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Best albums of 2018

Started by PH, Wed, 2019-01-02, 11:24:03

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It's always a surprise who'll start this topic the first. ;D
It's either Funkster, Teunis or me. Last year it was Funkster. And now the honour is mine again! 8) Haha! ;D (My prediction for next year is you Teunis!)

All jokes aside, the end of year lists are a very serious matter of course... ::)

Soooooooo, yeah, 2018. What a year...

What's your top 10 of 2018 releases?
And if you have more than ten, what are the honourable mentions?
What about the albums that you haven't heard enough to make the list, but might have made it otherwise?
And what about the albums that you missed entirely this year, but wanted to hear?
And what are some of your disappointments?
Are there any discoveries that surprised you?
Perhaps there were albums that were released earlier than 2018 but came to you in 2018.
And of course, what are you looking forward to in 2019?

Lots of questions to answer, I know. Don't feel obligated to answer all of them. On the other side, don't hold back if you have more answers than I have questions!

Just for fun, here are the "Best albums of..." from the last couple of years:
2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007.
And, a very special early version, started by none other than The Voyager (remember him? ;D):
I could not find 'Best of year lists' of 2006 and 2005.

So let's hear it!
My top ten, coming up in a moment...


Quote from: PH on Wed, 2019-01-02, 11:24:03
Lots of questions to answer, I know. Don't feel obligated to answer all of them. On the other side, don't hold back if you have more answers than I have questions!
O yeah, it was a very great prog year as far as I'm concerned. Will think about my top-10 (or more) 2018 releases, so difficult ... But a good sign is the frequency you play the albums. To be continued ...  8)
'I will surrender my heart to the sky
Oh, our love doesn't end here, it lives forever on the wings of time'
Toto - Wings of time (Kingdom of Desire)


OK, so here we go!
Disclaimer: This list has changed quite a few times over the last few weeks, and it will probably have changed again in a few weeks time.
It's a pretty long post. Sorry about that. But it was so much fun writing it.
For now, let me just post the top ten. All the extra stuff will come later.

1. Argos - "Unidentified Dying Objects"

Wow! This was such a surprise for me! This one came out somewhere in July and if it wasn't for newprogreleases.blogspot.com it would have passed me by completely. That website is a new favourite of mine and I check it regularly to see if there's anything interesting coming up. I heard of this album in late October I think. It sounds like it's a British Canterbury Scene album from the 70s. But it's from Germany, and hey, it's 2018. Musicians are really good, especially Rico Florczak, the guitar player. I really like his style. For some reason the album reminds me of the band Discipline in some places. And of course things like Genesis (ATotT, W&W era), Caravan and Kaipa. The singer sometimes sounds like Pye Hastings (Caravan), Peter Hammill (Van Der Graaf Generator), Paul Wrightson (yes him) and Peter Gabriel. The album is really beautiful. And in some places it rocks (not in a metal way). And then it's very jazzy again. Apparently on ProgArchives it's called Neo-Prog, but I doubt it. I love it when the wind instruments get their shining spot. Thomas Klahrmann, the main composer (I think), plays some beautiful flute and then there's also Marek Arnold (who played on albums by Damanek, Southern Empire, Seven Steps To The Green Door, United Progressive Fraternity, Subsignal and even more) on two tracks playing clarinet and saxophone. And Linus Kåse (Änglagård, Brighteye Brison) plays sax on another track. As soon as I heard this album I knew it would be on the top ten list. Never expected it to be number one though. But it grew on me even more and well, here it is!

2. Umphrey's McGee - "It's Not Us"

Actually, 2018 is the year of discoveries, so it seems. Of course I've heard about Umphrey's McGee before, but never really checked it out. Until this year. But this album, oh boy... it's good! It's probably the most varied album on the list, while still being so coherent. It's amazing. Jazzy (lots of jazz in my list this year), rock and yes definitely metal too, mostly pop and a lot of funky sounds. And every song is sooooo good. These guys know how to play. It's so unbelievably catchy! And when you start listening, you just can't stop. Not long after hearing this album, it went straight to my top 5 and it even held the number 1 spot for a long time.

3. Haken - "Vector"

Another late entry in the list. This one is from late October. In fact, I have not listened to this album that much. I think only four times as a whole, but I listened to individual songs a lot as well. Man, with "Vector" these guys have made the album of their career! You can hear the influences of Leprous in this one, it's a lot heavier. But still it's very melodic. The album is a fantastic rollercoaster with only a few (but perfectly placed) resting moments. The album is relatively short (45 minutes), but my edition has a bonus disc with the instrumental versions. And I have no problem listening to it back to back! The instrumental songs are just as interesting, but I have to praise Ross Jennings: his performance is fantastic! His voice sounds a lot more full and more power. These guys have it all. Dream Theater will release their next album in February... Well, watch out Petrucci and co. because the bar is set very high.

