Album Reviews TPA Best of 2021

Published on 1st January 2022

TPA Best Albums of 2021


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Happy New Year!

Well, hopefully things will start to show an improvement at last.

Despite the restrictions on social gatherings, live music and fun in general, the boffins at various music-making facilities around the globe have been beavering away to come up with the goods, and my word, they have certainly succeeded in providing some stunning work during Lockdown Year 2.0.

Here we present a small selection of the fine audio medicines prescribed to TPA’s hive mind during the last 12 months. There’s plenty more: the seam is vast, and it just needs some careful chiselling to dislodge more nuggets of pure gold. It’s fair to say that in the region of non-mainstream music and strange sounds, we are indeed truly blessed.

Bask in the goodness of the 42 different albums nominated below!

Enjoy and let the good times roll on into ’22!


Mel Allen

    Motorpsycho – Kingdom of Oblivion

    Hot on the heels of completing their ‘Gullvåg Trilogy’, Motorpsycho released this album; no resting on their laurels for these guys. The initial plan was to collect songs with big riffs, but in true band style, as ideas developed folk-like touches were added, giving contrast to the sound. They have the great ability to take their influences and seamlessly integrate them into the Motorpsycho sound we all know and love. This album is pretty much a more full-on and heavier release, demonstrating a band whose creative focus is spot on.
    Highlight Track: Kingdom of Oblivion

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    Motorpsycho - Kingdom of Oblivion



    Isildurs Bane & Peter Hammill – In Disequilibrium

    Isilidurs Bane return with their second collaboration with Peter Hammill. Having stated that “extraordinary times call for extraordinary music”, and boy, have they delivered here on that front. Hammill adds his unique vocal and lyrical talents to two contrasting suites of music. His uncompromising approach and intensity sits well with these tightly composed pieces and this partnership sits very well indeed, Hammil’s skill at inserting lyrics into the flow of the music is quite extraordinary, providing another excellent release.
    Highlight Track: Gently (Step by Step)

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    Isildurs Bane and Peter Hammill - In Disequilibrium



    Shamblemaths – Shamblemaths II

    This second album from the band takes on a different tone, darker and heavier yet retaining some of the fragility and vulnerability. It took them five years and “countless studio hours” without compromise to get all their ideas compressed into this album. ’70s-tinged prog with touches of avant-garde and jazz give us eclectic and interesting music. Some may find this a challenging and demanding listen, but it comes with moments of great vocal beauty, demonstrating that all the work put in has paid dividends.
    Highlight Track: Knucklecog

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    Shamblemaths - Shamblemaths II



    Jordsjø – Pastoralia

    Jordsjø’s third album demonstrates how their music has continued to develop while still retaining the retro folk feel along with jazz and Canterbury influences of their previous releases. Primarily a duo for this release, they have employed a number of supporting musicians. Thematically, this album is based on dreams and a longing for freedom of a fictional place, Pastoralia. This has given rise to some memorable melodic layering and they continue to maintain an excellent focus throughout what is a thoroughly enjoyable album.
    Highlight Track: Prolog

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    Jordsjø - Pastoralia



    Marius Leirånes – Langtidsperpektiv

    Marius is known as a member of Norwegian band Pixie Ninja. He decided to embark on a solo concept album inspired by a subject that is deeply personal and close to his heart. He researched the history of a secluded hamlet in Rana where his family farm is located. This gave rise to some excellent music with touches of electronica, ambient and post-rock, with Marius playing all the instruments, alongside some notable guest musicians. An album that will invoke different thoughts and feelings in the listener, Marius has put a lot of love, care and attention into creating this excellent piece of work.
    Highlight Track: Amerika

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    Marius Leirånes - Langtidsperpektiv



Tony Colvill

    The Emerald Dawn – To Touch the Sky

    My constant companion throughout 2021, matching moods, lifting spirits, comforting and joyful.

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    The Emerald Dawn - To Touch the Sky



    Drifting Sun – Forsaken Innocence

    I knew of this long before release; it was anticipated and I was not disappointed. The usual subjects and Jargon from Verbal Delirium. A masterclass.

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    Drifitng Sun - Forsaken Innocence



    Stewart Clark – Let’s Go There

    Not entirely prog, but a joy from beginning to end. Promises for an interesting future.

