My Top 12 Albums of 2012

I’ve taken the plunge and chosen my top albums of 2012. My top 6 came to me quite quickly. The rest took some time to rank but I finally managed it. I’ve also ‘mentioned in dispatches’ a few other albums that I either like and/or think are worth having a listen to if you haven’t already. 2012 has been a very good year indeed for the Prog world.

No 12 First Stage Zoltan by Zoltan

Zoltan - First Stage Zoltan

Wonderful cinematic soundscapes that would make John Carpenter proud. It’s all analogue and sounds great on a good hi-fi system. For lovers of atmospheric film scores.

No 11 Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Allejujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! - Godspeed You ! Black Emperor

Ten years after their last album this is classic post-rock. Containing two long 20 minute instrumental tracks with a smattering of vocal samples and two shorter drone-like fillers (to be honest they can be skipped!). Characterised by heavy distorted guitar, the sound is atonal and dissonant, creating a dark and disturbing atmosphere that gradually increases in intensity. Immerse yourself, but be afraid as this is not for the faint-hearted!

No 10 On and On by Syd Arthur

Syd Arthur On and On

Funky and psychedelic folk. The whole band look like they’ve stepped out of the late 60s/early 70s. From Canterbury, they have created their own scene 40 years on. Uber-cool stuff.

No 9 On VHS by The Fierce and the Dead

On VHS - The Fierce and The Dead

Minimalist post-rock at its finest. Powerful, multi-layered guitar effects held together with excellent bass lines and tight drumming. Unfortunately it’s only an EP but Matt Stevens is recording a new album for 2013 (I think).

No 8 Storm Corrosion by Storm Corrosion

storm-corrosion

Sometimes eerie, unsettling and foreboding, yet at other times pleasantly relaxing. The album has a supernatural/mystical feel. Apparently it divides opinion but in my view it’s a winning collaboration of two Prog masters.

No 7 Map of the Past by It Bites

Map of the Past

I was not really a fan of It Bites before, but this is a wonderful, song-orientated ‘concept’ album. Each song seems to fit perfectly as the album unfolds. A lovely beginning (Man in a Photograph) and a beautiful ending (The Last Escape).

No 6 A Flaw of Nature by Sonar

A Flaw of Nature - Sonar

Experimental, minimalist, instrumental post/math rock. Simply hypnotic. Specially tuned guitars produce an unusual harmonic sound. The more I listen, the more I like this album. Pretty awesome actually.

No 5 Viljans Oga by Anglagard

Viljans Oga - Anglagard

Beautifully arranged; beautiful played and beautiful melodies. It’s just beautiful to listen to. This is folk-inspired Prog conveying a myriad of moods. I would like to bottle this.

 No 4 English Electric Part 1 by Big Big Train

English Electric

OMG it’s NOT my number 1…Sublime, quintessentially English story-telling. Evocative of a forgotten England. Were Genesis ever this good? (Am I allowed to say that? :) )

No 3 The Death Defying Unicorn by Motorpsycho and Stale Storlokken

The Death Defying Unicorn - Motorpsycho

Jazz meets Prog meets Classical. Inventive improvisation laced with contrasting harmonies and atonal sonic mayhem – inspired stuff. Motorpsycho are an incredibly versatile band (as is SS) – check out their back-catalogue, it’s very surprising.

No 2 The Black Chord by Astra

Astra-The-Black-Chord

A return to the 70s, this classic Prog sound appears to be inspired by Pink Floyd, Yes and King Crimson. A wonderful sophomore album. Self indulgent?…who cares, this is synth and guitar heaven.

No 1 Echolyn by Echolyn

echolyn_big

If you buy only one album this year, buy this one. Superb musicianship and wonderful lyrics. It has an emotional intensity that is visceral. Stand-out tracks are Island, Some Memorial, Past Gravity and (Speaking In) Lampblack. A desert island disc.

Those that didn’t make it but definitely worth a listen

Open by Stick Men

Eighty One by Yppah (thanks to Tad Wert)

All The Wars by The Pineapple Thief

Valtari by Sigur Ros

The Narrow State by Rumour Cubes

Invicta by the Enid

The Second Mechanism by Diagonal

Fog Electric by North Atlantic Oscillation

Gown by Jo Hamilton

Mosaik by Frames

Larks Tongues in Aspic by King Crimson (40th Anniversary Edition remixed by Messrs Fripp and Wilson) – had to add this..one of my all-time favs and sounds even better.

Heard good things but just hadn’t had the time to listen to !!!

One Eye On The Sunrise by Nine Stones Close

I am Anonymous by Headspace

And to conclude

Thanks to Brad and all the other Progarchists for letting me post my thoughts here. Hopefully I’m improving. I’m unlikely to post anything else before Xmas, so I wish you and your families a wonderful break.

Ian

Posted on December 15, 2012, in 2012 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Some interesting stuff there Ian – thanks for sharing, lots to explore :-)

  2. Excellent choices Ian and nicely written; there is very little there that I would disagree with in any way – our tastes in prog are worryingly similar at times! There’s only one album there that I haven’t heard at least some of, and that’s the Sonar. It’s on the list ….

  3. Ian,
    I’m looking forward to exploring some of the music you’ve written about, especially Sonar, Echolyn, and Astra. Thanks for sharing your prog-knowledge!
    Tad

  4. Tad,
    my taste is not for everyone but i believe you will like Echolyn and Astra. Sonar is very me i.e. post rock/experimental – some people have told me they find Sonar a bit too minimalist and rather soulless
    Ian :)

  5. For a silly, non-music related reason (i.e. did a hitch in the navy as a sonar technician), I want to hear Sonar :)

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