4. Damanek - "In Flight"

Last year Damanek ended fourth on the list with their album "On Track". I still play that album quite often. But that's gonna change because this one is even better! As I said, jazz is the magic word. And Marek Arnold is the wizard to make that happen. But of course, in the end, Guy Manning is the true Gandalf of this fellowship. These compositions are strong! And there are all sorts of things happening in there. And like I said about their previous album: there's a comforting warmth in this music. Like taking a nice warm bath, or coming home from a stressful day at work, and this album says "relax now, enjoy this hour. Feel the warmth, close your eyes." Haha I don't know. It's a sigh of relief. "At last." That's how I feel when listening to this. And it's something I need in these restless times. And guys, take a look at the cover art. Isn't it the most beautiful cover art you've seen? I think it's one of the best of this year at least. The big epic, which they've split up in three parts, is wonderful. And so is The Crawler and The Crossing. This time, I also like the 'ballad' Moon-Catcher. No track-skipping here. The music is not too complicated, so I'm sure anyone can instantly enjoy it. Or if you want, I'll say it the other way around: there's so much catchy hooks in it, but it's refusing to choose the easy way out. So, two excellent albums in two years. Let's make it three in a row. How about that, Guy? ;) Any plans in 2019?

5. Southern Empire - "Civilisation"

Melodies. Lots of melodies. I've always been fascinated by the term 'song' as opposed to 'music'. These four tracks are not songs. They contain songs, that's true. This is music. This is adventure. We proggers listen to adventures, right? Brilliant stuff here. It reminds me of Karmakanic sometimes, probably because of the vocals, but also in the approach of the music. There is also a part in the album where I hear Kaipa (Crossroads from 9:45). And there are so many different styles. Rock, jazz (yup) something that could be called 'world music' (whatever that is). Even metal, although the metalheads will probably laugh at me. With three of the same musicians as in Damanek (Sean Timms (keys), Brody Green (drums) and Marek Arnold (wind instruments)) a comparison with that band is inevitable. There are similarities, for example the compositions have the same 'colour'. Damanek has more warmth and in the end I think that's why I put it higher on the list. But it was a close call! Southern Empire is a bit heavier, and the hardrock voice of Danny Lopresto is an acquired taste (but actually, so is Manning's). One drawback of this album, ironically, is the long tracks. It's asking a lot of the listener. You can't just listen to a little bit of this album, but you have to listen to the whole thing. That's why I don't listen to it as much as the other albums on this list. I appreciate what Damanek have done: split the epics up in parts. Ah whatever, who am I fooling? This is just amazing stuff! Time to get their debut album!

6. Neal Morse - "Life & Times"

When Neal releases an album, it's very logical for me to have it in my top ten list. This time he's not in the top 5. That's because this is not a prog album. The songs are really nice though. As a singer/songwriter he's still amazing. Essentially, the compositions are of the same level, but he just keeps the songs simple this time. ;D He's cut away the unusual time signatures, erased all the wonderful keyboard and synth solos, deleted the distorted guitar tracks and wiped away the instrumental sections. This is what's left. For some reason I keep coming back to this album. Neal knows how to project feelings, emotions and faith. It's refreshing.

7. Arena - "Double Vision"

Arena, not in the top 5! Shocked! :o Yeah me too. I still think it's a very nice album, but to be honest, I haven't really played it a lot lately. My initial enthusiasm has waned a little bit. There are some moments on the album that I'm beginning to get tired of... But it's still in my top 10 (I have 25 albums released in 2018) and that's because of the excellent The Mirror Lies, Scars and (of course) The Legend Of Elijah Shade. I'm so glad that the guitar solos have returned again. On "The Seventh Degree Of Separation" there was a lot of Manzi (which is totally understandable by the way) and lot less of Mitchell (which was unacceptable ;D ). They fixed that on the dark "The Unquiet Sky" where it was in perfect balance. And now, with "Double Vision", they kept it like that. And although the albums are getting heavier, the songs should appeal to a broad audience. This album is not only for the Neo-Prog enthusiasts. About the big epic however, I have to say that it doesn't really feel like one. To me it feels like a chain of different songs. Some VERY good and some a bit less, unfortunately. In fact, I think the problem I have with this song, is that it's too many songs into one. Every good bit could have been worked out into full 4 or 5 minute songs, but instead they've kept all seven parts way under 3 minutes and with 20 second interludes and intros. Solomon for instance, with its nearly 15 minutes feels more cohesive. That one clearly has three distinctive parts. Anyway, what am I whining about! This is still the best Paul Manzi Arena album and the best since Contagion. This album being at seventh place is because 2018 was such an awesome year!