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    Stewart Clark – Let’s Go There



    Trifecta – Fragments

    There has been so much good stuff again this year, from some excellent bands, but does it lift you beyond aural pleasure? This one does – a smile for every track.

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    Trifecta - Fragments



    Grice – One Thousand Birds Symphony

    This is challenging, exhilarating, and at times disturbing. Brilliance a new dawn.

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    Grice - One Thousand Birds Symphony



Alex Driessen

    Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe (Forevermore)

    One of the very first releases of the year and immediately I couldn’t help thinking ‘This will be a hard nut to crack when it comes to the year-end charts. Crammed with beautiful melodies, strong lyrics, virtuoso play, a real group effort, at least that’s how it feels. I must admit I hardly ever play the Breath of Life version, the reasoning behind this release escapes me (or was it to keep everyone happy?). Anyway, a great start to the year and a demonstration of how these four musicians, in spite of the distance between them, can still come up with some of the best in the genre. Champions’ League stuff.

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    Transatlantic - The Absolute Universe (Forevermore)



    Cyan – For King and Country

    Another one that completely bowled me over. Brilliant idea of Robert Reed to team up with yet another genius, Pete Jones and the virtuoso guitar playing of Luke Machin. I didn’t know about the original, but this one knocks it out of the park. True old-fashioned (neo) prog, with the solid backbone of Magenta keeping it all together. Perfect melodies and great musical skills, Reed must surely be one of prog’s most prolific artists. Does this man ever sleep?

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    Cyan - For King and Country



    Premiata Forneria Marconi – I Dreamed of Electric Sheep

    Quite a surprise to have the Italian veterans back in the top five of any chart, but with their new album they truly return to form, albeit slightly adapted to the new times. Not the jubilant progressive rock of the seventies but the foundation is still there. Franz Di Cioccio and Patrick Djivas, now well into their seventies, have shown that there is life after the ’70s. Surrounded by a band of young(er) top notch Italian musicians they have managed to stay true to their roots but at the same time adding a contemporary component. A good lesson for the Yes’s of this world.
    Highlight Track: both bookend instrumentals. How about that for a mix of modern and classic prog!

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    Premiata Forneria Marconi - I Dreamed of Electric Sheep



    Big Big Train – Common Ground

    Maybe lagging just a bit behind in comparison to predecessor Grand Tour, but nevertheless a testimony to the great writing and musical skills of Big Big Train. With some trepidation we witnessed the departure of long-standing members Dave Gregory, Danny Manners and Rachel Hall, but the replacements do an excellent job, with special mentions for guitarist Dave Foster and keyboardist/singer Carly Bryant. A couple of strange songs open the album but it finishes in style with new epic Atlantic Cable, BBT at its best. Now hit by a tragic loss, we anxiously await Greg Spawton’s decision on the band’s future.

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    Big Big Train - Common Ground



    Styx – Crash of the Crown

    Another surprise in the Top 5, the Chicago outfit surrounding Tommy Shaw and James Young still rock, as evidenced by their latest album which, at the time of its release, hardly left my playing device. An extremely varied album with an eclectic collection of songs that, on the surface, have nothing in common with each other, but seamlessly fit like the Beatles’ Abbey Road. I can’t give sufficient credits to the guys. The seventies rule!

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    Styx - Crash of the Crown



David Edwards

For me, 2021 has been a very strong year for new prog rock releases. Maybe fewer future ‘classic’ albums that will be discussed for decades to come, or career highs from certain artists than in some other years, with a notable absence of studio releases from some musicians and bands, but I could honestly list another ten or so that could easily have made it into my list, and at times this year they have been in the top 5! A very tough decision, but here is what I’ve gone for:

    Drifting Sun – Forsaken Innocence

    I was blown away by this release. Pure neo-prog heaven, with Pat Sanders’ piano and keyboards driving through some epic tracks, supported by great prog musicians – John Jowitt particularly impressive on bass. Delicacy and power throughout, with lots of proggy complexity. Opening track King of the Country combines Jargon’s theatrical vocals with complex and twisting instrumentation to sum up Drifting Sun’s current sound perfectly. However, my song choice is probably Forsaken Innocence (Part II), a wonderfully indulgent, immersive and extended instrumental full of everything a symphonic or neo-prog fan could wish for.

