This is one of a series of “travelogues”, or year-in-review posts, covering music I especially enjoyed this year. These are the last ten full length albums in the post rock category. Note that the albums are not in any kind of ranked order, but are simply listed alphabetically by artist.
Lights & Motion – Reanimation
Lights & Motion is a one-man project from musical phenom Christoffer Franzen, whose work is cinematic in every possible sense. ‘Reanimation’ was the culmination of a period of developing a vision over many long nights in the isolation of a studio in Gothenburg, Sweden along with the feedback of a close-knit group of friends and followers who Franzen kept engaged through social media. The music is as amazing and inspiring as the story behind it’s making. Shimmering tones, gorgeous melodies, and wide screen crescendos make this as breathtaking a debut as you are likely to find in any genre. And this is no flash in the pan. Franzen has already released an excellent follow up called ‘Save Your Heart’ as well as a collection of excellent film-score like sketches that hint that we could see his name rolling through the credits a major film in the not to distant future.
Release: Deep Elm Records (January 2013)
Favorite tracks: The March, Drift
Mooncake – Zaris
Mooncake is a four piece band from Moscow that has been consistently producing excellent instrumental rock that fits well into the post rock genre, but is clearly informed from a variety of influences including prog rock, classical and jazz. A tag sometimes used for their music that I would agree with is art rock. ‘Zaris’ certainly fits that bill. Two wonderful new recordings of previously released songs (the title track and ‘Cast the Route’) along with six dynamic new tracks most of which are well over 10 minutes long make this a delicious feast for the ears. Tons of replay value in this one.
Release: Independent (October 2013)
Favorite track: Zaris, Chess Knight
North Atlantic Drift – Resolven
North Atlantic Drift is the duo of Mike Abercrombie & Brad Deschamps based in Toronto, Canada and ‘Resolven’ is their third full length release, part of a trilogy of records that includes ‘Canvas’ (March 2012) and ‘Monuments’ (March 2013). One of the track titles on this album, ‘Obsidian Flows’ is a perfect metaphor for the band’s music, as it conjures an image of both fluidity and opaque, glassy smoothness. This is post rock slowed down to a glacial ambient pace. All of their albums are highly recommended, but this one, mastered by none other than Rafael Anton Irisarri, is an especially lustrous, slow motion beauty.
Release: Polar Seas Recordings (November 2013)
Favorite tracks: It Looks Like You’re Here for the End of the World, Obsidian Flows
Qualia – Ecliptic
Dan Leader was a busy man in 2013. He released two full length albums and an EP under his Qulia moniker. The most recent one, ‘Ecliptic’ is especially engaging. Each song is an introspective soundscape constructed by atmospheric guitar, piano, and very light electronics. Ethereal, but not delicate, the album exhibits sophisticated simplicity and surprising amounts of emotion, despite a lack of structured progressions or percussion. It is immediately accessible, yet seems to reveal something new with every listen. Beautifully done.
Release: Arête Records (December 2013)
Favorite tracks: Horology, Syzygy
Rhian Sheehan – Stories From Elsewhere
Rhian Sheehan hardly needs an introduction anymore. An award winning New Zealand based composer & producer, ‘Stories From Elsewhere’ is a beautiful full length album that shows him at the height of his powers. The album indeed has moments of rock like intensity, but it is also cinematic to the point it could almost as easily be categorized as modern classical. It is that diversity of moods and textures unified by a composer’s integrity of vision that makes it such and enchanting collection of songs. A perfect album to put on at the start of almost any day.
Release: Darla Records (March 2013)
Favorite tracks: The Upper Sky, La Boite a Musique
Row Boat – ETT
Row Boat is ambient post rock project of Mark Wardale. Based in the UK, but strongly referencing Scandinavia musically and geographically, Row Boat’s music is a delightfully eclectic blend of ethereal atmospheres and glowering post rock. Some tunes, such as the beautiful ‘Frostavallen’, never leave the ambient domain, whereas others such as ‘Rädslan’ build into stormy crescendos. The standout track here is ‘Kämpaglöd’ with its glowering piano and bass lines, rollicking drum beat, and impressive build-up that falls over the cliff into a moody and sullen outro. Great stuff.
Release: Bottle Imp Productions (September 2013)
Favorite tracks: Kämpaglöd, Frostavallen
Signal Hill – Chase the Ghost
With their breezy melodicism, shimmering guitars, and math rock leanings, Signal Hill are breath of fresh air in the post rock genre. You can always count on them to deliver a record that sounds lively and inviting and reward repeated listening. On ‘Chase the Ghost’, they sound better than ever. As soon as the reverb first rang out with the opening strums & arpeggios of ‘ The Fantastic Hours’, my ears felt right at home. Every note feels like it is just where it should be and the record flows seamless until the end when you will be ready to drop the needle right back on the opening track.
Release: Sun Sea Sky Productions (April 2013)
Favorite tracks: The Fantastic Hours, Van Gogh Sky
The Echelon Effect – Atlantic
With ‘Atlantic’, David Walters has delivered the first installment of a dual ocean-themed album, with the second half, ‘Pacific’ is due in early 2014. The approach of splitting the two albums looks to be a smart one, as ‘Atlantic’ is a very complete and balanced full-length effort which stands beautifully on its own, but also builds anticipation for what will follow. Referencing locations on the southern coast of England as well as the sounds, images, & emotions associated with traveling the sea, the album feels more expansive and cohesive than anything he has done before. And the music is enhanced by outstanding percussion work by drummer Steve Tanton and the appearance of guest musicians such as Ciaran Morahan of Codes in the Clouds and Torsten Kinsella of God is an Astronaut.
Release: Independent (November 2013)
Favorite tracks: Hidden Rocks (feat. Torsten Kinsella), Fallen
This Patch of Sky – Heroes and Ghosts
Anyone who rushed out their year end lists in early December risked excluding what many are saying is one of the best post rock releases of the year. ‘Heroes and Ghosts’ is a beautiful realization of a very pure post rock aesthetic. It is imbued with the yearning lyricism of Explosions in the Sky and the power chord laden heaviness of This Will Destroy You, which turns out to be a very powerful combination. Full of elegant build ups which erupt into volcanic crescendos it is passionate, dynamic and perfectly paced. A fine record to fill up your headphones with.
Release: Independent (December 2013)
Favorite track: Through the Stars We’ve Seen, Heroes and Ghosts
U137 – Dreamer on the Run
U137’s ‘Dreamer on the Run’ is a debut record that does not sound like one. That can be explained by the fact that the band is comprised of two members of veteran post rock outfit Moonlit Sailor. The direction charted for U137 by Adam Tornblad and Oscar Gulbrandsen is a much brighter and more colorful one than the album cover suggests. This is post rock of the ambient & cinematic varieties with a dash of pop sensibility tossed in for good measure. The duo clearly wanted to make the most beautiful sounds they could muster and are happy to wear there passions on their musical sleeves. A standout track here is ‘Pearl Lakes’ which, even as an instrumental, could easily play to an arena of rabid Coldplay fans with no apologies. A very fresh and enjoyable record.
Release: Deep Elm Records (August 2013)
Favorite track: The Poet, Pearl Lakes