So, I really dig post-rock. Or whatever you want to call it. Several years ago on an internet radio show I heard MONO’s Error #9 and fell in love with it; so I did what any self-respecting internet addict would do and trawled around to find more music like that. I ended up getting into MONO, Explosions in the Sky, ToBeAHighPoweredExecutive, 65daysofstatic, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Russian Circles, and so on. I’ve been pretty out of touch with music happenings for the last few years, though, so a few days ago I decided to skim through SomethingAwful’s post-rock thread to look for new music to get, and this is what I found (and have listened to today. There is more stuff to listen to tomorrow).
65daysofstatic – Wild Light
Out of everything I listened today this was definitely the album I love the most. The whole thing has a surreal, underwater, fuzzy quality that makes me feel warm and happy all over. There is a track on the Sunshine movie soundtrack called Capa Meets the Sun (To Heal) that I can listen to on repeat all day, because it’s like pure comfort in my ears, and this whole album is like that. This isn’t to say that everything is slow, because it isn’t; but even the tracks with faster beats manage to retain that floating, soothing quality. I don’t know if I end up using tactile words to describe music because I lack the proper terminology, or because of some low-grade synesthaesia, but there you are.
Caspian – Hymn For the Greatest Generation
When I was originally getting into post-rock stuff, I checked out some Caspian that I heard about through a blog – which, at the time, was where I got most of my recommendations – and it wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t super impressed. The first Caspian album that I really got into was Waking Season, which is fabulous, and this album is even better. After starting the morning with Wild Light I was afraid that all the other music I’d got wouldn’t stand up, but I was pleasantly surprised. Standout tracks on this album for me were the title track ((Hymn For) The Greatest Generation) and The Heart That Fed – the first containing very clear instruments that meld together into a wistful, gentle song that puts me in mind of a leaf dropping in the wind; the second getting louder, rougher, more antagonistic, more progressive – like walking uphill in a strong wind. High Lonesome is a lovely track, and both remixes are wonderful as well.
God Is An Astronaut – Age of the Fifth Sun
Definitely my favorite God Is An Astronaut album to date. I felt that this was fairly similar to their previous stuff, but more refined, more pared down, stripped of extraneous bits. God Is An Astronaut has always reminded me of really good video game music, which isn’t to say that they do chiptunes – they don’t! – but that the music makes a great background to do things to, rather than background music for doin’ nothin’. Which isn’t to say you can’t do that, but it feels more active than some post-rock does, more driven and defined, less nebulous. The whole album fit together like a Lego set; I didn’t think there were any stand-out tracks because the entire work as a whole went together so perfectly.
iamthemorning – Miscellany
This is my first time listening to iamthemorning, and it’s absolutely lovely music, dreamy stuff – but my biggest problem with this album was that the vocals were juuuuuuust a bit quieter than the instrumentals, and it felt like it took the power out of the vocal track. At the same time, the vocal track was not soft enough to fade into the music like some stuff I’ve heard – it was just at a kind of odd, disruptive level. That absurd nitpick aside, the music and the vocals are gorgeous. I’m a huge fan of orchestral instruments, and I love the violin/viola/cello work on this album. The vocals are airy, lilting, without being cute or syrupy. When I have a chance, I’m going to check out the first album, ~, as well.
Mogwai – Rave Tapes
I listened to some Mogwai (Come On Die Young and Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will) previously and I honestly couldn’t get into it. For whatever reason, it just failed to grab me. But I fully intend to go back and re-listen to them, because Rave Tapes grabbed me thoroughly. Compared to my previous memory of Mogwai’s stuff, this seemed to really hit the sweet spot between too nebulous and too cacophonous. Everything was great, but Repelish and Blues Hour were my favorites – Blues Hour put me in mind of some spacey Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon stuff.
MONO – Kanata (Single)
MONO was my introduction to post-rock with Under the Pipal Tree (which I have fond memories of listening to on repeat while wandering through IKEA with a parent, making IKEA even more surreal – that place is a fucking labyrinth) and I have loved their music ever since. Pipal Tree continues to be my favorite album, while Yearning is my favorite overall track. A few years ago I got to go to one of their live shows, right up at the edge of the stage, and it was one of the greatest concert experiences of my life. Kanata is just one track, but it’s still beautiful. It put me in mind of a mini-Yearning, so if you’re a fan of that track, definitely check it out.
Pelican – Deny the Absolute b/w The Truce
Pelican is commonly referred to as “post-metal” and they are definitely much harder and grittier than everything I’ve mentioned thus far. I’ve dipped my toes into post-metal some; I thoroughly enjoy Baroness’ Blue Record, and Isis’ Wavering Radiant, among other harder stuff like Jodis’ Black Curtain. It can be hard to pin down genre labels, and according to the Wikipedia article I just looked up, one of the dudes in Pelican doesn’t see themselves as post-metal but more closely linked with punk and hardcore… so fuck labels! The point is, Pelican is (are?) fantastic. A lot of heavier stuff I have trouble getting into — there’s a point beyond which I think my brain might have trouble processing and separating the music out of what some people would call “noise”; a lot of the music I like walks a fine line between musicality and cacophony (how many times can I use that word or a variety thereof in this blog post? Stay tuned), and everyone has a different break-point for that. Pelican is (are?) one of the groups that walks that line perfectly, riding the very edge of loudness and hardness that still reads to me as music. There are only two tracks on this particular album (EP? I never know which is which) and the first was, for me, the strongest track. Deny the Absolute is more energetic, while The Truce is a bit quieter, more menacing. Both are great examples of what Pelican can do, and highly recommended.
Russian Circles – Empros
Russian Circles has been my go-to focus-time post-rock(metal?) since I discovered them. Station is probably my favorite of their previous albums, and it was a great one to put on at work when I needed to get way into a task (like setting up literally hundreds of files to print ugggggh). Since I last checked they have apparently put out two new albums, which makes me feel like an unproductive little shit, but the point is – yay new Russian Circles! Both albums are awesome, with the standout tracks on Empros being Mladek and Schipol. Those tracks were so goddamn beautiful, especially Mladek; if you like Russian Circles or really any post-rock/metal at all please give those tracks a shot.
Russian Circles – Memorial
Of the two Russian Circles albums, I will say I liked Empros better overall, but Memorial is definitely another solid work, with Ethel and Memorial being my standout tracks. Ethel is another one like Mladek from the previous album that is just absolutely gorgeous; you should listen to that track if nothing else.
And that’s what I listened to today! Sorry if my thoughts aren’t super-insightful or helpful; I’m not a professional music critic or even very into the music biz – I just love music and can’t live without it, and if I can help give any of these amazing albums more love, I will.