Half a year ago I was asked to list 12 albums which were of most influence and importance to the shaping of my music taste (and, dare I say, personality). While I believe this to be a cruel task that’s nearly impossible to answer objectively, after much thought I’ve come up with a tentative answer and a playlist which I guess I may start using as my go-to reference: “What do I listen to? Go and read / listen.” Pink Floyd — The Dark Side of the Moon Although I consider Wish You Were Here (album) the best work of Pink Floyd, I guess TDSotM deserves that place due to my parents declaring that my father played it to my infant self (a very active child) to calm me down. It later helped me connect with people who would make the best team of high school friends I could imagine. Joaquín Rodrigo — Concierto de Aranjuez My very first experience with live music was Waldemar Gromolak, a great Polish guitarist, playing Concierto de Aranjuez. He left my 8-year-old self speechless twice, first because of his performance and then second by his showing incredible kindness when he talked to me backstage. He made sure that even though I did not become a classic guitarist, I would always think of Rodrigo with love and inspiration. Shakira — Grandes Éxitos Shakira became internationally famous when I was nine. Since I was already a little hipster, I fell in love with her Spanish songs. I was fascinated by the rhythms and playfulness of this music, so different from the classic pieces I studied at music school and classic rock my parents listened to. It also inspired me to learn the language really well and heavily influenced my early ideas of romantic love. Clint Mansell — The Fountain Film music goes great with reading and studying, and as bookworm, I was always surrounded by plenty of it. Mansell was always top of the list, and few films had better score than The Fountain. Though I’ll have Preisner, Marianelli, Tiersen, Einaudi, and recently Djawadi, know that I love them very much as well! Opeth — Morningrise By the time I was 16, I was already pretty hooked up on metal, but mostly the kind I would hear on the German channel Viva Plus (i. e. Rammstein and Within Temptation, whom I loved, or System of the Down, which I despise). Hearing Morningrise for the first time left me thunderstruck and in awe of Opeth’s skill in combining a wall of sound with gentle melodies, incredible acoustic guitars and such diverse clean and growled vocals. Though later on they would break my heart with Heritage, Opeth gave me a lot of my firsts, including my first metal concert, first music festival and the opportunities to meet some of my favourite people in the world. Anathema — Alternative 4 I could name any Anathema album as important to me, with their Anyone, Anywhere being the first song I arranged and played in public, Thin Air defining my early stages of being in love and lyrics of Angelica which I still use as my personal motto. But it was Alternative 4 and its uncompromising, raw grief that was the only music that was of any use to me when I faced my first losses and was coming to terms with mortality and fragility of life and love. Philip Glass — Violin Concerto / Prelude and Dance from Akhnaten / Company Glass might not be the most original contemporary composer but I really love this album, especially the Akhnaten parts. This piece, together with Glassworks, remind me of my probably favourite TV series, Battlestar Galactica and are what I call good entrancing (if repetitive) music. Caspian — You Are The Conductor Do you remember when last.fm had a cool design and UX, and promoted unknown bands by playing their songs for free? Quovis/Further Up/Further In was the first ever song I downloaded from last.fm and the first post-rock I heard. Since then, Caspian has remained my most trustworthy band, producing my new favourite album of theirs every few years. They are also incredible performers, and I cannot believe my luck that I got to see them play live with God Is an Astronaut and Tides From Nebula soon after the latter released their debut album. Archive — Controlling Crowds I first heard Controlling Crowds on the day of my mid-way high school party; I then spent the whole evening shaking with emotion and intellectual pleasure rather than dancing. I cannot imagine Archive writing a better album, even though I love all their works. CC amazes on all levels, from unbelievably good music to the message of its lyrics, which becomes more striking and accurate with each year. Alcest — Souvenirs d'un autre Monde & Écailles de lune Two albums, two very different sides of the band shown in them, the summer of my coming of age, sun, dreaming and learning French to better understand the meaning of these lyrics. I would begin my days to Souvenirs and fall asleep to the words of Sur l'océan couleur de fer. I still do that sometimes. 2TM2,3 — Dementi The only Polish album to stay with me throughout the years. The songs are basically beautifully arranged acoustic versions of the Psalms and there is something about them that makes me come back again and again, maybe not often, but with a great deal of admiration. Starofash — The Thread I’m not very partial to female vocals (sic, given that I sing a lot myself) and although I respect most works by Anneke van Giersbergen or PJ Harvey, and I love Fever Ray, it was only with Heidi Solberg Tveitan aka Ihriel aka Star of Ash/Starofash, that I felt some sort of connection. Her music is simple yet meaningful, much like the haikus she loves. She often sings poems of Emily Dickinson and doing justice to Dickinson’s works can’t get better than that.
You can listen to some of the songs from these albums here.