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Retrospective | Best Post-Rock Albums of 2019

Note: Copy-pasted from prior to blog’s existence. I thought this worth including on the blog while I compile my best-of review for 2020.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m an enthusiast, nigh on fanatic, of post-rock music. Luckily for me, one thing that has been good about 2019, one of the few, is that it has been a banner year for post-rock. There’ve been so many great albums. If anything, the only problem in compiling a list of favorite post-rock is that it feels completely arbitrary because there are certainly many many albums I missed experiencing for this list.

I had several albums for this list about a month ago, around 10, but I wasn’t satisfied. This year, I have come across a fair amount of social media on facebook and reddit that has brought new albums and bands onto my radar. So, I decided I would work on finding new albums and bands for the list. Here’s what I came up with. I’ll write short summaries/sets of thoughts on the top ten.

20) The Chasing Monster – Errant
19) Augure – Apnea
18) Codes in the Clouds – Codes in the Clouds
17) Hymns for the Angels – The Spinning Heart
16) The Shaking Sensations – How are We to Fight the Blight?
15) Heron – Sun Release
14) Kosatka – Colossus
13) Glacier – No Light Ever
12) Old Solar – SEE
11) Endless Dive – Falltime

10) Ranges – Babel
Ranges was already on my radar with their lauded previous release, but this album was a big, more interesting step forward. The opening song is an amazing, haunting intro with some cool muddled German spoken samples in the background — sounding like a clear and yet incomprehensible foreign voice and capturing the concept of the tower of Babel and the breaking apart of human languages. Other songs shine, but the album doesn’t quite fire on all cylinders to break in farther on this list. However, I’m certain this band is going to continue scaling the mountains of post-rock to ever greater heights.

9) Rhone – Leaving State
This is a smooth album that grabs with the drumbeat opening of the first song. Before you know it, you’re several songs in, just floating on the waves, in a leaving state. I hope to hear more from these guys in the next few years.

8) Pillars – Cavum
I’d never heard of these guys before stumbling upon their album about a month ago. This is a solid album — every song great. Furthermore, they’ve inspired me due to their efforts at organizing Post-Festival, a US based post-rock festival. Furthermore, the song “Coda” on this album is one of the most poignant songs I’ve ever heard.

7) Wander – March
This is a band that steals the major tonality of Explosions in the Sky and marches (pun intended) in their own direction with it, reverberating along with both joy and strength. You’ll leave feeling a smile on your face and empowered to face the day. The title track is an instant post-rock classic.

6) Feed Me to the Waves – Intill
This band is a Swedish band that’s just beginning. They self-released an album last year that was an exquisite surprise, and this album goes 2 steps farther in that direction from initial promise. They have a few really beautiful songs on this album that explore chill undertones with strings such as cellos in a beautiful feeling chamber way, more subtle than the orchestral crashing of Mono. This is a band to watch in post-rock.

5) Mono – Nowhere, Now Here
This album is great. It has so many fantastic moments and songs like “Breathe” experiment with ranges that go beyond Mono’s previous songs. In many ways, it might be the most complete of Mono’s albums, but I’m left not grasping onto it too greatly unlike a couple of hooks in their other albums. However, it is the perfect beginning to ring off Mono’s 20th year, showing they have so much more room to grow, explore, and blow their audience’s minds.

4) The End of the Ocean – -aire
This is one of my favorite post-rock bands, and this album has been a wish for me for years. It doesn’t disappoint. It strongly rushes forward with strength in ways that their earlier albums didn’t fully embody. “Bravado” in particular is a banger that will empower you to face anything. The album doesn’t quite stick in my mind as much as their others, but this album still leaves me excited to hear what they have next, and I hope they continue without years of soul-searching in-between. I hope they tour past the Midwest so that I have the chance to see them live at some point.

3) Mono – Before the Past: Live from Electrical Audio
This is almost a cheat — it’s a 3 song EP. To celebrate their 20th year, Mono recorded 3 of their songs from their first 2 albums, before all their deeper experimentation with orchestral layers, in a single day session with their longtime collaborator Steve Albini. In listening to this, it’s clear that the purpose is to reveal the rough core at the heart of their music — the genesis behind their 20 year musical journey. Honestly, I’ve previously been uninterested in their early albums, but hearing one of the songs on this album, the notorious “Com(?)” as an encore at a live show, I was entranced. I listened to this EP on repeat for days. It’s powerful enough that it got me going back and enjoying their early music for the first time, and that’s evidence that this album is a charged remembrance for their 20th year.

2) Tides from Nebula – From Voodoo to Zen
This is a pretty well regarded post-rock band, who’s often showed up on my recommended lists but hasn’t really held my interest. This year, a band member left, leading to experimentation and a change in sound, in my opinion for the better. This album pulls in some electronic beat cross-pollination and results in something much like my two favorite albums by 65daysofstatic — faves from a few years back. The result is a journey from raw, visceral feeling, voodoo, to a cooler, more stable sound, zen. Take the journey. Dive into this album.

1) We Lost the Sea – Triumph & Disaster
This album is by a famed band of post-rock but one, like Tides from Nebula, that hadn’t really wowed me previously. However, this album plays with what we might refer to as Sturm und Drang — storm and stress. It meanders through the perils of our path towards an apocalyptic future of environmental collapse with song titles like “A Beautiful Collapse”, “Distant Shores”, and the “Last Sun”, and it seamlessly blends numerous elements, sometimes striking me as inspired by other genres like jazz. Finally, it ends with a song that has a female vocalist with a clear, poetic message that ties the whole album together: “We rose with the sun and fell into disgrace. We bled the Earth dry while guilt soaked through our veins. Are we really too late?” This beautiful “Mother’s Hymn” sounds soulful, but it’s an open question for all of us. Can we save ourselves? Or not?

I hope this inspires some out there to go check out some of these albums and hear everything that post-rock had to offer in 2019. Here’s looking forward to hearing what creativity springs forth next year.

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