Though Progarchy is only two months old, I’m absolutely thrilled with its successes. A thanks, first, to all of you out in the world (it’s a blast to look at the google map of who checks us out daily) who read us. I hope you keep coming back to us.
Second, though, an immense thanks to all of the Progarchist writers. Everything written here is purely voluntary. We each have full-time jobs and families, but we do this because we love it.
We’re certainly not the biggest music website, but I believe that–in terms of sheer literary quality–no other website matches us. I would hold any one of our writers (individually or collectively) against any other group of writers in the blogosphere. If this sounds cocky, I apologize. But, as editor, I find it quite humbling. We really like each other, but we also believe that the importance of the music demands that we write and try to match with our utmost abilities. On this, I think we’ve succeeded.
Additionally, though the site is based in the western Great Lakes of North America, we also have writers from the U.K., Brazil, and New Zealand. We’re hoping to have someone from Antarctica soon—Penguin Prog?—but, it’s been more difficult than one might first imagine.
As 2012 comes to its necessary and inescapable end, each of the Progarchists has been asked—as time permits—to rank her or his favorite albums of the past year.
I’ll be ranking my top fifteen albums as well, and I’m sure my number one pick of the year, which I think is the best album of the last twenty-four years, will probably come as no surprise to anyone.
Before getting to those rankings, though, I also want to offer some other awards and well-deserved accolades, kudos, and recognitions.
Best all-round progger award. I give this one to Chris Thompson, manager of Radiant Records. Not only has Chris been an excellent correspondent, but he also contributed lyrics to Neal Morse’s latest album, Momentum (one of my top five albums of 2012) and traveled extensively with Flying Colors and Neal Morse’s band this year. I had the wonderful opportunity to watch him work at the Chicago Morse/Portnoy show in October, and he was, without a doubt, excellence personified. Though I’ve never met Chris, face to face, I can also state he is a man of excellent convictions and integrity.
Best lyrics for a concept album. This one, I offer to Steve Babb of Glass Hammer for the latest album, Perilous. This album is not even two months old, but the lyrics have lodged themselves into my brain and soul. I find myself mulling them over when at odd times, and I think they’re simply gorgeous. A very close runner up was Neil Peart’s story of Clockwork Angels. It’s a brilliant story, but Peart has told it before, in a different fashion, in Hemispheres. Babb’s story is as haunting as it is beautiful, steeped deeply in theology and romanticism. And, in fact, a very close runner-up to Babb’s story in Perilous would be Arjen Lucassen’s Lost in the New Real.
Best emergence of an artist: Matt Stevens. Matt’s been playing for a while, and, of course, playing with brilliance. But, 2012, I think will be remembered as the year he finally began to receive the attention he so richly deserves. If, in two years time, Stevens is not one of the most sought after guitarists in the profession, I’ll be stunned. Plus, he’s just a great guy. A hard to beat combination of things.
Best story in a single song award. This one, with no question in my mind, goes to David Longdon for his “A Boy in Darkness.” I can’t listen to this masterpiece without tearing up. It’s social justice as art, not as propaganda. A masterful approach in every way. The song makes me want to fight for every right in the world.
Best lyrics in a single song award. Ave Greg Spawton for “The First Rebreather.” Not only is this the perfect opening to a perfect album, it is art and drama at its highest. I’m not sure anyone can write drama in lyrics as well as Greg can. Add in Longdon’s perfect voice and the listener is fully immersed in the story, ready to fight the forces of darkness that invade from all sides in this world of sorrows.
Best single song award. Without a doubt, this is Big Big Train’s “Hedgerow.” Over eight minutes of happiness and a glimpse of all that’s eternal. Even my non-prog friends love this song.
This leads to my final award for now, the best audiophile award. I’m sure many would expect this to go to Steven Wilson, who seems to be in highest demand right now. For me, though, as truly brilliant as Wilson is, his production is always predictable, perfect but slightly cold. The finest producer of this era, the Phill Brown of our age, is Rob Aubrey. As able as Wilson in technical abilities, Aubrey’s production and engineering always matches the specific and unique qualities of the music and the band with whom he’s working. No coldness can be found in Aubrey’s work. Only depth, layers, and breadth. A true master.
Finally, the biggest Progarchist thanks possible to Blake McQueen, Richard Thresh, Frank Urbaniak, Brian Watson, Captain Red Beard, Tobbe Janson, Geoff Banks, and David Elliott.
Now, back to grading. . . .