TPM Top Keys of 2020


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10. Dan Rock – Psychotic Waltz

Another long-anticipated album, Psychotic Waltz returned with oomph and darkness in 2020. One of my favorite parts was Dan’s keyboard performance. His keys were haunting and surging, lingering on my mind even in the midst of a wall of riffs, and the way they interacted with Devon’s flute was lush and life-giving.  They added a character to the music that was vital. 

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9. Atli Örvarsson – solo

Atli’s new solo album is the very definition of subtle grace. With ambient textures and illustrious piano, he wove a wonderful tapestry of moody and ultimately hopeful melodies. I find myself returning to his new album often for his gorgeous keys and serene compositions.

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8. Dirk Dzimirsky – The Carbon Files

This album was a real surprise for me, and much of that is due to Dirk’s fantastic keys. What I love most about them is how Dirk writes some of the most purposeful melodies I’ve heard in such an album, and his ability to make me feel the theme of the music is rather striking. Much of the album is electronic, but Dirk’s beauteous piano passages lead the way with nostalgia and light.

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7. Adam Gough – IO Earth

The latest IO Earth album leaned rather heavily on keys, to fantastic results. Adam, then, was one of the heroes here, and cascading, brilliant piano gave the album such drama and texture. In this monster of an album, he really stood out well.

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6. Martijn Westerholt – Delain

I’m loving Delain more and more, and much of that is due to Martijn’s keys. With epic, sweeping sagas and piercing solos, his presence is absolutely necessary to establish the fantasy and emotion that I so love in this band. Yet, he has an ear for nuance and atmosphere, too, and so he can basically do it all.

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5. Yegor Savonin – Fires

in the Distance

Yegor surprised me greatly with truly fantastic keys on the new Fires in the Distance record. The album is heavy and unrelenting at times, yes. But Yegor’s pinpricks of light drove right through the heft of the guitars and bass to create a stunning contrast that was both necessary and addictive.

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4. Clive Nolan – Pendragon

Clive is a legend and one of my favorite keyboardists. On the last few Pendragon albums, he was somewhat absent, mainly due to the heavier sound. Upon the band’s return to their tender, more pastoral sound on “Love Over Fear”, Clive was able to shine once again with the sweeping, majestic melodies that made me fall in love with the band in the first place.

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3. Thomas Bergersen – solo

Thomas was busy in 2020 releasing two of his planned seven “Humanity” albums. While his technical prowess was never in question for me, I was still amazed by not just his composition skills, but his genuine spirit on piano and keys. From mighty torrents to heartbreaking melodies, he does it all.

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2. Vikram Shankar – Silent Skies

Vikram is a force to be reckoned with on keys and piano. I’m used to seeing him on his angular keyboard, spinning in all directions as he blasts us with melody. On Silent Skies, he takes a gentle, emotive tone, offering not only technical ability, but real humanity in his playing. This is the type of playing that haunts your mind for years to come.

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**1. Michael Whalen – solo**

Michael was rather busy in 2020, as well. His solo release, and also his release with BlueMonk, offered some of the most spacious, evocative, and spiritual experiences of the year. His vast array of keyboards and rigs is truly amazing to see, and his self-programmed synth tones are so beautiful. I love his attention to nuance and meter, while I also admired his ability to capture feelings and landscapes with music. His performance was definitely my favorite in 2020.

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