What a year for music. What a year for Prog.
I had every intention of writing reams and reams about my top 30 albums and eulogising in great detail about their many nuances, but to be honest, I was eating into my listening time and I’ve still got at least a dozen albums from last year to listen to properly.
So this is my list in terms of the albums I have enjoyed and played the most during 2013 :
1. Haken – The Mountain
A brilliantly conceived and executed album with riffs galore, melody in abundance, emotion pouring out of it with a message and cover art that sits close to my heart as those of you who know me will realise. To see this performed live recently at the Borderline, along with several Twitter friends who I met for the first time, puts this album into a special place.
2. Freedom to Glide – Rain
A beautifully produced and immensely moving album. A distinct Floyd and Waters vibe but shot through with it’s own sound. In many ways this is a perfect album for me. The theme is clear, it is not ‘overdone’, it does not become hectoring, the sound is truly gorgeous and the level of detail bears repeated listens. Quite simply a stunning album.
3. Days Between Stations – In Extremis
A smorgasbord of prog references put together with loving detail to produce one of the major highlights of my music year. I can hear Big Big Train, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd and other great artists – but I also hear the wonderfully crafted musicianship of Eggshell Man and the title track which, albeit with subtle and not so subtle references to other groups, soar above any suggestions of plagarism. A wonderfully fulfilling and rewarding album ….
4. Lifesigns – Lifesigns
A genuine ‘feelgood’ piece of music – uplifting, joyous and engaging. Refreshingly different yet reassuringly familiar. A summer album to play on a sunny day. There is complexity and skilfully tricky arrangements but the overriding feel is one of melodic genius.
5. 65 Days of Static – Wild Light
These guys are old favourites of mine, right back to their anthemic Fall of Math album. This revisits some of that territory again but this time with soaring synths, staccato beats and pulsating slabs of electronica to lift this album into places it is sometimes quite difficult to get down from …. a dramatic cinematic masterpiece. Top class.
6. Steven Wilson – The Raven …..
Everything that can be said about this album has already been said……. I’m still gutted I missed it live in Manchester otherwise I’m sure it would be higher in the list, but I hold grudges badly 🙂
7. Sound of Contact – Dimensionaut
A great album that is a joy to listen to. Nothing too heavy or in your face, great melodies, hooks to die for that linger and give you earworms for days …. a nice antidote to some of the tricker albums and one I constantly return to. Excellent stuff.
8. Big Big Train – English Electric Pt 2
This would have been my album of the year but for the annoying fade outs and rather weak middle section that, over time, have become wearisome. However, any album that contains East Coast Racer (an absolute masterpiece), Curator of Butterflies and The Permanent Way has to be in my top 10. The re-arrangement of tracks on Full Power hides some of the issues on Part 2 but I can’t consider this a 2013 release in it’s own right.
9. Omnium Gatherum – Beyond
Melodic doom metal of the highest order. A breathtaking tsunami of sound that cascades out of the speakers and provides layer upon layer of drama. Yes there are growls, but there are also soaring melodies from both the vocals and the layered guitars. Epic in scale and epic in production. I am enjoying this genre more and more and if Insomniums’ ‘One for Sorrow’ had been released this year that would be a leading contender …..
10. Vienna Circle – Silhouette Moon
This couldn’t be further from the above album if it tried. A gossamer light blend of melody, skilful playing and wonderfully constructed songs that entrance and enchant in equal measure. There is a shimmering feel to this album that is an absolute delight. This is super music that improves with every listen.
Special mentions must go to Airbag, Votum, Anta, The Fierce and the Dead, Subsignal, Maschine (who’s Rubidium album was really brought to life when they supported Haken at the Borderline), Subsignal and Jet Black Sea – all their albums are on more or less constant rotation when the time allows.
There are also albums from Humanfly, TesseracT, Spocks Beard, Amplifier and Dream Theater that have been played but not yet ‘discovered’ and I dare say one of these could well have burst it’s way onto my list had it clicked at a particular time. The delights of these plus many others have still to be explored and as with so many other things in life, time is the pressing issue.
What a year it has been and quite frankly, if no albums were released at all in 2014, we would have enough riches to survive a long time on the output of 2012 and 2013.
See you all soon and have a great break over the next week or so …..