When I first thought about creating a compilation with my favorite albums, I thought it was going to be child’s play. Boy, was I wrong. Being a perfectionistic, full-on music nerd, this turned out to be quite a stressful undertaking.
At first it was fun, but it didn’t take long until I started obsessing over it. How could I dare to leave out The Beatles, Elvis Presley, or Beethoven in favour of some obscure band? My intention with this, however, was far from creating an exhaustive ranking, but rather give you a grasp of how my life sounds like, and in doing so, hopefully introduce you to one or two pieces of music that could also enrich your own life’s soundtrack.
When it comes to music, it’s easy to take for granted how fortunate we are to be alive at this point in time. Technology has allowed us to stream every existing piece of music under the sun, in high-quality, wherever we are, whenever we want, for as many times as we want, virtually for free. Just a couple decades ago, to have an interest in music meant spending a ton of money on physical records and equipment. Go back a little further in time, and listening to music digitally was not only an inconceivable notion, but 99.9% of today’s music didn’t even exist. I feel that’s a strong enough reason to feel appreciative and take the opportunity to broaden our relationship with music beyond what the mainstream pushes onto us.
Like most people, my relationship with music grew over time. I was lucky to be raised in a household where there was always soft-rock or classical music playing in the background. In my rebelious teens I got into 90s hip-hop, and particularly 2Pac, whose eloquence and combativeness was something I coveted during those years. As I turned 18, I started to outgrow rap and googled something along the lines of “best songs of all time”. After that, I quickly got into rock music, with bands like Dire Straits or Lynyrd Skynyrd. I was also encouraged by my uncles, who invited me to my first big concert with AC/DC live in Madrid.
Interestingly, it was ‘progressive’ rock—a genre characterized by long, eclectic compositions—that grabbed my ears the most. “Supper’s Ready”, a 23-minute composition by Genesis, was what that truly set me on a path of no return. That song inspired me to pick up the keyboard and teach myself to play until I reached a decent level of proficiency. I began travelling to see my favorite bands and was lucky to get my best friend into it as well. Gradually I gravitated towards more underground stuff, so much so that I got to dig music I thought I’d never enjoy. These days, I let curiosity be my guide and simply go with whatever I find enjoyable, regardless of popularity or labels.
As opposed to recommending individual songs, I decided to feature bands through my favorite album of theirs. I have a few reasons for this. Lots of bands are able to produce a hit song, but fewer of them manage to put out a solid album. I love the feeling you get when you come across a cohesive album you can enjoy from beginning to end. Ocassionally these albums revolve around a theme or narrative that make them more appealing to be consumed as a whole. And for the purpose of this list, they also offer a powerful visual element that would be missing if focusing on songs or bands.
A few extra considerations, for simplicity purposes:
- Only one album per band
- In no particular order
- Frequently updated
- Every album includes two emojis indicating how challenging I consider the album to be (from green to red) and the main emotion it evokes on me
In case you prefer to explore this collection on your own, I’ve created this Spotify playlist with one featured song from each album so that you can easily explore the music below. Now, go grab your headphones, and enjoy!
2015 🟡 Hip-hop musical 😁
Tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, founding father of the United States. So refreshing to find hip-hop blended with so many other genres. It works on every level: the story, the melodies, the performance, the characters, the lines, etc. Watch it live on Disney+. An absolute masterpiece.
2015 🟡 Atmospheric prog 🌛
I can’t recall the times I’ve gone to bed listening to this album. A brilliant musical journey divided into five songs, with stunning sections and beautifully performed on the violin or the acoustic piano. Incredibly hypnotic and soothing. Definitely on my top 5 albums of all time.
2016 🟡 Progressive rock 😍
When I first came across Marillion, I mistakenly dismissed them as a softer Genesis. But when I discovered their recent work with Steve Hogart on the front, I fell in love with them. Engrossing, energetic, full of emotion. They’ve had the same line-up since 1989, yet it feels like they’re at the top of their game.
