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04.17.19 The State of Prog '1901.09.19 Cosby's Choice Awards 2018
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Cosby's Choice Awards 2018

Potentially last "Cosby's" choice awards as hopefully the staff either allow me to change my username or I create a new account. List is albums that I enjoyed over the course of the year. I know I'm late to the game, but I figured I'd publish it after the first mad rush.
25Murder by Death
The Other Shore

You don’t really talk about Westerns and Sci-fi in the same breath. Sure, there have been some cases where it’s worked (lookin’ at you Firefly) but generally speaking they are two genres that don’t mix, which is funny considering that now space is the final frontier. “The Other Shore” is a concept album that explores this, telling a very western tale (man goes off in search of a new place to call home, leaving his partner behind) in a new setting. If Johnny Cash sang Mumford and Sons music, that’s what this would be.
24Wang Wen
Invisible City

This is a weird album. It combines elements of jazz, post-rock, and electronic music to become something memorable and captivating. Don’t let the track lengths deter you, this is an album worth exploring, as each listen yields a different discovery.
“Stone Scissors”
23The Story So Far
Proper Dose

I wanted to roll my eyes about this album. Everything about it is nostalgia trip back to high school. Song after song is filled with a young energy that makes me want to roll down my car windows and take in the summer sun. If that sounds like a cliche, it’s because that’s what this album is. Everything about it has been done before, but when it’s done right it’s hard to ignore.
“Proper Dose”
22Andrew W.K.
You're Not Alone

If this album were a sandwich, it would be a grilled cheese. But instead of a nice, sophisticated cheddar in the middle, it’s velveeta. And instead of pieces of bread, there are two slices of mozzarella on either side. And instead of butter spread across each piece of bread, you have cheese-whizz. This album is ridiculous and over the top, but you can’t help return to it because it’s so much fun. Some of the songs are big enough to fill stadiums. And who knows, you might learn something about yourself along the way.
“Music is Worth Living For”
Joy as an Act of Resistance

I dare you not to smile while listening to this album. It’s just so damn… cheeky. Every line is delivered with a growl that drips with sarcasm and cynicism. This album stares into the frightening, dark, divided, corrupt world we live in now and gives it a big ol' shit-eating grin. It’s everything you want from a punk album, and then some.
"Danny Nedelko"
20Open Mike Eagle
What Happens When I Try to Relax

It takes a lot for an EP to make this list. It’s not that I write off most EPs, but I often find myself waiting for the whole album to drop later on. It’s stupid, I know, because this album is tight. And while last year’s “Brick Body Kids” was dreary and sleepy, this album has a little more variety to it. Open Mike’s flow twists and turns with complex allusions and references, and each listen yields something new to discover. This EP does exactly what an EP should do: make you hungry for a new album.

“Jord” is an exercise of atmosphere and energy. Songs transition seamlessly between haunting, atmospheric soundscapes that reverberate and echo like they were recorded in a cave, and blistering blast beats and howling shrieks. Not only is it an excellent winter-y album, but it’s even more impressive when considering it’s their debut. Don’t waste your time on Deafheaven’s new album. Check this one out instead.
18Zeal and Ardor
Stranger Fruit

Of all the albums I have on this list, this is, hands down, the most experimental. Combining elements of black metal and blues, gospel, and soul, this album is like a midnight walk through the haunted swamps of the south. One moment you can hear the chanting vocals of a baptist church, the next you’re swept into the guttural shrieks of some satanic ritual. Everything is completely intentional, and as absurd as the concept sounds, it really does work. This album wears its message on its sleeve, and stands as a statement about the ugliness of race relations in America.
“Don’t You Dare”
17Black Peaks
All That Divides

This album rocks in every sense of the word. Each song does such a great job of building, gaining momentum as they chug and riff closer and closer to their respective climactic ending. Songs can switch from heavy and brutal (think Mastodon) to soaring and anthemic (think Tool) in a matter of seconds. If this is the caliber of music these guys can make on only their second album, it’s clear that they have a bright future ahead of them.
“Fate 1 & 2”

