My Top 10 Albums of 2008

Here’s a list of my favorite albums that I first heard in 2008 (I say this because some of these albums predate 2008, but for me, they are 2008 albums because this is when I listened to them).

1. O.S.I. - Free

The second album from Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater keyboardist) and Jim Matheos (Fates Warning’s Guitarist) continues the excellence of their first album, yet they succeed in moving things forward.

Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) returns to play the drums.

A very unique sound – they seamlessly mix electronics with symphonic prog with just a touch of metal.

2. Frost* - Milliontown

An extremely listenable symphonic progressive rock album. Melodies are the centerpiece, with progressive rock changes in time signatures. For fans of classic Genesis, a must.

Also, shades of latter-day Peter Gabriel, but more melodic.

Especially good is "The Other Me," and "Black Light Machine."

Frost* has just released a new album (Experiments in Mass Appeal), which is not nearly as impressive as this first offering.

3. Ayreon – 01011001

When you listen to one of Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon albums, you are in for an amazing treat: It is like going to the theater and experiencing an epic science fiction movie.

He immerses you into a story with sound effects and hard-driving rock with influences from Pink Floyd, Genesis, Dream Theater, Alan Parsons, and Metallica, depending on the song you’re listening to.

And it all flows together in an amazing seamless story. Ayreon's best album remains The Human Equation, but this album is still an amazing accomplishment.

4. Genesis – Live from Cleveland

I got the actual recording of when I saw Genesis play at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

After all these years, Genesis still “have it.” The best band of all time. It was a remarkable concert.

The mass-market live album of this tour is called Genesis Live Over Europe 2007.

5. DeeExpus Project – Half Way Home

I was introduced to this band during a break at this past summer’s 3 Rivers Progressive Rock Festival by the organizer of NEARFest. He played it on his car’s stereo for a bunch of us who were tailgating between shows.

DeeExpus Project
actually “out-porcupine-trees” Porcupine Tree with this album! (see #7 below)

"Greed" is the best song of the year. But "PTTee" (an ode to the greatness of Porcupine Tree, especially their album Deadwing, one of the best of all time) comes in a close second. Pointless Child is haunting and beautiful - with harmonies singing of a despairing relationship.

6. Coldplay – Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends

Coldplay is the best thing on the radio. Period.

This album establishes that with no doubt in my mind.

Legendary producer Brian Eno (former keyboardist for Roxy Music and producer for U2's "Joshua Tree") brought out the very best in the band.

7. Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet

PT’s latest offering is another amazing display of Steven Wilson’s genius.

Porcupine Tree is the most popular prog band today ("Fear of a Blank Planet” debuted at #59 on the U.S. Billboard album chart), and there’s a reason for it: Excellence in writing, performance, engineering, and production. Wilson is the one of the best producers (and the band is filled with some of the best musicians) in the business.

This concept album speaks to the emptiness of suburban youth culture, very poignant and moving.

8. Simon Collins – U-Catastrophe

The son of Phil has arrived with this album.

It’s like listening to Genesis for the 21st Century. Hard-driving epic rockers and heart-felt melodies.

Guest artists include dad Phil on a wonderful drum-duet instrumental piece (“The Big Bang”) that is worth the cost of the CD in and of itself, as well as Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett on the excellent “Fast Forward the Future.”

9. Red – End of Silence

Who says Christian artists are lame?

Red’s “End of Silence” silences those critics.

This is as good as any hard rock going today, and with deeper meaning.

10. Neal Morse – Lifeline

Neal’s latest offering is vintage Morse (the former leader of Spock’s Beard, he left after the excellent album, "Snow").

The best parts are when he lets out all the stops with epic Prog songs, like “So Many Roads” which tells the story of how we have so many choices in life – either to walk with God or away from God.

The title track tells the story of Neal's life of seeking fame and fortune but God broke in and threw him a "lifeline." It's a Cliff's Notes version of the story he told on "Testimony."


Great Googly Moogly! said...

Coldplay? Oh man...! :-(

Since I respect your musical tastes, I'll (gulp) check out some samples of this album.

There's a couple of bands you list that I've not heard yet. I'm looking forward to checking out Deexpus Project and Frost.

