Django Reinhardt

Django Reinhardt opened me up to jazz, through a kind of quirky way.

Growing up, my impression of jazz was John Tesh-style "Soft Jazz," which isn't to my taste at all. I thought all jazz was like that. Then I came across an article about Django through scanning Microsoft Encarta and it had a little sound clip of about 30 seconds of "Minor Swing".

It was awesome. But there's more... I have a deformed right hand due to an infantile blood clot (missing my fingertips of all fingers/full first joint of my middle and ring fingers). Django Reinhardt was missing fingertips due to a fire in his caravan. Instant, permanent, fan then and there, because he had a hand like mine and was a badass guitar player despite all of that.

I am a crappy guitar player, but I'll always be thankful to Django for giving me one hell of a role model for my hand and for making some badass music besides that.

Django Reinhardt
Something Corporate

Something Corporate, way back in 2004. The first time I really connected with lyrics was 'She Paints Me Blue' right after I broke up with a high school boyfriend at age 16. I've followed Andrew McMahon's projects ever since. When I think of my college days, I remember them to the sounds of Jack's Mannequin songs playing in the background. I cried when I found out he had cancer and followed his blog for updates. I still listen to his newer solo projects even though my musical taste has changed so much since then. I've yet to hear a more talented contemporary pianist. I still have my Something Corporate tee shirt from the first concert. The design is all faded and cracked and it's a little tight, but everything about Something Corporate evokes so many unconnected memories in my life linked only by the songs on Leaving Through the Window.

Something Corporate
Dream Theater

Dream Theater got me into Progressive Rock/Metal. I actually didn't like it at first, I thought it didn't make any sense, but I just kept listening and then one day it clicked. They are now my favorite band by far and my playing/writing style has changed dramatically. Two years ago I would never play and listen to the things that I do now.

They are such brilliant songwriters and musicians, and their music displays such technical prowess but also such beauty. My recommendation is for everyone to listen to Metropolis part 2: Scenes From A Memory. In my opinion, it's the best album ever written. It changed the way I thought of music, and even though I've lost count of how many times I've listened to it, I still catch new things here and there and am just as blown away by it every time.

I will admit that the music isn't for everyone, but do yourself a favor and listen to it, or their first hit album Images And Words. I would say more, but honestly, I think you should go into it blind; it will be more of an experience that way.

Dream Theater
Cloud Cult

The one that tops my list is Cloud Cult, an underrated band from a small eco-friendly farm in Minnesota. I discovered them back in sixth grade from a friend who is no longer my friend. This band has been with me through thick and thin, through the bad times and the good times. Not only are their songs uplifting and profound but the story of the lead singer Craig Minowa and the band is so powerful. Honestly, I feel as if I could write a complete essay on them, and that still wouldn't express my complete love, admiration, and respect for them. They definitely deserve more respect. No matter who I ask, no one knows who they are, and I find that an absolute shame. I recommend them to anyone. The lyrics of their songs are just so, so powerful, and they've helped mold my outlook on life and even religion. Now, when I say religion, I'm not saying that they're one of those "hip" Christian rock bands. I think to further explain my point, google the lyrics of "A Good God" and "The Story Of The Grandson Of Jesus."

Just...it's just awesome. For me, words could never sum up the sheer awesomeness of this band.

Cloud Cult
Aerosmith

When I was 8 years old, I went to a high school football game with my dad. It was the homecoming game, and they played Aerosmith's 'Last Child'. My dad told me that I asked him who sang that song, and I told him quite a few times how much I loved it.

When I got home, dad gave me a bunch of classic rock CDs to listen to. Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, etc. I absorbed all of it. I LOVED IT. My love of rock n roll started that night. And a few months later, Christmas came and I had a big stereo and "Toys in the Attic" by Aerosmith under the tree.

Now, I'm 28 and I still love Aerosmith. And I'm really thankful that my dad passed on his love of music to me. He was willing to teach his daughter about rock n roll and I appreciate it more than he knows. We still talk about music all the time.

Aerosmith
Cool Kids Of Death

Cool Kids Of Death, a Polish band directly responsible for bringing Joy Division (and many others) into my life. Their debut album had come out in 2002 and I remember seeing some videos then, but I only properly got into their music about 3 years later- I was instantly blown away.

They were absolutely revolutionary as far as Polish alternative scene at that time was concerned, both in terms of their sound and aesthetics. Basically, Poland's Rock music in the 90s and early 00s was all dirty, muddy and long-haired. It consisted of hundreds of similar bands all playing either Punk, Ska, Grunge or Metal. Cool Kids Of Death was something completely different and so, so hard for me to classify. I still remember how one day I just started googling their old interviews to fish out names of bands they'd mention as their influences, that's how intrigued I was. And it made me discover a whole new world.