8. Tiger Moth Tales - "Story Tellers, Part 2"

And again! Another album that came in so late. This one is even more strange, because I heard two songs of the album and immediately bought it and reserved a spot in my top ten. Not too high up in the list. Now that I've heard the album twice, I know it definitely belongs in this list. I'm not ready to place it higher, but I expect it to be a grower. It has that typical English sound that I like. With nice 'pastoral' melodies and instruments. Very much in the same vein as "A Trick Of The Tail"-Genesis, something out of Steve Hackett land or something Big Big Train would have made. I first came in contact with Peter Jones as a guest vocalist on Barock Project's wonderful "Detachment" album that came out last year. (If you don't know it, check out the song Broken.) And I fell in love with his voice. Eventually I also bought "The Depths Of Winter" expecting something like Barock Project, but I got something like Frost's "Milliontown". Not bad! And now this. From now on, Tiger Moth Tales is a band I'll keep a close look on!

9. Spock's Beard - "Noise Floor"

With "Noise Floor" these guys have released their third Spock's Beard 3.0 album. It's useless to compare this to anything before "Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep". Yet, there are moments on this album that could have been on "Beware Of Darkness" or "The Kindness Of Strangers". There's 'fun' in this album. And I think I've never heard Spock's Beard rock as much as on this album. It's difficult to point out favourite songs here, but I really like Somebody's Home! Also Have We All Gone Crazy Yet is a good one. I think So This Is Life is a very interesting song that remarkably sounds a lot like ELO. I like where Spock's Beard is going to and I wonder what a next album will sound like. The concert in december was pretty awesome too by the way! Lot's of fun. So 'fun' is really the magic word in Spock's Beard Land.

10. Perfect Beings - "Vier"

When I heard an earlier Perfect Beings album, Yes was not something that came to my mind. In fact, I didn't like anything I heard, while the reviews were mostly positive. With "Vier" I was intrigued. A four track album. And they were comparing this album to "Tales From Topographic Oceans". In the way the album is set up, I agree. And there's definitively a Yes feel to this all, but much more modern. And more electronic. Besides, this is catchier than TFTO, which has The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) and always makes me feel uncomfortable, dizzy and nauseous. (I could do without that song.) "Vier" is very synth-based and dreamy. Makes me think of Radiohead's "Kid A" in places. There is also symphonic (as in classical orchestra) parts that sounds like it's from a movie or something. Impressive album!

I've listened to a lot more albums in 2018 and I've bought twenty-something CDs. So in a next post (a smaller one I hope) I'll tell more about my 'honourable mentions' and disappointments and all that. I will answer some of my own questions, haha!


Okay, let's give it a go. Finally found time to do it. As far as I'm concerned, it was a great prog year. Difficult to make a top-10, it's really close. The best indication is the number of times I play the album. So here's my list. And I use less words than PH, only comment my top-5 ;)

1. Riverside - Wasteland
Doubted between Riverside and The Pineapple Thief, but the fact they returned so great with the album 'Wasteland' after the loss of their guitarist Piotr Grudziński made me decide for Riverside. Great melodies and versatile songs, really love the album.

2. The Pineapple Thief - Dissolution
More and more impressed by this band. Wouldn't have thought they were able to top 'Your Wilderness', but this is really a great album with beautiful melodies. And Gavin Harrison really is top!

3. Subsignal - La Muerta
Great return after their previous album 'The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime', which was less interesting. 'Paraíso' is still my favourite Subsignal album, with 'La Muerta' close second.

4. Arena - Double Vision
Unfortunately didn't make it to my top-3, but what a beautiful album it is. I agree with PH that it's great to hear the solos back and that the epic is more like 'a number of songs' than one track. But I do play the album often and enjoy it very much!

5. Gazpacho - Soyuz
Very strong album. You have to be in the mood for this band, but they create a pleasant atmosphere with their music.

6. Dukes Of The Orient - Dukes Of The Orient
7. Mystery - Lies And Butterflies
8. Kino - Radio Voltaire
9. Overhead - Haydenspark
10. Neal Morse - Life & Times

Albums that didn't make it to my top-10, but I do really enjoy listening to:
Kayak - Seventeen
Oak - False Memory Archive
Kingcrow - The Persistence
Long Distance Calling - Boundless
Riversea - The Tide
Bjorn Riss - Coming Home (EP)

I expected a lot from the albums from Antimatter (Black Market Enlightenment) and especially Seventh Wonder (Tiara), but IMHO they aren't refreshing and 'too much of the same'.

