Last year featured what might have been the strongest contingent of great records since I started keeping track of my listening, with a Top Ten packed with records that I still feel as strongly about, even this far removed from writing the list. I didn’t think it would be possible for this year to approach that level of quality, but I have been shocked to find that this year has been even better, and is easily the best year for music (for me) since I began compiling lists. There has been plenty of forgettable music that I wish I didn’t hear, but there have been more great records this year than in any other I’ve experienced, and come the end of the year, I’m going to struggle to cut the list down to ten.
Before then, and as an introduction for the blog, I hereby present a few of my favorite records so far this year (in chronological order):
Transatlantic – “Kaleidoscope”
Transatlantic had already established themselves as my favorite prog band, and with “Kaleidoscope” they cemented that status. The album is as epic as prog can get, boasting two 25+ minute tracks, but even at it’s most indulgent, the band knows how to cram their songs full of so many hooks that the songs never get lost in the music. It is a stunning piece of work, one that blows me away, no matter how many times I hear it.
Emerson Hart – “Beauty In Disrepair”
Emerson Hart is my favorite songwriter, and he fronts my favorite band. I’m biased towards his work, but that doesn’t discount the fact that I find “Beauty In Disrepair” to be a fantastic record, filled with the kind of memorably melodic songs that few others can write. I’m not in the proper place in life to fully relate to the songs, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating them.
Incura – “Incura”
This one caught me off guard, as I blindly listened to it without knowing anything about the band. What happened is that I was shocked by their blend of hard rock, pop, and musical theater. The record is an interesting dissection of hard rock tropes, never quite what you expect. All I know is that it’s great music.
Blues Pills – “Blues Pills”
I had the opportunity to review their “Devil Man” EP last year, but that didn’t prepare me for how much I love this album. They took the best aspects of their sound, and somehow made the parts I wasn’t keep on match that level. It’s an album of bluesy hard rock, ripped straight from the olden days. It’s not normally my kind of music, but they do it so well that I can’t help but be entranced.
Neal Morse – “Songs From November”
Aside from appearing at the start of this list with Transatlantic, Neal Morse has become one of the most important musical figures in my life, so it’s no surprise that his new album makes this list. Neal has delivered a set of melodic pop songs that is as good as anything he’s ever written (which is saying something), and is exactly the kind of album I wanted to hear from him. If there was justice in the world of pop music, an album like this would be getting mainstream attention.
So there we have it, a few of my favorite records of the year. There are more I love just as much, and more will be coming in the remaining months of the year. In what order they fall remains to be seen. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.