It’s damn near impossible to talk about this record without acknowledging that the previous one, “Amanuensis” was a masterpiece. This was in part thanks to the ever dizzying set of riffs written by John Browne and company, but it also was, in my opinion, largely on the shoulders of vocalist Chris Barretto, who again, in my humble opinion, is one of the best vocalists out there. He has the ability to write absolute earworm hooks that soar over a bouncing groove of complex rhythms before plummeting downward into some of the heaviest, guttural screams I’ve ever heard. And while “Phronesis” doesn’t quite reach some of the peaks that the previous album did, it’s still a great, high-energy album that gets better with every listen.
“The Watch” “Leviathan”
15Anton Belov
Piano Works I

A few years ago I discovered a band called Kauan. They released an album that, in the span of only two or three years, rose to become one of my favorites of all time. The mastermind behind the band is a man named Anton Belov, who decided to do a reimagining of some of the major motifs of his albums. The result is “Piano Works:1”, a reflective, somber, and heartbreaking collection of songs, recreated in a way that somehow makes them feel new and simultaneously an extension of what they were originally. Set aside a quiet night for this album. Bring the tissues. It’s worth it.
“Athletic Heart”
14Jean Grae/Quelle Chris
Everything's Fine

Except, everything isn’t fine, and there’s no better people to tell you than than Jean Grae and Quelle Chris. Over janky, hodgepodge beats these two rap about everything from the current socio-political climate to the mediocrity that saturates the music industry. Through tongue-in-cheek, deadpan delivery these two dish out one seething, sarcastic remark after another. In a world where everyone is content with fine, these two are here to prove that to be content is to be dead.
“Breakfast of Champions”
13Between the Buried and Me
Automata I

I’m part of the minority when it comes to enjoying BtBAM. While many people thought their 2015 was a step in the wrong direction: too soft, too proggy, too melodic, whatever, I thought it was a gigantic leap forward. Automata 1 and 2 are both continuations in that direction. Motifs that appear earlier in the album repeat themselves later, and the vocals aren’t just stale, one note growls one after the other. The result of all of this is a smart collection of albums that doesn’t feel stale halfway through.
“Yellow Eyes” “Voice of Trespass”
12Tiny Moving Parts

Man, what an album. Buried underneath all the surface-level energy there is a melancholy and sadness that reverberates within. There’s a lot of honesty within this album. At times it feels like a confessional, as the bands lays itself out in front of you as a dissection of who they are and what they feel. It’s healthy, it’s cathartic, and it’s beautiful. Let your brain cells swell with love.
“Whale Watching”
11Typhoon (USA-OR)

There’s a lot of metal on this list. I find that, generally speaking, I return a lot to music from that genre because it tends to resonate the most with me. But there are albums that, occasionally, break forward from other genres and really just say something special. This is one such album. I initially thought that I would tell you what happened, but I will, instead, leave you with an image and let you explore the rest. Our album starts with a man at his lowest, darkest point. He is “awakening” to a world that he does not understand, or want to understand. From there, the album continues, traversing through light and darkness, until ultimately arriving at a beautifully constructed ending.
yeah whatever

Enough sad and heavy. You need to lighten up dude! There’s not a whole lot that needs to be said about this album: it’s a light tracklist of fun, lighthearted grooves that swing casually between metal, jazz-fusion, synth rock, and funk. Don’t let the laid back vibes fool you, these guys are wicked fast and wicked smart. Just put this on and welcome the warmth of the summer sun. I dare you not to groove.
“Born in Space”
Empty Black

There are two types of ways that bands wear their influences on their sleeves. The first way is a formulaic, cookie cutter replica of the artists sound (looking at you Gretta Van Fleet), and the second is a manipulation of that sound to create something new. Greyhaven clearly have taken pages from books written by Every Time I Die and Converge, but have infused enough of their own sound into the mix to keep it fresh and interesting. Songs jump from jittery, running riffs to gargantuan, thundering ballads. “Empty Black” is a great album, filled with memorable lyrics, riffs, and breakdowns, the heaviest coming in “Echo and Dust Pt.2”. Grab a Pabst and jump in the pit. It’s time to mosh.
“Echo and Dust Pt.2”
Alba - Les Hombres Errantes

