Bryan’s Best of 2019

Here we are at the end of another year. As you’re probably well aware, 2019 has been the latest in a string of great years for progressive rock and metal. Overall it didn’t blow me away like other years have (a few particular albums did however), but I think that’s more because of how my year has gone. I finished up grad school in the spring, and I spent the entire year job-searching before finally starting a new job at the beginning of this month. A couple of important people in my life died this year as well, so overall it has been a year full of challenges. My ability to properly soak in all the great music that has been released understandably suffered. But nevertheless, I found much to enjoy this year, and the following are some of my favorites. They are in no particular order except for my top three down at the bottom of this list.

Rise Twain – Rise Twain

The first album by Philadelphia-area duo Rise Twain is a stellar example of what popular music should be. Brett Kull and J. D. Beck are excellent songwriters and equally talented musicians. They combine the simplicity of a good song with the more technical aspects of prog. While it may be hard to call this a “prog” album, it certainly has many varied influences that make this a solid showing. Check out my review and interview with Brett Kull here: https://progarchy.com/2019/08/30/a-conversation-with-brett-kull-of-rise-twain/

Soen – Lotus

This is a magnificent album. Beautifully heavy, as any metal album should be, it retains an ability to move int0 peaceful contemplative spaces. When this album rocks, it rocks hard, and it keeps an upbeat tone that so many metal albums often lose. “Lotus” delivers musically, lyrically, and vocally. Check out Time Lord’s review here: https://progarchy.com/2019/01/09/album-preview-soen-lotus-soenmusic/

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Progarchy’s End of Summer Round Up

There has been a lot of quality prog released this summer. Overall I’d say there isn’t as much top tier level stuff (i.e., albums that rank with some of the best ever made in the genre), but there have been a lot of solid albums worthy of your attention released lately. This list won’t be exhaustive, but it should be a good starting point for people looking for some new music. Order is completely arbitrary. Ok maybe this first one is at the top for a reason.

Nad Sylvan – The Regal Bastard

Steve Hackett’s touring vocalist released his best solo album to date this summer. It is a little more accessible than the first two albums in the Vampirate trilogy, but it retains some of the same themes and motifs. Sylvan has a lot of talent, and this album stands above the crowd this summer. If you only listen to one album off this list, choose this one. And check out my interview with Nad from earlier this summer: https://progarchy.com/2019/06/30/the-vampirate-speaks-a-conversation-with-nad-sylvan/

Tool – Fear Inoculum

I’ve only ever passively listened to Tool, but I found this album to be quite good. Was it worth the wait for diehard Tool fans? I’m not sure, but this is a solid album that is heavy without being overpowering. Check out Rick Krueger’s review: https://progarchy.com/2019/09/01/tool-fear-inoculum/

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A Conversation with Brett Kull of Rise Twain

Rise Twain, Rise Twain, Inside Out (2019)

Tracks: Everspring (3:22), Golden (6:11), The Range (4:42), Lit Up (5:03), Death of Summer (6:29), Oh This Life (3:12), Prayers (4:48), Falling Skies (05:49), Into A Dream (5:39), That Is Love (5:03)

 

On September 6, Rise Twain will release their first album on Inside Out. Made up of singer-songwriting duo Brett William Kull (of Echolyn) and J.D. Beck (The Scenic Route), Rise Twain’s self-titled debut brings emotion, gentleness, and powerful songwriting to a year that has been filled with excellent music.

From JD’s soulful voice, which instantly reminded me of the Casey McPherson or Matt Bellamy, to his wonderful piano work and Brett’s excellent guitar, this album delivers without overpowering. As Brett and I talked about in the interview below, this album has a lot of dynamic range, which makes for a very enjoyable listening experience. It has its heavy moments, but the quiet moments often steal the show. This is a great rock album in the tradition of lyric-oriented popular rock songs. The lyrics have great depth to them. They keep me engaged on repeated listens, and I’m sure they will for many listens to come. Rise Twain are not to be overlooked – check this group out when the album drops in a few days.


I had the great opportunity to speak with Brett Kull via Skype on August 21. Unfortunately I’ve been very busy, so it has taken me a while to transcribe everything. Originally I was supposed to speak with both Brett and JD, but JD’s son had an emergency tooth surgery come up at the last minute – we certainly wish JD and his son the best on his recovery for that.

I had a great time talking with Brett. I found his passion for his craft to be incredibly inspiring, and I hope all of you do as well. Our conversation ranged from discussion of the album to their writing process to the more technical side of producing music. We even talked about the very nature of progressive rock itself, which is always a fun ongoing conversation in our little corner of the music world.

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