is one artist you don’t want to miss.
State Azure – So Long, Eternity Allow me to introduce you to a gem of ambient electronic music: State Azure. His debut album “So Long, Eternity” is a masterpiece in the same league as Solar Fields. The album presents a musical journey that will leave you breathless, with its mesmerizing melodies and haunting rhythms. His unique sound, characterized by ethereal pads, complex rhythms, and intricate melodies, has garnered him a loyal following among ambient music lovers. “So Long, Eternity” is a testament to his creativity and musical prowess and an excellent addition to any electronic music enthusiast’s collection.
Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) “The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)” is, in my opinion, Steven Wilson’s first prog monster. It’s no surprise that the album earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Surround Sound Album. What is surprising, however, is that Wilson later drove away some of the talented musicians he had assembled for the album, such as Marco Minnemann. Wilson’s reputation for perfectionism and uncompromising standards is well-known in the music industry, but it seems he may have taken it too far in this case. But I’m definitely a huge fan.
Steven Wilson – Hand Cannot Erase “Hand Cannot Erase” is a true masterpiece of modern progressive rock. This album, inspired by the true story of Joyce Carol Vincent, is a hauntingly beautiful exploration of isolation, loss, and the power of memory. The instrumentation is complex yet melodic, with Wilson’s signature guitar work interweaving seamlessly with keyboards and drums. His lyrics are introspective and poetic, drawing the listener into a world of emotion and reflection.
Steven Wilson – To the Bone This is a departure from his usual progressive rock sound, delving into pop influences with a nod to ’80s music. This album features guest appearances from Ninet Tayeb and Sophie Hunger, among others, and showcases Wilson’s versatility as a songwriter and producer. “To the Bone” is a testament to Wilson’s ability to evolve and experiment while still maintaining his signature sound. With catchy hooks and intricate arrangements, this album is a must-listen for fans of Wilson’s past work and those looking for a fresh take on pop-infused rock.
Sting – The Dream of the Blue Turtles Sting’s debut solo album is a jazz-infused masterpiece that showcases his musical prowess beyond the confines of The Police. Known for his soaring vocals and socially conscious lyrics, Sting proved that he’s more than just a pretty face with this album. Before he was a rock star, Sting was a teacher and soccer coach and named himself after his favorite football jersey, which had black and yellow stripes like a bumblebee. “The Dream of the Blue Turtles” is a a timeless classic.
Sting – …Nothing Like the Sun Like a warm hug from an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. This album, released in 1987, showcases Sting’s versatility as a musician, seamlessly blending genres from jazz to pop to rock. The title itself is a nod to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, which seems fitting for an artist with a penchant for literary references. The album also features collaborations with legendary musicians like Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler, further solidifying Sting’s place in the music world. If you’re looking for an album that’s equal parts catchy and thought-provoking, “…Nothing Like the Sun” is definitely worth a listen. It’s a testament to Sting’s talent as a songwriter and performer and remains a standout in his discography even over 30 years after its release.
Sting – The Soul Cages It is often said that musicians make their best music during their periods of depression. In my opinion, this holds true for “The Soul Cages.” The album, released in 1991, was inspired by the death of Sting’s father, and it reflects his emotional turmoil and introspection. This album marks a departure from his earlier work, with its emphasis on jazz, folk, and world music influences. It features introspective lyrics and haunting melodies that create a somber and reflective atmosphere.
Suzanne Vega – Solitude Standing To say that “Solitude Standing” was a revelation is an understatement. The album was a cultural touchstone for many and solidified Vega’s place as one of the most influential singer-songwriters of her generation. Her ability to capture the complexities of human emotion and weave them into a compelling musical narrative was unmatched. So, it’s no surprise that Vega’s influence continues to resonate today, decades after her initial success. Her music remains a source of inspiration for countless artists, and her legacy as a trailblazer in the singer-songwriter genre is secure.
Suzanne Vega – Days of Open Hand “Days of Open Hand,” released in 1990, produced by the legendary Rupert Hine, the record is a testament to Vega’s immense talent as a songwriter and musician. Haunting melodies, poetic lyrics, and innovative production. What truly sets “Days of Open Hand” apart is its sonic texture. Hine’s production creates a soundscape that is both lush and intimate, providing a perfect canvas for Vega’s introspective lyrics and expressive vocals. This is a masterpiece that has stood the test of time. My absolute favorite of Suzanne.