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    Drifting Sun – Foresaken Innocence



    Lifesigns – Altitude

    Lifesigns’ third studio release has remained a favourite throughout the year, and John Young’s smooth, melodic prog is enhanced by wonderful ensemble playing from the band, with Dave Bainbridge providing exquisite guitar work to match John’s soothing tones throughout. My song choice is the title track, a beautiful epic that builds in complexity from a contemplative start and is up there with the band’s very best. However, I’ve a lot of affection for the uplifting reworked version of Arkhangelsk / Last One Home where John returns to the days he collaborated with John Wetton with the likes of Qango, Bainbridge’s thoughtful solo rounding it off so well.

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    Lifesigns – Altitude



    This Winter Machine – Kites

    Al Winter and the new line-up deliver a diverse collection of quality, prog-infused melodic rock with this third album – their best so far in my view. The band’s recognisable style has evolved into something both accessible yet still complex. Pleasure & Purpose is ‘trademark’ This Winter Machine, a contemplative start gradually building to become rich and full by the end. My song choice is the title track that closes the album, a vibrant and uplifting and yet accessible mini-epic with confident vocals from Winter and some great ensemble playing by the new members. After seeing them play at the album launch in Leeds recently, I can testify that they can cut it live too!

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    This Winter Machine – Kites



    Three Colours Dark – Love’s Lost Property

    Maybe an album that won’t feature in many ‘end of year’ polls, but Rachel Cohen and Jonathan Edwards have really raised the bar on this second album, a beautiful and heartfelt collection of songs that just sweep you away. Rachel’s wonderful and ethereal vocals are simply exquisite, and Jonathan and the other musicians, including the recognisably warm guitar of Dave Gregory, produce a perfectly complementary musical accompaniment. The extended title track contemplates love and broken relationships, the vocals perfectly pitched and supported by quality instrumentation, both complex and yet imminently approachable. My chosen is Ordinary World, where the band take Duran Duran’s finest moment to a new level and make it the cover of the year for me, soaring violin and flowing soloing from Gregory weaving a magical spell.

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    Three Colours Dark – Love’s Lost Property



    Big Big Train – Common Ground

    Another absolutely stonking release from the band, and whilst slightly more of a transitional album with the new members, and the odd mis-step here and there, there is still enough quality progressive rock to please any discerning listener. Sadly, the untimely death of David Longdon adds even more poignancy to many of the songs and the sense of loss is palpable. As a result, my song choice is Endnotes, Greg Spawton’s gentle reflection on love and companionship, an album highlight even before Longdon’s passing, but now steeped in emotion as his vocals give way to a stirring brass finale. It just pips Atlantic Cable, a typical Big Big Train epic that ebbs and flows wonderfully, with vibrant, expressive instrumentation and Longdon’s unique voice.

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    Big Big Train - Common Ground


    …and finally

    No space for wonderful releases from Mostly Autumn, Dave Bainbridge, The Emerald Dawn, The Wood Demons, Frost*, Nine Skies, Lee Abraham, Electro Compulsive Therapy, Nova Cascade, Octarine Sky and John Holden, amongst many others, which shows what a great year for new prog it has been!


Rob Fisher

    Raven Sad – The Leaf and the Wing

    A truly phenomenal album which is a towering achievement of exemplary musicianship and incredibly inventive and diverse song writing. A pure joy from start to finish, and by fare the most complete and outstanding album of 2021.
    Highlight Track: City Lights and Desert Dark

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    Raven Sad - The Leaf and the Wing



    Three Colours Dark – Love’s Lost Property

    A stunningly beautiful second album. Rachel Cohen’s lyrics are intense, penetrating and heart-rending, whilst Jonathan Edwards’ playing is wonderfully textured, at times supporting, at times disrupting the musical flow. Together they give us something truly special.