The band has died a natural death and it's all rather sad now, but I still kinda love them and I'm gonna be forever grateful.

Cool Kids Of Death
Stone Temple Pilots

I lived in a conservative, sheltered household but I had heard Stone Temple Pilots' Purple and their debut album but then one day sitting in my older sister's room and the video for their song 'Big Bang Baby' came on. It was like nothing I had seen or heard before and Scott Weiland immediately became my rock idol. I conned my sister into buying the CD for me and listened to it on repeat for days. It's still one of my all-time favorite albums.

That band opened me up to Classic Rock icons like Bowie, Zeppelin, Stones, The Doors etc., and defined my teenage years all through adulthood. I mourned Weiland's death and it still hurts that he is gone, but I still celebrate his music and the band's legacy.

Stone Temple Pilots
Blink-182

There seems to be this weird stigma around Blink-182 where people only think of their hits and stupid stuff (e.g. Family Reunion, Mother's Day, etc.,) and say they are horrible, but I credit Blink for getting me through some bad stuff in my life that I was going through and didn't tell anyone around me about. I have found that their newer stuff has grown up with me and helped me relate and know that sometimes life is bad, but you have to work through it because there is no point in just quitting.

I realize that they write their songs specifically for people dealing with angst, anger, or just growing up and I'm only relating because I fell into that category, but the band has left a mark on me that hasn't shown any signs of disappearing. Their music is kind of made up of what everyone goes through, being immature, acting stupid with friends, struggling to grow up, dealing with pressure from people, loneliness, depression, love, hate, loss, happiness, and life. Weirdly enough, Blink gave my life a constant to lean on through high school and when things weren't always going my way.

Blink-182
Judas Priest

I was a weird gay kid who didn't have tons of friends and didn't feel at home in the LGBT community. When I first heard Judas Priest it was a mind-blowing experience. It completely changed my outlook seeing a Rob Halford, (Their lead singer) badass biker dude who happened to be gay and is respected by the entire Metal world.That's when I started to listen to other Heavy Metal and was stunned by some of the better albums out there. That's when I discovered how cool and accepting the Heavy Metal community is towards different kinds of people. Now I'm a huge Metal fan and go to Metal shows whenever possible. I've met so many cool people and dated some interesting guys all over a similar taste in music. Rob Halford and the rest of Judas Priest helped me find my place in the world and helped me feel more excepted.

Judas Priest
Metallica

I was about 12 when I heard the St. Anger album by Metallica at my friend's house and asked my mum if I could get it for Christmas when I got home. My mom decided to do some research and read that St. Anger wasn't a good record and that Master of Puppets was much better. I still remember putting Master of Puppets in my Discman on Christmas day as a 12-year-old, and that first listen through 'Battery' blew me away. I had never heard anything like it. I was hooked.

Metallica
Mike Oldfield

I discovered Mike Oldfield's music when I was a teenager, and his technique for composing and playing all the instruments was a new thing then. It guided me toward my current career.

Later in life, I met a nice woman who was suddenly convinced I was the guy for her when she saw the Tubular Bells picture disk I had framed and hung on the wall. We're still together 20 years later. She must have been right.

Mike Oldfield
Imogen Heap

Imogen Heap was my first introduction to experimental music, built from the ground-up singlehandedly. Before her, I was mostly into lower-grade pop music. Her music showed me that a song can be complex and still be catchy. Her incredible sound got me interested in producing music. I'm so much more involved in the new artists I've gotten into since Imogen Heap, as she encouraged me to look for "hidden gem" pop and indie music that's more organic and deep. She got me to appreciate music even more than I thought was possible and I'm grateful for that.

Imogen Heap
The Mars Volta

De-Loused In The Comatorium by The Mars Volta got me so into Rock music. I used to be into like two bands but since I've been listening to The Mars Volta albums I can listen to anything and enjoy it.

The Mars Volta
Perfume

This might be out there, but back in high school I found a Japanese group named Perfume. Something about the Electro-Pop and futuristic sound radically changed my then-depressive attitudes. Since then, I've listened to much happier and upbeat songs! I still follow them today, and I always wish them future happiness and success, as they gave to me back then.

Perfume
Black Sabbath

It may sound wrong to say that Black Sabbath music is genuinely moving, but I think about our current political situation and then think of 'War Pigs' for a minute. Pretty relevant. If Ozzy's voice doesn't fill you with emotion, then nothing will.

Black Sabbath
The Beach Boys

Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys brought me, kicking and screaming, out of the world of Rock and Roll and into the world of actually appreciating beautifully constructed pop music. It almost seems shameful to admit it.

