Progradar’s Review of 2021

I’ve had a little time to digest what was a rather wonderful year of music in 2021. Here is my review of the year with my favourite albums, in no particular order barring my number one!

Transatlantic – The Absolute Universe – Forevermore

A true return to form for the prog supergroup with melodies, tunes and overtures galore. Transatlantic gave us their best album since ‘Bridge Across Forever’.

Lifesigns – Altitude

I really think that Lifesigns have taken a massive step forward with this album, good as ‘Cardington’ was, this release is so very much better in my opinion.

Echoes & Signals – Mercurial

‘Mercurial’ trades some of Echoes & Signals’ signature post-rock sensibilities for a darker journey into the kind of prog-metal embraced by the likes of Tool and this new direction is one that I feel suits them perfectly. 

Cosmograf – Rattrapante

At the time, I said, “At this moment in time there is nothing I would rather listen to than this incredible new album from Cosmograf, will Robin’s latest pièce de résistance still be up there at the end of the year? Most probably but, here and now, it just does not get any better than this!” And here it is!

League of Lights – Dreamers Don’t Come Down

Not only a nod to the past but also a completely relevant piece of music in these present times, ‘Dreamers Don’t Come Down’ is a perfectly crafted collection of pop and electronica infused songs that really hit home.

Ana Patan – Spice, Gold and Tales Untold

Wearing her many influences proudly on her sleeve Ana Patan has just allowed the music and her excellent vocals to tell her many intriguing and involving stories and this has allowed them to breathe and come to life quite spectacularly. An album that has surprised me in its simple brilliance and one that, if you let it, will enrich your life in a myriad of ways.

The Vicious Head Society – Extinction Level Event

‘Extinction Level Event’ is shaping up to possibly be the best prog metal album of the last few years at least, I honestly don’t think I’ve had a prog metal album hit me so hard since Haken’s ‘The Mountain’

Catalyst*R – self-titled

When everything that is happening around you is making your life jaded, just press play on this bewitching collection of songs, light the spark and let the music start to take your cares away…

Michael Woodman – Psithurism

A hugely impressive and admirably different collection of songs that shows Woodman’s impish creativity at its best. A musical breath of fresh air that will leave a smile on your face and wonderment in your soul.

Vestamaran – Bungalow Rex

Get your hands on this album and, when the sun shines, get the barbecue lit, an ice cold beer in your hand, put the stereo on, turn it up to 11 and just enjoy this incredible album for, as the press release says, “Life is not just bungalow all day long, it also includes a lot of rex in the evenings.”

Tillison, Reingold, Tiranti – Allium – Una Storia

Simple but perfectly formed and harking back to the days when music just put a smile on your face, this is one album that deserves success just because of how it makes you feel and I love it for that.

Big Big Train – Common Ground

Vibrant and upbeat, thoughtful, wistful and even melancholy at times, it is a collection of amazing songs that will touch you on a basic level and move you on many others. ‘Common Ground’ is the album that will make you fall in love with the band all over again and I can’t give it any higher praise than that!

smalltape – The Hungry Heart

I’m a massive fan of music that makes me think, music that doesn’t give up its deepest delights easily and ‘The Hungry Heart’ has that in spades. HungerBurning House, Dissolution, the list goes on, cuts of pure musical brilliance that showcase this young German musician as a seriously precocious talent and one to follow closely.

Giancarlo Erra – Departure Tapes

If music could tell a story of a life lived, lost and, deep at its core, loved then ‘Departure Tapes’ is it. I am along term fan of this intelligent musician’s brilliant work and this new release is another entry into his very impressive discography.

Great North Star – self-titled

Step out of this confusing and hectic world that we live in, if only for the thirty nine minutes running time, and allow your mind and your soul to recharge. A wonderful and insightful masterpiece that will stay with you for a very long time.

Three Colours Dark – Love’s Lost Property

‘Love’s Lost Property’ is an exquisite creation, nine tracks of wondrously charming music with Rachel’s honeyed vocals lifting this release well above what you may have heard already this year. I suggest you get your hands on it as soon as you can, it is definitely worth seeking out.

The Holy Road – An Unshakeable Demon

Never be afraid to challenge yourself and listen to something different, I found the eclectic and evocative wonder of ‘An Unshakable Demon’ really hit home with me.

