Thursday, July 20, 2017

777-The Past, Present, and Future of 2017


We've chosen to perfect the standard "The Year So Far In Music" list with our take on 7 sensational songs from albums released in the first 7 months of 2017, the 7 artists we're currently listening to on repeat, and our 7 albums to watch for in the coming months.

Past Perfect 7
"Holy Ghost" by Bent Knee

This nimble avante-prog ditty showcases Bent Knee's performative prowess and compositional ingenuity, while Courtney Swain's voice soars with all the force and grace of a musical dragon. A strong contender for "song of the year."


"Vegan Mother's Day" by Big Hogg

Funky, psychedelic, and eminently danceable, this brashly-titled track is more fun than a barrel of monkeys.


"A Mead Hall In Winter" by Big Big Train

What a lovely way to wrap up a strong contender for "album of the year." Let's have more prog epics celebrating the Enlightenment, please and thank you.


"The River of Sadness" by Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly

Speaking of prog epics, here's another one written by Rikard Sjöblom that's catchy as the heavens. Chin up Beardfish fans, because it sounds like the best is yet to come from this Scandinavian gem.


"Found It In Silence" by HAIM

After what felt like a lengthy delay, HAIM are back with a sophomore slugger of an album--they just knock it right out of the park with hooks galore and rich but subtle production choices. Well worth the wait.


"Run! Apocalypse! Run!" by Ayreon

Arjen Anthony Lucassen has taken his tried-and-true progressive metal theatre approach and cranked it up with a liberal sprinkling of 80's NWOBHM and AOR sounds. You won't hear a better new Iron Maiden song this year.


"Lady Of The Lake" by Beatrix Players

Chamber Prog is here to stay (let's hope), and the Beatrix Players have quickly proven themselves to be its finest practitioners. Come for the lovely melodies, stay for the gorgeous use of sonic space.



Present Perfect 7
Bent Knee

It can take a few listens to grow accustomed to Bent Knee's relentless and unpredictable rhythmic changes, but once you "get it" you'll be in deep. Their new album Land Animal has stayed in heavy rotation for us, and you can bet it'll still be there when end of the year lists are being written.


Big Big Train

In the 13 months from May 2016 to June 2017, Pastoral Prog Progenitors Big Big Train released 3 Double-LP studio albums plus a 2-CD live album. If you're into progressive sounds, how can you not be listening to at least one of these releases in any given week? Pretty soon, the only options will be complete devotion to the band, or feigning disinterest like people do with The Beatles.


HAIM

Let's just get this out in the open: more than any other mainstream act these days, HAIM are the ones walking in Michael Jackson's moonsteps. They're writing perfect pop songs with perfect production and a rhythmic approach to melody that never tires on the ears.


The Tangent

With The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery, Andy Tillison & Co. have just released one of the most expansive and scorching albums in recent progressive music history. The prog equivalent of The Clash's Sandanista!, this album is politically charged but it's punk over punditry and driven by massive amounts of musical virtuosity and righteous indignation. Also, jazz.


Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly

Seldom does a progressive rock band turn in such a catchy and personally relatable set of songs as those found On Her Journey to the Sun, but here we are, and we're not inclined to stop listening any time soon. Is that a Bob Seger lyric or guitar lick stuck in my head? Nope--it's Rikard Sjöblom's Gungfly.


Kesha

Tick-tock, it's time for Taylor Swift and Katy Perry to step aside as Kesha finally does whatever the heaven she wants and makes it sound real good. Here's hoping we hear a lot more of this funkier side of Kesha, as well as some Dylan-esque balladry.


Discipline

This Detroit-based band are mining a wonderfully satisfying vein of muscular 70's rock with a progressive bent. Think Supertramp, Steely Dan, and early Alice Cooper Band--tight writing and tight performances make their latest album, Captives of the Wine Dark Sea, oh so easy to play on repeat.


Future Perfect 7

In This Moment We Are Free-Cities by VUUR

Continuing what she started with The Gentle Storm, Anneke Van Giersbergen is rocking full steam ahead with her new full-time progressive metal band, VUUR. The first single is invigoratingly heavy and a bit menacing. While it's a shame that Marcela Bovio isn't there to share the spotlight, Anneke & Co. have no doubt followed through on the promise of an album packed with "heavy, proggy shit."


Pinewood Smile by The Darkness

Though they'll always be remembered for their massive first hit single, The Darkness first fully realized their own idiomatic synthesis of For Those About to Rock We Salute You and Hot Space with 2015's The Last of Our Kind. This fall, they'll land studio album #5 with what we must assume will be great panache.


What's That Sound? by Haley Reinhart

Do you love Haley Reinhart for her upbeat, funky-bluesy pop albums, or for her frequent collaborations in nostalgia with Postmodern Jukebox? If you answered "both," then you are in great luck, because Reinhart has a new album on the way that should play to all her strengths. Covers albums can be a disappointing venture, but considering that the lead single blows away both The Shirelles and The Beatles, this batch of songs appear safe in Reinhart's capable pipes.


Paranormal by Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper has his career on lock with relentless touring and a well-loved radio show. He doesn't need to make a new album. So, despite sometimes mixed results, it's always a treat when he deigns to toss his sick things a new bone. Expect Alice's trademark blend of creepy & clever lyrics with a sound somewhere between Killer, Goes to Hell, and Dirty Diamonds



To The Bone by Steven Wilson

Some fans will worship the new album just because it bears the initials SW while others will hate it on principle for being "pop," but after the career he's had thus far, why shouldn't Wilson make something that's both fun (?!) and accessible? We can't get enough of progressive pop bands like Electric Light Orchestra and Alan Parsons Project, so we're firmly in the "interest is piqued" camp.


Between The Walls And The Window by Ché Aimee Dorval

The self-titled Casualties of Cool is still one of our favourite albums of the past several years, representing a high point even for Devin Townsend's usually stratospheric bar. Devin's genius notwithstanding, you've gotta give a lot of that credit to his collaborator on that project, Ché Aimee Dorval. The previews for her new solo LP sound like she's brought that haunted, progressive-ambient texture to bear on the beautiful singer-songwriter approach of her past solo work.



Sugar Skull by Sleepy Driver

A new Sleepy Driver album is always a highlight of its release year, and finds its way into our headphones at least every few weeks. Built on the strong lyricism of frontman Peter Hicks, this Canadian Americana outfit play the best mix of love songs and murder ballads this side of whatever train tracks are nearest you.



That's our list; which songs have held you by the headphones this year? Which artist figures most prominently in the stack of LPs by your turntable? Any albums you couldn't wait to whip out your wallet to pre-order? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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