Please forgive my late entry, for I did not listen to as many new albums as I should have in 2016; I suppose I still have an affinity for the “classics.” Anyway, here is my all too brief list (in no particular order) of the best albums of 2016:
A Moon Shaped Pool (Radiohead): This was my first exposure to Radiohead, and I was impressed. The atmospheric, almost hypnotic vocals of Thom Yorke, supported by Jonny Greenwood’s haunting string arrangements, make this a work of eerie beauty. Burn the Witch and Daydreaming are the two stand out pieces, but the album overall is excellent.
Say So (Bent Knee): Not as well-known as the other two, but a gem nonetheless. This innovative band from Boston features the incredible vocals of Courtney Swain, whose range will impress prog and non-prog lovers alike. You can check out my review of their first album here.
Your Wilderness (The Pineapple Thief): I must admit that I enjoy just about anything created by Bruce Soord. The man is quite the talent – as a songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist. His latest effort is no exception; it is filled with well-crafted and accessible songs. Overall, it is a great followup to 2014’s Magnolia.
2016 has been a pretty horrible year: terrorism, deaths of way too many musical heroes, the recent loss of Prog magazine and the total screwing of all Team Rock employees, personal inability to find a job… Yeah, this year has sucked.
Thankfully, despite these trials, progressive rock has continued to be the most creative and innovative genre in the music business. I always enjoy writing a “best of” list, mainly because it gives me a chance to look over the best music of the year. We prog fans really are spoiled.
Like last year, my 2016 list will be pretty big, and the order is completely arbitrary. I have a numbered top 4, but my top 3 picks for this year are essentially tied for first place. Without further ado, my favorite albums of 2016:
I know, I’m a bit late with this one, but I just wanted to write a review of this beauty, which was released in August this year. I also reviewed Bruce Soord’s solo album which was released earlier this year, but I think that Bruce is way better in his element in his band The Pineapple Thief.
This is a rock solid album, something you can always expect from this band. Not something that I would call 100% progressive rock, but the prog elements can be heard clearly. It also lingers to some post rock moments. I do have to say that this album sounds calmer than other works of The Pineapple Thief.
Gavin Harrison provides the drums on this album, and I have to admit that I didn’t “hear” it was him, which is actually a good sign! I start to appreciate his drum work more and more lately, because I was always afraid that he was that kind of drummer that has the need to fill up everything. Bruce is a good singer, but you have to like his voice.
The album starts with In Exile, which is one of my favourite tracks. The catchy drum rhythm and mellotron sounds make this song very interesting. Later on it gets heavier and more haunting. No Man’s Land starts with a lovely acoustic guitar and Bruce singing. Later on more instruments join and make the song more heavy. Another favourite on this album. Tear You Up is more up tempo and thicker, but it breathes the same atmosphere as the previous song. That Shore has lingering soundscapes and the calm vibe that carries through is beautiful. Take Your Shot is a real rock track that is very accessible and would do great as a single. Fend For Yourself is a more tranquil song that contains a wonderful clarinet solo by John Helliwell (Supertramp). The Final Thing On My Mind is the longest track on the album, and is a real epic. It slowly builds up while there’s a heavy haunting vibe hanging around like fog. Gavin gets enough space to show his talents on this track. Where We stood is an affable song to end the album with. The serene guitar sound also does the trick.
The complete album is a lovely package of songs that can be listened as a whole or just as freestanding tracks. This is something that is certainly enjoyable for a lot of people. Another recommendation from me!
PS: I adore the album cover!
***** Iris Hidding
In Exile (05:40)
2. No Man’s Land (04:20)
3. Tear You Up (4:53)
4. That Shore (04:36)
5. Take Your Shot (04:34)
6. Fend For Yourself (03:49)
7. The Final Thing On My Mind (09:52)
8. Where We Stood (03:46)
Here I sit, totally spoiled. I’m drinking a cup of coffee, listening to the wind whisper the many names of the Aspen, and watching the absurdly beautiful dance of the humming birds. It’s already a perfect day, and I’ve not even gone to Mass yet.
One would be foolish to dismiss the talent of Bruce Soord. The man is an audiophilic genius, and, when he produces or engineers an album, he’s every bit as good as Trevor Horn, Phill Brown, Rob Aubrey, and Steven Wilson. He definitely brings his own sound to whatever it is he does, as distinct and yet as beautiful as any of the producers mentioned above. His imprint on the first release of Matt Cohen’s Ghost Community is quite clear, and I’m presuming the same will be true for the second release of Zee Baig’s Fire Garden.