Steven Wilson: To The Bone - Causing a lot of chatter, if not controversy online, Steven Wilson goes pop. Well, actually he doesn't, To The Bone being a consummate, modern prog release that happens to have an eye on the 80s and a penchant for the sort of prog Peter Gabriel used to sneak into the charts unnoticed. It may not be his best effort (but man is the bar high), but this is another Wilson winner.
Roger Waters: Is This The Life We Really Want - Bought more on a whim than through any real expectations (even if Amused To Death is still an album I regularly revisit), I have to say that an album that repeats a lot of Waters' trademark tropes is one of the best releases of the year so far. Biting, cutting lyrics, spoken word clips and other ambient noises, as ever, build the atmosphere, but it's the heartfelt melancholy that slowly builds across the album that keeps you transfixed time and again.
Cats In Space: Scarecrow - I can't get enough of this one. Cats In Space debuted a couple of years back with a 70s fixation, but one based round the quirky pop-prog-rock that used to send bands shooting up the charts. Scarecrow takes it to the next level, everything from Queen to ELO, Supertramp to 10CC and beyond all moulded into a homage that sounds so reverential that it transcends mere copying. Can't wait to see them live later this month.
Neil Young: Official Release Series Discs 5-8: Time Fades Away, On The Beach, Tonight's The Night, Zuma - Mr. Young ain't famed for delivering on his promises, or sticking to a schedule, so that the second four disc retrospective of his early days has finally arrived at all (as has the next) is good enough for me. Personally Time Fades Away isn't a firm favourite, but the next three, On The Beach, Tonight's The Night and Zuma found Young at his enigmatic best.
Neil Young: Hitchhiker - And proving that he didn't stick to schedules, Young has finally seen fit to release his Hitchhiker album some 41 years after it was recorded. Many of the songs appeared on later releases, but this acoustic session reveals a snapshot in time and the energy it contained. At the risk of being harsh, what this release does, is to remind us just how vital a new Neil Young album used to be. Hopefully the doors are finally blown off the vaults and Young's other lost albums finally see the light of day.
All Time Low: Last Young Renegade - Possibly the band's most accessible and hook laden effort to date finds All Time Low offering up what might be their best effort yet. The expected teen angst is still in evidence and yet there's an unexpected maturity shown that might just suggest ATL will be around for a long time to come.
Todd Michael Hall: Letters From India - An unexpected solo album from Riot V and Jack Starr's Burning Starr frontman Todd Michael Hall, Letters From India is a personal voyage through his life and his muse. It's also a huge departure from the power metal you might expect from the man. Piano led in places and verging on AOR in others, the main man's voice proves hugely versatile throughout on what is an unexpectedly captivating album. The profits will also be donated to charity.
AC/DC: Rock Or Bust - An AC/DC album used to be a reason to stop traffic and baton down the hatches, such was the band's power and force. So it's a shame that after recent-ish, lauded releases that have, in truth, come up a little short, that waiting for the price of Rock Or Bust to come down to £3 (thank you Fopp) proves to have been the correct decision. What will (hopefully, given their current state) be their last album isn't poor, but neither is there much to get excited about.
Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors: Capital Spirits - An Acoustic Evening Live In London - The Ryan Hamilton star keeps on rising, his Devil's In The Detail album already a highlight of the year. Hot on its heels comes this live offering that confirms not just what great songs the man and his Traitors conjure up, but also what captivating performers they are.
Styx: The Mission - This one just ain't going away, the shock return from Styx (about whom their very own Tommy Shaw once said, "the world ain't holding their breath for a new album from us") has not only been welcome, it's verging on stupendous. Exploring progressive roots that they haven't even looked at for decades, the end results really are quite breathtaking.