By neglected, I don’t mean by the world. I mean, by me.
In a few other posts, I have had the privilege of listing my top albums, in the order I loved them. My 2017 list goes, from no. 10 to no. 1: Anathema, The Optimist; Bjorn Riis, Forever Comes to an End; My Tricksy Spirit; Ayreon, The Source; The Tangent, The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery; Cosmograf, Hay-Man Dreams; Glass Hammer, Untold Tales; Newspaperflyhunting, Wastelands; Dave Kerzner, Static; and Big Big Train, everything released in 2017!
There are, however, a number of great releases from the year that I simply did not have time to grasp fully or immerse myself in the way I think necessary to review properly. None of this, however, should suggest–to my mind, at least–even a kind of lesser quality or second-hand citizenship in the world of Prog, or in the republican anarchy that is progarchy.
For what it’s worth, I thought each of the following extraordinary as well, and, I hope, when Kronos allows, time to embrace each in the way it deserves.
Lifesigns, Cardington. I think John Young is a treasure of a musician and composer, and I’m honored to travel this world at the same time as he. Intelligence radiates from everything the man does, and, even better, it’s an intelligence utterly in the service of good things. The first Lifesigns was a shock of joy to me. This one as well, though I’ve just not had the time to dive into it.
When I listen to Lifesigns, I actually think of Young and the band as the anti-Radiohead guys. Imagine the darkness of Radiohead and then do exactly the opposite, in terms of melody and lyrics. And, you might arrive at Lifesigns. My favorite track on this new release is nine-plus minute “Different.”
Galahad, Quiet Storms. As with Young, Stu Nicholson is a wonder. The last two “proper” Galahad albums were sheer genius, and I’m eager to see what the band releases in 2018.
For now, though, I’m quiet happy with Quiet Storms, a reworking of several Galahad tunes, but with meditation rather than verve. I reminded a bit of the unplugged movement of the early 1990s, but with more class and finesse. That seemed like a marketing gimmick, but Quiet Storms seems an artistic statement.
Stranger Things 2 soundtrack. What can I say? I love Stranger Things–the finest thing to appear on any screen since the final part of the Dark Knight Trilogy back in 2012. Yes, better than Star Wars, Star Trek, or any other movie. Stranger Things captures an era and a way of life in a singular manner.
Though everything comes together to make Stranger Things work, none does more so than the stunning electronica by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. These two understand cinematic music better than anyone with the possible exception of Hans Zimmer. If the soundtrack to Stranger Things isn’t prog, nothing is.
Wobbler, From Silence to Somewhere. Wow. Yes, just wow. What an assault of great jazzy and spontaneous prog. Imagine Stevie Winwood playing with Chris Squire in 1976 and you’ll start to capture an image of what Wobbler is like. Over the top, quirky, and downright fun.
Mew, Visuals. I didn’t know about Mew until Greg Spawton of Big Big Train mentioned them. I then purchased everything possible from the band (one of their early releases is difficult to impossible to get in the U.S.). I think Visuals is an excellent album, but it’s not–at least to my ears–as good as The Glass Handed Kite. Thus, when I want to listen to Mew, I still put on The Glass Handed Kite, not Visuals.
Isildur’s Bane and Steve Hogarth, Colours Not Found in Nature. This one was a total surprise to me. I had no idea that Hogarth had done this until fellow progarchist, Gianna Englert, told me. I think, as with the others mentioned above, this album is great, but I’ve yet to absorb it. Well, give the bands and the subject matter, let me put that a bit differently: I have yet to grok this album. Imagine Marillion mixed with a very long James Bond theme.
More to come. Part II. Same prog channel, but wacky prog time!