When asked why the gift of music is so special, Darek Mazzone, a DJ at Seattle’s KEXP radio station, said: “It opens people’s hearts.”
You also might say it also opens up perspectives and broadens horizons.
“Last week we had the Korean Band ADG7 in. They perform a Shamanic Funk that has its roots in North Korea. The combo of musical virtuosity and showmanship completely blew us away,” said Mazzone, whose show, “Wo’Pop,” focuses on music from around the world.
For Eva Walker, another KEXP DJ with a show called “Audioasis,” music is a sonic retelling of people’s lives and real experiences that may never be found in the pages of history books.
“I really think it’s important for people to remember how important preservation of hip-hop music is. Hip-hop is some of the most important documentation of American history we have,” Walker said when she told HuffPost about her list of essential albums for any music collection (see some of them below).
While music is subjective, certain sounds and lyrics make everyone feel something.
“The gift of music is so special because it’s inclusive! We can all make it, however we want to make it,” Walker said. “I’ve heard music from a deaf musician that invented a way to transcribe notes and chords into a light show. It was beautiful. Maybe we don’t always understand the language but sound can make us feel.”
Michele Myers, who hosts and produces a show called “Friday Night,” said that “listening to and sharing each other’s voices creates a better world for everyone.”
The knowledgeable DJs and radio hosts at KEXP helped us pick out the iconic records, incredible-sounding turntables and headphones on the first half of the list. Then we rounded out the other half with our own suggestions.
A culturally significant and influential album from Marvin Gaye
The U.S. was rattled by the Vietnam War and a civil rights movement was coursing though the country when Marvin Gaye wrote one of the most iconic records in Motown history: "What's Going On." Mazzone chose this album, which is filled with poignant lyrics about the forces shaping American culture, as a must-have for any music lover's collection.Get the vinyl from Target for $24.99.
A a study in 1960s jazz that's also one KEXP Seattle host's favorite album of all time
"Every song on this record is perfect," Walker said of Herb Alpert's unique breakthrough album, which features a jaunty arrangement of flutes, trumpets, saxophone and more. "The sound of '60s jazz and Latin music is absolutely just perfect. This first time I heard this record, I think I was frozen until it was time to flip to the B-side. This style of music is so important to explore and take inspiration from. It’s representative of an era of music with class and flavor! Music with just 'class' is soulless and cheesy, but Herb Alpert manages to make it hip, cool and ageless."Get the vinyl from Amazon for $22.98.
The latest edition of one KEXP Seattle host's favorite headphones
"Shhh … these are my secret favorite headphones," Myers said of the Sony MDR7500 DJ series headphones. Unfortunately, they're no longer made — but their successor, the Sony MDR7506, makes for a pretty great replacement. Neodymium magnets give a powerful and detailed sound, and the headphones are engineered to be more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. Get them from Amazon for $97.98.
An album by Janelle Monáe that Prince collaborated on
"This record is a very powerful positive force. Her vocals are stunning. Prince collaborated on this record and together they create a whole musical world," Myers said of Janelle Monáe's album "Dirty Computer." Infused with elements of futuristic electronica, full-fledged pop and gospel, this album is very much a gift as well as a social commentary.Get the vinyl from Amazon for $45.86.
A powerful hip-hop album that can be described as "American gothic folk rap"
Walker said she considers this out-of-print vinyl, "E. 1999 Eternal" by Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony, a melodic and vital soundtrack for understanding hip-hop culture and preserving it as a genre.
"With their cathedral-sounding harmonies, I like to describe them as American gothic folk rap. They invented a new way of delivering the sound of hip-hop, and you immediately know it’s them. Songs like 'Crossroads' and '1st of the Month' to me, are two of the most important songs in American music. Bone Thugs, like many hip-hop acts such as NWA, Public Enemy and more, are talking about real-life experiences from underrepresented communities," Walker said. Get the rare vinyl from Amazon for $373.18.
An album that one KEXP Seattle host considers the greatest jazz records of all time
"Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis was on both Mazzone's and Walker's must-have lists. The album is a true glimpse at late-'50s jazz culture and its iconic sound. "Miles Davis was always so good at keeping his trumpet relatively simple and soulful. I hear more than just a trumpet playing, you hear a vocalist, you almost hear its lyrics," Walker said. Get the vinyl from Amazon for $34.45.
A waterproof Bluetooth speaker so you can jam out in the shower
Myers called this portable and waterproof Bluetooth speaker by Hadisala "a solid buy for any music lover. It sounds good, it's durable and affordable with an easy Bluetooth connection. Most importantly, it has a long charge and enhanced bass."
This speaker uses the latest in Bluetooth technology, which gives listeners a faster pairing and a more stable signal transmission. Get it from Amazon for $23.59.
A consequential album that wound up on two KEXP Seattle host's lists
Both Walker and Mazzone suggested the music of Nigerian artist Fela Kuti and Afrika 70. With Kuti's incendiary lyrics criticizing the oppressive military regime in Nigeria during the late '70s, "Zombie" is jazzy and rich. Get the vinyl from Amazon for $41.22.
A 50th anniversary vinyl box set of arguably Jimi Hendrix's best work
In celebration of the 50th anniversary release of The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Electric Ladyland," this box set a includes the original double album newly remastered, the full-length documentary "At Last," and 20 never-before-heard demos and studio outtakes.
