I love lists (top 10s, 20s, 100s whatnot) and “best-of” compilations. I think no source has given us a better view of the progressive gems of 2015 than Progarchy. My own opinions are just that—mine. While my “best of” judgment calls are ultimately just my favorite albums from the past year, I think I’ll stick with “best of” rather than “Watson’s Faves.” The music that you might think should be listed, but doesn’t appear here, more than likely means I just didn’t get a chance to listen to it. Dave Kerzner’s brilliant album is not listed because I view it (and first listened to it) as a 2014 release. I’ll skip posting album jacket photos and links. While the list is for “PROG” I also include a few other categories. It was a great year and this is how I saw it: [counting down in reverse order for greater surprise effect]
TOP 20 OF 2015 ALBUMS
- Beardfish/ +4626 COMFORTZONE
This band rarely disappoints. The music is riveting only trumped by some profound lyrics.
- Neal Morse/ GRAND EXPERIMENT
Morse has the ‘gold-standard’ for constantly producing beautiful and poignant music that emotionally engages the listener. In a less stellar year would be rated higher.
- Glass Hammer/ A BREAKING OF THE WORLD
Ditto my comments on Morse. Every GH album should be purchased as they’re incapable of making anything less than a jewel.
- The Gentle Storm/ DIARY
This is a great concept-story which was executed brilliantly in two versions (hard and soft). I’m a sucker for melody and when Anneke sings I hear hints of one of my favorite song-birds, Annie Haslam. A gorgeous and moving listen.
- Native Construct/ QUIET WORLD
A blend of heavier progressive rock and progressive metal with enough hooks and stunning harmonizations to make one say “who are these guys?” One my “finds” of the year.
- Steven Wilson/ HAND. CANNOT. ERASE
This was in my top three most of the year. What else can I add to what the known universe has been saying about Wilson’s magnum opus? Serious, sublime, reflective, and permanent in its impact. 10/10.
- The Dear Hunter/ ACT IV: REBIRTH IN REPRISE
The best reason not to come out with a “best of” list until the last day of the year is so that albums like this don’t slip by in the rush. I only just heard this concept disc (a couple days ago) and it has been listened to almost a dozen times now. This is a fulsome blend of Muse and maybe Coheed & Cambria. I must explore their back discography as their fusion of orchestra rock and classic prog, with a hint of art-rock/jazz, hit me so hard that they vaulted over even Steven Wilson. Along with Native Construct, this is a discovery that makes 2015 so epic.
- The Tangent/ A SPARK IN THE AETHER.
Andy and company turn out their best album yet (such an artist that every new release is their best one yet). Andy’s love of music and the progressive genre radiates out in warm love and celebratory life. This is a feel-good album that is returned to time and time again. Was in contention for #1.
- Lonely Robot/ PLEASE COME HOME
John Mitchell’s album is near perfect. The infectious melodies, lyrical themes, and exquisite musicianship had this loosely-based concept album of alienation and humanity neck and neck with the following winner.
THE BEST ALBUM OF 2015 – –
- 3RDegree/ ONES AND ZEROS: Vol. 1
If you are a fan of progressive masterpieces (Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, and Rush) you will quickly realize that 3RDegree’s ONES AND ZEROS will be talked about with the same enduring awe as the aforementioned masters of this art. The album is deep and disturbing with a libretto worthy of the best dystopian science-fiction legendary authors. The musicianship is tight and the album’s production and mixing is crisp. If I could have listened to only one album this past year (and a gander at my list makes clear what a bumper year it has been) it would have this one. I’m listening to it right now as I type. Go buy it. Buy copies for your friends…Christmas 2016 is only 12 months away…you’ll probably not find an album this good in those coming 12 months.
And now, to round out my TOP 20:
- Gazpacho/ Molok
- Spock’s Beard/THE OBLIVION PARTICLE
- Tiger Moth Tales/ STORY TELLERS PART ONE
- Argos/ A SEASONAL AFFAIR
- Barock Project/SKYLINE
- Arena/ THE UNQUIET SKY
- Red Jasper/ THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW
- Grand Tour/ HEAVY ON THE BEACH
- Steve Hackett/ WOLFLIGHT
- Subterranean Masquerade/ THE GREAT BAZAAR
Riverside/ LOVE, FEAR, AND THE TIME MACHINE
Sanguine Hum/ NOW WE HAVE A LIGHT
David Gilmour/ RATTLE THAT LOCK
Joe Jackson/Fast Forward
The Decemberists/ WHAT A TERRIBLE WORLD WHAT A BEAUTIFUL WORLD
Jeff Lynn’s ELO/ ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE
HEAVY METAL/SLUDGE/STONER/PSYCH ETC.
Iron Maiden/ BOOK OF SOULS
Amorphis/ UNDER THE RED CLOUD
Motorhead/ BAD MAGIC (Lemmy R.I.P)
The Sword/ HIGH COUNTRY
Dwight Yoakum/ SECOND HAND HEART
Whitey Morgan and the 78’s/ SONIC RANCH
Chris Isaak/ FIRST COMES THE NIGHT
Choir of Ancestors/ Gazpacho
First Comes The Night/Chris Isaak
Hand Cannot Erase/ Steven Wilson
A Night on the Town/ The Dear Hunter
Waves/ The Dear Hunter
Till the End/ Motorhead
Collaborations Don’t Work/ FFS
Fast Forward/ Joe Jackson
The Celluloid Road/ The Tangent
The Boy in the Radio/ Lonely Robot
Bennett Built A Time Machine/ Spock’s Beard