To be quite honest, 2011 has been a fairly mild year for top tier post-rock releases. No Mono, no Godspeed You! Black Emperor (called it), and no Pg. Lost. Sadly missing, sure, but that isn’t to say that 2011 has been a complete bust for the genre. In fact, this year, more so than ever in recent memory, bands have been breaking the mold, and setting off on paths that progress the genre even further. There have been a lot of breaths of fresh air imbued into the tired formula, creating a wonderful bevy of albums that have made 2011 one hell of an excellent year for post-rock. Here is just a sample:
Mogwai - Earth Division:
Alright, alright, this may not be the Mogwai release that you were expecting. However, their latest album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, left a lot to be desired. This little gem of an EP sounds somewhat different than anything else the band has done before. It’s lush and beautiful; a record that relies less on gimmicks, and more on the sheer excellence of Mogwai. A true stand out.
Russian Circles - Empros:
Now here is a 2011 media darling. Russian Circles has always attracted a bit of attention, but Empros sees the band release their most critically acclaimed work to date. It’s heavier than most would expect, but it really hits hard. Every track is supremely well composed, and not a minute is wasted. The album is without a doubt Russian Circles’ finest moment, and one of this year’s as well.
This Will Destroy You - Tunnel Blanket:
Here is probably the biggest shocker of 2011-This Will Destroy You made an original, exciting, and absolutely sensational record. Are you ready for another surprise? It sounds nothing like anything they’ve ever done before. I know that phrase gets passed around quite a bit, but seriously, those familiar with this band will have a difficult time connecting it to any of their prior releases. It’s largely ambient; dense, beautiful, and oddly dark. Yet little flourishes of rock pop up here and there. Although it came out earlier in the year, this is definitely something that should not be over looked.
Junius - Reports From the Threshold of Death:
I almost wish I could just put “duh” here and simply be on my way. But that would be to completely miss the point of telling you about this wonderful album. Vocally heavy, the album blends post-rock with indie/alternative rock. It’s absolutely stunning. Heavy in parts, tender in others, Reports From the Threshold of Death is an album with so, so much to offer.
Maybeshewill - I Was Here for a Moment, Then I Was Gone:
Maybeshewill didn’t have a lot of room to improve after their excellent 2009 release, but hey, they found some! This album is a little less heavy than their previous release, but it’s the added emphasis of keys and such that makes it so beautiful. The superb post-rock backbone is still there, making for the band’s greatest release to date.
Good Weather for Airstrikes - To Have Our Hearts Emptied, To Be Left As We Came:
I guess this record, more so than any of the others, makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Here is a band that really isn’t all that well known, doing their best to get their music out into the world. It hearkens back to the genre before it became more commercialized, with bands playing their art in garages and basements, rather than huge stadiums and concert halls. This is a wonderful, vocals driven record that deserves some attention.
Sigur Ros - Inni:
And what do I do immediately after talking about the virtues of being an underground, hardworking post-rock band? I post a Sigur Ros release. Sigur Ros are arguably the biggest act in the genre, not only now, but perhaps ever. Their hiatus has recently come to an end, just in time for their first, proper live record. It’s stunningly artistic; a hazy, fever-dream like black and white film that lends itself to being a beautiful movie, as well as a great live performance. While it’s lamentable that some strange songs made the cut, the addition of “Lúppulagið,” a brand new song, makes it all better.
Moonlit Sailor - Color in Stereo:
While I haven’t spent as much time with this release as others, I can still safely say that it belongs here. Color in Stereo is a magnificent little album that blends indie and post-rock into one, lovely package.
Jesu - Ascension:
Jesu, led by a man cloaked in mystery, often release albums as dark and shrouded as himself. Ascension is one such album; a fuzzy and mysterious record that plays up Jesu’s strengths, as well as throwing a few surprises in as well. It truly isn’t the band’s crowning achievement, but it is staggeringly solid, well deserving of many people’s attention.
World’s End Girlfriend - SEVEN IDIOTS:
I couldn’t help but put this here. While the unbelievably weird nature of Katsuhiko Maeda’s music may turn some off, it will inevitably find its way into the hearts of even more. SEVEN IDIOTS is absolutely bizzare. A dark, abyssal foray into jazz, classical, rock, and electronica; a earth shattering mixture of noise that happens to come out as expressly wonderful. You will not hear anything else like this in 2011, and it is well worth looking into.
Now here is a list of Honorable mentions, as well as albums that are not quite post-rock, but are definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre:
Olafur Arnalds - Living Room Songs
Kashiwa Daisuke - 88
Winged Victory for the Sullen - Winged Victory for the Sullen
shels* - Plains of the Purple Buffalo
Vessles - Helioscope
Talkdemonic - Ruins
sleepmakeswaves - …and so we destroyed everything
Lapsus - Lightbearer
Circadian Eyes - Who We Were