The Five Most Influential Albums

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:30 AM

I was thinking the other day about which (music) albums have been the most influential on me. Not which ones are most profound, but which ones have stood the test of time so that year after year they continue to established the baseline for my musical taste. Each of the following actually altered my musical taste to some degree. These are the ones that keep being played month after month and year after year. Though I lack musical performance ability, if I had the ability to compose music, I rather think it would sound like a mix of these.

5. The Screen Behind the Mirror (Enigma) — It's a bit “different,” but Enigma creates a sound that is grand in scale. The interweaving of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana into a rich texture of traditional and electronic sounds creates an unforgettable, intriguing and haunting sound on this album. I'm not really sure how to describe Engima if you haven't heard it. But imagine rock, alternative, gregorian chant and classical blended together to the point that the parts are no longer really separate and you have an idea. If you haven't heard them, you are missing out on something.

4. No Angel (Dido) — I remember first hearing Dido perform on TV not long after this, her first CD, came out. I didn't pick up the CD for several years after that, but “Here With Me” immediately stuck in my head. It sets the tone very well for the whole CD. This album, like Engima, creates what I can only think to call an immensely large sound stage. It envelopes the listener into something large, somewhat dark and out of the ordinary.

3. Sixpence None the Richer (Sixpence None the Richer) — the eponymous album was my entry point into the band and remains my favorite album from them (and this comes from a guy that owns every album the group has put out so far, along with most of their singles). Few albums that I've listened to feel so much like a cohesive whole as this one, yet each song stands on its own as well. While some of Sixpence's best work is contained in their earlier albums and “Divine Discontent” is nothing to sneeze at, their self-titled album's constant, catchy and mature sound sets it apart. Capturing the experience of the band as it struggled to survive, it is full of feeling and contains a deep combination of allusions that make it a “thinking” album.

2. The Book of Secrets (Loreena McKennitt) — The gem of this album, in my estimation, is “Dante's Prayer” — an absolutely beautiful interweaving of McKennitt's celtic sound with Dante's story and an Eastern Orthodox choir. I cannot help but here it now when I read the Divine Comedy. While that is the height, the rest of the album similarly is rich in texture and filled with emotive lyrics that invoke the objective correlative.

1. Fallen (Evanescence) — What I like about Evanescence is not far off from what impresses me about Engima: it is a genre bending band that integrates classical elements into something very distinctly modern. Evanescence's heavy use of a backing symphony orchestra and chorale creates perhaps the perfect example of the postmodern juxtaposition. The dark, brooding nature is a rich musical landscape that expresses what I have come to call the “tragedy of the ordinary fate” extremely well. The high point, in my estimation, is single unit of “Tourniquet” and “Imaginary” (though neither is my favorite song in isolation) — the two tracks blend together with a symphonic musical interlude in between which is really quite haunting and I wish had been developed into something longer.

Perhaps I'll do a series on further thoughts on each of these CD's individually over the summer. I've thought a lot about them over the last few years and have been trying to objectively identify what makes them so particularly memorable to me. I'm getting closer to formulating something — there's a theme the adept observer may be able to see in what I've listed above.

In any case, what are your five? (Remember: what is the most influential to you, not what is the most profound or impressive or whatever else.)

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