We are halfway through 2017 already, and it’s been quite a year for progressive music in general. I usually only do a list of 10 albums this time of year, but I felt the need to do 20 this time because of how many amazing albums would get snubbed. Keep in mind that these albums have probably adjusted half points, or even full points, in my mind since my reviews. These are my favorite albums I’ve heard in 2017, though. That doesn’t mean they are objectively the best or most technical, but it does mean that they’ve grabbed hold of me more than others.
20. Amarok – “Hunt”
The new Amarok album made it onto this list at the last second. It may even advance on the list as time progresses, but I felt the need to put it on here. Contribution from Mariusz Duda of Riverside aside, this album is a fantastic combination of dark prog rock, ambient electronic, and world music. Michał Wojtas is the mastermind here, and I really hope he can make serious strides in exposure.
19. Odd Logic – “Effigy”
Odd Logic’s latest is the first with the full band in several years. “Effigy” is thrashy and heavy, and definitely proggy, too. It’s a fantastic release from this American band.
18. Carptree – “Emerger”
Carptree is back and better than ever! With loads of giant synth runs and killer bass grooves, Carptree thrills us once again. I was honestly surprised at how amazing this album is.
17. Retrospective – “Re:Search”
Poland’s Retrospective released what was one of my most anticipated albums this year. The dark Polish prog they offer is laced with lots of melody and dual male/female vocals that play off each other perfectly. Some of the best moments of 2017 are in this record.
16. YSMA – “Memoirs in Monochrome”
YSMA brings us their instrumental prog with gusto and an eye for story-telling this time. These young guys have a bright future ahead of them.
15. Big Big Train – “Grimspound”
BBT has been pretty active the last few years, and “Grimspound” is probably my favorite from them since “English Electric, Part 1”. Their pastoral style never gets old.
14. Hibernal – “The Dark of the City”
Mark Healy’s Hibernal is back with one of his best stories yet. The music on “The Dark of the City” matches the dark story pace for pace beautifully. Mark has truly outdone himself this year.
13. Bader Nana – “Devolver”
I’m a big fan of Bader Nana’s music. His releases are always a few years removed from each other, though; but they are also always worth the wait. “Devolver” is a fantastic heavy prog album with luscious melodies and excellent guitars.
12. Bjørn Riis – “Forever Comes to an End”
Bjørn Riis is quickly becoming one of my favorite guitarists. What I like about this new album is that it isn’t truly a “guitar” album, as his composition skills are far reaching and eclectic. This album is a real treat for the senses.
11. The Vicious Head Society – “Abject Tomorrow”
Graham Keane has take the progressive metal world by storm with this massive undertaking. His debut is hugely ambitious and majorly satisfying. Go buy a copy!
10. Anathema – “The Optimist”
Anathema’s latest is once again emotional, though darker and more understated than their past few albums. For those that crave subtlety, “The Optimist” is a home run.
9. Smalltape – “The Ocean”
Smalltape shocked me with this elegant and eclectic debut, and I was even more shocked to see that one man is responsible for most of it: Philipp Nespital. His obvious training in production and sound design makes this album a real joy to experience. His composition skills are completely mesmerizing at times.
8. Steve Hackett – “The Night Siren”
Hackett has outdone himself once again with an ambitious album of world music influences, prog rock, and ambient guitar work. Hackett shows no signs of slowing down soon.
7. Nad Sylvan – “The Bride Said No”
Nad Sylvan is definitely an acquired taste, but his music is always elegant and well-crafted. “The Bride Said No” is probably the best thing I’ve heard from him so far; with plenty of personality and definitely some 80’s influences.
6. Beatrix Players – “Beatrix Players”
I did not expect to love his Beatrix Players debut as much as I do. With every listen, the folksy, neoclassical music grabs me more and more. I think it’s the pure heart in this album that really sets it apart from other releases.
5. Lonely Robot – “The Big Dream”
John Mitchell’s Lonely Robot blew me away a couple years ago, and he’s done it again. “The Big Dream” is imaginative and beautiful, and the trip inside our own heads is something to behold.
4. Life in 24 Frames – “CTRL+Z”
Life in 24 Frames offers an album that is short, sweet, and addictive. The music is beautiful, with lots of keys and spacey themes. The month by month concept is really strong and unique, and the songs flow into each other gorgeously.
3. Pain of Salvation – “In the Passing Light of Day
Pain of Salvation is darker and more personal than ever on “In the Passing Light of Day”. Daniel’s recent bout with death has spawned one of their heaviest and and grittiest albums to date. Hopefully, the recent turmoil in the band will play out well.
2. Persefone – “Aathma”
I was honestly not a fan of Persefone’s style before this album, but “Aathma” has absolutely blown my mind this year. The band has achieved this balance between progressive death metal and their more ambient ventures to stellar and ethereal results. The title suite at the end of this spiritual album is probably the best thing I’ve heard in 2017.
1. Soup – “Remedies”
I struggled whether to list Soup or Persefone as my favorite this year, but I find myself listening to Soup’s latest more than anything else. While Persefone’s album is a truly emotional masterwork, it is rather daunting to hear often. In other words, you have to be ready and focused. Soup’s latest touches me in a different way, offering nostalgic and psychedelic gold that is simply addictive no matter where I am or what I’m doing. So, while these albums are sure to shift around by the end of the year, Soup’s “Remedies” is my favorite album so far in 2017.
Only Echoes Remain – “The Exigent”
Galahad – “Quiet Storms”
Roger Waters – “Is This the Life We Really Want?”
Magenta – “We Are Legend”
Hologram Earth – “Black Cell Program”
Wave – “Me and Reality”
Here’s to a fantastic second half of 2017!