Now, suddenly Sufjan Stevens' Illinois and Carrie and Lowell is something I can actually appreciate. Without Pet Sounds, that would never have been possible.

The Beach Boys
Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam has had a huge impact on my life. I haven't been listening to them very long (probably only about a year and a half), but they mean a lot to me. If I could just meet Eddie Vedder or Stone Gossard and tell them how much they've helped me, I'd be so happy.

Pearl Jam
Deftones

I had been listening to Deftones before but once White Pony came out my ears were opened to a wider variety of musical areas. The song 'Teenager' made me fear the drum machine a little less. 'Pink Maggot' helped me fall in love with the slow building epic. It was a wonderful benchmark to where their career went and I'm sure I wouldn't have enjoyed everything after as much as I do. I went from balls-to-the-wall to being able to appreciate a deep calming breath.

Deftones
Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar's Money Trees got me into rap. It was around the time it came out, my friend who was a huge Rap fan at the time was insisting I listen to it because it's so great. I gave it a go, listened to the entire album, I didn't like any part of it except for 'Money Trees'. Fast forward a couple weeks later, I decided to listen to the album again, fell in love with it. I listened to it every day for two weeks straight.

Kendrick Lamar
Motionless In White

Motionless In White got me through a depressing time this year. I can't describe how, but something about the lyrics and knowing no matter what happened things would get better really helped me out.

Motionless In White
The Format

I started listening to The Format, a little-known Indie Rock band from the 00s, long after they broke up, but they introduced me to the Indie and local music scene when all I had been listening to before was Classic Rock. Their sophomore album Dog Problems is hands down my favorite album.

The Format
Velvet Underground

After listening to Velvet Underground's first album, I felt like the world of music was suddenly bigger. Brian Eno's quip, that only 3000 people bought the album but they all started bands, seems quite plausible.

Velvet Underground
Blind Pilot

Blind Pilot was the first Indie band I saw in concert and I've seen them at least six times in two different states. When I moved to a different state several years ago, they did a free concert at a local university in my new state. They felt a little bit like home when many of my surroundings were still new and unfamiliar.

Blind Pilot
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

I hit a rough patch in my life with depression and stuff, and I found out about Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls' music through his music video for 'The Next Storm'. From there I got their most recent album, "Positive Songs For Negative People" and heard 'Get Better'. That song alone has changed my life, but last November I went to my first concert to see Frank Turner, and it was the best night I'd ever had. I cannot recommend Frank Turner enough.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
Beach House

I used to be one of those angsty middle-schoolers that would listen to classic rock to feel superior to my classmates. Then, I settled down after I was going to the bathroom in the 9th grade and had brought my laptop with me. I was watching some video on Youtube and Beach House's video for 'Lover Of Mine' popped up on the sidebar for some reason, so I gave it a listen.

Now I'm down the rabbit hole of Modern Alternative.

Beach House
Hurt

The band Hurt has drastically changed my life. I'm an anxious person; As in I sometimes have near-crippling anxiety. The band Hurt has helped me by giving me relatable, beautiful music that quelled my fear and depression. When I needed someone, and there was no one around, there was Hurt. When I was panicking and afraid, there was Hurt. When I felt completely and utterly alone, There was Hurt. I cannot praise this band enough. Their song 'UBleed' for instance, is insanely relatable to what I've gone through.

Hurt
Pavement

Pavement got me into Lo-Fi music. Wowee Zowee is probably one of my all-time favorites albums. It's meant to be played out of order. It's an amalgam of beautiful sound wrapped up in a loving messed up package. 'Give It A Day' is the best pavement song hands down and I will fight anyone who disagrees.

Pavement
Mr. Bungle

Mr. Bungle opened up my mind to more unconventional types of music. It challenged me to listen to things I did not always enjoy the first time around. I would often find more details with each listen, which would make it more enjoyable. Sometimes you have to relisten to things to hear that is being played.

Mr. Bungle
Linkin Park

I was raised on Rock/Alternative music because of my dad and rap music because of my older sister. Then I remember one day when I was 6-years-old, on the car ride to school, I heard 'In The End' by Linkin Park on the radio and it honestly blew my mind at a young age. That you could have this rap side and this rock side meld together seamlessly. Also the fact that I found their lyrics to be more relatable as I got older really stuck with me. I've owned every album since then and they've become one of my favorite bands for the past 15 years.

Linkin Park
Dire Straits

Dire Straits totally changed the sounds I hear in my head and my approach to guitar playing. They helped me dive deeper into a more nuanced Rock by giving me the tools to understand what I was hearing. The first time I heard 'Sultans Of Swing' was a truly amazing experience and monumental in my life as a musician. It just takes one good band.

