A look back at some of the most memorable journeys in music taken this year in post rock and electronica. It is clearly not a comprehensive look at either genre, but rather a selection of albums I connected with, enjoyed, and enthusiastically recommend. Expansive, dynamic, sophisticated, clever, and cathartic – all those qualities are here in some measure and sound best when played loud.- Click on album titles in the list below for more information
Editors note: Few of the albums presented in these lists fit neatly into a single genre and we would not have it any other way, nor would the artists. The categorizations used here should not distract the reader from the joy of discovery. They are simply a way to organize and present based on my perceptions of compatible listening experiences and I was not above stretching the boundaries and making exceptions to fit in the most music possible.
Caspian – Dust and Disquiet [Triple Crown Records]
You can really tell the band really poured themselves into this record. Bursting with inventiveness, epic jams, slick musicianship, and tons of heart, it lights up all the synapses and delivers a cleansing emotional catharsis.
Featured track: ‘Ríoseco’
Esmerine – Lost Voices [Constellation Records]
The spellbinding combination of marimba and strings creates deeply affecting pastoral beauty while the full band cooks up potent and percussive jams. This stylistically diverse and sophisticated follow-up to Dalmak hit all the right notes for me.
Featured track: ‘The Neighborhoods Rise’
Public Service Broadcasting – The Race for Space [Test Card Recordings]
Manages to capture all the optimism and sense of wonder of the dawning of the space age while respectfully acknowledging its more serious and tragic moments with just the right amount of gravitas. A blast to listen to (pun intended).
Featured track: ‘The Other Side’
We Stood Like Kings – USSR 1926 [Kapitän Platte]
I love the concept of this project which combines deftly combines post rock and modern classical elements to create new soundtracks to classic silent films and this ambitious selection suits the band’s piano-led style down to the ground.
Featured track: ‘Icebreaker Lenin’
We Lost the Sea – Departure Songs [Translation Loss Records]
I will admit this album was a tough listen for me because of the emotional weight of its subject matter, but the power and beauty of the music can’t be denied and ‘A Gallant Gentleman’ is track that will be sticking with me for a long time to come. Additional kudos for a really classy art package developed for the record by band member Matt Harvey.
Featured track: ‘A Gallant Gentleman’
Cousin Silas and Black Hill – Bridges of the South
Black Hill’s lovely pastoral collection of shimmering, melodic guitar pieces are nicely offset by Cousin Silas’ lush and moody ambient atmospheres. An excellent collaboration.
Featured tracks: ‘Bridges’
Shy, Low – Hiraeth [Spartan Records]
The band delivers an unabashedly beautiful and uplifting melodic post rock record with a refined melancholic undercurrent and reaches a new level in their sound. Also noteworthy are the multiple colored vinyl editions and the gorgeous cover art by Hallie Rose Taylor.
Featured track: ‘Nostos’
Hidden Orchestra – Reorchestrations [Denovali]
Joe Acheson and company always create a potent musical brew and seem particularly inspired here as they render an eclectic selection of compositions by other artists. Exhilarating and sophisticated.
Featured track: ‘Piano Interruped – Cross Hands’
John Lemke – Nomad Frequencies [Denovali]
What makes Lemke’s albums so captivating is that he grounds them with a brilliant sense of pure rhythm and melody. This is music your intellect and your limbic system can both appreciate.
Featured track: ‘The Unwinding’
Ben Chatwin – The Sleeper Awakes [Village Green]
If you didn’t know this music was inspired by H.G. Wells, uou could sense it from the music, a testament to how well Chatwin succeeds in creating these paradoxically alluring and dystopian atmospheres using analog and electronic instruments.
Featured track: ‘Mirroring’
The Union Trade – A Place of Long Years [Tricycle Records]
A return to the form that made 2008’s Everyday Including such a good listen and a pleasing stretch into new territory with the addition of new collaborators and a thoughtfully organic approach to composition. Clean, elegant, and easy on the ear.
Featured track: ‘Murmurations’
Alice in the Cities – Of the Lines [Fakiri Records]
Seven tracks take us on musical journey through seven cities around the globe, capturing the melancholic transience of the thoughtful traveler through a subtle cinematic sound built on simple melodies and a sense of constant forward movement.
Featured track: ‘Odessa’
The Sound of Rescue – Aperture
Combines thunderous dynamics with a cerebral approach to minimalist structures in a way that proves both thoughtful and exhilarating. Building on the solid foundation of Forms, the band expanded both in numbers and creative ideas on this beautifully realized record.
Featured track: ‘Nearer to Dust’
Bright Like the Sun – Bright Like the Sun [Sun Sea Sky]
The big sky country of Texas continues to prove a fertile breeding ground for some of the best post rock music in the world. This vibrant follow up to the band’s 2013 debut veritably explodes with lyricism, huge atmospherics and youthful exuberance.
Featured track:’An Awoken Dream on Broadway’
Waking Aida – Full Heal [Robot Needs Home]
This outing is slightly more subdued in comparison to Eschaton, but the music is still chock full melodic ideas, hairpin turns through varied time signatures, and supercharged crescendos. Waking Aida is serious fun.
Featured track: ‘Jilted Surfers’