Close to the edge
1972 🟠 Symphonic prog 🤩
Regarded as the best prog rock album of all time according to progarchives.com. Technical, yet accesible. An epic musical journey, full of virtuosity. If there’s a god, this album gets you in touch with them. Should you go listen to this album? Yes.
Hand. Cannot. Erase.
2015 🟡 Progressive rock 🤩
“The Wall for the Facebook generation”. Steven Wilson is simply one of the most brilliant musicians of our time. Incredibly prolific, masterful productions and exquisite live performances. Like this? Also check Porcupine Tree or The Pinneaple Thief.
1973 🟠 Symphonic prog 🤩
Although commonly known by their pop era with Phil Collins in the lead, their stuff from the 70s was the creme of the crop. Its 23-minute epic composition, ‘Supper’s Ready’ was not only my gateway to progressive rock, but also enough motivation to learn to play keyboard. Majestic musicianship.
The Parallax II: Future Sequence
Between the buried and me
2012 🔴 Progressive metal 😝
If bands were rides from an amusement park, BTBAM would be the scariest roller coaster. When I first listened to them, I though there was no way I could ever enjoy such music—it even gave me headaches at first. But a friend kept insisting. They are now among my favorite bands. Insanely energetic and fun.
Act V: Hymns with the devil in confessional
The Dear Hunter
2016 🟡 Crossover Prog 😋
Uplifting melodies, brilliant vocal arrangements and rich song constructions. If you’d like to get into progressive rock, The Dear Hunter are a great band to get started. Like this? Also check their ‘Act IV’.
2020 🟠 Post-rock 😝
Post-rock filled with tons of aggresive, yet catchy melodies. Heartfelt, poetic lyrics in Spanish. I can’t help but scream the lyrics to myself whenever I listen to it. Raw, energetic and powerful. Like this? Also check Cala Vento’s ‘Balanceo’.
2015 🟢 Indie Rock 😃
An upbeat, light-hearted collection of pop rock songs. Rich compositions, both musically and lyrically, that easily get stuck in your head. Discovered the band through Bojack Horseman’s soundtrack.
2018 🟢 Latin guitar 😋
Diego Garcia, commonly known as ”El Twanguero’, is simply one the best guitarrist of our time. His style ranges from Spanish guitar, american folk, flamenco, tango and finger picking. A true, underappreciated guitar master. Here’s me with him and a few friends I dragged along.
2013 🟠 Neoclassical 😴
A collection of decadent, ambient soundscapes that range from calm interludes to more turbulent parts. Ulver started in the 90s as a black metal band, and gradually shifted toward an experimental / avant-gard / electronic / classical style. Good one to listen at night.
All eyez on me
1996 🟢 Hip-hop / Rap 😎
Although might feel odd in this list, 2Pac is one of the artists closer to my heart. His influence played an important role during my adolescence. I was very attracted by his blunt eloquence, something I yearned during those years. His music was also what first sparked my interest in learning English beyond school lessons.
1973 🟡 Symphonic rock 🤩
Mike Oldfield’s music is characterized by long, experimental and instrumental compositions. Not only he managed to create this groundbreaking album when he was only 19—he also played all of the instruments. If you’ve never listened to this album before, you’ll be surprised by the beginning.
2023 🟡 Progressive metal 🤩
The first prog rock band I ever saw live, and the one I mentioned the most when I’m asked about my all-time favorite band. Riverside’s style comprises all of the things I enjoy in music. Liked this? Also check Mariusz Duda’s ‘Lunatic Soul’ for a softer, more atmospheric sound. Here’s me with them.
1971 🟢 Classic Rock 😃
A classic. A tight collection of energetic and uplifting rock songs. Fell in love with this album after playing it in my car for months. Also check their rock opera ‘Quadrophenia’.
2015 🟠 Post-rock 😍
Instrumental band from Spain. Nice clean guitar sounds mixed with some heavier distorted layers. As the cover suggests, the concept of this album is about two foxes fleeing from a burning forest. One of the most energetic bands I’ve seen live. Like this? Also check Jardin de la croix.
