Why & How I Rank Prog Rock Albums

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last edited: 26th january, 2023

Right now I'm trying to rank over 300 prog rock albums that were released in 2019 (though there's probably way more than 300) and also ranking as many prog rock albums that will be released in 2023. Naturally you might wonder how on earth I'm trying to pull off such a feat, so I will use this article to briefly explain my process.

I am not a professional

I feel like it's important to state firstly that I am by no means calling myself an expert on proggresive rock music, or any genre of music for that matter. I'm not even an expert on making music, if anything I'm still somewhat new to the process. So why am I even trying to rank all these albums and why should you pay attention to my lists?

To answer the first question: it's because I wanted to explore and see what modern musicians and bands were doing with the genre rather than just re-listening to the same bands from the '70s. As for the second question, you should not pay attention to my list for any special reason, I'm just one guy who's doing this as a hobby.

What even is "Progressive Rock" anyway?

The Prog Rock genre is a little bit hard to define and what it actually is can depend on who you ask. While I'd usually refer to Wikipedia for a quick definition check, for the purposes of listing all of these albums I don't actually care that much what is considered "Prog Rock" even if I notice that an album doesn't necessarily have the qualities that I would consider part of the genre.

Instead, because I'm ranking a lot of albums I need a way to quickly sort through them and find the ones that are considered to be Prog Rock. While I have r/progmetal's list and all the albums listed from the NewProgReleases blog, this is still far too many. Luckily Bandcamp has an easy way of finding out if an Album is Prog Rock or not, and that's thanks to its tagging system.

So if I look up an album in either of the lists I mentioned above and it is not tagged "Progressive Rock" or something similar by the band, I skip over it. However I will still sometimes look the band up, either on their social media pages or their website if they have one to see if they call themselves, or the particular album from them that I'm listening to Progressive Rock. I only do this if "Progressive Rock" is not mentioned in the tags, because sometimes people forget to tag their stuff properly and I want to be absolutely certain that I'm not missing out.

However there are also many derivatives of Prog Rock, so I will also look to see if the tags 'Post-Rock', 'Art Rock', 'Symphonic Rock', 'Krautrock', 'Occult Rock', 'Neo Prog' or 'Rock in Opposition' are included. Remember that I'm not looking these tags up, I'm just checking the albums listed and seeing if these tags appear. After thinking this through a bit further, I am only considering Art Rock and Neo Prog as variations of Prog Rock, the reason for this being that a the music I've heard in most of these sub-genres from bands that do not use the Progressive Rock label tends to not be very good and has very little in common with Progressive Rock.

Now I could totally skip all of this, just go onto Bandcamp and search up every single album tagged "Prog Rock" or one of the other tags mentioned, but a LOT of people upload their music to Bandcamp so it would just increase the amount of work I'd have to do. On top of that, not everyone uploads their music to Bandcamp, some do it exclusively on Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Deezer etc. Most of these platforms I don't use but even if I did search through all the tags on those services to find albums I haven't already heard, I would be wasting a lot of time. Using one of the two provided lists above won't get everything, but it will get enough of the major releases and that's mostly what I care about.

How do I rank the albums then?

Once I've determined that an album is at least called 'Prog Rock' by the artist(s), I then listen to it at least twice before I list it on the site. I was worse at this in the early days and sometimes I would just listen to an album once (particularly if I didn't enjoy it), but you can't get everything from one hearing. Indeed many of the albums I liked on the first listen I ended up liking a lot less on the second listen and vice versa.

You might think that two listens is not enough, but stick with me for now.

After I've listened to an album twice, I then rank it. The way I rank an album is by comparing it to the other albums currently on the list, starting from the bottom. So let's say I'm working on my 2019 and I've just listened to an album, I would compare it to the album ranked last place (Currently 'II' by Petrichor) by asking myself "Would I rather listen to this new album, or 'II'?" if the answer is the new album, I would then compare it to the next album in the list (Currently 'Rosa Rosae' by Opus Avantra Ensemble and co.) by asking myself "Would I rather listen to this new album or 'Rosa Rosae'?" and repeat this process. Once I find a spot in the list where I'd rather listen to an album that's in its current place, I place the new album below that.

The trick to this is, to make sure that I know what I'm comparing against I will listen to the album I'm comparing the new one to in full to make sure I remember what it sounds like. This often means I am listening to the same albums over and over again, but it's to make sure it's a fair comparison. Also if I have heard the currently listed album recently and know roughly what I'm comparing against, I can usually make up my mind without another re-listen.

You might think that this takes up a lot of time which admittedly it does, especially when there's a lot of albums on the list like with the 2019 one, but it's the fairest and easiest way I can think of to rank them. It may not be the most efficient, but at least I'm fully aware of my stances with each album.

How long do I plan to do this?

As of right now I would like to finish my 2019 list, once I've done that I will move onto albums from 2020, 2021 and 2022 while still ranking albums from 2023. While I can't predict the future I would like to continue doing this for all Prog Rock albums released this current decade. I don't know if I will end up doing that and to be honest I doubt I will be able to, but I would like to for the sake of completion. After that I will probably stop as ranking 11 years' worth of music will probably drive me insane.

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