First off, sorry for neglecting this blog as long as I have. I blame twitter; somehow it is a lot easier to write 140 characters of an idea down rather than write out a blog post. I'm going to attempt to rectify this.
While recently stalking someone on Facebook I noticed a neat note: pick 20 albums from your music library that are significant to you. So here is my attempt at this, with explanation for the crazy choices I have made:
This was my first introduction to 'secular' music as it were. And it was quite the introduction: 43 tracks covering classical music from its roots to modern times. I don't know exactly when I started listening to this, although I do know it was long before I had a computer.
This introduced me to a lot of other styles besides classical music, although most of it's tracks are classical.
The Complete Works of Scott Joplin - Scott Joplin
My love of jazz definitely started with Scott Joplin. I'd put scans of the Scott Joplin LPs I have up, but I don't have a scanner large enough to scan them on. If I were to choose two albums that have influenced my tastes the most, it'd be this album and Classical Music Start-up.
Quite possibly one of the most popular jazz albums of all time, and definitely an influence on my tastes.
Black Holes and Revelations - Muse
One of my friends initially borrowed a CD-RW from me because I had burned him some downloads that he had wanted (back in the day before ubiquitous broadband...). He returned it with Absolution and Origin of Symmetry on it. This was my official introduction to modern 'secular' music, although hardly mainstream at the time. Also, the jazz and classical roots Muse draws on helped to synthesize, in my mind, modern music with my other musical tastes.
At this point, the list takes on a different sort of flavor. I have listed some of the influences of my taste; artists and albums that changed what the rest of this list is. At this point my tastes had mostly solidified and music became a case of finding new artists that fit somewhere within the framework I had built.
This is not an album per-se; in fact, only 12 other people have a copy of it. One year in Advanced Literature in high school we studied the Aeneid. My friend Colton made a three disc mix-CD that followed the book's storyline. He filled it with tracks from artists ranging from AC/DC to The Who, covering important artists such as Howard Shore, Jimi Hendrix, Phil Collins, and Pink Floyd.
Madison Square Garden - 1991-09-16 - The Grateful Dead
These two 'albums' are really concert recordings, and introduced me to another genre: psychedelic rock/jam rock. While that is the generic genre The Grateful Dead's music belongs in, it really covers everything from country to jazz to rock to avant-garde classical. I spent a year or so listening to pretty much just Grateful Dead music; whether this was entirely beneficial I do not know.
This album intrigued me when I first heard it. Before this I was used to 'Christian' music being mostly about words with musical accompaniment or trying to fit into mainstream rock/pop. I was not particularly pleased with the musical qualities of either. This album changed that. It is a classical album with some jazz mixed in. The album is very united; I believe there to be some level of a story in the music.
I found this band quite by accident wandering around the web starting from, of all places, a Hack A Day article. Tesseract is a local prog-rock band in California that recorded this album in 1997 and then broke up a few years later. Their music encompasses classical elements as well as rock elements for a weird but interesting listen.
This was the first Trans-Siberian Orchestra album I heard, and I immensely enjoyed it. It essentially makes the instruments found in a modern rock band members of a classical orchestra.
Eternal Jazz Project is a jazz band from Sweden. This is classic jazz at its best: keyboard, saxophone, guitar, bass. It's incredibly peaceful and good for those times when you have to do something frustrating (ahem, Pearson MySpanishLab...). They recently released another album, Seasons, that I am looking forward to hearing.
Again, not an album per se, but a concert recording. While Phish has many excellent live concerts, this one is definitely iconic of Phish's style. It includes everything from jazzy organ solos to techno-esque gooves to a cover of Dark Side of the Moon.
Letters to the Editor Volumes 1 and 2 - Andrew Osenga
I cheated a bit with this one, as it's technically two albums. I look at it more as two halves of a larger picture. These are another example of 'Christian' music done correctly: talented instrumentation and deep lyrics. The style is more folk-rock-esque; if I were making a tree of these artists Andrew Osenga would be somewhere along The Grateful Dead's branch.
Although a cliche album to have on the list, Dark Side of the Moon unifies some of the weirder aspects of The Grateful Dead's music with the jazz and rock genres. As well, they create a unified album that, while not telling a story, conveys a consistent idea across the album.
Opera converted into rock. There's more that I could say, but I'll just point out the impressive storyline told through this album.
(For those wondering where the words on the wall are, the original The Wall CDs had "Pink Floyd The Wall" written on the CD case itself. The liner just had a white brick wall on it.)
Nightwish is a Symphonic Metal band. While the musical style itself falls something along the lines of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I like to classify it as 'epic' music, that is, music that conveys an epic tale such as that of The Lord of the Rings.
This album bolstered my falling faith in mainstream music. Coldplay manages to create an album that not only appeals to a wide variety of people, but also brings a wide variety of musical styles to the table. Despite this, the album is remarkably unified, almost to the extent that Dark Side of the Moon is. Their '/' songs: Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love and Yes/Chinese Sleep Chant are particularly interesting because they combine two different styles of music while keeping a similar idea in both halves of the song.
This is one of Pink Floyd's lesser-well-known albums, but it is still an excellent piece of artistry. It is an example of a 'secular' piece of music that has very meaningful lyrics in some of the songs without sacrificing musical artistry, a mistake that much 'Christian' music makes.
Well, that turned out to be quite a bit more navel-gazing than I had expected when I started out. Hopefully it's of some use to someone, or at least worthy of discussion.
By the way, if you're wondering about the ''s around secular and Christian music, read this article by the perceptive and intelligent texanpuddleglum.