Metropolis 2: Scenes from a memory
1999 🟠 Progressive metal 🤯
Magnum opus by arguably the most popular prog metal band. Their singer has kinda lost his voice, but instrumentally they are mind-blowing. If you are into this, also check their 20+ long epics Octavarium and A Change of Seasons, or other bands like Symphony X or Circus Maximus.
In the land of grey and pink
1973 🟡 Symphonic prog 🤗
Arguably of the most emblematic album of the Canterbury scene. The mellow voices of Richard Sinclair and Pye Hastings and the upbeat keyboard melodies make this album impossible to dislike.
The blue moods of Spain
1995 🟢 Slowcore 😏
Sloooow, haunting ballads. Might be plain and boring to some people, but I find it so engrossing. Discovered them through Six Feet Under soundtrack. Listen from 10PM on.
1791 🟢 Classical 😌
One of the foremost pieces of classical music in history. It was left unfinished, being the last composition Mozart wrote before he died. I remember binge-listening to this album for weeks while in sunbathing in the beach. I’d love to get into more classical music.
2013 🟠 Progressive metal 🤯
Progressive metal at its finest. The technicality and agressiveness of Dream Theater with the playfulness and bizarreness of Gentle Giant. Like them? Also check Caligula’s Horse. Here’s me with them.
1974 🟡 Symphonic prog 🤗
Camel’s sound has such a classic feel to it, led by Andy Latimer’s soothing guitar. An easy listen if you’re new to prog music. The first CD I ever bought. For the curious ones, the band’s agents thought it would be a swell idea to make the cover look like the popular cigarette pack.
1999 🔴 Death prog metal 😫
Opeth was a hard band to get into (raw guitars, Akerfeldt’s growls, ominous sound), but after a while I understood their appeal. Death metal combined with tender acoustic passages. Their music has evolved a lot over their discography, and these days their compositions are less heavy and more eclectic. Too heavy for you? Check Damnation. More like this? Check Blackwater Park.
2001 🟠 Progressive metal 🤯
Dark and groovy. Flawless instrumentation. Takes a bit of time to grow on the listener. Unlike most prog bands, Tool somehow managed to accrue a cult-like following within the mainstream. A must-listen for prog metal fans. Look for Fibonacci’s numbers in the title track.
Thick as a brick
1972 🟡 Progressive folk 😋
Jethro Tull has such a captivating sound, ranging from folky, medieval-like sections to full-blown hard rock. Ian Anderson is a true legend, leading with his witty singing, flute and guitar. Two 20-minute tracks.
The dark side of the moon
1973 🟡 Psychodelic rock 🤩
What’s left to say about Pink Floyd? For lots of folks, it’s the gateway drug to progressive rock. Few bands manage to give you that many chills per minute. Their sound is like no other. This album managed to stay on Billboard charts for 15 years in a row. A superb, timeless masterpiece.
1994 🟢 Hip-hop / Rap 😎
One of the most celebrated and influential hip-hop releases of all time. Nas paints a complete picture of street life with poetic flawlessness. If you ever feel like you want to start exploring the world of hip-hop, you can’t go wrong with this album.
1972 🔴 Progressive rock 😵
One of the most innovative bands in history. On their own words, their aim was to “expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of becoming very unpopular”. Led by the Shulman brothers, their instrumentation, intricate rhythms and voice harmonies are ridiculously good.
1981 🟡 Progressive rock 😙
Classic Canadian hard rock band, known for their musicianship, complex compositions and eclectic lyrical motifs. Such a compact sound for being a lineup of three. If you are into long compositions, listen to their epic ‘2112’.
Days of future passed
The moody blues
1967 🟢 Progressive rock 🤗
Concept album about the day of a normal person, from his awakening to his sleep. The orchestral arrangements, conceptual album format, and extensive use of mellotron simply paved the way for the upcoming rise of symphonic rock.
What is there
2020 🟢 Indie rock 😃
Enjoyable and dynamic album from a modern indie rock band. Starts up-tempo and bright, and gets smoother as you get closer to the end. Listened to it for a couple months non-stop.