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    Three Colours Dark - Love's Lost Property



    The Paradox Twin – Silence from Signals

    Oh wow! What an evolution this album is from The Importance of Mr Bedlam. An astonishing album of twists and turns which brings a new level of melodic overlay to the soundscape whilst strengthening the complex song writing and exuberant playing. Their star is most definitely rising.
    Highlight Track: I Am Me, I Am Free

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    The Paradox Twin - Silence from Signals



    Trettioåriga Kriget – Till Horisonten

    A late discovery and a late entry to my list. This is wonderfully different from anything else I’ve heard this year. The spaces between the notes can be tangibly heard – and this adds to a gentle, languid crescendo of layering of soundscapes, tempos, rhythms and melodies. An impressive feat of how to let music entwine and evolve across an album.

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    Trettioåriga Kriget - Till Horisonten



    Sylvan – One to Zero

    An album from Sylvan is always something to look forward to. This is no different. Majestic, effortless yet commanding and forceful. The album blends wistful, poignant passages with grand melodies and sweeping musical vistas. It really is a complete musical experience.

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    Sylvan - One to Zero



Magnus Moar

    Sylvan – One to Zero

    Sylvan’s tenth studio album further cements their place amongst the top prog bands of today. A hauntingly beautiful and melodic tour de force, and perhaps a little more accessible than their previous two (also magnificent) efforts. Album of the year for me by some way.

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    Sylvan - One to Zero



    Transatlantic -The Absolute Universe (Forevermore)

    Transatlantic’s best album to date – better, even, than the debut – this is filled with the usual epics, suites and diversions, seasoned with sounds of the Sixties and Seventies, the supergroup are so well known for. This time, though, all the punches land. Both versions are terrific, but the two-disc ‘Forevermore’ edges it for me. Not least, because it features the Beatles-y Rainbow Sky.

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    Transatlantic - The Absolute Universe (Forevermore)



    Downes Braide Association (DBA) – Halcyon Hymns

    DBA keep getting better. Geoff Downes and Chris Braide seem to be perfect foils for one another in their song writing. This sun-drenched paean to a bucolic life is awash with 12-strings, piano melodies and choral progressions. Stellar guest slots once again include the immeasurable talents of the late David Longdon.

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    Downes Braide Association - Halcyon Hymns



    3.2 – Third Impression

    Picking up where the excellent The Rules Have Changed left off, Robert Berry completes his virtuoso homage to the late Keith Emerson with another fine selection which mixes old (a track completed from work with Emerson, a re-recording of an Alliance song) with new. Fans of the previous 3.2 album will not be disappointed.

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    3.2 - Third Impression



    Mostly Autumn – Graveyard Star

    Mostly Autumn’s finest album in years. In fact, it might just be their best album ever. Creative, varied, engaging and prepared to try out new things, but still distinctively Mostly Autumn. I’ll admit, an album about one band’s experience of the pandemic wasn’t a big draw for me, but this is an album of great music and genuine emotion that never drags across its runtime.

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    Mostly Autumn - Graveyard Star



Bob Mulvey

In my intro for 2020’s list, I remarked about the positive news of a vaccine(s) to combat the pandemic, and mooted the possibility of a return to a more familial world. And here we are at the end of 2021 with the likelihood of entering 2022 with further restrictions looking extremely on the cards. Enough of this… and time to look at some of this year’s album releases that have made 2021 that little bit brighter.

    Coevality – Multiple Personalities

    Los Angeles-based Coevality released their debut album in April, and so impressed was I with the album that I remarked at the time that 2021 would be a truly spectacular year indeed if this album were not to appear in my end of year top five malarkey. Well here we are. It has been a very good year for releases, and Multiple Personalities is still at the top of my tree. The album’s opening track, Light Bikes, is a great introduction to Coevality’s musical creativity. At a little over five-minutes, the track is crammed full of lively, vibrant, thematic melodies, delivered at a breakneck tempo with wonderfully intertwining instrumentation, chock full of metric ambiguities and performed with great precision and a wonderful empathy. What else do you need…?

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    Coevality – Multiple Personalities



    AVAWAVES – Chrysalis

    In complete contrast, AVAWAVES’ Chrysalis provided the more reposeful moments during 2021. The follow-up to their stunning debut Waves, violinist/composer Anna Phoebe and pianist/composer/producer Aisling Brouwer returned with, it has to be said, an equally stunning second album. Once again they delivered music which was achingly beautiful and imbued with a sense of calm and serenity. As with their debut, the ten tracks see this accomplished duo immerse their principal instruments, piano and violin, within an exquisite, eddying tapestry of rich and ethereal sounds, transporting the listener to a Nirvanian state.