I attended 5 gigs in 2018: Infloyd (Pink Floyd cover band), Bjorn Riis, Arena, Kingfisher Sky and Symfo Classics. Arena was my favourite 2018 gig.

I discovered Soup in 2018, but their latest album 'Remedies' is from 2017 :). Great band 8)

Looking forward to the following albums in 2019:
The Neal Morse Band - The Great Adventure (25-01-2019)
Soen - Lotus (01-02-2019)
Bjorn Riis (t.b.a.)
'I will surrender my heart to the sky
Oh, our love doesn't end here, it lives forever on the wings of time'
Toto - Wings of time (Kingdom of Desire)


Not been here for ages so apologies for that

Some of my favourite albums last year were

Rivers of Nihil - Where owls know my name.
Revocation - The outer ones
Voivod - The wake
Conjurer - Mire
Ghost - Prequelle
High on fire - Electric messiah
Between the buried and me - Automata 1 and 2
Yob - Our raw heart

Plenty of progressive elements but no "prog" last year


Quote from: PH on Wed, 2019-01-02, 11:24:03

Just for fun, here are the "Best albums of..." from the last couple of years:
2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007.
And, a very special early version, started by none other than The Voyager (remember him? ;D):
I could not find 'Best of year lists' of 2006 and 2005.

So let's hear it!
My top ten, coming up in a moment...

Fun fact (or not), 2017 was the first year i posted a top-10 list.... Hmmm.

Must change that....
Cause of Injury: Lack of Adhesive Ducks.


Quote from: maddox on Fri, 2019-01-18, 15:44:14
Fun fact (or not), 2017 was the first year i posted a top-10 list.... Hmmm.

Must change that....
Curious, good luck ;).
'I will surrender my heart to the sky
Oh, our love doesn't end here, it lives forever on the wings of time'
Toto - Wings of time (Kingdom of Desire)


OK, so a few weeks have passed and I still didn't post my 'honourable mentions' and disappointments.

But I'll make an effort right here and now.

What are the honourable mentions? (In no particular order)

I have to mention Jean Michel Jarre's "Equinoxe Infinity" here. I think with this album he did an amazing job and I listen to it regularly. It's easily the best album he has done in twenty (maybe even thirty) years.

Another one that quite surprised me in a way is "Chronomonaut" by Glass Hammer. A new GH album is always a difficult listen. The music sounds so dense. But this album was likeable from the very start. I still haven't listened that much to it (yet!), but I wanted to mention it anyway!

Magnum's "Lost On The Road To Eternity" is such a fun album!! I enjoy it very much. The problem is that some of the songs sound a bit alike and I get the feeling that the album is a little bit too long. But it's so much fun. And I really like the cover art.

Then there's also Lunatic Soul's "Under The Fragmented Sky". What an atmospherical album! It's very short and not every song is as good, but there's still at least 15 to 20 minutes of exciting music that's taking me on a very cool and dark trip.

Subsignal's "La Muerta" is really cool and I was in doubt whether I should put it in my top ten. And every time I listen to this album I get the feeling that it was a mistake not to. This is so melodic. This album is the true successor to "Paraíso".

Last mention is Lo Moon with their self titled album. Very nice 80's inspired band. Makes me think of Talk Talk, Marillion, Phil Collins and Coldplay. Something like that. I was impressed. Not much Prog, or even Rock, but it's really nice.

Some of the disappointments
Roine Stolt's "Manifesto Of An Alchemist". Or maybe I just have to listen to it more. There are clearly some nods to his first solo album "The Flower King" and at the same time it's a continuation of "Desolation Rose".
Same goes for "The Sea Within" actually. But this album DOES have some real winner songs (They Know My Name, The Void and Goodbye) for sure! But also songs that irritate me a lot (Ashes Of Dawn, An Eye For An Eye For An Eye). I just have the feeling that this could have been so much more.
That last sentence also applies to Kino's "Radio Voltaire". I just can't help it. It just doesn't sound like Kino, I'm sorry...

Albums that I missed this year, but wanted to hear
Riverside - "Wasteland". I have listened to it on Spotify. But not everything clicked with me yet. I was very confused with this album. I REALLY like the ballads but the more rockier tracks didn't do it. So I postponed the purchase of this album, and now it's hard to find. But I'll definitely will get this one!
The Tangent - "Proxy". I haven't heard a single note of this album. Dunno why, but it just happened. But The Tangent is always obligatory for me.
Gungfly - "Friendship"
Evership - "Evership II"
All Traps On Earth - "A Drop Of Light". I have listened to this album once or twice, and it was so overwhelming. What an intriguing and strange album. I want to invest more time in it.

Albums that were released earlier than 2018 but came to me in 2018
This has to be "Remedies" by Soup, what an interesting discovery!