Dire Straits
The Prodigy

The Prodigy - this was the mid-90s. I was in my early teens and listened solely to Punk previously. Yes, I'll admit it was seeing Keith Flint with the double Mohawk, tunnel dancing in the 'Firestarter' video on MTV. They got me into all sorts of Electronic music (Chemical Brothers, Crystal Method, Fat Boy Slim, being the next CDs purchases). At the time, being 13-years-old, with limited access to music (making bootleg cassette mix-tapes from the radio was our SoundCloud), it either had guitars or was rap. As it was labeled "Electronica" in stores back then, 13-year-old me was like, "What there's a THIRD type of music?" I ended up being a Rave DJ for like a solid decade+ because of it, spinning various house music and breakbeats, from broken-into warehouse renegades to large-scale raves with thousands of people. Don't really DJ anymore but I definitely still love all types of electronic music.

The Prodigy
Modern Baseball

Modern Baseball's unique sound and emotional connection really brought me out of some dark times in my life that, thanks to them, I'm just now getting past. I hope they get back together and tour soon. I'd do anything to see them perform.

Modern Baseball
The Blues Brothers Soundtrack

I was a teenager in the 1970's, listening to The Eagles, Queen, Aerosmith, Heart, KISS, etc. I was also a big fan of Saturday Night Live. I went and saw The Blues Brothers movie, and bought the soundtrack.

It blew the doors open to the amazing music that is The Blues. I discovered so many incredible artists...BB King, John Lee Hooker, Robert Cray, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and countless other lesser known artists, ranging from touring acts like ZZ Top to the local blues trios that would play Saturday matinees at the dive bar down the street. I lived, ate and breathed The Blues for a decade, and I don't regret it a bit.

The Blues Brothers Soundtrack
Blondie

Growing with a mean older brother in 1979 who took control of the knob on the radio I listened to rock. I guess I thought it was okay. But then I went to college and found out there was also Punk and New Wave and Basement Rock and Indie Bands and all sorts of stuff that you would never have found on the radio (back then) and it all started with hearing (and loving) Blondie.

Blondie
Brand new

I had a friend who had a "cool older brother" who got me into them. I heard 'Deja' when I was 13-years-old and in middle school with so much angst. It was an outlet to have deep lyrics I could relate to.

Then as I went I to high school TDAG blew me away. I was pretty depressed and that album just hit me on such a personal level.

In college, I warmed up to Daisy. I wasn't sad anymore. I had rage but it was a controlled rage.

The music grew with me. I matured with each album. Each album still transports me to a state of being. Seeing them live has been the most cathartic experience of my life. Still my all-time favorite band.

Brand new
Nirvana

One day I came home from school early because we had a half day. I was flipping through channels and there was nothing really good on until I got to MTV. That day was the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide and they were running all things Nirvana all day. I was curious and started watching and became fascinated with their music and story. I spent the day watching everything and even recorded some things like their Unplugged performance so I could watch again.

I had never really listened to them before or anything from that genre really. I was mostly into Classic Rock at the time and Nirvana opened my eyes to a new world of music. Nirvana quickly became my favorite band and reading up more on Kurt I discovered a lot of music that influenced him like Black Flag, the Pixies, Beat Happening, Flipper, Sonic Youth, etc.

Nirvana
Green Day And My Chemical Romance

Green Day and My Chemical Romance, among other bands like Blink-182, have taught me that it's okay to mess up and make mistakes and that you don't have to be what other people expect of you. Before I got into them, I was just agreeing with everything that everyone said and not really listening to what I really thought. Now I speak my mind and tell people what I really think and how they're making me feel. These bands have gotten me through a lot of stuff in my 15 years. I know I'm young and all, but they've inspired me to be who I am and not take anyone's gruff. I feel what I feel and that it's okay to be afraid. My Chemical Romance taught me that I should never hurt myself. Also, that there are always going to be bad people that try to make my life a living hell, but I just have to stand my ground and not let them ruin my life. I don't really know where I would be if I hadn't made the choice to start listening to Green Day and listen to the other bands in the suggested similar bands. These guys mean the world to me, and they've all positively influenced and inspired me in many ways, from creating art to playing guitar.

Green Day And My Chemical Romance
Kanye West

I honestly owe Kanye West everything I have. My teenage son was a crumbling mess after being relentlessly bullied and then diagnosed with an eating disorder. He found Kanye and something in his music, personality, and boldness that clicked with him and it changed his life completely. He is now confident and original and does not care what anybody thinks of him. To me as a parent, to see that change and now see my boy transformed into this amazing person from rapidly shrinking is so overwhelming and fabulous.

Kanye West

Sources, 1, 2, 3

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