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    AVAWAVES – Chrysalis



    Musk Ox – Inheritance

    Staying in a more tranquil mood, Canadian trio Musk Ox, comprising guitarist Nathanaël Larochette, Raphael Weinroth-Browne on cello and violinist Evan Runge, released their third album in July. However, prior to Inheritance I was totally unaware of this fascinating ensemble. What was even more rewarding was discovering the excellent solo works from the trio’s line-up. Although melancholic, and at times foreboding, there is also a sense of peace and tranquillity across the album, something that can be found in Memoriam, the track chosen to entice you to check out Musk Ox. Inheritance is wonderfully enigmatic, totally captivating album and one that, for me, works best as a continuous listen.

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    Musk Ox - Inheritance



    Octarine Sky – Close to Nearby

    Having thoroughly enjoyed the releases from Potter’s Daughter, I was intrigued by the announcement of Octarine Sky. Was this to be the demise of Potter’s Daughter or a side project? Only time will tell. Octarine Sky features Dyanne Potter Voegtlin, Jan Christiana and Amit Chatterjee, with world-renowned drummer Simon Phillips and internationally acclaimed guitarist Guthrie Govan. Octarine Sky’s Close to Nearby is a more visceral beast and although the album retains much of the jazz-orientated, prog, pop, classical and new age elements of Potter’s Daughter, there is now the added drive, power and complexity of Phillips’ drumming and Govan’s guitar. To illustrate this I’ve chosen an instrumental as my selection from the album.

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    Octarine Sky – Close to Nearby



    Vienna Circle – Secrets of the Rising Sun

    Another new discovery this year was UK based Vienna Circle who released their debut in 2008, then a second album in 2013, both of which passed me by. And the third would probably have slipped by had I not heard a track on Shaun Geraghty’s The Prog Mill show on Progzilla Radio. The vast majority of the album is the work of guitarist Paul Davis, who not only demonstrates a versatile touch on guitar, but also has a keen ear for a good melody. The wonderfully melodic instrumental Canyons, which closes out the album, is firmly rooted in Latimer/Camel territory, with the I Can See Your ‘Ice’ From Here bringing the album to a perfect close. Definitely worth checking out, and it’s all on Bandcamp…

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    Vienna Circle - Secrets Of The Rising Sun


    Is this a definitive end of year? Hell no, and I would have struggled with a top twenty, never mind a top five. I’ve recently stumbled across a fantastic album from an American guitarist which may have challenged this list, or there was a rather splendid album by a North East (UK) outfit 😉.


Jez Rowden

    Trettioåriga Kriget – Till horisonten

    There remains an organic authenticity in the music of Trettioåriga Kriget, more than 50 years after they formed in a small town near Stockholm. The majority of the band as it remains today was in place by 1972, but there is nothing wilfully retro about the music they continue to produce, sparkling iterations of the band’s ‘heavy progressive’ sound, of which this album is another fine instalment.
    Highlight Track: In Memoriam

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    Trettioåriga Kriget - Till Horisonten



    Michael Woodman – Psithurism

    ‘Psithurism’, the sound of wind through trees, is the perfect title for this album of stripped-back songs from Thumpermonkey’s Michael Woodman which investigates “the quiet interstices between mossy wet stones”, rich vocals clinging to intricate guitar frameworks. Dark yet strangely uplifting, it’s the sparseness that makes it work; a quite magical work and a simply fascinating listen.
    Highlight Track: Cloned in Error

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    Michael Woodman - Psithurism



    Drifting Sun – Forsaken Innocence

    This is an excellent album of modern progressive rock, put together with elan by Pat Granger Sanders. The vocal contributions from Jargon (of Verbal Delirium) drip with emotion, and it’s always nice to hear John Jowitt’s dextrous bass. There’s not a spare moment here and it’s an engaging and dynamic listen from start to finish.
    Highlight Track: Forsaken Innocence, Part II

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    Drifting Sun – Foresaken Innocence