CYAN – For King And Country

A masterpiece of intricate melodies, mellifluous vocals and intelligent songwriting, ‘For King And Country’ delights on every level and makes you smile. You can’t really ask for much more than that, can you?

Glass Hammer – Skallagrim – Into The Breach

Epic in scope, majestic in scale and blurring the lines between progressive rock and progressive metal, Glass Hammer have given us their best album of recent years and possibly their best release ever and it should be another monster success for this evergreen band.

Findlay Napier – It Is What It Is

‘It Is What It Is’ sees this fine musician and songwriter on a higher plane and is a must buy for anyone who appreciates and treasures original music with heart and soul.

And the top gong for album of the year goes to….

HFMC – We Are The Truth

This superlative gem of release is worthy of all the praise that is being heaped upon it and finishes 2021 on an utter high for this reviewer, the finest of a wonderful crop of albums released this year!

So, there you have it, my selection of some of the great albums that graced 2021 and I am sure that 2022 is going to be just as good!

Review – Vestamaran – Bungalow Rex

One of the best things about being a reviewer are the unexpected surprises, the albums you were not expecting or not expecting a lot from. Some of my all time favourite releases have been promos that I have listened to on a whim or because I liked the album cover (take a bow Moron Police).

When the promo email for ‘Norwegian happy campers’ Vestamaran dropped in the inbox I actually don’t know what made me take a listen but, boy I’m glad I did!

Rising from the ashes of the band Father Of A Thousand Kids the Askøy ( an island just outside the city of Bergen ) the group Vestamaran do release their debut album ” Bungalow Rex” 18/6. Featuring members from Ribosyme, Knekklectric, The Danny Cannon Show amongst others from the infamous Bergen scene. Check them out 🙂“, it exhorted.

Self-classified as ‘low octane rock music from the happy campers…’, it is a wonderfully (and wilfully) eclectic collection of songs that will just make you smile… a lot…

The jangly, care free tone of the guitar that opens the album on Error come save me gives you a little taste of what is to come, music that is chock full of life, love and utter joy. There’s a nostalgic, retro vibe to the music that takes it cue from the indie rock that took over the world in the 90’s.

Risky Pigeon has a funky, strutting guitar riff and superb, distinctive vocals to give it real swagger and this confidence flows throughout an album where the song titles are definitely tongue in cheek in places. Swag is a soaring, anthemic track that would have graced any stadium in the 1990’s and on Cutest offender you hear the first hint of an underlying Kings of Leon homage, it’s a ballsy, edgy piece of music with sharp guitars, stylish drumming and super cool vocals all adding layers of style.

My Finest Eye sees the band go all Americana and Alt-Country on us. An emotive and powerful ballad that pulls at the heartstrings before Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash make an appearance from beyond the grave (or appear to at least!) on the wonderfully dramatic Solitude. Now, imagine how cool it would be if Joe Jackson did a collaboration with Kings of Leon, a bit far fetched? Well not if you just allow me a bit of latitude and listen to the brilliant and incomparable Grustak.

Country rock and blues combine on the strutting majesty of Salt chair, an idiosyncratic guitar riff struts throughout the track with utter self confidence to give the song well deserved bluster. Follow me has a driving hard rock flourish to it akin to early Foo Fighters, anticipation building with every note and that edgy, insistent riff and vocal giving real presence. For me, the best is saved until last as we are gifted the best song that Kings of Leon never wrote, Only for you is just utterly sublime songwriting at its best. Perfect musicianship and honest, heartfelt vocals combine for five minutes of near musical perfection.

So, get your hands on this album and, when the sun shines, get the barbecue lit, an ice cold beer in your hand, put the stereo on, turn it up to 11 and just enjoy this incredible album for, as the press release says, “Life is not just bungalow all day long, it also includes a lot of rex in the evenings.”

Released 18th June, 2021

Order the CD here:

Bungalow Rex | CD Album | Free shipping over £20 | HMV Store

Order the vinyl here:

Bungalow Rex | Vinyl 12″ Album | Free shipping over £20 | HMV Store

Listen to Risky Pigeon (and order the album in the EU) here:

Bungalow Rex | Vestamaran (