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.