    A Formal Horse – Meat Mallet

    If there’s a more intriguing, accomplished and exhilarating album released in 2021, I’d like to hear it. Meat Mallet slashes and batters and caresses and gooses and surprises and eviscerates for the whole of its 40-odd minutes, a scorched earth of intense creativity and diverse awesomeness, fizzing like a well-shaken can of Tizer with pithy vignettes decorating the gleefully cryptic lyrics.
    Highlight Track: I’m a Lasagne

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    A Formal Horse - Meat Mallet



    Craig Fortnam – Ark

    An achingly beautiful solo record from the North Sea Radio Orchestra mainman, who knows all too well how to pen a noteworthy melody. The true joy of this album is in the arranging, the palette of mainly acoustic instruments beautifully laid out, giving each the opportunity to shine brightly and add their own voice to a compelling and dynamic whole.
    Highlight Track: Managed Decline on the Orford Ness

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    Craig Fortnam - Ark



Graham Thomas

    Michael Woodman – Psithurism

    At around 26-minutes, one could view this as an EP rather than an album, but I am compelled to include it in my top 5 as there isn’t a wasted moment. Thumpermonkey’s Michael Woodman has created something strange, beautiful, dark and compelling.
    Highlight Track: Petrichor

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    Michael Woodman - Psithurism



    Stephan Thelen – Fractal Guitar II

    Joined once again by a stellar cast of musicians, Stephan Thelen further develops his brilliant fractal guitar soundscapes. Hypnotic rhythms overlaid with multi-tracked interweaving guitars create a sound world akin to Discipline-era King Crimson taken on a voyage to the outer reaches of the cosmos.
    Highlight Track: any of them!

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    Stephan Thelen - Fractal Guitar II



    Ola Kvernberg – Steamdome II: The Hypogean

    The Norwegian composer takes his earlier percussive-heavy explorations and adds a rhapsodic twist to create one of my most played albums of the year. Violin and viola melodies combine with trance-like rhythms that shimmer and dance in a unique tapestry.
    Highlight Track: Carbonado

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    Ola Kvernberg - Steamdome II The Hypogean



    Big Big Train – Common Ground

    After line-up changes which might have derailed lesser bands, BBT returned with a strong and diverse album of true quality. Listening again now is tinged with sadness of course, but Common Ground is a great addition to their amazing catalogue.
    Highlight Track: Common Ground

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    Big Big Train - Common Ground



    Chance – Original Worlds

    French newcomers Chance take Seventies sounds as their starting point and weave a timeless album of instrumental wonder. Few will have heard of them, but many would enjoy this album which demands repeated listening. It may not be original as the title seems to claim, but it is a hugely impressive and accomplished debut.

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    Chance - Original Worlds



Roger Trenwith

Having bought a staggering number of albums this year, picking a Top 5 is virtually impossible, so apart from the #1, most of this list is a more or less random pick from a year where musicians had nowt to do but mess about in the studio!

    Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, & The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises

    New age-ish synth twiddlers, an octogenarian sax legend, and one of the world’s top classical orchestras make for an unlikely combination, but boy does it work – and then some. The unfolding thematically linked Promises, in nine movements, is a wonderful piece of unlikely music making. My Album of The Year.
    Highlight Track: Movement 5

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    Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, & The London Symphony Orchestra - Promises



    Ulver – Hexahedron

    A fabulous live album of semi-improvised darkwave magnificence from probably the most progressive band on the planet right now!
    Highlight Track: A Fearful Symmetry

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    Ulver - Hexahedron



    Field Music – Flat White Moon

    This is how intelligent pop music should sound. Sunderland’s finest slip another one under the radar.
    Highlight Track: No Pressure

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    Field Music - Flat White Moon



    The Holy Family – The Holy Family

    A different kind of relentless psychedelia from the band also known as Guapo.
    Highlight Track: Inward Turning Suns

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    The Holy Family - The Holy Family



    Craig Fortnam – Ark

    Mr Fortnam, leader of the fine chamber rock outfit North Sea Radio Orchestra, released this luvvly slice of English whimsy in 2021. “Achingly beautiful”, sez me in my review. I’m not wrong. Confusingly, Craig also releases solo albums as Arch Garrison. What’s that all about, then?
    Highlight Track: Strophic