Van der graaf generator
1975 🟠 Progressive rock 🤯
VDGG are not for everybody, they are sort of an acquired taste like the eccentric Gentle Giant. Characterized by predominant keyboards and emotive Peter Hammill’s singing. Liked this? Listen to Pawn Hearts to truly get your mind blown.
Big Big Train
2019 🟡 Symphonic prog 😍
One of the best contemporary prog rock bands. Accessible for most folks, with lots of orchestral elements, beautiful lyrics and guitar solos that break your heart. Sadly their singer, David Longdon, passed away recently. Liked this? Check Barock Project’s ‘Detachment’.
1976 🟡 Progressive rock 😙
Hallmark album that defines American symphonic prog in the 70s. Heavy guitars with a fresh presence of violin and keyboards. The album starts with their hit single, with their hit single ‘Carry on Wayward Son.’
2019 🟢 R&B, Funk, Soul 😋
Spanish soul band, with poignant English lyrics. Fantastic album. Love the new female singer’s voice. They came to my hometown shortly after the lockdown started. Went to see them live with no expectations, and I was pleasantly impressed. Very enjoyable.
Love over gold
1982 🟢 Rock 😍
Brilliant band, with such a soothing sound. Dire Straits’ sound draws from various influences, including country, folk, the blues rock of J. J. Cale, and jazz. Led by Mark Knopfler, whose style reminds that of Bob Dylan’s singing and Eric Clapton’s guitar.
2012 🟡 Progressive metal 😍
Founded by the Cavanagh brothers, Anathema started as a doom metal band, and over time evolved to a cleaner, more compact sound. Beautiful singing and powerful melodies that get you right in the feels. The final song, Internal landscapes, grips me like few others do.
The Joy of Motion
Animals as leaders
2014 🔴 Progressive metal 🤓
Technical, jazz-fusion, uptempo metal. While I enjoyed their music, I couldn’t seem to get into them because of how complex their sound is. But when I saw them live, and I was truly mind-blown. Like this? Check Meshuggah for the original ‘Djent’ sound.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer
1972 🟠 Symphonic Prog 🤯
ELP’s music was characterized by Keith Emerson’s wacky keyboard style. The title track, ‘Trilogy’, was the most challenging song I ever managed to play in the keyboard. If you are into long songs, listen to their epic, 20+ minute Tarkus.
Pain of Salvation
2002 🟠 Progressive metal 😋
Swedish prog metal band. Emotional lyrics and heart-felt singing from Daniel Gildenlöw. You can tell the band is more concerned about the tightness of their compositions than about showcasing their instrumental virtuosity.
1987 🟢 Pop 😍
I was lucky to have one smart English teacher who used MJ’s lyrics as a resource for us to learn the language. I’m not sure there was anyone on Earth with such passion for music. A legend. No bad songs in this album, only thrilling tracks.
Mittelpunkt der Welt
Element of crime
2005 🟢 Folk rock / Blues 😌
German band characterized by mellow guitar melodies, melancholic singing and the ocassional trumpet. Although quite different, I would also recommend Die Toten Hosen’s “Ein kleines bißchen Horrorschau” if you’d like to explore German music.
In the Court of the Crimson King
1969 🟠 Symphonic Prog 😲
Few bands have pushed the definition of music as much as King Crimson have. This album is commonly regarded as the beginning of the prog-rock movement. No one should depart this life without having listened to their song ‘Starless’.
2005 🟢 Indie Rock 😍
I don’t know what it is, but I’m in love with every song this guy has produced.
Romantic, nostalgic and melancholic.
1972 🟢 Folk rock 😌
The album features only Drake and his acoustic guitar, recorded in a few hours with minimal production. Intimate and melancholic sound.
At Folsom Prison
1968 🟢 Country 🤠
Live album by arguably the biggest legend in country music. It was performed for an audience of inmates. Very fun listen.
The Boatman’s Call
1997 🟢 Folk rock 😌
An introspective album, with most songs dealing with themes of love, loss, and heartbreak. Slow, somber and romantic. I’m enamoured with this sort of music.