***Author's note: Below you will find two different rankings for this year's albums. The first is merely a list consisting of a Top 20 with a following list of "Honorable Mentions." These are my favorite albums of the year, that is, the albums to which I have formed the greatest emotional attachments. The ensuing Reviews are ordered according to my personal, more objective judgment as to their quality, that is, the "best" albums of the year. Here I have tried to order the albums reviewed according to my personal determination as to what are the "best" albums of the year from a more critical, qualitative viewpoint, that is, without as much emotional attachment as "My Favorite" albums.
2010 offered some awesome new music from artists practicing quite a wide variety of styles. My Favorites List has albums representing no less than ten sub-genres. Another excellent year in terms of quantity and quality, I have on my List five (5) masterpieces and nine (9) near-masterpieces of progressive rock music.
2. FUNIN Unsound
3. BROTHER APE A Rare Moment of Insight
7. COLLAPSE UNDER THE EMPIRE The Sirens Sound
8. FOURTEEN TWENTY-SIX Lighttown Closure
12. ANATHEMA We’re Here Because We’re Here
13. T Anti-Matter Poetry
16. UNIVERS ZERO Clivages
19. KHATSATURJAN Disconcerto Grosso
XING SA Création de l’univers
92.5 on the Fish scales = five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music receiving my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. Bravo, Brother Ape! EVERYBODY: CHECK THIS ONE OUT! You won't be disappointed!
1. "Unsound" (6:55) is so out-of-the-ordinary in its 'world music' approach to instrumentation and voice as to defy comparisons (though Mariuz Duda's opening to LUNATIC SOUL does come to mind). Eerie and yet breathtakingly gorgeous. I love the way this builds, like a Post Rock song, then crescendos leaving behind a kind of BJÖRK/Inuit choral part and a more techno/house final 1:30. (10/10)
2. "Everythings" (5:31) outrageously gorgeous--though COLDPLAY-like poppy--from the start, this one is just so catchy and upbeat that I can't help but wonder why (or maybe that) it was a major international hit. (10/10)
3. "Wonderland" (4:01) is a wonderful pop-jazzy KOOP/BJÖRK-like paced song. (9/10)
4. "Tornado" (4:02) is even more BJÖRK-like sonically, musically and vocally. Wonderful, hip-swaying music with a gorgeous vocal arrangement. It may be very similar to the Icelandic queen's sound and style, but it is masterful and fun! (10/10)
5. "Last Day" (4:08) This song has a bit of the mysterious BARK PSYCHOSIS sound and feel to it in that it is a stripped down, very basic musical landscape over which Marit Elisabeth Svendsboe displays her remarkable vocal uniquities (8/10)
6. "Inch of Me" (6:29) is highlighted by it's second half: the amazing piano, double bass, strings, and, later, 'Latin dance' percussion. Almost a DIANA KRALL song, The Look of Love era. (9/10)
7. "Indestructible" (3:31) is another song completely unique to FUNIN. Part LAURIE ANDERSON, part JON HASSELL, part NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA, this is one unusual yet starkly beautiful 'folk' song. (10/10)
8. "Rocking Chair" (2:43) is another song showcasing singer Marit Elisabeth's versatility. Part BILLY HOLIDAY, part NINA HAGEN, part Gypsy or Arab folk singer, this is to be heard. (8/10)
9. "Machine" (6:57) is an amazing, edgy techno/industry song displaying some quite unusual vocal skills (or editing!) and ending with a classic piano/string quartet! (9/10)
10. "Skywalkers" (5:12) starts out a lot like COWBOY JUNKIES/LAURA NYRO before going BJÖRK Vespertine and then, with 2:20 addition of the male voice, back to a Cowboy Junkies or DUNCAN SHEIK feel. Awesomely odd and unusual! (9/10)
92.0 on the Fish scales = five stars; a definite masterpiece of progressive rock music--one that is truly pushing the boundaries of music into future possibilities.
4. CICADA Over the Sea/Under the Water
Is a young Taiwanese "ambient/neoclassical/post rock" chamber ensemble consisting of a female piano player, Jesey Chiang (the main composer), a male acoustic guitar player, and three female strings players (violin, viola, cello). They play what appears to be in the Post Rock/Math Rock style, though, in reality they are probably a little more of what might be considered "neoclassical." Absolutely beautiful, heart-wrenchingly emotional songs, beautiful compositions. Definitely one of my favorite albums and new discoveries of the year.
Also great: the unexpectedly beautiful, yet playful, 2. "Fly" (2:44) (9/10), and; the slightly country-and-classical (if that's possible)-sounding but beautifully orchestrated opener, "Over the Sea, Under the Water" (6:42) (8/10).
90.0 on the Fish scales = five stars; a masterpiece of progressive music.
5. VESPERO By the Waters of Tomorrow
90.0 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.
88.0 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; a near masterpiece of modern progressive rock music.
88.0 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music. This could be a masterpiece within the Math/Post Rock genre, however its length (37 minutes) and fact that this subgenre seems doomed to low expectations and limited potential because of its limiting styles, structures, and instrumentation leads me to rate it four stars. DEFINITELY a great addition to any prog lovers music collection!! Highly recommended!
9. YUGEN Iridule
87.0 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of modern progressive rock music.
3. "Ena Pedi Ston Kathrefti" (6:01) is a beautiful jazz-folk song sung in Greek that has a melody that wiggles its way into your brain and won't let go. Beautiful folk vocal over jazzy, almost avant garde music. (9/10)
4. "A Storyteller's Dream" (7:09) is a beautiful song--yet another (mostly) instrumental--with a very strong grounding in folk traditions--not unlike THE PENTANGLE or ALTAN. For me, probably the album's most emotive song. I love the organ solo with strumming acoustic guitars and mellotron mid-song which builds into quite a jam! 10/10 IMHO, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with any of the all-time great prog-instrumentals. (10/10)
5. "Raindrops" (4:16) has a very pastoral, folk feel to it, with flute, acoustic guitar, bassoon, electric piano (?) and voice constantly weaving in and out of each other's melody lines. (8/10)
6. "An Endless Sea" (5:28) is a piano and acoustic guitar song that opens like a RENAISSANCE song from the 70s. When Evangelia's vocal enters it is only briefly before a shift in the song dynamics takes it into a little heavier, more insistent rock domain. At 1:50 everything calms down and returns to the folk-rock base that it opened to. Beautiful flute play (in lieu of a vocal for the second verse)! Interesting song bouncing back and forth--almost like a conversation being held between the folk and rock elements of the band. (8/10)
9. "I Stigmi--The Moment" (3:14) is a very classy folk-jazz-classical chamber piece with keys, electric guitar, and woodwinds noodling around over a standard C&W bass & drums back beat. The guitar picking even seems to come right out of Nashville. I love the fact that Evangelia Kozoni's vocals are being sung in her native Greek. (9/10)
Overall, a very, very enjoyable journey that never failed to keep my attention and which draws me back in as soon as I hear a few chords of any of its songs. Definitely a musican to watch--though no listener would be disappointed if they start here.
4(-) stars. A good album. (Recommendation: Give it 3-4 listens before judging it completely.)
Post-edit: This is one album that has stayed on my radar and seems to have grown in my appreciation and esteem over time. I think it's due to the uniquely wonderful singing, melodies, and guitar of Mirek Gil. He may not be soaring to the heights of other solos but his solos are still better than 90% of all guitarists out there.
85.71 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.
85.0 on the Fish scales = 4.5 stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.