by Frank Urbaniak
I always enjoy reading best of lists for progressive music. To see how the music I listened to resonated with other listeners, to agree or disagree with the finalists, to discover a gem that might not have hit my radar, it’s a great time of the year, especially with the strength of the music in 2012.
Let me start by saying that I list both my good list and not so good list, which may ruffle a few feathers if those releases were on your good list. However, having played drums since the age of 8, and still trying to play along with these amazing musicians via headphones today, I have profound respect for the challenges and extraordinary effort it takes artists to produce an album today. There are few dedicated musicians, especially in progressive music, due to the need for other sources of income to support themselves and their families. If you have ever sat through recording sessions, it is painful, tedious, boring and demanding. And we really don’t appreciate how good these musicians are today, the hours of practice, the days of writing, to produce this body of work we pick through for our best of lists.
Top 7 Releases of the Year
Echolyn- The Windows CD. Beautiful production, brilliant harmonies, outstanding attention to detail by a band who has been at it for 16 years and keeps getting better.
Big Big Train-English Electric 1. High expectations, and the band did not disappoint. Another great production,, with a larger soundstage and bigger sound, continuing the brass but adding some fiddle/violin and strings, recorder, banjo and a dense chorus of vocals. Tied with Echolyn for most ear time in 2012.
Anglagard-Viljans Oga. Superb musicians take a bit of Crimson, the Scandinavian influences, folk, classical and progressive elements and blend them into a unique offering. Only their third release in 20 years (!), the band has had a rocky past and has restructured since the release of this CD, with the departure of Mattias Olson and the addition of a new drummer and keyboard player.
IZZ-Crush of Night. Strong composition and consistent performance make for another great IZZ CD that has held up great since release. Love the mix of male and female vocals.
Gazpacho-March of Ghosts. Not quite up to Tick Tock and Night, but a beautiful soothing release. Wish they could tune the production a bit as the mix gets messy in the louder sections.
Glass Hammer-Perilous. I still like IF better, and the drums are kind of muddy/muffled, but the music is a progressive feast. I could do without the similarities to Anderson in both style and lyrics-(we dance, we sing, the river, I could see the truth and at once we raced from darkness to light) make the similarities to Yes a bit unnerving in a few sections.
Sylvan-Sceneries. Maybe because it was released in spring, and there are some beautiful dramatic moments, but I have enjoyed this CD all year.