So yeah, 2016 has been a crazy year for pretty much everything else, but it has been a solid year for music. Here at Proglodytes, we our review team picked our favorite albums of the year.
Big Big Train’s Folklore is absolutely my favorite release of 2016. From its anthemic title track, through the bizarre yet strangely inspiring and touching tale of “Winkie” the pigeon, to the bucolic “Telling the Bees”, this album seems to encompass everything that I fondly imagine England to be. Folklore has it all: brass choir, flute, achingly lovely melodies, lots of rocky bits (lest we forget BBT is, after all, a prog rock band), and even some notes blown on a rock–yes, an actual stone. The more I listen to Folklore, the more I am convinced it can hold its own against the English Electrics.
Bent Knee’s Say So was gripping from my first listen. As many prog fans know, there is a progressive genre, and there is a progressive ethos. Bent Knee works hard to create music that sounds unique and original. I definitely am in love with Courtney Swain’s voice. Check out the songs “Black Tar Water” and “Leak Water” to fall in love too.
Dream The Electric Sleep’s Beneath the Dark Wide Sky. One of the best albums of the year was written by a group of Kentucky-born proggers. Beneath the Dark Wide Sky is a dark, beautiful, thoughtful album that is both complex (conceptually and technically) and highly melodic. The album has numerous single-worthy songs- “Let the Light Flood In”, “Flight”, and “Headlights”- but my favorite song is “Hanging by Time”.
Devin Townsend’s Transcendence was a triumph on many levels. It has been really beautiful and inspiring to watch Devin Townsend progress as a musician. His music has always been incredible and brilliant, but there is something really special about his last few albums. Sure, his “secular spirituality” vibe and positive message may turn off gloomy metalheads, but for many fans of metal music, Devin’s stands out. Transcendence utilizes the strength and emotion and energy of metal music to lift and inspire. Highlights – “Failure”, “Stormbending”, “Into the Sun” from the bonus disc.
Southern Empire’s self-titled debut easily earns its place alongside big name acts like The Neal Morse Band and Big Big Train as one of this year’s best. Complex compositions combine with a myriad of instruments to create some of the most inspired heavy symphonic prog of the year. “The Bridge that Binds” gets my vote for best epic track of the year. Clocking in at nearly 30 minutes, it combines all the essential aspects of Southern Empire’s sound into an expansive prog tour-de-force: catchy vocal hooks, powerful melodies, heavy riffing, delicate jazzy sections, and virtuoso soloing.
a way you’ll never be. I hate it when somebody implies that John Wesley is a “sideman” for Marillion and Porcupine Tree because he has repeatedly shown that his songwriting, singing, and arranging skills are up there with any of the greats of modern prog music. a way you’ll never be is no exception. In fact I’d say it’s some of his strongest work ever. His already finely-honed guitar and music production skills get better with every album, and this album also includes some really interesting homages to great guitar players and literary giants. Love this album!
Frost* – Falling Satellites. Frost* is back after a long hiatus… And what a comeback it is! They delivered something that only Frost* can give you: Power prog in your face! A very diverse album that contains a lot of energy. But hey, what can you expect from Jem Godfrey, John Mitchell, Nathan King and Craig Blundell? Especially Craig shows what he’s capable of as a wonderful, talented drummer!
AWOOGA – Alpha. The debut EP of a very solid band. Heavy, grungy, spacey, proggy. Four tracks that are well composed and fabricated. This band has the future, so please keep an eye on them!
Mahoney – You Are The Big Bang. First solo EP from ex-Amplifier bassist Neil Mahony. A man who knows how to make music. Solid riffs, heavy guitars and bass. This twenty minute journey deserves your attention.
Iamthemorning – Lighthouse. One of the areas in which we have seen progressive music develop recently is a more overt embrace of classical music forms and approaches. No band is better at this then Russia’s iamthemorning who’s ‘chamber prog’ has found its most mature expression in Lighthouse, my favorite album of the year.
Haken – Affinity. Haken’s homage to the 80’s was one of the more anticipated progressive metal releases of the year and the display of mixture of power and melody shows that they continue to be one of the more creative and intriguing bands of the genre.
Neal Morse Band – Similitude of a Dream. While some of the initial reviews were a bit over the top with the praise lavished upon this album, the fact remains that Neal Morse and company put out an album that provides an example of why progressive rock is such an appealing genre: musicianship, hooks, moments that appeal the heart as well as mind.