Talk Talk – It’s My Life Oh, man…Talk Talk. An incredible project. They started as a new wave pop band, producing catchy hits like “It’s My Life” and “Such a Shame.” However, their sound gradually evolved towards more experimental and avant-garde territory, resulting in a series of critically acclaimed and influential albums. “It’s My Life,” released in 1984, marked a turning point in the band’s career. The album was produced by Tim Friese-Greene and featured a distinctive blend of new wave, art pop, and synth-pop influences. What really sets “It’s My Life” apart is its willingness to push boundaries and experiment with unconventional song structures and arrangements. Sadly, Talk Talk disbanded in 1991 after the release of their final album, “Laughing Stock.” However, their legacy lives on, and they are widely regarded as one of the most innovative and important bands of the 1980s.
Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden Talk Talk’s “Spirit of Eden,” released in 1988, is widely regarded as one of the most groundbreaking and influential albums of all time. The album marked a radical departure from the band’s earlier pop-oriented sound. Gone were the catchy hooks and singalong choruses, replaced by sprawling, experimental compositions that blended elements of jazz, classical music, and ambient soundscapes. The album’s six tracks were longer and more complex than anything the band had done before, with extended instrumental passages and Hollis’ distinctive, soulful vocals. Despite its lack of commercial appeal, “Spirit of Eden” has become a cult classic and a touchstone for musicians across genres. Its influence can be heard in everything from post-rock and experimental music to ambient and electronic music. Mark Hollis, the band’s enigmatic frontman and chief songwriter, was the driving force behind the album’s unconventional sound. He was known for his perfectionism and his unwillingness to compromise his artistic vision, even at the cost of commercial success. After the release of “Spirit of Eden,” Talk Talk continued to push boundaries with their final album, “Laughing Stock,” before disbanding in 1991. Hollis remained a reclusive figure after the band’s breakup, largely withdrawing from the public eye and devoting himself to his private life. He passed away in 2019, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most innovative and uncompromising musicians of his generation.
Tesseract – Altered State I would describe Tesseract as “epic progressive metal.” This album is a whirlwind of odd time signatures and intricate song structures that’s as interesting as it is storytelling. Their music is characterized by complex arrangements, soaring melodies, and an overall sense of grandeur and drama. “Altered State,” released in 2013, is widely considered a high-water mark for the band. The album features a dizzying array of time signatures and polyrhythms, which are sure to delight anyone who loves their music with a healthy dose of complexity. But it’s not all technical wizardry — the album’s lyrics are deeply emotional and introspective, exploring themes of identity, change, and personal growth.
The Corrs – Forgiven, Not Forgotten The Corrs, those genetically gifted siblings who effortlessly blend their angelic voices and multi-instrumental talents into a beguiling polyphonic sound, have rightly won over many hearts. A mix of Irish folk and pop, their debut album is a delightfully clean and pure work, radiating an innocent charm that’s hard to resist. While subsequent albums may not have lived up to the lofty standards of their debut, their move away from folk roots marked a natural progression in their musical evolution.
The Thorns – The Thorns The Thorns were a short-lived American folk-rock supergroup formed in 2002, consisting of Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge, and Shawn Mullins. All three members were accomplished solo artists in their own right, but when they joined forces, something magical happened. Their self-titled debut album, released in 2003, is a masterpiece of jangly guitars, tight harmonies, and catchy hooks. It’s a loving tribute to the classic sounds of 60s and 70s folk rock, but with a modern edge that keeps it fresh and vital. Comparisons to Tom Petty are inevitable, but The Thorns bring their own unique energy and style to the table. The Thorns may have only made one album, but it’s a gem that deserves to be heard by anyone who loves great rock music. If you’re looking for something that sounds familiar yet fresh, catchy yet meaningful, give The Thorns a spin. You won’t be disappointed.
Thomas Newman – American Beauty (OST) Thomas Newman is one of the most accomplished and respected composers in the business. But it’s his work on “American Beauty” that truly stands out. The film’s score is a masterclass in emotional storytelling, using a blend of orchestral and electronic instruments to create a haunting, melancholy atmosphere that perfectly complements the film’s themes of suburban ennui and midlife crisis. Newman’s music is marked by a distinctive blend of lush harmonies, unusual instrumentation, and unexpected melodic twists and turns. His use of the celesta, a small keyboard instrument that produces a twinkling, bell-like sound, is a genius idea.
Tom Day – Fables Tom Day is a producer and composer based in Sydney, Australia. “Fables,” his 2015 release, is a sweeping, immersive journey through lush soundscapes and evocative melodies. Each track on “Fables” tells a story, and together they weave a tapestry of emotion and imagination.
Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes Released in 1992, “Little Earthquakes” introduced the world to Amos’s unique blend of piano-based alternative rock and confessional songwriting. The album is raw, intimate, and often painfully honest, with Amos baring her soul on every track. From the opening notes of “Crucify,” to the haunting piano ballad “Winter,” to the blistering “Precious Things,” “Little Earthquakes” takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. But it’s not all doom and gloom — Amos’s wit and humor shine through on tracks like “Leather” and “Happy Phantom,” adding a welcome dose of levity to the proceedings. What sets “Little Earthquakes” apart is Amos’s willingness to tackle difficult subjects head-on, from sexual assault (“Me and a Gun”) to religion (“Silent All These Years”) to mental illness (“China”). Her lyrics are poetic and often cryptic, but they always pack a punch. And then there’s her piano playing — Amos’s virtuosic keyboard skills are on full display throughout the album, adding a richness and complexity to her songs that is truly breathtaking. Her first album is a masterpiece of confessional songwriting that will leave you laughing, crying, and everything in between.
Tori Amos – Scarlet’s Walk 10 years later Tori Amos was back with a bang in “Scarlet’s Walk”, although there were a few albums in between, but with less significance, at least to me. With her signature piano-based sound, Amos tells the story of Scarlet, a woman searching for meaning and purpose in a chaotic world. The album is a sonic map of her travels, from the sunny beaches of Florida to the rugged mountains of the West. With songs like “A Sorta Fairytale” and “Pancake”, Amos weaves together a tapestry of emotions that will leave you both moved and entertained. “Scarlet’s Walk” is a masterpiece of storytelling and musicality that cements Tori Amos’s place as one of the most talented artists of her generation.
U137 – Dreamer on the Run U137 creates what I call “shortcut music” – tracks that cut straight to the chase with concise and deliberate build-ups to deliver a satisfying climax. Everything is centered on the climax. Often relying on arpeggios or pads that ride on beautiful chord progressions, it’s a formula that delivers cinematic results and just works.
Vangelis – Blade Runner (OST) Blade Runner isn’t just one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen (the original Director’s Cut), but it also has one of the most outstanding film scores in history. Vangelis, who has always been a great inspiration to me, not only outdid himself, but the music he created was also ahead of its time. The way the soundtrack blends traditional orchestration with electronic sounds and creates an atmosphere that is both haunting and beautiful is nothing short of remarkable. Vangelis died on May 17, 2022, at the age of 79. He battled several health issues in recent years, and his passing was reportedly due to complications from COVID-19. The legacy he leaves behind is immeasurable, and his music will continue to inspire me.
Vibrasphere – Downbeats Vibrasphere might be best known for their tie-dye, hippy-dippy psychedelic Goa music, but they also managed to produce some real electronica ambient gems, which are all compiled in this album. It’s a pity that Vibrasphere has disbanded, as they were clearly capable of creating sonic magic beyond the limits of their psychedelic genre.
Von Spar – Under Pressure While I wasn’t a fan of Von Spar’s earlier work, this album is an absolute masterpiece. It defies categorization, blending various genres and styles with masterful production to create a wholly unique and utterly cool sound. It’s as if the band took a musical blender and threw in all sorts of unexpected ingredients, resulting in a colorful sonic smoothie.
The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding That stoic drumming … boom, tchack, boom, boom, tchack — it’s oddly hypnotic. It should be boring, as there’s nothing flashy happening, yet it still manages to pull you in. The War on Drugs have somehow found a way to take you on a journey with their peculiar “singing” style, dreamy guitar riffs and solos.
Wheel – Resident Human While I may not be well-acquainted with this Finnish band, I can confidently say that Wheel’s album “Resident Human” is a true gem in the realm of Progressive Metal.
Windshield – Storm is Over Windshield is a musical duo composed of a married couple from Sweden (yes, another Swedish duo). They live together in a charming house with a studio and create feel-good music, pop-folky stuff. He’s doing the music, she’s singing. That’s the nutshell version. Their music is simply beautiful, positive, and perfect for boosting your mood anytime you listen to it.
Wojtek – Atmosphere Wojtek is a Polish pianist who lives in Berlin and is also a climate activist. “Atmosphere” was recorded in a climate-neutral way, although I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure what that means. Did he have a bicycle with a dynamo in the studio to generate enough power? I’m not trying to make a joke here, I’m genuinely curious. Regardless, the album title is spot on because the music creates a wonderful atmosphere.