When it came out in 2016, I was a huge fan of “Shores of the Abstract Line”. I was absolutely blown away by the atmosphere: stark and dreary, and yet seemingly full of energy. So when I heard the band was writing a soundtrack for a recent film directed by the lead guitarist about his childhood in Bolivia, I was intrigued. “Les Ombres Errantes” absolutely delivers on all fronts. The album is a beautifully constructed work, conjuring themes of mourning, nostalgia, and the release of the past.
“He Who Wakes From the Dream Does Not Bear My Name” or “Los Heraldos Negros”.
7Night Verses
From the Gallery of Sleep

And the award for “Shred Masters of the Year” goes to… Night Verses. I can’t say enough about the amount of technical talent these guys have. For a three piece band they do an amazing job of filling the music with their sound, tap dancing their way across their respective instruments. If you’re looking for an album to blow your mind with its dizzying riffs and rhythms, look no further than this one.
“Phoenix IV: Leviathan”
6Denzel Curry

I didn’t expect this album to be what it is. I’ll admit that I’m one of those people that has poo-poo’d the recent trap trend as stale, repetitive, and lacking in serious talent. “TA13OO” instantly worked its way into my brain, surprising me with the amount of diversity, intellect, and energy it breathed into the modern rap scene. This album has everything, from the G-Funk inspired “Black Balloons” to the dark and twisted “Switch it Up”. This album goes down the rabbit hole really quickly, ending with the furious statement “Black Metal Terrorist”. This is the album every hip-hop artist should be listening to this year, trying to figure out how to one up it in 2019.
“Black Metal Terrorist”
5Mile Marker Zero
The Fifth Row

I’ve been thinking all year about what I want to say about this album. I guess I should start with: “It’s smart”. Not only do these guys know how to craft a catchy motif, but they know how to tell a story with it. This album draws from Pink Floyd as much as it does from composers of musicals. Motifs appear at the beginning, and then reappear throughout the album, providing the listener with audio Easter eggs that add complexity and emotion to the story. “The Fifth Row” is a story of our dystopia, a world in chaos, and one man’s attempt to make things right. How do things end? I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that it is a rewarding journey.

At this point it is indisputable, Haken are the best prog metal band out there. On each album they manage to take their core sound, and somehow make it sound fresh. Vector is just a continuation of this upward trajectory, and serves as a counterpoint to 2016’s “Affinity”. Where that album relied heavily on synths and sweeping ballads, Vector takes the opposite approach, dishing out 45 minutes (their shortest record yet) of ominous, chaotic, and stomping metal riffs.
“Puzzle Box”
3Coheed and Cambria
The Unheavenly Creatures

This is my favorite band in the world, hands down, without a doubt. Ever since discovering them my freshman year of high school I have become enraptured by their music, a blend between modern and older prog, and the stories that accompany them. So it should come as no surprise that their last record, The Color Before the Sun, is a bit of a sour point for me. That’s not to say that it is a “bad” record, but it isn’t the Coheed I knew. So when “Prologue/The Dark Sentencer” dropped, I was head over heels. This is everything I love about the band. And while I’m so excited to hear the band exploring some of their proggier roots again, the thing that has always drawn me in is the emotion and heart. At its core this album is about a man who feels he’s lost his way, and the trials he goes through to win back his love.Welcome Home Coheed.
“The Dark Sentencer" "The Pavilion"
2Rolo Tomassi
Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It

Sometimes, the albums I love the most are the ones that surprise me. They’re the albums that come at the right time; are the right reflection of the thing you feel the most. Whenever I try to explain this album to someone I feel like I always come up short. This album is the definition of the beauty within loss, and the struggle of the depression that follows. It begins with the breath-taking, ethereal “Aftermath” before descending from there into one blistering, heavy, dark songs after another that infuses elements of hard-core and black metal. Every once in a while the music lets up, and from above a ray of light shines, to remind you that there is hope, there is light on the other side, but it isn’t until the end, until the final calm, that we truly see the sun. This album is the most beautiful and rewarding collection of music I’ve heard this year.
“Aftermath” “A Flood of Light”

My top three albums are, easily, my favorite of the year, but if I had to pick one that stands above everything else, it would be this album. “Sonder” is a band having truly recognized and perfecting their sound. Daniel Tompkins croons and floats over bouncing, mind-bending riffs, delivering some of his most emotional and beautiful lines yet. The band has reigned in their song writing, each tune building to their own mini-climaxes before finally erupting at the end with “The Arrow”. My only complaint with this album is that it’s almost too short. It’s damn near perfect.
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