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    Craig Fortnam - Ark



Leo Trimming

    Cosmograf – Rattrapante

    When Robin Armstrong is not producing high quality progressive rock, he is a craftsman repairing fine watches. This interest in Temporal matters is reflected in the themes running through the five songs of Rattrapante, which touches upon our interaction and relationship with Time itself, including how it defines our lives and fills our memories. In some ways it returns in time to the feel of earlier Cosmograf albums with its atmospheric and cinematic approach. It’s filled with strong writing and high-quality performances, crucially combined with imagination and depth of feeling, ticking all the right boxes. As one of the best progressive rock artists of the last ten years, Armstrong has finely crafted his own inimitable and distinctive style which captures the mind and soul.
    Highlight Song: Time Will Flow

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    Cosmograf - Rattrapante



    Cyan – For King and Country

    What you get if you combine the musical skills of Magenta, the guitar wizardry behind The Tangent and Maschine, and the voice of Tiger Moth Tales and Camel. Rob Reed and Dan Nelson have teamed up with Luke Machin and Peter Jones to revive Rob’s ’90s project and spectacularly re-imagine Cyan’s debut album. Reed has said that he loves ‘Musical Colour’, the production and cinematic quality of Genesis, but also the melodies and accessibility of Supertramp and ’80s rock and pop, all vividly presented in abundance here. Peter Jones has said the songs have a ‘youthful and yet vintage quality’, which is a good way of describing the feel, rooted in classic rock heritage but freshly presented. Not ‘edgy’ or ‘experimental’ or ‘progressive’, it’s unashamedly and gloriously ‘Prog’, mixed with lush and gorgeously presented smooth melodic rock – sometimes in the same song! Definitely one of the most delightful albums of 2021.
    Highlight Song: The Sorceror

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    Cyan - For King and Country



    This Winter Machine – Kites

    This third album is recognisably in the same vein as the first two, but with a different feel with echoes of the 1980s threading through an album suffused with nostalgia, regret and defiance. This Winter Machine have faced considerable upheaval recently, singer Al Winter having to recruit a whole new band. Such disruption would have spelled the end of many bands, but on the evidence here it appears that Al has used it as an opportunity for re-birth. He excels, as does new guitarist Dom Bennison. Like Benjamin Franklin flying his kite in an electrical storm, this new version of the band has been sent aloft amidst a time of turmoil, and the resulting album is charged with a surge of electricity and new life. It is remarkable just what a high-quality album they have created; Kites will rightly sail high to be regarded as one of the best melodic progressive rock albums of 2021. The future looks very bright for the band.
    Highlight Song: Pleasure and Purpose

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    This Winter Machine – Kites



    Big Big Train – Common Ground

    The tragic passing of Big Big Train vocalist David Longdon has had a significant impact on the Prog community, therefore it is of some considerable comfort that Common Ground was, for me, a great return to form. The band tread some new ground musically and thematically, and have produced a high quality and diverse release, sometimes sounding a bit like Elton John, at others Genesis, but ALWAYS unmistakably Big Big Train. It’s full of their trademark exquisite melodic progressive rock, with stories focusing on current concerns and historical narratives, alongside deeply personal reflections. There’s no band quite like Big Big Train and this excellent album will deservedly top many year end polls. David Longdon will be very sadly missed, but what a swan song – Long Live the Train.
    Highlight Song: Atlantic Cable

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    Big Big Train - Common Ground



    Steven Wilson – The Future Bites

    Steven Wilson continues to challenge preconceptions and expectations with his latest album, which definitely further upset ‘dyed-in-the-wool’ proggers still yearning for Ravens and Porcupines! An artist who refuses to be pigeonholed, he has enormous musical knowledge and myriad influences which he manifests across his solo albums. The Future Bites ranges from minimalist soundscapes, electro-funk, ’80s pop/rock, pulsing electronica… and even a song about shopping featuring Elton John – what more could you want? Well apparently that was not what many wanted, but I doubt Mr ‘Chuckletrousers’ will worry too much. For those willing to stay on board, the Porcupine Tree man continues to take us on one helluva ride – interesting and unpredictable.
    Highlight Song: Personal Shopper

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    Steven Wilson - The Future Bites




The Progressive Aspect would like to thank all the artists, labels and promoters who have supported TPA over the last year, it really is very much appreciated.

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