Here is my top 10 favorite albums at the moment. I have decided to call it top 10 ‘’modern’’ albums, because I left out all the classics I also love (ex: Rush – Moving Pictures, Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon, Genesis – Selling England by the Pound, etc). The list would have been too long. Maybe I will do a vintage top 10 in the future. So without further ado, here it is:
10. Neal Morse – The Similitude of a Dream
This is surprisingly making it to my top 10 as this album was released 3 months ago on November 2016. What made me decide to put it here was the live show I’ve seen last week in Montreal. This was one of the best shows of my life (I was literally standing up with my mouth open at the end of the last song, tears falling down on my cheeks). I realized how big and powerful this album can be. Neal Morse is my favorite artist and this album may be one of the best of his career, if not already the best. It will sure come up in this list as it will grow on me with time. This is the perfect progressive rock album: 2 CDs, 2 Hours of music with different themes developed all over the place, several lead singers, conceptual story based on the ‘’Pilgrim’s Progress’’ by John Bunyan, ranging from very touching and slow songs to technical prowess. Influences are all over the place too, from Pink Floyd to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen and more. It’s fun to find all those little nuggets everywhere. When I say my list is modern, it couldn’t be more recent than that: a must listen!
9. Haken – The Mountain
Haken was one of my best discoveries of 2014. As a fan of the more mellow side of progressive rock, it’s got everything you would want from prog metal that is not too extreme. This album is just a bliss of nice heavy riffs, intricate song arrangements and a pace that keeps you engaged during the whole album. This is not a pale copy of every prog metal band out there: every part is well thought and inventive. The time signatures are very clever and always changing, so nothing’s predictable, which is something I like a lot (that’s why I love prog!). There are also a lot of touches of jazz that complement a lot the song structures. The vocal harmonies are really well developed and there is a nice alternance between heavy songs and softer, more delicate parts. An album I will never grow tired to listen to.
8. Transatlantic – Bridge Across Forever
Transatlantic is a supergroup consisting of Neal Morse (as previously mentioned), Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) and Pete Trewavas (Marillion). Pretty much an impressive lineup for every modern prog fan! This album only has 4 songs, with 2 songs over 25 minutes, one of 15 minutes and a ballad… You really embark on a big journey. It’s impossible to listen to this album on shuffle! Lead signing is also shared on all the band members, primarly to Roine Stolt and Neal Morse, but there are a lot of vocal harmonies from everyone. Another album with a lot of themes developed throughout, modulated, changed from instruments, reworked on… A true work of art! Only them have the secrets of taking a very good riff and changing its key several times to make it even more cohesive and memorable. They are all masters of their own instruments, but also masters of writing prog epics. The ballad ‘’Bridge Across Forever’’ is one of the best ever. So emotional. It’s an album I spin very often whenever I have work to do at home.
7. Dream Theater – Metropolis Part 2 : Scenes from a Memory
Dream Theater was THE band that got me into progressive rock in my teenage years. It had to be somewhere on this list. Like many other albums that are my favorite, this is a concept album that is meant to be listened from top to bottom. I think in the streaming/playlists era, we lose that feeling of listening to a whole album. This album is so strong that Mike Portnoy consider it is in the top 3 of his career (and god did he record a lot of albums!). It contains the epic ‘’The Dance of Eternity’’ which many consider one of the hardest songs to learn technically and for the very complex time signature changes.
6. Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing
It was hard to choose my favorite album from Steven Wilson, as I also love his most recent (Hand. Cannot. Erase.), the previous one (Grace For Drowning) and his other projects (Porcupine Tree, Blackfield). This is a short album with only 6 songs, but they are all masterpieces. I like that Steven went for a 70’s sound, with the instruments chosen and the arrangments. Lots of 12-strings guitar parts that are exquisite. The title track of this album ‘’The Raven That Refused To Sing’’ is one of the most moving tracks to hear live. The melody and build-up on that song are so emotionally charged. Another album I spin very frequently.
5. Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
As few of you know, I am a big fan of the Foo Fighters. They are keeping true straight-up rock alive. I absolutely love all the rocking side of the Foos, but also the acoustic songs by Dave Grohl. This album is just a perfect mixture between both of them. Songs like ‘’Let It Die’’ just cannot be beaten it terms of the most efficient build-ups in the history of rock. An album that I listened a lot in my teenage years too.
4. Moon Safari – Blomljud
If you want to feel good about your day (and man, about your life!) this album is for you. This is just feel-good prog rock. It is a breath of fresh air for me, as most of the progressive rock songs are either very depressing or just a mess of different emotions. This band composes almost everything in major and there is something very uplifting about it. Most people would find this music very cheesy, but if you look at it with a different perspective, this is very, very well written music. All the band members are great singers and some of the 4 or even 5-parts harmonies have nothing to envy from some complex jazz songs. There is a lot of synths and keyboards in this music: I definitely have a lot to learn from them!
3. Radiohead – OK Computer
One of the few non-prog albums in my top. I almost put it on number 2. This album has touched me in so many ways, even if you don’t hear it that much in my own music. I am not even a big fan of Radiohead, but I consider this album one of the best of the last 20 years. The revolutionary way they included electronic sounds in their rock sound with such mastery has not been made with so much success since then, in my opinion. If you think about it too, for an album released in 1997, OK Computer was one of the best sound productions of that time. All the songs have something very addictive to them. Sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly why you are moved or amazed by an album and Radiohead did exactly that to me.
2. Riverside – Love, Fear and the Time Machine
Love, Fear and the Time Machine hits me with his simplicity, but pure, raw emotional sound. All the songs from this album are fairly simple and short. But every chord, every note, every word is the right one. To me, everything is just so perfect and unique with this album. Nothing is in the way of connecting your soul directly to the music. ‘’Time Travellers’’ is just my favorite ballad ever. Riverside did not reinvent the wheel. But it’s crazy how they can take already existing prog elements, mix them so simply and make a unique sound, a work of art. The fact that Piotr Grudzinski, their guitar player, tragically died at the age of 40 last year, maybe has built a stronger connection and even made more sense to a lot of songs for me. A melancholic album that will cure my soul for years to come.
1. Spock’s Beard – Snow
Snow by Spock’s Beard is an undiscussable #1 and is since many years to me. This is my first real progressive rock album and it has sparked my love and passion for it. I still remember buying that album after seeing some suggested video from Youtube. Another 2 CDs concept album, as you can imagine! I remember being moved by the sounds, the melodies and the epic ending. I was immediately hooked with those acoustic riffs, those delicate parts and grandiose moments. Neal Morse’s singing was so true, so serene. I could speak for hours to explain you what this album means to me, but I’m lacking some words to do it. Just make you a favor and give this album a chance.
Do you know some albums in my top 10? What are your favorite albums? Those who changed your musical world forever?