January is always an interesting month. I find myself still listening to some of the best albums of the previous year, as well as exploring albums from other people’s Top Ten lists for the previous year that I somehow missed.
And then there are the new releases of the year. Sometimes January can blow you away, as artists release something new in January that is so good, you just know it will be on your Top Ten for that new year.
So far in 2019 we have had an incredible January. Two giants of prog have each given us masterpieces. Steve Hackett has released his magnificent At the Edge of Light and The Neal Morse Band has given us The Great Adventure, both of which Progarchy has reviewed at length, because both are top notch releases that no lover of great music should miss.
Also of note is that Dave Kerzner has launched Acceleration Theory — Part 1 with his In Continuum exercise in collaboration. It’s pretty good but, because it recycles some material destined for the second Sound of Contact album that never happened, it has some unevenness and lack of cohesion. Yet it does also have some really great moments, and I am particularly fond of the crazy “Bjork from space” episodes as delivered by the protagonist’s love interest on the “AlienA” track, as well as the album’s more conventional prog awesomeness on “Hands of Time.”
Kerzner’s solo albums are all superb, so let’s hope he brings Part 2 more into focus. Still, he may have saddled this project with too silly of a story line to make it possible to achieve a higher musical elevation. Then again, prog has a tradition of transfiguring the silly idea into a classic epic. Try explaining the best concept albums to someone without the music. They sound like jokes, right?
Meanwhile, on the new Dream Theater album, the only track I can like is “S2N,” because while the musicians undeniably have technical skill, my main first impression is the album overall lacks interesting or emotionally engaging songs.
Other new albums that I have been listening to in 2019 have been Weezer’s superfun Teal Album and Damian Wilson and Adam Wakeman’s intimate Stripped, both of which supply plenty of emotional impact, since both exhibit what great songwriting is (be they originals or cover songs).
There are four albums from 2018 that I still cannot stop listening to in 2019, and so I commend them all to you, in case you missed them:
Subsignal, La Muerta
Wytch Hazel, II: Sojourn
Greta van Fleet, Anthem of the Peaceful Army
Don’t forget, Soen’s Lotus is released tomorrow (on February 1), and I can guarantee its excellence. I have already written a preview review of it for you on Progarchy. It’s their best release ever, and if you love prog metal you cannot miss it, since it offers songs with serious emotional depth as well as unusual musical skill.
3 thoughts on “The Best Albums of January 2019”
Unlike the last Dream Theater album, when I agreed strongly with you on how bad that was, I think this new album is actually quite good. It is their most imaginative musical work in years. I’m even hearing Haken influences in a few of the songs. This also has Mangini’s most interesting drum work on any of the Mangini-era albums. The mix is also one of the better Dream Theater mixes since Awake. I can actually hear the bass for once. “Selling England by the Pound” it is not lyrically, but it isn’t the sappy drivel of The Astonishing.
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The drums are my favorite part of the whole album, and the bass is great, especially on “S2N,” but I find the songs completely boring. I think their best albums are behind them; they haven’t recovered from the nadir that was The Astonishing. Maybe you have given the album more listens than I have, so you could write a fair review. I gave it a few listens, but it was such a chore, I am reluctant to go back. The last album I enjoyed was 2013’s eponymous Dream Theater.
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I like how much heavier it is than the astonishing pos, and I could hear some unique things here and there that sounded different from anything else DT has done, like the opening on the second track. I really like the bonus track, Viper King – it has that Haken playfulness to it. I wish it were 10 minutes longer. I’m sure with more listens I’ll become more critical, but I don’t think it is a bad album. Maybe I just see it as being so much better than their last album and I’m astonished in that regard lol. I’ll be interested to see public responses to it once it is released. I’ll probably go see them on tour in Chicago in March.
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