"On this record Jimi Hendrix shows that he is not just the world’s best-ever guitar player, he is also a stellar vocalist, producer and songwriter," Myers said. "[He] creates all kinds of sounds on the guitar: animal and atmospheric, and also shows great thoughtfulness and inspiration for the future. Songs like '1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)' are so original that they feel timeless. The album side with that song on it should be played all at once and is one of the great musical works of mankind."Get it from Amazon for $79.72.
An album that one KEXP Seattle host called "a gorgeous and moody release"
"This gorgeous and moody release of slow songs shimmers with each beat and sound wave. From way back in 2002, the lyrics are smart, heartfelt and still resonate," Myers said of Thievery Corporation’s "The Richest Man In Babylon." Containing a smattering of international influences, jazz and a dash of Portishead
, you have yourself a record that will lead you to you discover something new each time you listen. Get the vinyl from Amazon for $74.99.
A portable turntable to listen to your vinyl anywhere
Meyers recommend the Ion Mustang turntable and radio because "you can take it along for a weekend, it also just works really well and sounds great. There are many different styles, but I love this red one because it jumps out visually in any space and says 'play me!'"
This 4-in-1 turntable has a quiet belt drive for clear listening and even the ability to record songs right onto a USB flash drive. Get it from Amazon for $139.35.
A soulful debut album by Joss Stone produced by music veterans
"At age 16, Joss Stone made her debut with this stunning record," Myers said. "Produced by soul veterans Betty Wright
and Steve Greenberg
, who assembled a legendary backing supergroup, the formula is magic. What I love most about this record is that it is not overproduced. You can hear every sincere emotion in each imperfectly perfect note. Young Joss’ gift of a voice breaks and swells through R&B covers from the '60s and '70s. Stunning all the way through."Get the vinyl from Walmart for $29.50.
An audiophile-approved turntable and speakers
An album by Tom Waits "at his most melodic"
If you have never listened to experimental yet intriguing cacophony that is Tom Waits, Myers suggested "The Heart of Saturday Night" as a good place to start.
"Tom Waits can be very experimental, which is one of his greatest talents. Playing with texture, using instruments that were made to be car parts, extreme darkness … Tom can do anything well. That said, 'The Heart of Saturday Night' is a welcome entry point for getting to know Tom at his most melodic. A rainy day record that will warm you up, it also showcases the genius of Tom’s songwriting and the richness of his voice," Myers said.Get the vinyl from Amazon for $44.95.
A full-size framed replica of the golden soundtrack we sent to outer space
In September 1977, NASA sent a Golden Record
on two Voyager spacecrafts. Each song was meant to represent a piece of our humanity in case another life form got ahold of it. The incredible array of music includes everything from a traditional wedding song from Peru to Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode."
This exact laser print made from aluminum is meant for display and is etched in incredible detail. It can be a great reminder for anyone who appreciates how universal the language of music really is.Get it from Eclipse9Laser at Etsy for $96.37.
An inventive and heartbreaking album by the Arcade Fire
Some songs bring you to tears, others make you want to dance, and some verge on the orchestral. Arcade Fire's third studio release, "The Suburbs," has an oddly nostalgic sound that diverges from traditional indie rock, and it features lyrics inspired by frontman Win Butler's childhood briefly spent in a Houston suburb. Get the vinyl from Amazon for $32.20.
A subscription of music classes from some of the industry greats
A Beatles anthology that retells their story from start to finish
This international bestseller, written and created with the full cooperation of George, Paul, Ringo and Yoko Ono Lennon, is filled with the band's recollections and quotes from sources worldwide, along with an unprecedented release of photographs and documents. Get it from Amazon for $9.99.
A record stand and turntable station to store all your precious vinyl
An Apple gift card to buy all your favorite music digitally
iTunes currently offers around 60 million songs from more than 5 million recording artists, so listeners can revisit old favorites and find new jams. Get it from Apple.
A record that ushered in a new era of Lana del Rey
A pair of high-fidelity earplugs to listen to loud concerts in comfort
Enjoy live music or play loud instruments — without the painful ringing in your ears the next day or
the muffled sound of regular earplugs — with these high-fidelity reusable earbuds that are virtually invisible. Using unique technology, the silicone buds fit comfortably in the ear to isolate and filter noise without hurting the quality of sound.Get it from Amazon $23.98.
A place to get concert tickets for in-person music experiences
Sometimes the best way to listen to music is experiencing it live. StubHub sells verified tickets to see an extensive list of musical artists around the U.S.Get concert tickets.
A beautiful and haunting record that might be described as "dream-pop"
With ethereal-sounding melodies and emotional vocals, Beach House's fourth album, "Bloom," is a rediscovery in '80s synth and would be at home on an episode of "Twin Peaks." Think a modernized version of Cocteau Twins
with a touch of post-punk influence from New Order
. Get the vinyl from Amazon for $99.96.
Two books that are essential reads for appreciating The Talking Heads' legacy
A debut album by King Krule that sounds like the best of everything
The first album from 19-year-old Londoner Archy Marshall of King Krule, "Six Feet Beneath the Moon," contains songs that at times will feature nothing but Marshall's craggy singular voice. Others are influenced by '60s jazz and even '90s hip-hop. Get the vinyl from Amazon for $80.66.