O.S.I didn't do it for the first time I heard them. Maybe I'll give it a go again. I was probably expecting more of a Dream Theater sound and was disappointed.

We have a string quartet made up of sisters at our church (Le Sorelle String Quartet) that I've been sharing some of my progressive rock collection with. I figure that since I'm the main "worship leader" and serve with them at least twice a month, they can humor me and tell me what they think. They're generally not very impressed with music if it's not "Classical" (all of which I love, by the way), but I thought they might be able to appreciate the quality of musicianship and orchestration of some of the good progressive music out there.

Well...let me just say that I've still got a lot of work to do! :-)

I probably shouldn't have started them out with such heavy material (Dream Theater), but since they're my favorite prog band I couldn't help myself. I think I'll show them my Neal Morse "Testimony" DVD and see what they say. They might loosen up knowing that a Christian can make all this noise to the glory of God!


patrick said...

hey bob,
I really liked the "end of silence" album by red. I am interested in listening to "viva la Vida" by Coldplay. Have you heard any news about the new U2 album coming out this year?

Bob Robinson said...

Yea, sometimes we have to get over the pop stigma and enjoy the music for what it is. Coldplay, and least in my opinion, is the real deal.

O.S.I. is NOT Dream Theater. Don't let the fact that Kevin Moore and Mike Portnoy being in the band fool you. Moore has moved in a whole new direction musically - more symphonic, more spacey.

Maybe the string quartet sisters would enjoy Neal, especially Testimony or Snow (Spock's Beard)!

Bob Robinson said...

Yea, I'm looking forward to U2's new one. As I said, Coldplay's new one is greatly helped by Brian Eno, who produced what I think is one of the best albums ever, Joshua Tree.

Paul - SteelerDirtFreak said...

Wow, I've never heard of 7 of these groups. I'm out of touch with new music of any genre...

The Genesis disc and the Neal Morse disc would be two I would definitely like to hear.

Bob Robinson said...

Great Googly Moogly,
Here's what happened with O.S.I.-
I had bought and listened to the original album, "Office of Strategic Influence," and kinda liked it, but was disappointed that it wasn't Dream Theatery enough. Didn't really pay too much attention to it after a couple of listens.

When "Free" came out, I bought it on a whim, and listened to it. And something "clicked." I finally got what Kevin Moore is trying to do - something totally different in the Prog Rock genre. Electronics, sound effects, with melodies and just enough metal-like guitar to drive it. I really liked this album. Then, I went back to the first album with fresh ears and really enjoyed it too. I'm now a fan of O.S.I.

Jeff S said...


How are you my friend??? Hope all is well with you and the family. Great list!

I picked up Frost* last night after reading your list (wow... what an album!), and then 3 songs from Deeexpus Project (I think you missed an 'e' in their name, but could be wrong) a few minutes ago (listening to PTTee right now. Anyways great picks, and thanks for turning my on to the Frost* album!!!!!

If you like Coldplay, you should check out Real Life by Evermore (if you haven't already). To coin one of your phases, they 'out-Coldplay', Coldplay in some respects. Anyways, here is my brakdown of your list:

OSI: Own it, ranked higher than I would have put it, but great album, and a deserves a 10 spot
Frost: (own it thanks to you) WOW.....enough said
Ayreon – 01011001: Own it. Love it ....agree with rank
Genesis – Live from Cleveland: it's genesis....don't have to hear it to agree with rank
DeeExpus Project: Own 1/2 again thanks to you. One first listen, but strong so far
Coldplay: Own it. Makes the top 10, but maybe not as high a 6
Porcupine Tree: Own it, Love it....beats coldplay :)
Simon Collins: Have not heard yet, but will check out
RED: heard of them, but have not heard this album...but since it made your top 10, I will check out
Neal Morse: Own it, not my favorite from him, but makes my top 10, so I agree with rank

Stuff for you to check out if you have not already:
Glass Hammer: Culture of Ascent (about mountain climbing)
Porcupine Tree: Nil Recurring
Flower Kings: Sum of No Evil
The Orphan Project: Orphan Project II
Rush: Snakes & Arrows Live (the Live album)