2016 Music Recommendations

VOLA – Inmazes

VOLA kind of came out of nowhere for me.

Well, they came from somewhere: Spotify’s Progressive Metal list. As soon as I heard “Starburn,” I knew they were my kind of band. Dynamic, heavy, beautiful, different – VOLA’s Inmazes combines djent, prog, and electronics in novel ways. All of Inmazes is a treat. Standouts include the title track, “Starburn,” and “Your Mind Is a Helpless Dreamer.”

My album of the year. So good.

Big Big Train – Folklore

Another in the new-prog discoveries, Big Big Train makes pastoral progressive rock that’s a lot of fun. “Wassail” was my favorite from this album – and thanks to that song, I’m making an traditional wassail cider for the holidays.

Frost* – Falling Satellites

Boy, what a discovery “Milliontown” was for me. Twenty six minutes of pure prog glory. Frost* made a poppier effort with Falling Satellites: less prog epics but more prog experiments (ProgStep? It’s in there!). It’s been in near constant rotation since the fall.

The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

An outlier for music this year, and even though I greatly prefer their first album, the 1975 snuck up on me. They’re the rare modern band that breaks through the noise and make themselves known (it helps that I follow a bunch of my former college students on Twitter). I like it when you sleep… is quiet a bit too often for my liking, but the upbeat tracks are a lot of fun in that grimy, party-hardy English way.

Haken – Affinity

More on the prog metal side of things, Haken’s Affinity is a nice callback to the mid ’80s in that rose-colored glasses kind of way that made Stranger Things such a fun series. I mean, just listen to that synth and guitar line in “1985.”

My favorite is “Earthrise” – a gung-ho prog romp if there ever was one. You can’t beat that opening piano riff.

The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem

Want to see me have a meltdown on Twitter? Just go back to earlier this year during The Hip’s final show. Man Machine Poem is a weird, beautiful, potential goodbye from Canada’s hometown band. “Machine” says “so long” in such a haunting way (“I dream like a bird”), it’s all you can do not to break down at the end. Or pump your first in celebration.

“I tried nothing, and I’m out of ideas,” Gord sings. I doubt that – but it’s a fine idea to finish things up.

Honorable mentions:

Tycho, Epoch : Big surprise album from one of my fav electronic bands.

The Pineapple Thief, Your Wilderness: More good stuff from a great band. Missing Porcupine Tree? These guys will help fill the void with PT’s Gavin Harrison on drums.