Lil Yachty is now the most-unexpected artist I’ve ever covered. I could have feasibly seen myself covering other hip-hop artists at some point. Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition is a masterpiece that extensively samples progressive, psychedelic, and krautrock; and his experimental spirit made him someone I thought could have shown up on this site eventually. Lil Yachty’s usual trap stylings made this album a complete left-field surprise, though. (I can’t say I’m exceedingly familiar with his previous work, nor do I know much about hip-hop, more broadly speaking. But I’d heard a few of his songs, and in general I don’t like trap. So please excuse my illiteracy of his other work.)
Let’s Start Here. is fairly comparable to the Kanye West-Kid Cudi collaboration, Kids See Ghosts. But where that duo was still firmly rooted in hip-hop, Yachty’s new release is primarily rock-focused. There are also ample soul and Motown flavors, and hip-hop crops up on occasion. The whole record is dense and lush, and it’s got an engrossing, enveloping quality to it. Autotune is used as an instrument unto itself here. The robotic tones are slathered in reverb, and it complements the dreamy, Afrofuturist tone of this record perfectly.
I hesitate to use a label more restrictive than “rock” to describe King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. These astonishingly prolific Aussies have one of the most diverse back catalogs in modern popular music, ranging from garage rock to prog to thrash metal to synthpop to microtonal music and beyond. Their latest release is a dizzying encapsulation of their always-shifting style. The appropriately-titled Omnium Gatherum (a faux-Latin phrase meaning “a collection of many different things”) is a sprawling, 80-minute record that has a bit of everything.
France has long embraced a distinct weirdness and experimentalism in their rock music. Magma are probably the most germane example for this site, though there was a whole microcosm of uniquely French prog acts in the ‘70s, such as Ange, Memoriance, and Mona Lisa. This spirit can be seen today in numerous extreme metal acts, like the bizarre symphonics of Öxxö Xööx or blackgaze pioneers Alcest.
Creature, the one-man project of Raphaël Fournier, has put out a striking, bold release that continues in this tradition of adventurous Francophone rock and metal. (It’s also another strong release from Italy-based experimental metal label I, Voidhanger; I strongly recommend checking out their catalogue.) The music is dense and replete with synthesized vocals and engaging rhythms. Fournier is also quite verbose, demonstrating downright Springsteenian levels of wordiness. So, if you speak French, there’s likely a lot for you to analyze here.
Welcome to Part One of TheEliteExtremophile’s Top 50 Prog Albums of 2020, this site’s second-annual best-of list. It’s also my tenth year of writing year-end music roundups. The first eight were posted on my personal Facebook. Check out Part 2 here.
2020 was a banner year for progressive rock and progressive metal. There were so many fantastic albums released, and paring this list down to just 50 was often a painful process. Even more difficult was deciding on the exact order of these albums.
Like I said last year, I’m sure there are some excellent albums not included. This site is a one-man operation (in relation to reviewing, that is; my editors, Kelci and Dan, have been tremendously helpful), 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.