Welcome to the first of three planned installments for this site’s best of 2019. Starting things off is TheEliteExtremophile’s Top Prog EPs of 2019. The vast bulk of what I listen to for this blog is full-length albums, and the assorted prog-related genres tend to be long-winded. As such, this list contains only five entries, but all five are highly recommended.
As a disclaimer, I’m sure there are some excellent releases not included. This site is my personal pet project, and I simply cannot listen to everything that gets released. I also have my personal biases against some rather popular trends in prog, which affected the composition of this list. But if you’ve got recommendations, do not hesitate to shoot them my way, either through this site, via email, or through my Facebook page.
#5: SEIMS – 3.1 | Math rock, Post-rock | Bandcamp
SEIMS’s follow-up to their fantastic 2018 release 3 continues with that album’s themes of color and light. These three songs are led with dense layers of guitar and complemented with the inclusion of strings and trumpets. “Absolute Black” opens the EP with an appropriately foreboding atmosphere, and the oddly murky atmosphere of “Translucence” is befitting of its title. “Clarity” closes the EP on an energetic note. The rhythm is driving, and the string arrangements cut through the wall of guitars to build a satisfying climax.
#4: Physics House Band – Death Sequence | Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Death Sequence continues in the same vein as 2017’s Mercury Fountain. The band has moved further away from their math rock roots toward progressive rock. The saxophone which was first introduced on their last release has been given even more prominence over the course of this EP. The band deftly hop between influences: heavy doom metal-inspired guitar lines seamlessly lead into jazzy passages.
#3: Gotanda – Almost Free Jazz for Totally Busy People | Progressive rock, Jazz fusion | Bandcamp
Just from looking at the description of this band’s music—jazzy, kinda heavy, mostly-instrumental rock—there’s not an awful lot to make them stand out. Even being as saxophone-forward as they are isn’t that rare. But they’ve got a certain flair and panache I can’t quite put my finger on that makes their music immediately recognizable. There’s also a significant post-rock influence here, with sludgy basslines and expansive atmospheres.
#2: Grant the Sun – Sylvain | Progressive metal, Post-metal | Bandcamp
Norwegian instrumental act Grant the Sun are joined by Meshuggah bassist Fredrik Thorendal for four tracks of gnarly, twisting, pummeling metal. The songs are structured smartly, with riffs and themes shifting on a dime while still feeling cohesive. Frequently contrasting against the heavy, palm-muted riffs are clean guitar lines and big walls of post-rock-style distortion; this EP tells the story of a space voyage, and the textures in the songs encapsulate that perfectly.
#1: L’Ombra – L’Ombra | Progressive rock, Art pop | Bandcamp
This French quartet demonstrate an amazing breadth of styles on this EP, all of which firmly fall under the categorization of “progressive rock.” The opening “Aldebaran” is one of my favorite songs of the year; it’s sunny and melodic with subtle instrumental complexities, and its overall feel is highly reminiscent of certain classic Italian prog acts. This EP also explores the distinct world of jazzy, Francophone prog. “Monsoon” is an ominous track that builds in intensity throughout its runtime. The EP closes on its weirdest song: the dark, somewhat dissonant “(A)EREA” is a not-exactly-subtle homage to Italian avant-prog giants Area and their seminal live album Are(a)zione. I am very eager to hear a full-length album from this band.